It’s been a few weeks since my last post…I’ve missed you!
Seriously, though, I have been feeling a bit disconnected. When I welcomed you here last year to my brand new website, I told you there may be times that I would have to prioritize other things (over the blog) in my life. And, that’s been the case recently. In February, I had the flu, at the same time we were beginning to ready our home to put it on the market for sale. It took me a full 3 weeks to truly feel like myself again after being sick. During that time, less than 3 days after our house went on the market for showings, we were under contract. YAY!!! That meant I immediately went into moving mode, including doing a temporary housing search (with my intolerance for mold, as well as sensitivity to chemicals, this was NO EASY FEAT!). And that basically brings us to today – since finding what should be safe housing for me (I may share more about this in the future), I’ve been majorly focused on sorting our belongings.
Since we will be living in a smallish apartment for several months while we build a new home, we needed to make some decisions about our “stuff”. We needed to decide: what can realistically come to the apartment; what can safely and reasonably be kept in storage for the new home; what should be sold, donated, or trashed; and what things are most meaningful to us or “necessary” for keeping. In the past several years, we had REALLY eliminated a lot of stuff. I had begun to think of myself as more of a minimalist. I am also quite practical, though, and hate to throw something away that TRULY could be useful again in the future. So, if I could store something away neatly, I would rather keep it than have to buy it again (examples include: certain baby items, certain clothing, kitchen items that don’t necessarily get used for many months, but do get used, etc.). Also, home schooling and having a home-based business results in more “stuff” at home too.
So, what I began to realize as I sorted through our things in that first week after our house was under contract was that WE HAD A LOT MORE STUFF THAN I THOUGHT. It may have been neatly organized behind closed doors, and may have been much less than in the past, maybe even much less than the average person, BUT IT WAS STILL A LOT OF STUFF. It simply accumulates when you live in a sizable house for almost 12 years with a family of 4.
If I haven’t already made it clear— I really don’t like clutter. It makes it hard for me to focus on anything else and causes feelings of frustration and irritability. I am most certainly the type of person for whom the saying, “Outer order, inner calm,” is extremely appropriate. So, although making the decision to eliminate items that we have become accustomed to having is not easy, there is also something so FREEING about being able to let go as well. Each time I have gone through this process over the past few years of letting things go, I truly have experienced more joy than sadness.
Over time as I’ve pared down our stuff, I’ve also become much more efficient at doing it. So now, this process, though sometimes overwhelming and most certainly time-consuming, has gotten easier and easier. I thought I’d share with you some of my thoughts, tips, and suggestions.
One thing I’ve realized that gives me great gratitude for the process of minimizing is that the distraction of clutter and the time spent cleaning it up absolutely keeps me from experiencing more joy in my life. The more clutter and cleaning I can eliminate, the more room I feel there is to focus on the things that matter more to me and bring me more happiness. That’s pretty powerful to know about myself, and not that difficult to make a long-term impact on.
Several years ago I read the books, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo and the Joy of Less by Francine Jay. Although I didn’t strictly follow the advice in those books, they did help me to think about de-cluttering in new ways. It’s honestly been years since reading those books, so I can’t even say necessarily whether these ideas came from one author or another or how both of their ideas have merged with my own in the process I informally use now. Regardless, I hope you find these ideas helpful.
Here we go….
If you decide you are ready to reduce the clutter, live with less, and experience the joy of minimalism (whatever that means to you), here are some suggestions to get you started:
1. Set aside some time. Doing this properly really does take time. Depending on the size of your home and the amount of stuff you currently have, it could take 2 full-time weeks (or more), or a couple of months if you’re just doing it part-time. Schedule some time to work on it until you’ve done every area of your home. It won’t be fully satisfying unless you truly complete the whole house.
2. Decide the types of items you will sort first. I highly suggest grouping like items. If you have similar types of items stored in more than one place, gather them and sort through them together. This could be things like clothing, papers/files, jewelry, photos and memorabilia, etc.
3. Do not try to organize as you go. Sort through the items and make decisions about them, putting them into separate piles for keeping, selling, donating, or throwing away. ONLY when you are done sorting everything in that category would I suggest you try to organize the items you’ve chosen to keep. One thing I have found is that sometimes when I sort through the pile 2 and 3 times, I find more items to release each time. And once I start trying to organize it, if it doesn’t fit neatly or comfortably in a way that truly leaves me feeling decluttered, I’m also likely to re-evaluate my decisions for further minimizing.
4. This is important: when trying to decide whether to keep each item, it’s important to consider these types of questions—
- How much does this really mean to me?
- How would I feel if I went without this item?
- Would I experience hardship or less joy without it?
- Does it “spark joy” (these are Marie Kondo’s words, and I like them) in me in a way I wouldn’t experience otherwise?
- Is this something I REALLY need? Does it make my life easier? More pleasurable?
- If I had to pack up my most precious belongings to live in a Tiny House or camper, would this make the cut?
5. While going through this process, resist buying anything new. Keep this task to the stuff you already own.
6. When you do begin buying new items, ask the questions in number 4.
7. IF there are some items that you feel REALLY torn about, pack them away. In 6-12 months go back to the stored items and go through the decluttering process again. However, before packing anything away, first ask yourself:
- Is it really possible I will come looking for this within 6 months?
- If not, when I take this back out in 6 months, is it likely to bring me immense joy to see and hold it again?
I have found that some of the items I thought I was keeping because of their meaning, really weren’t held in the item at all, but in my heart, and that the item wasn’t necessary for me to continue to experience the joy of that memory.
8. Repeat this entire decluttering process every 6-12 months. As long as you continue to be mindful about the items you allow into your space, each time you go through this process it takes less and less time and gets easier. You’ll be surprised, though, how you can make more eliminations every time. Either new clutter will have snuck in in one way or another (in my case, this is often in the form of papers, or gadgets my kids bring in) or time will help you to realize you still have things that simply don’t make the cut anymore.
9. A few more ways to minimize clutter over time-
One way in which items make their way into your home is through gifts from others or those you give to the people who live with you. You can consider making a request for gifts that offer an experience (often more meaningful anyway) or giving these types of gifts. So, for example, we have started doing this with our children. We have gifted things like: trips to their favorite indoor go-cart track, a gift card to an indoor rock climbing facility, archery lessons, etc.
Although we all prefer a real-deal book, we also started purchasing more electronic books which at least reduces some of the physical items in our home, especially for books that we wouldn’t likely read again.
Lastly, I don’t like to run out of items, so I often keep a back-up, but over time I’ve tried to learn to ask myself how rough it would be if I had to go a few days, or even a week, without that item until I could run to the store to get it or re-order it. When I ask questions like that I begin to realize how spoiled we are and sometimes a short time without an item can actually make us appreciate it even more. I can’t say I do this all the time – I do like to have back up toilet paper…haha! But I’ve gotten better at this.
I truly hope these ideas help you with your decluttering
and come in a timely manner for your spring cleaning!
I hope you find the results to be freeing and joyful!