Spring Cleaning Week: 4 common roadblocks to decluttering

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by Tsh

Tsh is the founder of this blog and is currently traveling around the world with her husband and 3 kids. Her latest book is Notes From a Blue Bike, and believes a passport is one of the world's greatest textbooks.

Welcome to Spring Cleaning Week! This week will be devoted to the subject of giving our homes a fresh overhaul to prepare for the warmer months.

Unlike last year, our family just made a major move and I’m seven and a half months pregnant.  So I’m not devoting a full two weeks to every task described in my e-book about the ten-day process of spring cleaning.  Instead, I’m going to write about a few of the ideas behind spring cleaning — what makes it work, a few tips for different spaces in each home, and how to customize it for your home.

I’d still love to hear your progress as you spring clean over the next few weeks.  Feel free to link to any of the upcoming spring cleaning posts with before and after photos and posts from your blog!

My e-book describes a simple three-step process to use each of the ten days:  decluttering, cleaning, and organizing.  No rocket science here.

Today, we’re discussing decluttering.

What is decluttering, exactly?

For me, the definition of declutteirng stems from the well-known William Morris quote I shared on Friday:

“Have nothing in your homes that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”

Decluttering: Getting rid of anything that’s not useful or beautiful.

That’s it.  It’s making a point to take the un-useful or the non-beautiful items out of our homes by either selling, giving, or tossing.

The definition is pretty simple.  So why isn’t the act of decluttering easier?

Here are the most common roadblocks to decluttering, and how they ultimately keep you from making your home a haven.

1.  “I don’t want to get rid of it because I might need it later.”


Photo by Lisa Dusseault

Underlying message behind this belief: A responsible person is immediately prepared for all circumstances, even if that circumstance is rare.

Why it hinders us: When we give an item significance by storing it in our homes, we are saying that the item has value.  It “passes the test,” and is allowed past the front door.  But if an item is seldom (or never) used, it doesn’t really have much value.  So when an unvaluable item is treated as though it is valuable…  clutter happens.

The result of this belief: An overfill of items that, while potentially useful in their essence, inevitably cause a backlog of stuff that keeps us from knowing where things are, enjoying our space, and appreciating the things that are truly useful.

(How often have you known you owned something, but when it finally came time to putting it to use, you no longer knew what it was?  That’s a sure sign you have too much stuff.)

Change your thinking to: “Except for truly seasonal items (holiday decor, gardening supplies, etc.), I will allow only the things that I use at least once a month through our door.  Should I need anything exceptional down the road, I’ll manage to find it.”

2.  “I can’t get rid of it because someone gave it to me, and I don’t want to hurt his or her feelings.”


Photo by Steve Snodgrass

Underlying message behind this belief: I’m going to prioritize someone else’s conditional happiness, even if it hinders my family’s overall well-being.  Also — Relationships depend on stuff.

Why it hinders us: For one, it assumes that someone really will be hurt if we got rid of something, when this very well may not be the case.  But even if they would, it hinders us because it’s an unhealthy boundary in the expectations of our relationships.  Keeping something you don’t need or love only to please someone else is not a healthy way to act in any relationship.

The result of this belief: Items in our home that serve no purpose, either asthetically or purposefully.  This could also lead to bitterness towards the gift-giver, frustration, and a lack of power in our own dwellings.

Change your thinking to: “Except for items that truly have value (such as family heirlooms that have been passed down to me for a specific reason), I won’t use someone else’s conditional happiness as a barometer for whether something should be kept in my house.”

3.  “I paid good money for this.”  Also, “I’m waiting for this to appreciate in value.”


Photo by J Rosenfeld

Underlying message behind this belief: Even though an item isn’t useful or beautiful to me, I should hold on to it because it might be financially valuable.

Why it hinders us: We’re placing a higher priority on what other people, or what society thinks, than what’s actually important to our family.

The result of this belief: We’re paying rent to house an unloved item instead of potentially cashing in and getting money for the thing.  All it takes is a simple look on eBay to see if something has value — and if it doesn’t, then it can be given away or donated.

