Goodbye clutter, I won’t miss you

It rained this afternoon, hard enough to clean out the air and make everything outside look bright and new. It was very dark outside, but I opened all the windows to let in the clean air and to hear the rain.

Inside while Lane napped, I gathered all the clutter I had sorted this weekend: 6 bags of clothing, 2 bags of paper trash, and 1 bag for the food pantry. It baffles me completely, because I do not like clutter. In January I cleaned out and donated enough stuff to fill the trunk of my car. How is there still so much left? And sad to say, this time most of it is mine. My stuff was long overdue for a good sorting.

Whenever I start to think that we need more storage space, it’s time to get rid of stuff. The actual words from my mouth last week: “we could buy an old armoire from craigslist and paint it!”  Truly, that is the last thing I want.

Notes to self:

  • If buying more clothes hangers is the answer, then I need to clean out my clothes.
  • Also, stop buying stuff.

clutter

These bags take up half the floor space in my bedroom.

Reasons for keeping clutter tend to fall into common themes.

Money

“I paid good money for it, and it would be a waste to get rid of it.” I have a dress that I bought to wear to a Spring Formal in college. It was so expensive to my meager student budget. I couldn’t give it away after only wearing it once! But no lie, it is covered in silver sequins. Where will I wear it again? After all these years, I finally put it in the bag today. Perhaps someone will find it at the Goodwill and wear it to a Dancing with the Stars costume party.

Sometimes the cost to store something can be much greater than the item itself. J.D. at Get Rich Slowly looked at the cost of storing stuff and the rising popularity of storage units.

Optimism

“Someone might want that, it could be useful.” These tend to be the funniest things when you finally get rid of them. It’s easy to see things how they used to be, rather than their current state. Clothes fade and get stretched out, shoes get scuffed, and pieces get lost.

One woman in the Ukraine is committed to decluttering one item a day for a year, whether it be socks or a lone shoulder pad. Even her husband got in on the action and found vacuum bags for a vacuum cleaner they no longer owned.

Sentiment

“Someone who loves me gave it to me. I need to save it to remember.” Everyone should keep some souvenirs of special memories. I think the key is to keep them small. I thought this idea at LobotoMe for keeping nature souvenirs in labeled glass jars was brilliant. They look great displayed on the shelf. Much better than my box of little things that I can’t remember where they came from.

It shouldn’t be surprising that I love small notebooks to record special events and memories. I thought this mini-book made by Ali Edwards was a beautiful example of how special a small album can be.

Identity

“It proves I was here. I worked hard for it.” Are we leaving our stuff as our legacy? These things will not last. Let us not spend ourselves to fill up our homes with temporary things.

Circumstance

“I don’t have time, and I can’t do this now.” When life is life, shuffling our stuff around becomes the lowest priority on the list. Jill at Secret.Genious illustrates this in a way I think we can all relate to. Go visit her blog and marvel at her writing talent and photographs.

What motivates you?

We all need a good motto for managing our stuff. Denise says “I’m on a mission.  Toss, donate, toss, donate and toss some more.  I want simple, I want less.  Less is more.”
Exactly.

About Rachel

I write about practical tips that will help you simplify at home. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.

Comments

  1. Here’s me doing my late night perusing thru small notebook and clicking all these great links and subscribing to feeds… and then — oh hey! there’s ME!
    Thanks Rachel!

    Oh — and I recently caught myself wondering, “Should we rent whatever the smallest / cheapest storage space is and keep our Christmas decorations there? Because that would free up half the hall closet…”

    I know we’re in the off-season, but maybe someone has a post regarding “Christmas Clutter Control”?

  2. Great article as always, Rachel. Yeah, when I start thinking about needing stuff to store stuff, that’s a warning light. Meta-clutter, baby.

    Loving all the links here! You really do thoughtful work.

  3. I love the links! I found myself so inspired by EVERYTHING! I can’t wait to get decluttered enough to actually feel like I can TEMPORARILY spread out and make a mini-scrapbook. Or set up a more functional filing system. Thanks for a great post!

  4. I can’t wait until I have my energy back…..seeing your progeress inspires me :) I had to ::lol:: at your hangers comment….I tend to buy more hangers when I run out and unfortunately there are more clothes in there that we DON’T wear than we do wear.

  5. Doesn’t decluttering just feel like a huge weight off your shoulder?! :o)

    I’m always amazed at how much clutter can accumulate. We, too, decluttered this past January, and now as we are settling into our new home, there is still so much left to purge, even having sent three huge boxes to Goodwill before the movers came for pack-up at the old house! Maybe the clutter sneaks in while people are sleeping?! :P

  6. Yes, I have six bags ready to go in the gargage that look just like yours. I have plenty of paper bags left to fill – one bag at a time!

