6 Thoughts on Decluttering

Someone asked me this weekend if we still have anything left in our house. Ben immediately jumped in and said, “Nope, I only have one pair of boxers left, because she’s gotten rid of everything else!”

After decluttering 2015 things in the year 2015, I’m having an interesting time trying to do the same thing in 2017. Ben has offered to help by going to the thrift store and buying things just so I’ll have more stuff to get rid of to reach my goal. That could be interesting, because he’s also said the thrift store in town is pretty much filled with only our stuff, so I guess he’d buy back our own stuff to get rid of for the second time.

Fortunately, I think we’ll be just fine without taking these drastic measures. Yes, it’s definitely harder this time around, but it’s also better! Last time, I got rid of 2015 things without flinching, and our house looked almost exactly the same, somehow. You would never be able to tell I’d decluttered 2015 items. This time, I’m digging deeper, and really feeling the difference. It’s amazing. Now I’m starting to see the change, and it’s completely addicting. Our house is slowly getting easier to keep tidy, and therefore easier to keep clean, because I don’t have to move as much stuff out of the way while cleaning. I have never been a messy person, but I’ve bought into the lie that we “need” all these things around us.

Take my kitchen, for example. Last weekend, I was ready to do something drastic, so I decided to see how much I could clear off our kitchen counters. Since my cupboards are getting emptier, I had room to store our toaster, mixer, and some other miscellaneous items out of sight, instead of having them sitting on the counter. I moved our phone elsewhere, and only left the the things we use every day. I love it. Even when the kitchen needs to be cleaned up after a meal, it feels neater than it did before. There’s so much open space, it looks cleaner even when it’s messy. All those wide open counter tops inspire me to keep it extra tidy.

kitchen

This was all brought on by my dear friend Natalie, who challenged me to the Minimalist Game. The idea is simple – for one month, get rid of the same number of items as the day of the month. Since I’ve gotten rid of 2015 things in the past, I didn’t think this would be very difficult for me.

Declutter 2015

Oh, my word.

It is hard!! It’s the daily habit that I’m finding tough to stick with. Also, it didn’t sound like a lot of items to get rid of at first, but when you add it up, it’s around 400 things!! Thank goodness it’s February – the shortest month of the year! That saves me from having to declutter an extra 90 items this month!

With all this decluttering and purging, here are a few observations I’ve made this month:

