Decluttering/Motivation

I hit a bit of a compromise with myself a couple of weeks ago; I can’t start packing yet. I want to, but without knowing the details of when and where, etc. it would just be crazy to start packing right now. What I can do though is to start decluttering.

I’ve wanted to live more of a minimalist lifestyle for a while now, but it’s hard to break old habits. I grew up in a cluttered-if-not-hoarded (depending upon the year, I suppose) home. The “why” of it all is sketchy; mostly because my mother would never, ever admit that she had a problem, and I’m not sure that her “why” really matters – I have no reason to live like that. As an adult, I’ve always had everything that I needed. (And then some, obviously.) There’s no reason for me to hang on to a lot of extras. Time is the most precious thing and having too much stuff takes up time in the caring for it; organizing, cleaning it, etc..

I set out to find some “productivity porn” when I decided to undertake the decluttering project. I quickly discovered that no advances have been made in decluttering field in the last 16 years (since I started reading decluttering tips); the old tried and true advice still stands: (1) Sort into three categories – keep, toss, donate. (2) Don’t hang on to things you don’t love or use just because “so-and-so bought it for me.” (Do you want to end up on a episode of ‘Hoarders: Buried Alive’? Because that’s how you end up on an episode of ‘Hoarders.) (3) To prevent ending up in the same situation again, employ a x-number-out for every new thing in rule.

Generally speaking, I do pretty good on the first rule of decluttering. I can usually sort through things and know whether or not I have used or will use them in the near future pretty effectively. The worst is the kitchen; it’s the one area that I’ve had to go out and buy things for in the past, so now I’m always questioning, “If I get rid of this, will I have to buy it again in 3-, 6-, or 12-months?” That’s where I call in my sister and she asks questions like, “How often do you really make heart-shaped cakes?” and “You know, you can always modify any recipe you need to fit a regular sized muffin pan rather than a mini one, right?” Darn her and her logic! *sigh*

Two is slightly harder. I’ve gotten better over the years, but there are still things that are difficult to part with, even if they’re really just clutter, because of who they came from. I sometimes have to stop and say, “So-and-so wouldn’t want me hanging on to this and have it taking up my time and space if it isn’t adding to my life, and I know that.” That said, I still moved a heavy cedar chest, that there’s never any “good” place for in my home, 1,200 miles with me just because it was my great grandmother’s. (It’s now on the “to sell” list; none of my other family members cared about it to the point where I bought it from my grandmother when she didn’t want to move it with her. Given some of the rumors my dear blood relatives have started about me, all that it does now is serve to make me feel bitter when I think about it too long. It needs to go.)

Three has always been a sticky one for me. It’s just hard to keep track of things coming in and stay on top of making sure that things go out consistently. It has been the most commonly dismissed rule for me because of that and so it’s not really a huge wonder that I’ve ended up cycling through feeling buried under “stuff” and, alternately, feeling like I all did was go through things and get rid of things endlessly for weeks or months on end. This time, it’s the big thing that I chose to focus on.

Different articles suggest different numbers of things to go out for every one thing that comes in. “Get rid of three things for every one thing in the door!” “Five!” “Seven!” I think the high numbers are easy if you’re (a) talking about someone else’s things, (b) in serious danger of being buried alive, or (c) really, really serious about living life as a bare-bones minimalist. Since I am none of the above (realistically, I’ll never be a bare-bones’er), I decided that getting rid of two things for every new thing in was a fair place to start.

Then there was the issue of, “What counts?” My rule is that if it’s directly replacing something that is going out; an empty shampoo, a pair of shoes that has seen it’s last mile, etc., then it doesn’t count against the incoming number. If I buy something because I want it; a bottle of shampoo or tube of mascara that I don’t really “need” but have decided that I want, then that counts. For motivating purposes, incoming clothes also count until further notice. (I was hanging on to a lot of “skinny” clothes, when realistically, if and when I lose the weight that I’ve picked on over the last two years, I’ll want to splurge on new, stylish items anyway.) For easily keeping track of where I’m at with these things, I’ve started recording the number of things that can come in on the dry erase board on our fridge. Currently, after going out and picking up some new maternity clothes this weekend, I’m at “-6.” Meaning that I need to find 12 things to go before I’ve balanced out for the incoming items. I had been in the positive before this weekend…

It does two things really well: it makes you aware of what is coming into your home on a weekly basis and it motivates you to start going through things that might have otherwise stayed on the back burner. *looks at the bag of things from Little Girl’s room that have been sitting on top of the clothes dryer, just waiting for me to go through them for the last month* Yeah, that’s getting done tonight to balance out for some of the incoming things and in the hopes that I can justify a Play Doh purchase soon.

The worst part so far has been realizing how many things that I held on to and moved here from Florida, that I should have just gotten rid of. All of the packing and unpacking. Loading and unloading. Lifting and carrying. Moving up two flights of stairs. Struggling to find places for things and taking the excess to Goodwill in at least two trips in the last 6 months and there’s another one to go yet – at least. We probably could have saved a few dollars on a smaller moving truck and putting fuel into a smaller, lighter truck as well. Just thinking about it makes me winch outwardly a little. But I’d rather get there now, before the next move, than never. 🙂

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