Do you have too much stuff? Everyone seems to be talking about reducing their clutter. One trending challenge is to rid yourself of 40 bags in 40 days. Even some of the young people I know are joining the 40 day challenge. I have to wonder how they acquired 40 bags worth of excess before they have even left their 20’s! Our ancestors gathered food; we gather stuff.
Our excess baggage has become a concern. It’s making us overwhelmed, and costing us our peace of mind. It weighs us down both physically and mentally. Organization expert Peter Walsh even suggests in his book, Does this Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat, that clutter is related to overweight. Clutter may give the illusion of potential, but there is not much potential in clutter.
We moved from an almost 4000 square foot house to one that is less than half that size. I knew that with less space I would need to remove at least half of our possessions. At first, getting rid of things was difficult; I liked my things. Out of necessity, however, I learned to let it go.
If you are struggling to get rid of stuff, you might consider some of the following tactics which worked for me.
Clutter Trap : Sentimental Things
The Solution: Give Things You Care About to People You Care About
I couldn’t take my grandmother’s china to a thrift store. It stayed on my shelves for years, even though I never used it and couldn’t imagine that I ever would. If I had kept it, it would have ended up in boxes, packed away in the basement somewhere for my children to have to get rid of someday. My solution was to give things I cared about to people I cared about.
I gave Grandma’s dishes to my niece. It was an easy choice. This opened the door for me to give away other things: my leather furniture to my daughter, my favorite dresser to my nephew. I gave most of my book collection to new teachers; I knew my beloved books would be used. College students were recipients of extra furniture, lamps and rugs; they were very grateful, and I was happy that I could help them. I found I didn’t mind giving away things so much when I knew they would have a good home.
As for all the sentimental keepsakes of childhood, each of my daughters has a large plastic bin with the best of the baby quilts, first photo outfits and special childhood memorabilia. Take pictures of school projects and let them go. Most adults do not want the salt flour map of the U.S. they made in fifth grade.
Clutter Trap : The Great and Expensive Rejects
The Solution: Ask Yourself, Does This Item Represent How I Wish to Show Myself to The World?
Your possessions should enhance your life. Many of our things were perfectly good and maybe even expensive, but wrong for us. Everyone has received gifts that didn’t quite work, decor that is not your style or clothes that don’t represent who we are right now. No matter how well intentioned, that ultra modern lamp is never going to be happy in your coastal cottage. Even if it is in great shape, if it isn’t useful to you or doesn’t help you feel great about your life, out it goes. That goes for the designer jacket you bought but that never looked good on you. Have a tag sale or donate it to a charity you care about. What you will be left with is all the stuff you really love and use. I may have gotten rid of half of my stuff, but I love being surrounded by only my favorite things.
Clutter Trap: The “Someday” Pile
The Solution: Be Realistic.
This one is tricky. You might need it someday. You also might not. Ask yourself about the time and cost to hang on to something versus the time and cost to replace it. I got rid of a pair of crutches. Yes, I might need them someday, and it turns out six months later, I did. I bought a new pair for $16.00, hardly the end of the world. What would it have cost me in extra time and money to store? I had five coffee carafes. Five! Maybe I will have a big party and use them, but it makes more sense to get rid of all but one and if I have a big party I can borrow some carafes from friends.
This also works for those clothes you are going to fit into “someday.” Get real! If you lose a lot of weight, you are going to want to buy new clothes, not wear your former smaller ones. You will deserve new clothes! Go shopping, not to buy, but just to look at all the great new clothes. Seeing what is available to you in the future will make it easier to get rid your old clothes. There are always better clothes available than the two sizes too small ones you are hanging on to.
Clutter Trap: Overload Everywhere
The Solution: Sort One Space
When I was moving, the thought of clearing out every room in the house was overwhelming. The garage and basement alone were mammoth tasks. Remember Klinger on the TV show Mash? He declared he was going to eat a jeep. How could he accomplish such an impossible task? By taking one small bite at a time.
The same principle works here. Chose one closet or one drawer. Sort, clean and immediately remove unwanted items from your home. When we were moving, I tried to do one smaller space, such as a box or drawer each day and one bigger space such as a closet each weekend. If you are consistent, you will make progress. The key here is to physically remove the items regularly or you will build up more piles of unwanted things that will sit around until you have to go through those piles again. Every time I left the house I had books to donate to the library or clothing for the shelters, or something to drop off at the thrift store.
Now that the dust has settled, I have found that I really don’t miss the things I left behind. A little breathing space, it turns out, is good for the soul.
Do you have a regular routine to keep excess at bay? How do you get rid of clutter? Please share your strategies, Americans are buried in stuff and looking for a way out!
“Clutter is anything that does not support your better self.”
― Eleanor Brownn