The Addictive Art of De-Cluttering

2010-06-20 - Simple Sun - De-clutteringIn honor of my most recent donation trip to the thrift store, I wanted to share why I’ve been yapping about de-cluttering here so much. Clutter and the art of de-cluttering (a constant process, I’m finding) are two of the larger concepts I’ve been learning to practice these days.

I come from a family of very careful, thrifty and diligent consumers. I’ve always called it the ‘Depression Era’ stronghold. Both sides of my family were greatly effected by the economics of the 20’s. And, there’s a strong thread of hoarding, buying ‘sale’ items, and consequently, ending up with a lot of unused-but-potentially-useful-stuff in my family’s history. And I know it’s influenced both the way I live, buy and save to this day. Actually, it’s really hard for me to drop off my thrift donations without peeking around just a bit. :)

Most of this thoughtful and thriftiness I’m proud to say, allows us to live the way we do. I don’t know too many other Californians who can live on as little as we do, and quite happily and comfortably I might add. But, the clutter-factor is a whole different beast.

As a child, I was always one of those overly-careful ones who didn’t want to write in the nice journal, avoided using the paints since they were nice ones, organized my collection of stuffed animals by species. As I grew older, there were so many things I owned that I was worried about ‘using up.’ When would I ever have something this nice again, I always wondered.

Scarcity affected the way I viewed most everything. If I saw someone else really using something that was nice, I felt judgemental instead of alive. How could they waste things so easily?

Not until recently have I been able to finally separate myself from it enough to break the thought cycle.

Use all of the stuff, including the good stuff.
Only save some of the stuff, if I really plan on using it for something specific.
Get rid of the unused stuff.

And with three littles, it feels like a natural and realistic progression. I’m sure I wouldn’t be able to find sanity if I continued living so carefully, and with such reserve.

So, cheers to allowing my little ones to wear their dress-up clothes outdoors, letting things break as they will, and moving things along on their way instead of letting it pile up. It feels so incredibly good to get our things moving.

Every few weeks I hit a plateau, settle in again, and then find new energy to peel off another new layer. A few months ago, useless-but-sentimental items. Last month, childhood-memories, many of which brought back so little for me. And last week, it was time for the rarely-used-but-useful items. Good bye stuff!

Anyone else have difficulty getting rid of things? What are your hardest items to move along? Sentimental? Hand made? Antique? Useful?

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10 comments to The Addictive Art of De-Cluttering

  • This post really hit home. Its a source of constant arguing with my husband. I am a pack rat. Every time I do throw something away, it seems like I have a need for that item soon afterward, and it just kills me to have to go buy another; so that reinforces my hoarding tendencies.

    • I’m horrible about saying “we might need that” as our reason to save things…usually things we haven’t used in a long long time. Spending money on things we just gave away is on the top of my fear-of-giving-things-away list.
      Lately though, I’m finding that opening my mind to the larger scheme of things–I feel like if we give to others, our needs will be met in the future. That thought has finally helped me donate the old juicer and coffee makers that we rarely use now. I’ve been holding tight to both of those items for a few years now. Ugh. Grip is loosened. Must get rid of these soon before I change my mind! :)

  • anne

    I hate using nice things too. I have a hard time getting rid of gifts – it feels rude.

    • I have been working really really hard on the gift-clutter lately. I’ve always hung onto gifts because it feels rude to get rid of it on so many levels. But lately I’ve really been thinking about how so many gifts are representative of the cliche, “it’s the thought that counts.” I think most people aren’t as offended as I like to imagine when I decide to move the items on in their journey. And if I think someone might take offense, I work around those more carefully.

  • I totally resonated with one of your rules for yourself – to use everything, even the good stuff. I grew up with very little and have had to re-learn to use what I have instead of packing it away… It’s been a really freeing thing to have my girls wear their good shoes for playdates sometimes, and their dress-up dresses on outings! Glad to find another kindred spirit in this!!

    Thanks for the post.


  • Ilana

    I use the method if I haven’t used/wore it in over a year I should pass it along. If I find something that I forgot I had I keep it out in the open to see if I will use/wear again for a week, if it gets used I keep it, if not pass it along. My friends and I have pack rat swap parties, its alot of fun! What doesn’t get passed on to friends gets donated.

    I love reading your blog! I do not have a family of my own yet, but I love reading your blog and storing your ideas if I ever do get married and have kids :)

    You rock!

    • I love the idea of a “pack rat swap party.” I’ve seen some larger events where people swap their stuff, but between friends makes even more sense. Especially seeing how often I’ve loved something a friend had! :)
      By the way, it totally tickles me that you are reading my blog. I have so many good memories of our friendship back in junior high. I can’t believe how long it’s already been. It doesn’t really feel all that long ago.

  • Judy

    This was a good read for me, although I’ve improved over the years. I’m an offspring of parents who experienced near poverty during the depression era. We were raised to respect and take care of our belongings so that we could get full use and possibly pass on to others to use. People had and disposed of less. I still adhere to that way of thinking, but years following the depression brought with it an exuberance for producing anything and everything to satisfy a person’s needs and imagination. For many it’s been a time to acquire and gift so many unnecessary items. But when some sort of emotional element enters the picture, these items almost take on a life of their own.
    After having to evacuate twice, with short notice, I noticed that as I circled my home for the most important items to take, many of my belongings suddenly became less ‘special’ and were left behind. The 2nd time we had to pack up, I left things on shelves that I’d taken the first time. Anyone else have an eyeopening experience like that?

    • Glad you enjoyed it. Stuff certainly is able to “take on a life of its own.” Although we’ve never had to evacuate., packing our bags during our travels and overseas living reminds us of just how little we can be happy with for long periods of time.

  • […] Apparently it hasn’t begun bothering me yet. (More of my thoughts on clutter can be found here, here and […]