Change your thinking to: “I’m going to do simple research and find out if this thing really has financial value.  If it does, I’ll get my money’s worth.  If it doesn’t, it’s not worth the stress and clutter it adds to our home.  Out it goes.”

4.  “I’ve had it a really long time.”  Or, “I got this at a [specific location] or [specific time in my life], and if I get rid of it, that moment will lose significance.”


Photo by Zoha N

Underlying message behind this belief: Even though I don’t love or find value in this thing anymore, I did at one time.  Therefore, I should hold on to it because it once held value to me.  Also — My memories are held up in things, so as long as I hold on to the thing from the past, I’ll remember the event.  Should I lose the item, I’ll lose the memory.

Why it hinders us: We’re literally holding on to the past.  We’re giving an item more power than it really has (inanimate objects only have as power as we give them), and we credit it with fueling our memories.

The result of this belief: A cluttered home full of stuff from the past, which keeps us from living in the present and preparing for the future.  Whether it’s a souvenir from our 6th grade science field trip, 200 drawings from our son’s first three years, or a dried-up bouquet from our stint as bridesmaid for a college roommate we never see, these things keep us from adding life to our home.

Change your thinking to: “I’m going to sort through these items I’ve held on to for no other reason than my memories.  I’ll reflect on the memory as I hold the item for a few seconds, and then I’ll let it go — after all, it’s not really where my memory is housed.  I could take a digital photo of the thing, if I’m really hesitant.  But it really doesn’t deserve the space I’m giving it in my home.”

Application for Spring Cleaning Week

Take a few moments and journal your thoughts about your toughest roadblocks.  How would your home be different if you got rid of the things you don’t need? Close your eyes and visualize the “after” of your decluttered home.  Perhaps even sketch out some ideas of what your place would look like clutter-free.

In short, motivate yourself that a clutter-free home is worth it.

As you go through the next ten days, decluttering, cleaning, and organizing different spots in your home, give yourself power by getting rid of everything that’s not useful or lovely.  Anything less doesn’t deserve the valuable real estate in your home.

Which roadblocks stop you the most?  Have any more to add?

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Comments

  1. Very true — I resonate with point 1 especially. And when you do get rid of something, you never think of needing it :)
    .-= Shalini´s last blog ..Links for the Week =-.

  2. I’m looking forward for this spring cleaning week. Thanks for the first step! Most time I try to ignore all the stuff in the house, but I’m sure it will be better to get rid of it.
    .-= Micha´s last blog ..Fertiggestrickt! / finished! =-.

  3. I’ve worked with others on decluttering their homes and have seen this kind of thinking often.

    I often help people deal with the idea that they might ‘need’ something later by introducing them to resources like Craigslist: so they know that they can replace typical household items easily if desired.

    Also, finding a ‘good home’ for items that hold emotional attachment can be helpful. I’ve given some items I received as gifts to friends who were happy to have them–the same goes with treasured books and memorabilia I was attached to.
    .-= Simple in France´s last blog ..Pinching Pennies, Indulging in Luxuries =-.

  4. I’ve struggled with all these. It seems different kinds of items fall under different headings. In the kitchen I struggle with, “but I might use it some day.” With the kid’s stuff its, “buy XXX gave it to them and they’d be offended if I got rid of it.” A lot of my stuff falls under #3 and #4, although I have gotten better about that. My husband really struggles with #4 and it doesn’t help that his mom keeps sending all the childhood stuff she saved for him over the years. Boxes and Boxes! ACK!!

  5. great post. our house is currently on the market. our agent and her designer came through and had us rearrange some things, declutter, etc. we’re already neat people but i was amazed at how much stuff we had when i started going through things. i was also amazed at how wonderful our house looks with less stuff. i’m enjoying it so much that it’s inspiring me to live this way when we move – all the time, not just when people come over or when we’re selling.

  6. I have a hard time getting rid of something that someone gave me, at least at first. Even if I know I won’t use it, I feel like I need to keep it for a year or so before I can give it away.

    Funny how we gather these thoughts about stuff over time. I do enjoy having a place for everything, but I don’t stress out about minimalism or perfection either.