  1. The “Second Pass” is super effective.
    There are many items I almost got rid of two years ago, but I just wasn’t ready. This time I’m ready. If you come across something you’re just not sure about, put it away somewhere and come back to it. It might get easier the next time around.
  2.  Making it some kind of challenge is extremely motivating for me.
    My mom said something wise – minimalism is more about a lifestyle than about the numbers. I agree with this completely. However, some people are motivated by charts or challenges or games, and whatever makes you declutter, it’s a good idea. I still got rid of a bunch of stuff in 2016, even though I wasn’t working towards any kind of goal or counting any of the items. It was still about simplifying my life. But for me personally, having a chart to colour in, or a friend to report to, has dramatically increased how much I’ve gotten rid of. I need to see the progress, and have the accountability. It just works for me. It’s not for everybody. Some people feel that counting the items would slow them down. Fantastic. Don’t count. Do what works for you.
  3. Wherever there is mess, there is opportunity for decluttering.
    When I don’t know what to get rid of next, I just look around for any area of our house that I find hard to keep tidy. I would much rather spend my time getting rid of stuff instead of organizing my stuff. As my kitchen has shown me, keeping things tidy gets much easier when there’s less stuff to keep tidy.
  4. Simplifying my physical surroundings brings more peace and calming to my mental and emotional surroundings.
    Those who have busy minds need calm surroundings. Others are able to handle more clutter and chaos, because they stay mentally calm and at peace. I wish I could remember where I read about this. It’s completely changing how I feel about my home and need for order. I went through a time of feeling overly particular and too focused on a clean house. I can’t stand that poem about leaving cobwebs everywhere in your house because you’re rocking your baby to sleep. Can’t I love my kids, rock my baby, and have a clean house?!! I felt guilty for cleaning, because it meant I was neglecting my children. I’m not thinking that anymore, because first of all, they love playing on their own, and I don’t ignore them all day long, but I do take time to care for our home. And second, a clean home makes me a better mom. I’m not as frazzled when my surrounding environment is under control. Getting rid of clutter makes me feel peaceful.
  5. The more I do it, the more I love it.
    I listened to Young House Love’s podcast about decluttering in which they shared about a study showing that most people actually experience physical pain when they get rid of items they own. Decluttering is often viewed as being unenjoyable. Many people have expressed confusion as to why I want to declutter, or why I find it fun and exciting. My guess is that most people connect decluttering with getting rid of items they love and still want to use. But you know what? I have decluttered 2623 counted items, and many, many more when I wasn’t keeping track, and I still have not gotten rid of anything I love. I have no emotional attachment to spools of thread in weird colours I will never sew with, or gift bags I don’t really like and won’t choose to give a gift in. I can tear a recipe out of a magazine and recycle it. There are clothes I never want to wear, and I keep going back to my favorites. There are books I don’t enjoy reading to my kids, and inwardly groan when they choose them. We have far too many sheets and towels, and more toys than our kids can ever possibly play with. (AND STUFF KEEPS COMING IN!! It just doesn’t stop, although we’re working on that.) I can assure you, there was absolutely no pain caused by removing these things. My life is far better without them. I haven’t reached the hard stuff yet. I don’t believe in forcing anyone to get rid of special, sentimental things they love. My girls used to fear decluttering, because they thought getting rid of special things was what it meant, but now they go through their toys all on their own, and bring me the rejected items because they don’t want to keep cleaning up toys they don’t like to play with. It can be enjoyable! And contagious.;)

So that’s what I’ve been thinking about decluttering lately! Natalie directed me to The Minimalists’ podcast, which has been adding a ton of value to my life this month. If you need some motivation to simplify, you should definitely check it out! I find it very inspiring, positive, and practical. Can’t get enough of it.

What’s inspiring you to declutter? Any thoughts you’d like to add from your experiences with simplifying your life? Or is there anything holding you back from getting rid of stuff you don’t use?

 

 

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Keeping the Useful and the Beautiful: A Little Challenge For You!

I was reading a blog post the other day about getting out of debt and paying off your house in five years or something like that. It’s not a particular goal of ours at the moment – we’re just focusing on being very disciplined about budgeting, and we’ll see where it goes. But what stayed with me from the article was this familiar quote by Dave Ramsey:

dave-ramseysource

Here in Niverville, we have a Buy and Sell Facebook page, and I’m sure everyone who looks at it must recognize me by now, because I’ve sold so much stuff on there over the last couple of years! Since I started my decluttering project of getting rid of 2015 things in the year 2015, I have sent many, many items out the door, so I got up from the computer feeling thoughtful. Was there anything left in the house for me to sell?! Besides our kids of course.;) I thought I had gotten rid of most of the unnecessary items in our house.

But as I turned around, my eyes landed on a painting about our piano, and a thought hit me: “I have never liked that picture! Why do we still have it??!!”

Ben bought it to put in a show home a few years ago, and when the house sold, he brought the picture home. There’s nothing wrong with it – the colors work with our decor, but it just doesn’t do anything for me. We stuck it up above the piano, and I never thought specifically about it again, other than to absentmindedly acknowledge very occasionally to myself that I didn’t really love it.

To add to the ridiculously of this decorating decision, I had a perfectly beautiful, large family picture sitting in the basement, waiting for the perfect spot. I suddenly realized I could sell the painting I didn’t love, and replace it with the picture of my sweet family. Why didn’t I think of this months ago??!!

