A while ago, I met a guy, fell in love and got married. We moved into our first home, and my desire to keep it beautiful was in overdrive.
Believe it or not, as a single woman living in her parent’s home, I owned more stuff than would fit in a two bedroom apartment. Still do, actually, but it’s getting better. When we got engaged, it looked like we’d be moving to a different state and probably to a one bedroom or studio apartment. I looked around me at my collection of 2,000 books, shelves of art supplies, dresser, closet, and six totes full of seasonal/various size clothing and heaps of boxes of my ‘”hope-chest” that had been stashed in the garage attic since I was 16. I knew it wasn’t okay. If I was moving next door into a big ol’ farmhouse and could stay home and be a housewife… mayyyyyyybe it would have been okay. And you know what? The irony is that I hate clutter. I love open spaces and clean surfaces. I was constantly cleaning and weeding out stuff I didn’t want, re-organizing so all of my stuff was more efficient, and always frustrated.
I set to work right away. I had to downsize, and knew that being sentimental about stuff was not going to work for me. I donated bags and bags of clothes that didn’t fit, boxes of books went to the library sale, years of gardening magazines went (sadly) to be recycled. I had a lawn sale, and the twenty remaining boxes of stuff (I kid you not) were donated to a local share shop.
A HUGE thing that really helped was the actual act of packing and moving. I’d lived in the same house my whole life, and my material life piled up around me, as it does after nearly 30 years in one spot. I pictured unpacking in my new home… would I be happy to see this item? Would it be worth the space it would take up in a small apartment, when I already knew that clutter frustrates me? Do I NEED it? The idea that we should ask ourselves if an item is either useful or beautiful stuck in my head years ago, but I had to change that around for my own situation. Some things I had were very useful… but would have no place to go, and would be more useful for someone else. Some items were beautiful… but a huge collection of beautiful things is called clutter.
BOOKS, for goodness sake, were the hardest thing to figure out what to do with! I love my books, and there are some I’ll hang onto forever, but possessing thousands things that sit on a shelf collecting dust 360 days out of the year, and keeping me from having a place to put what I actually NEED to have, well… that doesn’t make sense when there’s a public library right down the road. I could walk there in 5 minutes. I didn’t want to just throw them in the trash, and recycling them is a huge laborious task. Selling them online was tempting, but in my experience, they sit around for months and years waiting to sell, which is just… clutter.Finally, one local library welcomed about 200 of them. I have two book cases in my apartment now, but the rest… they are still boxed up at my parents’ house. I even asked social media for suggestions on what to do with so many books, but I got very few suggestions… most people felt it was more helpful to tell me that books are friends, and I shouldn’t get rid of them. Thaaaaanks for that.
Moving in, I brought with me just the stuff I wanted. I knew the remnants of things left at my parents’ would be a challenge. A lot of the things that got left behind I really did want… we just didn’t have the space. Lately, every time we visit my parents, more and more of that stuff ends up in a box or bag thrust into my hands to take with me, haha! I can’t really blame them. Now it’s time to make more decisions. Clutter is piling up in my spare rooms/office. At first it was my favorite room in the apartment. It’s just so pretty and the lighting in there is perfect. But yeah, it’s now the “What do I so with this thing?” room. Also the “We don’t have a shed or garage so let’s store motor oil and air conditioners in here.’ room.
But just so you know, it’s not all dismal despair… I’m not just another first world problem child. (Or am I?) I have found that with the help of videos by ClutterBug on Youtube (I found the 30 day decluttering series to be life changing. And yes I did binge watch them all in two days.) and listening to A Slob Comes Clean podcasts, there is still hope for me. A few more emotional attachments to overcome, yes. But I’ll get there. I’ll never be a minimalist, and I don’t think you have to be in order to be happy. But clutter is like a material manifestation of brain fog to me, and that’s something to battle against!