Those of you who follow me on Facebook have seen my updates over the last two months about our de-cluttering process.
Starting at the end of December, I've been an organizing fiend. Organizing and de-cluttering are part of my regular routine, but this de-cluttering process has more meaning and is much bigger than anything I've done in the past.
So far I've taken 4 loads in my van for donation.
I had over 400 clothing items and I now have around 150.
Yes, I still have a lot of some stuff, this is a work in progress here people!
I used to have two sets of measuring cups.
Now I have one.
I used to have 6 sets of dishes.
Now I have 3.
I used to have 14 bibs.
I now have 3.
I used to have 2 spatulas.
I now have 1.
I used to have 10 sippy cups.
I now have 2.
We've gotten rid of 3 bikes, 1 scooter, a chair, and pots and pans.
I have one completely empty closet, a hanging rod in my closet that is totally bare, empty space on shelves, three empty drawers and the only things under my bed are our travel bags.
My van is full (and I do mean full) with a fifth load to drop off tomorrow.
I went through my closet for the fifth time today and was able to come up with an over-sized garbage bag full. Don't ask me why I've kept maternity clothes through four babies that I never wore during a single pregnancy!
My closet used to be piled high on the top shelves. The hanging racks were FULL to capacity and we didn't have enough hangers. Here's the straight on view:
And here's the view showing my side. The plastic drawers house my jewelery, my pants are on the shelf and then I have 138 hanging items. Looking at my shoes, you would think I had an office job. I actually don't wear heels hardly ever any more. I seem to always be carrying a baby which makes it hard and they are hard on my back, but yet, I'm having a hard time letting go of some of my pretty shoes. :) My floor spaces used to be covered in shoes.
On Saturday, I posted a de-cluttering update and received this question:
"How did you mentally get to the point that you could let things go? I can easily do trash, toys and items that aren't used go, but how are you able to minimize? We have gone through clothing, boxed it up, and it still feels like too much."
I responded that I needed some time to think about that one.
And think I did.
I've been making notes all day and been thinking of little else.
How did I get here?
First, a few experiences came to mind.
1. Soon after my second son was born I recall going on an outing with my two boys. I remember thinking how much I hated lugging stuff around. It felt burdensome to me. I didn't want to pack sippy cups and snacks and a change of clothes and toys and medicine and a stroller and jackets for everyone (what if it got unexpectedly chilly?!) and every single thing under the sun "just in case". I began to realize that all this "just in case" stuff hardly ever got used and that every single time I did use it, we really would have managed just fine.
2. Often when I would pack for a trip, I would pack so. much. stuff. After the trip was over and we returned home I always noted that only a few of the packed items even got used. I began packing much less for future trips and realized how freeing it felt. I didn't feel weighed down by the excess. I didn't feel guilty for not using what I packed because I packed so little it ALL got used.
3. I recall one outing when it was just me and my two boys. It was a pretty big outing downtown in the city. I decided I wasn't taking a thing other than a small handbag. No stroller to fuss with. No large diaper bag filled to the brim with "stuff." Nothing. Just us and my tiny little bag. It felt awesome.
4. Recently when my husband and I went to dinner I didn't take a single thing. The kids were with their aunt so I didn't worry about the "just in cases" and went on the date with my husband without a purse, wallet, jacket or cell phone. Again, I felt so free.
5. Every Sunday right before church I'd load my bag up. Snacks, coloring books, toys, games, crayons, pencils. I pile it all in my bag and lug it on into church. I had to keep the kids entertained, right?
It didn't seem to work that way.
It seemed to create chaos. They were going from one thing to the next to the next. There was mess. There was noise. I would get frazzled and frustrated and then it dawned on me: Stop with the stuff already. Since then, the snacks, toys, puzzles, games and coloring pages have been eliminated and I started bringing a single item depending on the age(s). Currently I bring a book for the baby and three pieces of paper and three pens for the boys. This works wonderfully for us.
6. One night on a date with my husband he wanted to go into a shoe store. He walked in to browse and I spotted the nearest chair. I sat down, pulled out a book and read until he was finished and we left. I didn't even glance at a single shoe. I've always felt a little out of sorts because shopping isn't something I enjoy, and now I think I'm finally figuring out why.
These experiences have shown me that I have often feel burdened by stuff and I often feel free with less. I have really begun to pay attention to what gets used and what does not, what feels necessary and what feels burdensome.
The truth is, I want my house 99.9% clean, 99.9% of the time and a tidy house can fool you. A tidy house looks clean, even if it hasn't really been scrubbed down lately. By managing my stuff I am also managing my sanity.
This kitchen looks pretty spotless doesn't it? It is probably more tidy than anything. Chances are (this is an old photo) the oven and fridge needed to be cleaned and the floor probably could use a good mopping. But the lack of stuff fools you (and me!) into thinking it is clean.
I want my house 99.9% clean, 99.9% of the time but I most definitely don't want to spend 99.9% of my time cleaning. Actually, I'd like to spend as little time cleaning as possible and still have a clean home. This has been a huge factor in my willingness to let stuff go. I don't want to do piles and piles of laundry and still have drawers crammed full of clothes. I don't want to pick up the same toys over and over and over again just because they got dumped out but never played with. I don't want my kids to be overwhelmed when I ask them to go clean the basement. I don't want them to be overwhelmed when I ask them to clean their room or to straighten their drawers. I don't want to have 13 bottles of perfume, when I really only wear one.
Perhaps I'm having a mid-life crisis (am I too young for that?) but I have really started to feel the time crunch. My oldest will be eight this year. Eight. It literally feels like he was just a babe. He will be gone onto bigger and better things in a blink and I want to use my time to the fullest.