Later that evening, I was telling Ben about this epiphany while we were cleaning up from supper. He was putting a serving bowl in the dishwasher, and casually commented, “This is actually a very impractical bowl – you can’t put that much in it.”

I looked over, and even though I’ve been using that bowl for years, I suddenly realized he was totally right. When I thought about it, I’d always been kind of annoyed by the bowl – one side is higher than the other, so it looks larger than it really is. And we had a set of two!! They went out the door as fast as the painting.

Somebody gets to buy something on Niverville Buy and Sell for a good deal, and I get a little bit of cash to put towards something I will find more useful or beautiful. Everybody wins.

I get really excited about this little “anti-treasure hunt” – it’s become a fun challenge to think more intentionally about the stuff I own, and figure out what is not adding something good to my life. It’s very freeing to see it all go. useful-or-beautifulsource

I’m curious – if you look around your house right now, can you find one object that you’ve never actually liked? Let me know if you find something to get rid of!!

 

Lightening My Load

I did something hard this weekend: I packed away all of my old cookbooks.

cookbooks

That doesn’t sound as though it should be very difficult, but as with most things, there was so much emotional baggage along for the ride, it was about far more than cookbooks.

Here’s the thing: It’s been over five years since I drastically changed my diet for health reasons, and it’s been a little over a year since the rest of my family joined me. Ben and the girls don’t have as restricted a diet as I do, but we haven’t had gluten, sugar or dairy in our house for a year.

I’ve bought some really great new cookbooks which contain many of my new favorite recipes, but for some reason, I just kept hanging on to those old cookbooks.

I kept thinking I might need them. (Hello, Pinterest. Really, no one would ever need to buy another recipe book.)

I kept thinking that someday, we might eat that food again. (I don’t know why – I feel so much better eating this way, I never want to go back to what we ate before.)

It seemed so scary and final to get them out of my life.

But we have some big changes happening in our house which are forcing me to do some major purging. After living here for a year, we’ve decided to let the girls have their own rooms. We wanted them to share a bedroom for a while, just to have the experience of it, and to learn how to live in a shared space.

With Anika turning 10 this year, and with an increasing need for her own space, we feel it’s a good time to make some changes.

Which means we lose our office. Suddenly, we have a lot of stuff from our office that needs to find a new home, so every drawer and shelf in the rest of the house needs to become extremely useful, organized and efficient.

A whole shelf of cookbooks which I haven’t touched in years does not seem to fit any of those descriptions.

So I packed them up. And I felt a little scared.

And then I felt really, really free.

I kept opening the doors to look at my newly organized space. I love making supper now, and going to my cupboard for a recipe book. I feel extremely organized and efficient as I grab the exact book I need without having to sort through clutter and mess to find it.

It makes me feel happy and comfortable to see only the books I actually use in my cupboard. I’m not being constantly reminded of all the food I can’t have – I’m reminded of how this is my new way of life, and I’m completely happy and settled in it.

cookbooks

“Settled” is pretty wonderful. Why didn’t I do this a few years sooner?

And what else can I get rid of that no longer defines my life or meets my current needs? How can I lighten the load?

I read a blog post on Monday morning which hit the spot: What’s Keeping You From Going Further?

“We often add all these “extras” to our packs, just in case. They could be extra clutter, unhealthy relationships, bad habits or self-sabotaging thoughts. Or maybe these extras give you a false sense of security.

The truth is that while they seem light independently, the weight of all those extras in your pack is unsustainable if you want to lead a beyond-average life.

Those just-in-case items are keeping you from a life of efficiency and focus. They’re keeping you from pursuing your dreams.”

Well now. Keeping my old cookbooks, or pursuing my dreams? That seems like an easy choice!:)

The feeling of decluttering is addicting! I am just getting started, and I can’t wait to keep attacking those closets and cupboards!

Have you ever hung on to belongings because they give you a false sense of security? Ever been reluctant to redefine your life and your stuff?