    Thanks, Tsh!
    .-= Jamie ~ Simple Homeschool´s last blog ..5 Homeschooling Reads to Encourage You =-.

  7. I’m guilty of keeping gifts that I didn’t want/need. I’ve been getting better at removing them from my home though (like a gross candle that received for my birthday only a few weeks ago)! In fact, just last night I was decluttering and now I have a pile of stuff that needs to go. ;) I feel really good about that pile, even though I’m sure there’s more to be done.

  8. Thanks for that pep talk. I have been doing a huge declutter this month and am constantly amazed at how much clutter I have. The letting go of things from the past hit home. I am a history buff and love old things. So I always think “well someday this will be fun to show my grandkids.” But a lot of those things really aren’t pieces of history so much as little shrines to my past. The shrines have got to go.
    .-= Debbie´s last blog ..Boxes # 14 through….. =-.

  9. These are all great reminders! I’m off to start declutterung today.

    One question-I have a lot of boy baby stuff we’ve kept, though we are not sure when our next one will come along or if it will even be a boy. Any suggestions or guidelines?

    • Yeah, there are definitely those things that you know might be useful in the near future, so you don’t want to just be wasteful and get rid of things. I say in times like this, to keep it all nice and neat (more on the organizing side of this on Friday), well-labeled, and within reach so that you don’t forget about it. As in, no storing it at your parent’s garage where you’ll lose track of it. :)

      We found out a few months ago that #3 is a boy, so now part of my to-do list is to bring my daughter’s baby stuff to a resale shop. I’ll keep her coming home outfit, probably, but that’s it.

    • avatar
      Kerry D. says:

      Our children alternated, boy-girl-boy, and we found we enjoyed the basics we had from our older son–denim overalls, cute little pants, and above all, we were very glad to see our daughter in some color besides pink. (All her gifts seemed to be pink.) We really enjoyed a change of pace with greens, yellows, blues….

      So, what I’m saying is that saving a portion of the clothes–those in best condition, and the more neutral items, might be a useful approach.

  10. I’ve never had a problem with getting rid of gifts that were not useful or desired. This might sound unkind of me, but if a gift is really something I don’t like or need, then the giver probably didn’t spend much time or thought in choosing it, so I am not going to feel guilty in getting rid of it.

    Items attached to memories are a little tougher. For many years I kept things from highschool, like the bouquet of roses I received when I played the lead role in a play. But after a certain number of years, those things didn’t mean anything to me, because I had made so many newer and more meaningful memories. So I threw them out without blinking an eye. Our lives are always changing, and new memories being created. There’s no need to hang onto one or two events in the distant past.
    .-= Laura´s last blog ..Aw, nuts! =-.

  11. I LOVE this article! This is exactly what I’ve been wanting to do. I’m definitely implementing this, it will help give some order to my sporatic cleaning and organizing. Haha!
    .-= Vanessa W.´s last blog ..*Scripture Spark* ~ Post #1 =-.

  12. Well, based on my last Simple Mom column, you know how I feel about #2. However, #1 is an area where I struggle GREATLY. We have SO MUCH BABY STUFF. Baby clothes, baby toys, baby gear, baby equipment. I don’t think we are done growing our family, and I struggle with feeling it would be unwise to give that stuff away.

    On the other hand, though, you make a great point about being able to find what you need on down the road. We are in a season of life where most of our friends are still having babies. It makes sense, then, that if we do have more babies, we will most likely be able to rely on hand-me-downs from them to make it through that baby season.

    This is great food for thought, Tsh. I wonder how many of those “essentials” I really actually do need to keep . . .
    .-= Megan@SortaCrunchy´s last blog ..My Boundaries Are Not Your Boundaries (and that’s okay) =-.

    • Can any of your friends borrow your baby stuff while you “wait”? When we were just overseas, we had this collection that basically rotated houses based on who needed it soonest. It was nice to just have one bumbo, one jumper, etc. among a whole bunch of us. When you weren’t using it, someone else probably needed it next.

