So yesterday I wrote this big post on why we need to reduce our consumption. I think that not buying the things you don’t need in the first place is most important, but after that there’s getting rid of the things you already have that you don’t use or need anymore.
I don’t know how much everyone who reads this relates to the need to declutter. If you live in a house with a lot of storage space, this might not be important to you or seem as pressing, simply because everything already has its place. We live in a small house that has little storage space upstairs. We don’t have hallways, so there are no linen or coat closets. Our bedroom closets are ridiculously small, just deep enough for the length of a hanger, and not very wide. I love my house, but if there was one thing I could change in it, it would be the amount of storage space we have.
We have a full, unfinished basement, so I suppose that counts as storage. But the way I see the basement storage is that it should really be for seasonal items: Christmas tree, winter coats and clothes, that sort of thing. The reason I think this now is because up until last year, we had a lot of stuff being stored in the basement that wasn’t seasonal, was perfectly usable, and hadn’t seen the light of day since we moved into the house in 1997. Things had been stored in boxes and forgotten. Over the years, we’d added more boxes and bags of stuff that needed to be stored and ended up there.
Last summer, I got tired of the clutter down there, and decluttered. I made countless trips to the recycling center to drop off cardboard and plastic, took bags and boxes of stuff to Goodwill and Salvation Army, and threw away more than I was proud of. It took me about six weeks (working mostly on weekends) to get it done, but I got a lot of the basement decluttered. It felt good to do so.
Somehow, I was under the notion that I really didn’t have a lot to get rid of upstairs. You know, the tiny house with very little storage. I kept telling my mom that I just didn’t know what I’d get rid of upstairs.
Yeah. Sure. I’m apparently delusional.
So maybe it was just being ready to do it, or maybe it was actually looking at the mess in my house every day and thinking, “You know, if I had less crap around here, I wouldn’t have to do as much cleaning and picking up as I feel like I’m doing.” Maybe I just needed a break from the basement decluttering. I DO know that about a month ago, just as the weather got a lot warmer, I got into a funky mood because I was utterly sick of the routine, especially since the routine has a better focus on keeping the house picked up and cleaned. Yes world, I am a slob. I am trying to change that. But I’m tired of cleaning all day on Saturday and feeling on Sunday like the house doesn’t look any better. Why bother?
So about two weeks ago, I had this brilliant thought: start decluttering again. But when you tell yourself, “Self, I’m going to declutter the house!” you might get overwhelmed. Think about it: It’s a big job, you don’t have any idea where to start, and if you’re like me, without a plan you’ll stand in your living room wondering where to start and deciding to chuck the idea because it’s just too much work.
So the very first thing I did was decide that if this took me all summer, that was just fine. I could focus on really getting rid of things in an area without feeling like I had to do it as fast as possible. I decided on a ninety day plan, and that I would do one area a day. Since I’m a list maker and like to cross off tasks as they’re done, I made my ninety day list. Except that I only have thirty-three days worth of list.
Maybe that’s because I have such a small house. YAY for small houses.
I started decluttering last weekend, and just the little bit I’ve done so far has made a huge difference in how I feel about getting the decluttering done, being in a rut, and how my house looks. What I’ve discovered is that it’s probably OK that I only have 33 items on my list to do, because those areas are taking me longer to finish than I thought they would. But so far, having finished just one area and started two others, I’ve recycled a lot of paper and taken four bags of items to the Salvation Army. So far, I’ve thrown very little in the trash, but that will probably change.
I’ve had to be absolutely ruthless with myself and get rid of anything I haven’t used lately. Most decluttering experts or organizational consultants advise people to get rid of anything they haven’t used for six months or more, unless it’s seasonal stuff like I mentioned above. While I wouldn’t really describe myself as a packrat, because I can and do get rid of things I don’t use, I did find clothes in my drawer and closet that hadn’t been worn for years–in one case, a beautiful silk shirt that I haven’t worn in almost a decade because it’s way too big for me.
Probably the main reason I hang on to things is that I think, “If I throw this out today, I’ll need it tomorrow and need to buy it again. That would be a waste of money.” But after last summer’s major basement cleaning, I’ve learned two things about that: first, God is saying (at least to me, and I’d bet quite a few of you too), “Let those things go. You won’t need them.” And second, I haven’t needed anything I’ve gotten rid of.
Throughout the summer, I’ll post pictures of The Great Decluttering Project 2011. Maybe it will inspire you to free yourself from the things you don’t need and really can live without.