Let’s make it clear that decluttering your home and your lives is a process. A journey rather than a destination. Because you will never be able to say “I don’t need to declutter any more!” — it just ain’t going to happen. And I cannot claim to be an expert. I used to be one of the worst clutter-ers in history, not exactly a shoe-box full of single socks away from a reality show, but pretty bad. And the reasons were clear. As this article from Houzz points out, I had the wrong attitude towards it. The clutter never got as bad as that picture. In fact if you visited our condo you wouldn’t have seen it. It was all packed away in storage rooms, in cupboards and in closets. One of the main reasons we don’t have clutter any more is THERE IS NO WHERE TO PUT IT. But there was still too much stuff in our house. And the barriers to getting rid of it were many:
1. “It’s a family heirloom.”
I had a pile of tablecloths that had been given to me by my mother. Plus a pile that I had purchased through the decades to match occasions and several sets of dinnerware. We were moving into a laneway with no table. The tableclothes were useless. But I still felt bad about giving the tableclothes away, even though I hardly ever used them (we’re more placemat people) and I was giving them to my kids. I wanted to ask the kids to please hold on to them — after all, they are heirlooms. But eventually I realized that I had to give them away with no strings attached. When that box left my linen closet a heavy weight left my life. It was the start of the journey to rid myself of things I didn’t need anymore.
2. “It was a gift.”
Do you have a drawer of items that were given to you but you just can’t use? I had a cupboard full of them. Mugs. Picture frames. Ugly picture frames. Vases that could hold two dozen long-stemmed roses (when was I ever going to get those?) All gifts, and therefore sacred. But if I could give my kids “stuff” with no strings attached, surely I could remove the same condition from my belongings. You gave it to me and I enjoyed it for a while, but now it has to go.
3. “I may need it someday.”
Just as there are clothes that don’t fit our bodies any more, there are things that don’t fit our lifestyle. We have to recognize that. And though everyone’s standards for “useless clutter” are different, if you haven’t used it in the last year it’s not likely you will ever use it again. And if you need it, really need it again, maybe you can borrow it from a friend, rent it, or even buy a newer model. I have to admit that I kept things around that I thought I could use someday only to find when that day arose that they weren’t really what I needed for the job after all.
4. “I paid a lot of money for it.”
The article suggests that when you are getting rid of things, don’t bother selling them, just give them away. Have you ever had a piano? It’s the perfect example. I’m not talking about a Steinway, just an ordinary upright piano that your kids took lessons on. When you got it you paid hundreds, even thousands for it. But they are so hard to get rid of when you don’t need them anymore. When, for instance, you move to a condo and realize that there’s no one in the household who plays the darn thing and even if they would it’s too loud to have in a condo. Then you have a three-hundred pound albatross. So give it away. Also sofas — if they are expensive they won’t fit anyone else’s decor. If they are cheap the recipient won’t want to pay for them. Dining room sets. Hutches. If you don’t want it — give it away. Sure, there may be a twinge when you think of how much you paid, but you got the use of it. Our possessions are really only rented, anyway, aren’t they?
More on de-cluttering to come.
I feel your pain. We are still trying to justify keeping the stuff that needs to be ironed or polished. A friend told me to say “thank you for being in my life, but it is time to say goodbye”. Your kids don’t have time to iron linen tablecloths or polish silver or wash crystal by hand. The thrift stores are happy to take them and sell them to other old ladies who have more room and time.