  7. This reminds me a story in Philip Yancey’s book, Prayer, Does It Really Work. A man went to a monastery for a spiritual retreat, and as the monk showed him to his room, the monk said, “If you need anything at all, let us know. We’ll teach you how to live without it.”

  8. speaking of clutter, I just bagged up a bunch of things today but I still have a ways to go. and I’ve used more than one of those excuses to keep my clutter.

  9. smallnotebook says:

    Ok, now once the clutter is identified, the next step is to get it out of the house! Otherwise it will just get absorbed right back in with the rest of the stuff. I just dropped off the final bags this weekend. It’s nice to have that space back!

  10. jermangirl says:

    You have articulated everything that was in my head just prior to our garage sale last month…when all my friends thought I was crazy to be getting rid of so much “stuff”. Here’s my question though…how do I limit the stuff that other people bring into my house? Gifts from well-meaning grandparents, etc. I have stopped accumulating for the most part…but the stuff still piles up!

  11. That’s a good question jermangirl. I’ll share what I did when Lane turned two last month. At a family gathering a couple of weeks before her birthday, I simply said, “If you’re thinking about buying Lane a present, I just want to let you know that her favorite toy right now is a plastic grape from a faux fruit arrangement that she found discarded at the park. She has been playing with it constantly for the past two weeks. So just keep that in mind; you could give her a gift bag with tissue paper and nothing else, and she would like it just as much.”

    I think it was helpful to my family members who wanted to express their affection through giving, but don’t see her every day to know she doesn’t need a lot of toys.

    And great job doing your garage sale!

  12. I stumbled here after beginning a quest to purge my house of everything. I’ve come across this belief inside me that I don’t need possessions to be satisfied. I feel like most of my time is spent maintaining my possessions or figuring out what else I’d like to acquire.

    I’m craving open corners, bare walls. It’s gone as far as making plans to eliminate furntiure acquired from relatives and friends, random junk placed on the mantel to create that tossed-collage feel. I loved it at first, now I just find it tiring and damaging.

    Maybe it’s spring, maybe it’s the economy, but less is really more, and I can’t wait until my apartment is warmly on this side of being cavernous.

    Thanks for the article, it’s reinforced my thinking and encouraged me to keep going.

  13. I am a Get Rich slowly reader so new to this blog. I recently read an article(but where?) about someone who was paring down her wardrobe to what she really wears. I will have three days w/o family in the house in 2 weeks and I plan to put in one place everything I do not wear regularly(I will keep the good suit and dress). I hope to do this in 2 days(I also want to spend some time enjoying the peace and quiet by reading and by eating slowly) and on the third day, list it all and drive it to the thrift shop.

  14. Love this post…it’s going to help me this afternoon when I talk (lecture) my daughter about what she should keep in her “new” room and what she should let go…

    And then I’ll do the same in many of the stuffed closets I have around the house….

    Our house will become larger before Labor Day!

  15. When my daughters were in their teens, they would complain, “I don’t have anything to wear”. But their closets and dressers were full. They told me that most of the stuff was wrong, (didn’t fit, wrong color, didn’t like, etc) I put am empty box in the hall closet and marked it DONATE. As they found something that they didn’t want, they put it into the box. When the box was full, I took it to Goodwill and put a new box in place. This way, I could see that they really didn’t have anything to wear (HA!) and the declutter-ing went on every week.

  16. We also decided to delcutter. and one way to do it in the closet is each time you wear something, trun the hanger a different direction thatn you usually hang your clothes. at the end of the month, anything that hasn’t been worn, goes out. no questions! it works great!

  17. Sandra Gonzales says:

    I was just telling a friend that I wish I could downsize my closet but I love ALL of my clothes. Well, I made the commitment to really look in my closet and I found six pairs of jeans from circa 1997. Eleven years later…..how pathetic! They were in really good condition and I guess that’s why I never got rid of them. But I took a good look at the cut of the jean and they’re seriously outdated. Goodbye ’97 jeans!

    Next week I’m tackling my shoes…. (to be continued).

  18. smallnotebook says:

    Sandra, I can relate. I used to think I had to wait until clothes were worn out to give them away, but now I think that not wearing them is a good enough reason.

    Teresa, the turned-hanger idea is very simple! It makes it easy to see what hasn’t been worn.