23 February 2016

simplify: clutter.

A couple of moves ago I saw all of my belongings laid out together, and I was frustrated with how much there was.  I was in a rotten mood all throughout the moving process, it was really bad.  I had by no means reached hoarder status, but for me personally it was just too much.  I've since pared way down  and have been able to breathe a lot easier.

In preparing for this move I tried to eliminate even more.  I went through every corner of the house and decided what deserved to stay and what was better off going somewhere else.  There is a ton of advice out there regarding clearing up clutter and junk, and a lot of it is the same.  I will probably repeat some of those things here, but here are some tips that have worked for me and I regularly hearken back to:

1. When do I use/wear this item?  The advice out there generally tends to go something like, If you haven't worn/used the item in the last six months (or year), you don't need it.  I like this, and it usually works well for me.  But sometimes it's better for me to think of when I actually have used an item, and then gauge from that answer whether or not the item is worth keeping.  For example, the last time we used those salad tongs was... well, never.  (oops.)  And in the future when if we do serve a salad at dinner, we can get by just using other utensils or servings spoons that we have and do actually use.  So, goodbye salad tongs!  On the other hand, we haven't used our DVD player in a few months.  But we occasionally borrow DVDs from the library and have a few that we revisit periodically.  The player doesn't take up much space, so we keep it around.  I use this piece of advice on a case by case basis.
2. Stop asking "what if...?"  I think this is the biggest problem that we (and many others!) have when it comes to de-cluttering.  When we moved into our current home, it came with an above-range microwave and also a water dispensing fridge, leaving us with our tabletop microwave and our Brita pitcher wondering, what do we do with these?  My first reaction was, get rid of them!  But Jon hates the idea of selling or donating something that we might need to buy again in the future.  Which is understandable.  What if, in our next house, we need that Brita pitcher and microwave?  As it turns out, we didn't need either of those.  But we kept them anyway, and they took up space unnecessarily.  Again, on a case by case basis, look at the what-if items and weight the costs of keeping the item around or possibly re-buying it in the future.
3. One step at a time.  Just go room by room.  Or even drawer by drawer.  Tackle the house one corner at a time, whenever you have a spare fifteen or twenty minutes.  I've tried to declutter the whole house in a day, and it was a mistake.  I got hardly anything done.  Doing a little bit here are there might mean that you finish the house in its entirety in a week or two, but it will actually get done.
4. Be choosy about what you collect.  I've seen them, all of those rooms turned into mini museums for their book collections.  The hutches with all of the travel spoons and plates or turtle figurines.  I don't really think collections are for me.  I imagine they are fun to show to people, but for me personally I value a clear space more than bragging rights.  If you do collect something, consider where the joy in it comes from: the finding of the pieces, the owning and use of the pieces, or the showing off of the pieces.  Maybe re-evaluate if one of those doesn't sit well with you.
5. Digitize!  Early last year I scanned all of the peer reviews from the short stories I wrote in college (a truly humiliating experience... like reading back on your old diaries from high school).  It was literally hundreds of pages that filled many boxes.  I've long since gone digital for my music collection, and when Jon and I decide we'd like to buy a movie, we almost always buy through iTunes.  I'm not quite yet converted to the idea of buying books digitally (I may never be able to get on that boat), but if you are, do it!  I tend to be a neat-freak even when it comes to digital files and organize my digital files pretty regularly, but even if you're not you can save actual, tangible space.

So those are just a few things that have helped me keep the clutter away.  Living in a clean, free-of-too-much-stuff home is so important to me.  My anxiety levels shoot up and I feel like I can't breathe when I enter a home that is maximalist to the max, and it's the best feeling to come home to a place that makes me feel relaxed and at peace.  It's worth all of the work, and giving away things becomes a lot easier the more I do it.

Now what to do about preventing the toddler messes...??


  1. Such good advice! My problem is that I get emotionally attached to things. Even if I know I'm never going to wear that shirt again, I remember that I wore it when Austin kissed me the first time and I get all teary and have to keep it. I have serious problems over here! ;) I love your posts! I'm excited that you guys bought a house!! We've started the searching/saving process and it's pretty tricky. Any tips from one who has done it successfully would be fabulous!

    1. I get the sentimenality issue! It wasn't much of a problem for me until I had Theo. (All of those cute baby clothes!) What's helped me part with those clothes is knowing that I have pictures of Theo wearing that shirt, hat, or outfit that I really love. It can be a pretty easy thing to find a picture of you or your kiddo in the clothes you like, considering we seem to take a million pictures all the time. Plus I think it's better to have that picture of the person actually in the clothing item, as opposed to just the empty garment.

      As for the house-buying prcoess... it was all kind of a whirlwind experience for me, but I do have tips! My number one piece of advice is: Don't be afraid to ask questions to the people who know what's going on. Don't worry about seeming stupid! My number two advice: If you have a top two or three houses you like, try to visit them as much as possible! We really loved one house on first visit and actually made an offer on it, but then every time we visited after we loved it less and less and rescinded our offer. With the house we actually bought, we loved it more and more with each visit. And my number three advice: Try to visit your top houses at different times of day (and in different weather conditions if you can). We were lucky because over the course of our hunting, it was rainy, sunny, cool, and hot. We got to see the different houses in different climates and different times of day for seeing how the sunlight came into the house, which I thought was really helpful.

      Whew. That was a lot of advice, haha. Good luck with everything!! :)

    2. Thank you for passing on your wisdom! I've already been doing number one... I don't know the first thing about house buying! Haha! I know everyone's experience is different, but how long did it take you from the day you talked to a realtor to the day you had keys in your hand? Buying around an ending lease date is a worrisome thing!

    3. From the first day we went out looking at houses to the day we got our keys was about a month and a half. From when we put in an offer on our current house to getting the keys was a month, but we actually got the keys three weeks sooner than we were expecting. We were also having to time it with the end of a lease, but honestly I'd make your first priority finding YOUR house. It truly would have sucked if we'd needed to pay another month on a rental because we didn't find a house in time, but if it meant finding the right house it would have been worth it in the long run. I hope this is helpful and that I'm not making you more nervous!!