Currently trending are shows and books about decluttering, organization, and minimalism.
Now, I’m not a hoarder. But I certainly have “saving tendencies.” The excuse that runs through my head the most is “I might use this some day.”
If you know me in real life, you know that I probably will never be a minimalist. But a few months ago, I felt like my stuff was owning me, our storage spaces, and taking way too much of my time trying to keep it organized.
We live in a good size house with lots of closet space. And yet too frequently I found myself thinking, “We have no room in this house!” That made me stop in my tracks and consider what I just said.
I’m sure most American households have too much stuff. Most of us live in comfortable (sometimes large) houses and they’re probably overflowing with things. The really sad part is that most people would conclude that they’d need a bigger house, more square footage, and bigger closets.
I don’t want to be that person. I want to be content living in the house we have now. But to achieve that, I need to have less stuff taking up space in it.
Let me back up a bit. My journey to wanting less stuff actually started a few years ago. I read Joshua Becker’s book The More of Less and recently found the notes I took when reading it. Here are some of the reasons I listed then (and are still true now) for wanting to own less stuff:
- I want to spend more time with my family and friends—and less time cleaning, organizing, managing, and putting away my stuff.
- I want to invite people over without worrying about what a mess my house is.
- I want to let go of my false security of “more” and be more intentional with what I buy.
- I want to experience more contentment and less envy/comparison.
I’d like to say that I immediately started cleaning out our junk and decluttering.
But alas, I did not.
Our situation at the time had us living in a small apartment with our newborn son while most of our stuff was still in boxes in a storage closet. Personally, I didn’t feel ready to make decisions about our belongings when we felt like nomads…moving to a different town and apartment every couple of years. For example, I didn’t want to get rid of certain decor items because while it didn’t fit our current style/apartment, it might fit the style we were going for in our house one day. I didn’t want to get rid of certain kitchen appliances because we might have a bigger kitchen one day.
So once we built and moved into our house 18 months ago, I finally felt settled, allowing me to make some permanent decisions in regards to our stuff.
We ended up clearing out and donating several car loads worth of stuff to a local thrift store.
But that was a year ago. And by the spring of this year, I was complaining about lack of space in a decent sized house like a spoiled brat. I needed to do something about this.
But where to start?! There’s so many different ways to do it! Two popular ones at the moment are the Konmari method and Swedish Death Cleaning.
Marie Kondo and her Konmari method has exploded in popularity (again) because Netflix started carrying her show, which I’d watched a few times years ago on TV. I haven’t read her book but from what I understand, her premise has to do with literally clearing everything out of a space, touching each item, and asking yourself if it sparks joy. If it does spark joy, keep it. If it doesn’t, get rid of it.
Seems simple. And I can see how this would be helpful if I was only cleaning out my closet or sentimental items. But paperwork, old tax documents, pot holders, and cooking utensils will never spark joy but they might be practical enough that I need to keep them. I nixed the Konmari method. Sorry, Marie!
That brings me to Swedish Death Cleaning. When I first heard this term, it sounded super intense! While I can’t claim to be an expert on this either, the impression I’ve gathered from hearing others talking about it seems to be that you get rid of things that you wouldn’t want your loved ones to have to deal with in the event of your death.
This seemed a little drastic…and depressing. Also, I might live for another 50 years and need some of my stuff until then. So this one was off the list, too.
Enter: the 30-Day Minimalist Game.
I first heard The Minimalists discussing their challenge on a podcast of The Rachel Cruze Show. Essentially, you get rid of one thing on day one, two things on day two, three things on day three, and so on. Initially I thought, “That doesn’t seem so hard.” But then I thought about Day 21 (finding 21 things) followed by Day 22 (finding 22 things), etc. That’s hard!
When they said that you’d get rid of close to 500 things (I did the math, it’s actually 465 things), I was convinced. I wasn’t sure I could find 465 things since we had just done a massive clean-out the year before, but I was willing to accept the challenge. Plus, I didn’t need a formula to follow like with the Konmari or Swedish Death Cleaning methods. I just had to find a certain number of things we no longer needed or used.
Shockingly, the first 11 days were easy! I flew through them. Then I hit a bit of a wall. I looked at my husband and said “I’m stuck on day 12!” He looked at me kind of bewildered and said “Don’t stop now.” (I think he’s a minimalist at heart but keeps that part concealed for the sake of our marriage.)
I kept going.
Sometimes it took me a few actual days to compile enough stuff to complete a “day’s-worth” of items. Looking back through my pictures, I realized I only duplicated one item by accident: a pair of grill tongs. That utensil made it into Day 24 and Day 28 by accident. But Day 30, the final day, I put 32 things in that pile so that made up for it! 🙂
When it was all said and done, I really was surprised that I found 465 things relatively easily. I never got hung up for too long because I’d remember “Oh I haven’t gone through my tubberware cabinet yet or my bins of Christmas decorations or my sock drawer”…etc.
What surprised me most of all was how much TRASH (i.e. things I couldn’t sell, donate, or give away) was taking up space in parts of our home. I vaguely remember reading a quote about how clutter is essentially procrastination (you’re procrastinating a decision) and it can actually add to your anxiety. (Sorry, I have no idea who I’m quoting or where I heard this.)
It actually disturbed me to realize that the reason these things were still in our house was because I was procrastinating on making a final decision about them. Essentially, I just needed to put them in the trash. But I hate making decisions, so I would continue to drag it out with some lazy phrase like “Well, maybe I can fix this one day.” “Maybe I’ll finish up these bottles of skin products when my face stops being so sensitive.” Seriously, if you find yourself saying any of these phrases, just put the item in the trash. It will be okay. I promise.
For your reading pleasure, here are some actual thoughts that went through my head during this process:
Why did I have refillable wipes containers from my son’s newborn stage when we barely use baby wipes anymore?
That’s a lot of expired medications!
Why have I kept this many single and/or ripped socks for so long?
Why do we still have this broken bicycle pump that can’t be repaired?
Why am I keeping these baby books my son destroyed (and are no longer readable)?
That’s an awful lot of tubberware lids that don’t have matching containers!
My son has THIS MANY broken toys that aren’t repairable?!
Why do we still have empty iPhone boxes?
How many potholders does one cook need when she only rotates between the same 3?
Also, how many cookbooks does said cook need when she mostly uses her phone for recipes?
Oh and don’t even get me started on my gift bag/wrapping paper/tissue paper situation. It was bad. I might have hit hoarding status with that.
While occasionally I used Marie Kondo’s question about joy to make my decisions, I mostly found myself asking these questions:
Have I used this in the last year?
Do I realistically see myself using/wearing this in the next year?
Will I actually get around to trying to fix this? (Be honest here!)
Do I need duplicates of this item or is one enough?
It was truly eye-opening and refreshing to clear so much space from cabinets and closets. I knew I had plenty of room in our house, and now I’m finally living like it.
In case you’re beginning to get a little jealous of my achievement, let me tell you that I finished this challenge about a month and a half ago. And two-thirds of the stuff I cleaned out are STILL sitting in designated piles in my basement. The Donation Pile and the Give Away Pile. I haven’t actually done anything with them. That’s the next step that I really need to stop procrastinating on. Ahem.
So for most of us who don’t identify as minimalists, we can do better. It’s so freeing to be content with the space in our home because I took action to get rid of stuff.
Now it’s your turn! Does this sound like something you might want to do? What are some areas of your home that definitely need a declutter?