I want to spend time with my kids hiking, reading, playing, baking, creating, shooting hoops. I want to read, to learn new things, to push myself, to become the very best I can. I want to learn to make videos, to quilt and to shoot amazing photos. I want to host dinner guests and go for walks. I want to use my mind and body each day in ways that invigorate and inspire me. I want fresh air in my lungs and songs in my heart. I want to lay down at night knowing I gave the day my very best and know that I am in control of my time.
I don't want to spend all my time managing stuff.
Stuff does requires time. Don't let anyone tell you differently. Time to earn the money to buy it. Time to earn the money to maintain it. Time to actually maintain it.
I want to be the master of my time, not my stuff.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
I am the captain of my soul.
--William Ernst Henely
I want to really appreciate what I have and I have found that if I have too much, I begin to not really appreciate it all that much. If a child has 5 dolls, how can they all be special? I like for things to mean something and not everything can be special. My kids have 5 stuffed animals. We used to have a lot more and I had a hard time at first letting some go because they were a gift from my grandmother who passed away. But I realized it was better to have one for each child that meant something than to have a whole bin full that didn't have any meaning to the kids. They love those 5 stuffed animals we have and they keep them on their beds, something they never did before. They know who they are from and there seems to be a greater appreciation than when we had a whole bin full of stuffed animals. We kept the ones that had meaning and donated the rest.
We have intentionally chosen to be a single-income home. As such, we don't have piles of money laying around with which we can whisk our children away to Hawaii or even to Disneyland for that matter. I've realized we have a choice: stuff or experiences. I'd rather take my kids to a museum or a ceramics studio or a trampoline arena than buy them a new toy. I'd rather go out to dinner than buy a new shirt. We are choosing the doing of stuff rather than the buying of stuff.
If you're wanting to shed stuff and need a little more nudging:
1. When you let go of some of your possessions you are blessing other families. You can sell them at a yard sale where a family that needs the item can purchase it for a nominal price.
2. When you donate items to a donation center such as Deseret Industries, you are creating jobs for people who often struggle to find employment. Deseret Industries also provides items for FREE to families that come with a referral card from an LDS Bishop. Any items not sold at Deseret Industries are then shipped to other countries where the items are again sorted and sold--creating even more jobs.
3. When you become more aware of what comes into your house, you spend less. I stopped yard sale-ing and thrifting regularly about two years ago. When you have less stuff, you also know exactly what you have and what you need.
4. Letting go of stuff often relieves some guilt. I've got a table in the garage that I've had great intentions about refinishing. Each time I look at that thing it is a reminder that, "I am lame and should have refinished that table ages ago." But you know what? I don't even need the table. I have nowhere to put it and frankly, I don't want to refinish it.
The table is going in load 6 to the donation center.
5. I'm not just de-cluttering here, I'd say I'm aspiring for minimalism. I don't know that I'll ever fully reach "real" minimalism but I am noticing a lot of minimalistic tendencies, like my desire to have a capsule wardrobe with a maximum of fifty items. And that we've got three combs and that seems like one comb too many. We've got 12 pillows and I'm trying to figure out how many to get rid of. We do need some for when we have guests, but how many? I know we don't need 12. I have two sets of curlers and I have really debated this. I don't need two sets of curlers, I could surely manage with one. But, I regularly use both--as in, a couple of times a week they both get used, so they both will stay. I've got a lot of hair and curlers are the quickest way to tame down my mass.
6. This is not a quick process. At least, it hasn't been for me. It has been a couple of years of trying to figure out how I feel about stuff. After coming across a minimalism website, I realized what it is that I have been feeling and that there are others out there like me. My goal is that by the end of this year, I will have a capsule wardrobe. I have gone through my closet five times now and I know there will be many more times. I've still got mail to figure out to make sure I can go paperless on as many accounts as possible. We have shed stuff so many times over the last few years that I feel like we are finally getting to the basics--getting to where the stuff that is in this house is being used and serving a purpose.
7. Three weeks ago I went shoe shopping for the first time in two years. See, I'm not opposed to buying stuff! My goal, though, is to make sure that what I do buy serves a purpose and that it will get used. I needed some new brown and black shoes. I walked in knowing just what I wanted, found a pair in each color and left. I'm working on focusing more on quality rather than quantity. I'd rather have one pair of boots I love and wear every single day, rather than 4 pairs that I'm not in love with, even if that means spending a little more on the one pair. I'd rather spend a bit more on a toy that will have a lasting interest, rather than a whole bunch of cheap novelty toys that will end up broken or set aside.
And now, for the disclaimer...
I fully realize that the majority of people have no interest in living this way and that is perfectly okay! My sister thinks I'm a nut case. (She often tells me I'm just a chicken coop away from crazy. Ha!) When she walked into my closet after my last shed she said, "This looks so depressing. I know you want me to be excited, but I think it seems like no fun. I can't buy you anything." (To which, I responded, "Sure you can! How about a gift card so we can go do something!?) I'm sure many of you feel the same way she does--that this is depressing. She loves picking and choosing from a closet full of items each morning. Her way is A-okay and so is mine. Just as whatever way you want to manage your stuff is A-okay too.
But, if this is interesting to you...
If you feel controlled by your stuff...
Then here's some further reading:
More on Capsule Wardrobes: HERE and HERE. A capsule wardrobe does not mean you want to wear a potato sack and look like you just rolled out of bed! You can see my friend, Wendy's, capsule wardrobe HERE. (She is the only real-life minimalist I know and her wardrobe SHOCKED me in the beginning--actually, I'm still amazed by it.)
My three favorite minimalist blogs:
Be More With Less
The Minimalist Mom
Simplicity Breeds Happiness
And now, I would love to hear from you!
How do you feel about your stuff? Is there something in particular weighing you down? Are you having a hard time getting rid of a certain item "just in case?"
And if you just want to tell me I'm crazy, that's okay too.