  13. avatar
    Trudy G. says:

    I disagree with getting rid of items associated with specific moments in my past. These moments in time are what made me who I am today. Living in the present and looking towards the future is fine but to leave the past behind is to leave all those life lessons learned. There needs to be a balance.

    • It’s all a balance, I think. It depends on the specific moment, and it depends on the item. The overall point is that our memories aren’t tied up in things — we can still have the memory without the actual thing.

      • avatar
        Trudy G. says:

        I understand what you are saying about ‘things’ and that you can still have the memory without the item but an item can sure be a powerful reminder. And who can’t use one of those occasionally!

      • I think you’re right that there needs to be balance. This used to be an area I really really struggled with. Especially because I had a tonne of things from a year I spent overseas as a teenager. I was holding onto things that I was never going to use and that I didn’t even find beautiful enough to display. Even though that year and my experiences during that went a long way towards making me the person I am today, I have recently been quite content to get rid of the clutter that was bogging me down (and my Mom since I had left lots of it at her house too!). I did take some photos of things that I didn’t want to forget and have scrapbooked about some of the great memories using those photos. But I don’t feel sad having let most things go. There are, of course, a few key things I have kept as a reminder that I will probably never be able to let go of. But I have pared it down quite significantly.
        .-= Jen´s last blog ..Cranky =-.

  14. Tsh – sorry to go off-topic but is that your home in the top pic? I love that green artwork. If it’s yours, do you mind sharing where you got it?
    Thanks,
    K.

  15. #1 used to be my biggest hurtle it still is. I’m trying to lose that mentality I got it from my father who is a hoarder. I try to tell myself that if I need something later I can always borrow it or buy it later. I have to keep that mantra in my head”“Have nothing in your homes that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”
    .-= Rana´s last blog ..Post it Note Tuesday =-.

  16. Tsh – I love your Spring Cleaning eBook. It is so simple and to the point. I really look forward to this week of review and new ideas. My biggest struggle is everything in my mother’s attic in “storage” from our daughter. What have you kept from your first child to use with subsequent children? I know I need to downsize what I’ve kept. Any tips would be appreciated. Thanks!

  17. Found you on Ali’s blog and this is EXACTLY what I needed this week. I love this! Thank you so much!!!!

    Les

  18. avatar
    Angela Schnippel says:

    I have a serious roadblock, and no one else seems to be talking about it (on blogs & such). I have things that are slightly damaged in one way or another that I think, “someone could certainly use this for SOMETHING and I don’t want this to end up in a landfill”. For example: childrens’ clothes that have stains on them. I’ve made progress on this recently: I threw away a bunch of badly stained clothes. But there are some that are just stained slightly here or there. What do I do with these? Really no one wants them. No one will take them as donations. But I can’t help but think there are kids somewhere where they have NOTHING that would be happy to take an article of clothing that has a tiny little barely noticeable stain on it. Problem is, I don’t know who those kids are, or how to get them these clothes. So I hang on to these things.

    And it’s not just clothing. It’s other stuff too. But this is truly my biggest roadblock. Help!

    • Hmm… Many charities seem to have humanitarian aid programs that send items to places like haiti, africa, etc. I know that Deseret Industries has that type of a program, and I haven’t heard of them turning down articles of clothing. Not sure if Salvation Army has that too or not. Another option would be to google for a charity that works specifically with children in countries that are likely to be desperate for things like that. If you contact a charity like that directly, they might be more willing to work with you than your local charity drop-off location.

      That’s all just a guess, though :)

    • Just want to say that I’m with you here. I feel guilty putting stuff in the garbage… which means those piles turn into clutter. I have to talk myself through this all the time. Sometimes the garbage is just the best place for something – no guilt needed!

      Here are a few ideas… re: fabric – some can be composted. I don’t remember the details (like particular fibers… probably natural only?), but more info could be googled. Also, ratty old towels and blankets are often welcomed by animal hospitals/shelters. I post unwanted stuff on freecycle.org quite a bit – you’d be amazed at what people are interested in! Same with craigslist “free” section.

