Organizing. Minimizing. Simplifying. That’s been my obsession lately. For some time now, I’ve been trying to re-train my brain to understand that more is not necessarily better and just because something is on sale doesn’t mean I need to have it. Spending money on a bunch of junk because it’s cheap is a waste of money, which is what I’m trying to avoid by sale shopping, right? It totally undermines what I’m trying to achieve! This feeling goes way back to growing up with little money, trying to make it stretch as far as possible and accumulate as much as possible, as if possessions could increase my worth. Many of us are trying to do that with or without realizing it. I knew I was never going to be one of the popular preppy girls in their Limited sweaters, spiral perms, and popped collars (late 80’s dude, don’t judge) and I became obsessed with estate sales, flea markets and thrift stores. I still love the treasure hunt of second-hand shopping (and I still don’t have much money) so the challenge is learning to shop with control. Buying only what I need and nothing more and realistically, I don’t need a lot. Also by this age, I’ve figured out some things about myself like I do not wear loafers or scarves so I need to stop buying them from thrift stores, even if they are Italian leather and silk. I don’t have much space to put anything so that’s the other impetus here besides being smarter with my money: we are overcluttered and I can’t stand it. I say “we” because I don’t live alone but the added complication here is that only one of us is on the declutter bandwagon.
I call my husband a hoarder but really, he’s not. He worked hard for everything he has and doesn’t want to get rid of any of it – even if he hasn’t used something in years and probably never will again. He’s still attached to the idea that getting rid of things is throwing away money. I’m over that but I would never be the spouse who throws out things that don’t belong to me because a: I’m not an asshole and b: without a person changing their mindset regarding acquisitions, it does no good to get rid of things because more things will come in and take that space back. So when it comes to things like tools and fishing equipment, I have no power. Le sigh.
I fight my battles where I can, getting cutthroat with things in drawers and closets that can be donated but skirting around his items and trying to gently suggest which things could maybe do just as well in the upstairs storage room that we are lucky enough to have. (Don’t think I haven’t been trying to clear that out as well.) When all else fails, I’ve been throwing things in shelf-sized totes so at least if I have to deal with all the junk existing here I don’t have to dust it. By the way, when did plastic storage containers get so damn expensive??? This latest round of decluttering really took off in August, after yet another flood from a broken valve on our building’s chilled water line which gave us an hour of pouring water out of the fan coil unit from our kitchen ceiling. This has happened several times over the years and each time I try to move more and more things off the floors and into plastic containers. In fact, one of my two dressers is actually a stack of plastic Sterlite drawers and the other dresser is up on wheels. Storage container lids on the closet floor and under the bed keep our shoes and boots dry in the event of wet carpet. The legs of my cedar chest nest in little clear plastic dollar store storage cups. My husband tries to act like I’m the crazy one but I just disaster prep for the type of disaster we have most often. Then I don’t have a heart attack about property damage when a valve blows out in the middle of the night (it’s always the middle of the night for some reason), I just call maintenance and start setting trash cans under the water.
When the house is clearer I can think better. I don’t get frustrated going into that cupboard where everything used to fall out on me. I can find important paperwork. On the rare occasions I’m in the mood to clean it’s so much easier. I can BREATHE. I don’t know if I was ever the kind of person who was comforted being surrounded by mass quantities of “stuff”, but I know now that less is more. If I could just get others around me to believe it, like my parents who also love bargain shopping (especially auctions) and love to bring us tons of things we don’t need when they visit. I’ve told mom only edible presents are welcome from now on but she seems to not hear that…
Helpful guidelines (as I thought them up) if you are trying to declutter:
* Can’t get rid of it but use it once every 6 months? Put it in storage (garage, attic, basement). Get it out of your daily living situation and don’t let it creep back in.
* About that storage space. It’s the last place something lingers before it goes out the door. Really assess what you have there and why. If you forgot you had it, get rid of it.
* Keeping something because it belonged to a loved one is great if you use that thing on a regular basis (grandma’s kitchen towels), but the bag of costume jewelry that’s not your style? Grandma’s okay with you not keeping it. Giving it away does not diminish your love or your memories.
* How many of your childhood and high school trinkets do you REALLY need?
* If you aren’t planning on having kids, maybe give up most of your stuffed animals and children’s books.
* Don’t keep something just because it is old.
* Don’t keep something just because of nostalgia.
* Don’t keep something just because it is valuable (and don’t keep a pile of things you think will sell on ebay – you won’t get much money for them if you ever really do get around to listing them).
* It’s easy to overlook things you see every day but get in your way. It is really adding value to your life or just clutter?
* If you keep instructions/warranty paperwork in one place, go through it and throw out expired warranties and manuals for things you no longer own.
* You have things in your closet that you say you loooove – but there’s always something else you want to wear more? Those things should go. Ditto with shoes and purses. I know it hurts to admit because I too love shoes and bags.
* Start writing in all those blank notebooks or stop buying them! Sorry, that might just pertain to me.
* If you’ve kept something for 15 years “just in case” and never used/worn it…
* You own a pie dish but know damn well you will alway buy a pre-made crust…
* It’s more important to have a few things you are in love with than 100 choices that you feel “eh” about.
* There are plenty of people who could use what you don’t need. I have a free box outside my office where I put a lot of things that disappear. I know they are being used by others. I try to donate to small local charities instead of Goodwill and Salvation Army because big organizations often have more than they can use.