Too Much Stuff-How to Declutter Your Life
When I got my first apartment I immediately felt the need to fill it up. Every nook and cranny, every single corner, every room. I was happy that I could now afford to buy my own “stuff.” If I had left a room unfurnished and undecorated, to me that would signify that I couldn’t “afford” it.
Even though me and my new husband changed apartments pretty much every year, we still kept accumulating stuff.
Doesn’t really make sense when I look back because we were somewhat nomadic-never knowing where our jobs would take us, not having children, not being tied down.
Then we have children and have it in our minds that our children will want all of our stuff someday when we pass on. The more money we make, the better stuff we buy, better cars, better TVs, better furniture. Kind of a mark of how we are succeeding in life. Imagine at age 30, being successful in your career and asking friends over for dinner. They get there and you don’t have enough plates and use paper plates. You don’t have a nice dining table and chairs so eat on TV trays. What would they think?!
It’s human nature to collect things you love, keep things you love and even things you don’t love and clutter our lives.
I’m here today to tell you that me and my husband, James, broke the habit of clutter. We did it cold turkey, which is what I believe is the only way to do it. And what we’ve found is that now, one year later, we will never go back to clutter. We find that our minimalism has uncomplicated our lives and have made room for happiness.
First of all, to explain why we did it, we were relocating for a year to Seattle from Texas. When we got the 10,000.00 moving quote from Allied Van Lines my husband ran the guy out of the front door literally, as he said, “We’ll just get rid of everything instead of paying YOU 10,000.00 to move it cross country!” Then we went with it.
I have to admit it wasn’t easy, but we didn’t have time on our side, so we did just that-we went with it. I started donating to good-cause thrift stores, giving away to neighbors, not caring if they turned around and sold it. Then I sold the bigger items to help pay for our furniture we would need when we moved.
As we were going through the full-to-the-brim garage, the filled closets and the overpouring cabinets, I felt ashamed. Ashamed of buying and collecting and cluttering our beautiful home.
We packed our 3 pets in the back of our Honda Civic, filled the trunk with only utilitarian needs, including only about 15 pieces of clothing each and 3 pairs of shoes each, and we headed up to the Pacific Northwest.
When we unpacked we had an empty 3 level house to live in, just the two of us. I have to say that my natural instinct was to fill it up, but feeling that it may just be a temporary home in my heart, I resisted. we bought the necessities-bed, sofa, small kitchen table, tv. I scoured the wonderful nearby Goodwill for exactly 4 vintage plates, 4 forks, spoons, knifes and a couple of cups and baking items.
After a week I ended up loving the feeling of what I formerly termed “empty.” Now I call it being a minimalist. Sounds trendier and better, and even though I could care less about trends, it somewhat raises my cool factor just a bit, whatever that means.
I’ve discovered the book Simplify, 7 Guiding Principles to Help Anyone Declutter Their Home and Life.
In this book, 3 of the key principles (out of 7) of simplifying your life, or choosing to live with less are:
- You have to be convinced of the benefits (of less is more)-what’s in our hearts will always be our lives. Ask yourself how your life would be better if there were less “things” in your home. That question for me is answered like this-less cleaning, less shopping, saving money from buying less, spending more quality time with loved ones, finding contentment, less worry, and the opportunity to pursue my passions because I can direct my energy and effort on things I find most valuable in life. In other words, I’m less tied to things I own, I have more availability and more energy. It’s so refreshing!
- Identify your values and jump in-We jumped right in due to time restraints in selling our home and relocating. Discover what you need and why you need it. Minimalism is the promotion of things we most value and the removal of anything that distracts us from that. My friends always say, “where do I start?” Start small-one room, one closet, one thing that’s easy. I always ask myself if anyone would want these collected things when I pass, and I have 2 grown boys who won’t ever want my old crap. That was easy! The feeling you will get from cleaning out 1 area is so nice that it WILL give you motivation to carry on. I made piles-things to give away, things to trash, things to donate, things to sell. I got boxes to fill up and then took them immediately to donate. Get those things out of your house!
- Break the trend of consumerism in your life-we live in mass consumption. When the news tells us that consumer spending is down, people and businesses panic! Think about that-this is the measure we use to determine success. When people buy things, more people can work to produce things for more people to buy. Our nation is based on people spending money on STUFF. Man, that just breaks it down for me. Get off that hamster wheel and think about it. Realize that possessions don’t equal joy and that a new top will not change your life or leave any lasting joy in your life. Consider the true cost of all of your purchases-not only do you purchase an item, but you have to put it away, organize for it and take care of it. Be generous-it’s the behavior of a contented heart, and it feeds into a contented heart on the inside. It helps you break free of the cycle. TV is always selling us something because it’s the backbone of the industry, so pare down your TV-watching and spend time with others doing other things. Value the invisible things in life-relationships, time with others and solitude. Our lives were meant to be more than chasing material dreams. Less stress, more joy, time to think. More is not better.
A blogger named Mandy is a professional organizer, and here are her 8 Questions to ask yourself to organize any room:
These are helpful for ANY area of your home. It doesn’t matter if you are organizing your closet, pantry, or bathroom. I use these for everything!
1. How many do I HAVE?
2. How many do I USE?
3. Does this fit my lifestyle?
If you have 15 dresses yet only dress up once a year, that would not fit your lifestyle.
If you have 4 pairs of work out shorts and work out 3 times a week, that would fit your lifestyle.
4. Could something else I own do the same job?
For example, if you have a hand held mixer and a Kitchen Aid mixer, decide if you need both.
5. WHY am I holding on to this?
If it is out of guilt I am giving you permission to let it go!
6. What is the WORST that could happen if I gave this item up?
7. What is the BEST that could happen if I gave this item up?
Remember your goal… why you began organizing this area
8. Is it really worth keeping?
If you don’t want to become a total minimalist but just want to clean out your house and your mind, pick a few of these ideas and see how it makes you feel. I call it refreshing and enlightening.