After moving twice in 2 years, simplification is something I value more than I ever thought I would. Considering we’ve added an infant to our household, making room for his many toys, jumpers, mats and swings became a high priority for us. However, the introduction of a tiny human isn’t the only reason to declutter. Maybe home isn’t a place where you can feel relaxed. Maybe it’s full of memories of times better left in the past. Maybe it’s just become so crammed with things you love that it’s overwhelming to know where to start. Here’s my experience:
Buy bins and use them.
Boxes will work too if you have them, but plastic bins or tubs are not that expensive, they’re mostly weatherproof and stackable. Stored boxes are susceptible to all sorts of things, and with my luck I’d get mold or moth holes in my clothes.
Evaluate why you still own items kept on display, in your closet, on your bookshelf…
I bought my first house as a single woman, and it was the perfect size for me. I met my significant other, Andrew and we got pregnant, and he moved in about 8 months later. When we decided we were going to need more room, we had to prep our house to put it on the market. It’s amazing what I had on display just because it was a memory that he and I shared together. Things that I thought were cute and quirky, like my string with pictures hanging from it in the hallway, really just made the space look unfinished and busy. And don’t get me started on clothes. I’d keep something I’d worn once, just sure that I’d lose weight and it would fit again. Hogwash. Throw it out! I felt worse looking in my closet at items that didn’t fit. Once I removed all the old clothes, I got to enjoy what I did have, and maybe go shopping for a few more items that would complement my existing wardrobe. Without going overboard.
Don’t be afraid to throw things away.
I have a tendency to hold on to things just because. Movie ticket stubs, concert tickets, photos, dried flowers, you name it, if I can attach some sort of sentimental value to it, I’ll keep it. The problem with that is, at some point there is no place to put things. I had to come to some acceptance of the fact that throwing away the symbol of the thing doesn’t mean it’ll be forgotten. Also, those old shampoo samples and extra toothbrushes from the dentist’s office that have been in the bathroom cupboard for months are probably safe to go. I went through our bathroom closet and threw away a ton of things that were expired.
Find a thrift store or homeless shelter in your area, and donate everything you can.
By the time we were done purging our house, we’d filled boxes with pillows, blankets, clothes, shoes, curtains, chairs, shower curtains, books, dishes, vases, coats and a couple big items of furniture. There is always a need for those items at shelters, and I actually felt lighter having removed all that extra stuff from our home.
Start in one room, and don’t move to the next one until you’re completely finished.
I mean it. I would start in one room, take something to another room, see something there, get caught up reminiscing, put in an old movie, and before I knew it I was an hour in to The Princess Bride before I realized I hadn’t gotten anything accomplished. Commit to one room a day. Start on one end of the room, and put everything away that doesn’t have a purpose, or causes the room to feel cluttered. That stack of fanned out magazines might look cute at the salon, but chances are they’re just taking up space. Clean surfaces make a huge difference. When one room is done, move on to the next.
It took us 4 days to completely gut our house. I spent my first mother’s day weekend packing, cleaning and hauling items from our house that we didn’t need. It was tough. Some things I just couldn’t part with. I kept my bear from my childhood. I kept the Phantom of the Opera book Andrew bought me. I kept a handful of other things. But they’re not on display. They’re tucked away at the top of a closet to revisit later (Except the bear, he lives in our son’s room now).
The new house is slowly filling up with things, with baby clothes and baby toys and items for our wedding, and once the wedding is over, we’ll go through everything again, keeping what we need and donating what we don’t.
Trust me: Decluttering is a lot of work, but once I was done, I wondered why I hadn’t done it sooner.
Becky is part of the Contributing Writer Network at Thirty on Tap. To apply to become a Contributing Writer, please click here.