Who doesn’t like a tidy, clutter free, organized house?
My hand is in the air. And I bet yours is too.
Well I’ve been organizing and purging stuff from my house and it feels wonderful.
It also is looking better. Not always in the open and living spaces, but behind cupboard and closet doors. Book shelves.
And that is a good feeling. To open a closet door and see more of the white shelves. To pull open a bathroom drawer and see everything in one quick glance.
I started in my bathroom. That place where shampoo, body products, hair accessories, and beauty stuff accumulate. One large garbage sack later, all items left were just necessary products and nothing had an expired date.
Ironic how we think one day I may just wear that shade of lipstick. Years pass, and that day never comes.
Sorting, processing, throwing out and reorganizing our house is a lot like doing the same to our life. Not everything you come across is all bad and needs to go, nor is everything all good and needs to stay.
Somethings have served their purpose and now can be passed onto someone else (baby things). Somethings are expired (that jar of bright blue polish I never got around to wearing). Somethings you still need, and may always need (kitchen dishes), and somethings were only for a season (card making supplies).
10 things I learned from decluttering my house, plus decluttering tips:
1. We like to collect stuff. Get a few people living under the same roof and pretty soon that stuff is tasking up all available spaces, drawers, and horizontal surfaces. It is easier to bring stuff in than toss stuff out. So, don’t delay to long. The longer we wait to organize and purge, the more stuff we will have to go through.
2. Life is about stages. And it seems each stage needs new and different equipment. What a baby needs are far different from what a teen needs. What a runner needs are not the same as a swimmer. Every stage and interest needs different stuff. When we have lots of stages and ages we need more stuff. But as time goes on, we can get rid of stuff from stages that have been outgrown or moved past.
3. Memories get attached to and tied up in our stuff. It is hard to see a box of baby clothes the kids wore and not walk down memory lane. I was surprised about how many good memories I came across as I was purging. Even silly stuff, like a can of sunscreen from a few years ago that we had taken on a trip conjured up some snapshot moments of that trip.
4. A little bit of purging here and there makes a big dent. Occasionally I spent most of the day organizing and sorting and tossing, like the day I tackled my office. But even that day had interruptions and pauses, including a trip to drop a kid off, running errands, and visiting for an hour or two with a friend. Other days I had ten minutes and sorted through one drawer. An hour and a half turned into a bathroom purge. Half an hour translated into organizing a book-case. Over time, all add up to a lighter and more organized house.
5. Tastes change over time. That octagonal set of dishes I bought before I was married, the ones I haven’t used in years, well my tastes have changed. And that is alright. Get rid of things you no longer use, that no longer speak to you, or compliment your current tastes.
6. Hobbies and interests fall by the side. I have lots of card making supplies. Stamps, embossing powders, stickers, fancy paper, edging scissors, and pens of every color. But the last time I pulled all the stuff out to make cards in the last ten years was to make cards with some friends. I no longer have that desire anymore and am spending my crafting time doing other things. And that is all right. For years my daughter and I used those supplies. I had stamping birthday parties for her, and craft nights for her friends. But that stage is gone. Now someone else can use them. Don’t keep things you are no longer interested in or will do only every ten years. Pass the blessing along to others.
7. There is a reason we hold onto things. Maybe we were poor growing up. Maybe things represent security. Maybe we want to be prepared for anything or every possible situation. Maybe our stuff holds memories and we are holding onto those memories. Maybe we think we may become poor again and won’t be able to buy another, so we keep one and a spare. Maybe we are to overwhelmed to even tackle a small project. Maybe we hear our mother’s voice, or someone else’s and believe a lie about us or our stuff.
As I was cleaning, I thought about my reasons for keeping things. Like most things, it was a complicated reason of several things. First, I was poor growing up. I needed to keep and take of what I had because I wasn’t getting more. (I still have mechanical pencils that still work from my college days.) Back in my twenties, there was not a Walmart on nearly ever corner where you could buy things at a reasonable price. My first set of dishes and silverware were expensive. Now I can go to Walmart and buy a set of dishes for 4 for $20.00. I sometimes forget this and keep things I don’t really like or want, forgetting I can buy a new one at a reasonable price and in many more options than years ago. I grew up not wasting or getting rid of the one item, so I do better donating things to a charity, rather than tossing them.
As I am purging and sorting, I remind myself that I am no longer poor. That I can afford to replace items I don’t like or want. And that I don’t need to keep items I don’t like or want anymore. These truths help me be more ruthless. The truth is that most things are replaceable if I accidentally throw away something I may want in the future. (That unused punch bowl.)
As for things with memories, like that prom dress you wore in high school and still have and will never wear again, take a picture and toss the item. Now you can revisit those memories anytime you want.
8. Things wear out and need to be replaced. Those sheets that are twenty years old and worn to 10-thread count need to be tossed. In fact, most linens have a life of less than 10 years. One lady, whose kids I used to babysit as a teen, had a wonderful idea. “Every ten years everyone needs a new wedding shower because all their items from their first one are now worn out and need replacing.” Nine years after my wedding the truth of her comment was reality. As you toss items, make a list of the items you need to replace. (You just may need to throw yourself your own shower!)
9. We need to toss out the old to make room for the new. To keep our houses from bulging, toss out something old so the new fits in. This works in our closet, drawers, and bookshelves. It also works in our lives. Get rid of the old lies and believe the truth. Get rid of those t-shirts from 15 years ago and get some that fit and look better. It is better to have fewer things that work, that we enjoy, that bring us happiness, and that we use, than a houseful of things we don’t.
Ask yourself: Does it serve a purpose? Does it remind me of memories? (Maybe you can take a picture and toss the item.) Is it something I use regularly enough to keep? If not, can I buy a new one or rent one if I latter need it? Does this create peace for me (like artwork) and make my place prettier? Do I really need this? Why am I holding onto this?
10. You will find surprises. Things you thought were lost will resurface. Things you didn’t even know you had, will be discovered. And things you had hidden and forgot about will be found. In a coffee table drawer, I found an unopened bar of chocolate that I had hidden about 6 years ago. Along with the novel I was reading at the time. Keep a sense of humor and wonder.
Purging and sorting our accumulated stuff within our spaces can be a happy walk down memory lane. It can also be hard and sad. It can be confronting the past and our beliefs in our self and life. It can be a surprise and a laugh.
Like in every other area of life, give yourself grace.
This is not a competition.
Our stuff does not determine our worth or our day.
No shame or guilt allowed. We are learning more about our self and our past through our accumulated stuff. And in the process, we are changing and becoming new people.
Thanks for stopping by. Keep remembering what’s important.
PS. Want to see your clutter in a new light? And get a chuckle? Read Kathi Lipp’s post, Why Clutter is Like Every Bad Boyfriend You Ever Had.
Want tips on decluttering each room? Check out: Turn Over a New Leaf with an Organized, Decluttered Home.
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Join the discussion: What have you learned through de-cluttering?