      And while I’m glad that there are options to responsibly get rid of other stuff (e.g. our preschool welcomes toilet paper tubes & egg cartons)… it adds a lot of complexity to getting stuff out of here! So many piles with different destinations!

  19. I am SO guilty of #1.

    Thanks for the reality check, Tsh.
    .-= Kat @ Inspired To Action´s last blog ..GIVEAWAY! – Motivation Monday: Why Mothers Need To Retreat =-.

  20. I love the definition of clutter, so simple and clear, I am going to make it my mantra, thanks great article
    .-= Robyn Colledge´s last blog ..handpainted hibiscus card =-.

  21. Okay, what’s my biggest roadblock? That’s easy… the kids’ toys! I don’t have a problem editing and purging my own things, but I have such guilt about getting rid of/donating kids’ toys. Inevitably, the things that I drag out of the closet –the things that haven’t been played with for eons– will all of a sudden become their *favorite* thing in the whole wide world! I don’t ever throw away legos or “open-ended” creative toys, if that makes any sense. But Star Wars figures that just lie around? My fingers are itching to toss them…But then what do I do, 4 months from now, when my son all of a sudden wants to play Star Wars? It’s that kind of guilt that stops me every time.

    Any advice? Does anyone have any hard and fast rules about getting rid of kid’s toys? Help!
    .-= kirwin´s last blog ..Throw Out Fifty Things =-.

  22. This is good motivation to get started. Now if my girls and newborn will kindly get along all day and not cry incessantly…

  23. I have the hardest time with the second roadblock. I feel guilty about just thinking about getting rid of something that was given to me. For example, my Grandmother gave me a figurine every year for my birthday until my eighteenth birthday. You know, the ones of the little girl and her age. I don’t like them-never really did, but every one of them is sitting in a box in my basement. I think this year, I will take a picture of them and donate the box to Goodwill. Thanks for the motivation!
    .-= Amanda G@Simple Day. Simple Life.´s last blog ..Link Love | Gardening =-.

  24. I love the way you broke down the reasons we hang onto things. So clear and useful.
    .-= Meredith from Penelope Loves Lists´s last blog ..Stop Doing Your Laundry and Here’s Why =-.

  25. It’s amazing! Are you sure you don’t have a hidden camera in my house? :) You just went through my full list of excuses!
    .-= Bryony Boxer´s last blog ..Being A Long-Distance Grandparent =-.

  26. Ha ha ha ha!! I bought that exact little statue of the Eiffel Tower when I was a nanny in France after high school and to give to one of my MIL’s friends. I wonder if she ever thinks she has to keep it or it will hurt my feelings. LOL!

    Thanks for an excellent article. I am in the midst of itching to do some decluttering, but find it so hard with all the kids around. “Noooooo!! Not THAT! I love that thing!” One tip for decluttering kids stuff…when you bag it up or box it up to go to the thrift store, make sure the container is opaque and sealed up. ;)
    .-= ChristineG´s last blog ..Socks for Someone Six =-.

  27. I wish I could get my husband to see the light. He collects video game systems and their games even though we never use them and probably will again. So they sit in our entertainment unit being ugly and taking up space, or sitting in boxes in the (small) storage room taking up space
    .-= Tera´s last blog ..Spring Fling! =-.

  28. Out of curiosity, what do you do about clothes that a child has grown out of? My daughter has grown out of all her newborn clothes, and is starting to grow out of the 3-month clothes, and I’m currently storing them because I plan on having more children down the road. It seems very wasteful to me to get rid of them since nearly all of them are still in good condition, but they take up a lot of room. Also, I absolutely loved the fact that my parents were able to give me a number of outfits for my daughter that I wore as a child.

    • avatar
      Penelope says:

      Buy a few Space Bags or similar bags. Fill them up and use a vacuum cleaner to extract all of the air, reducing the size of the bag by 75%. The bags can be reused and save a lot of space when storing clothing.

  29. I have wonderful things and furniture passed down the line. I want to save them for my grandchildren who will be out on their own in the next few years. It certainly fills my spaces. Help

  30. I did some major decluttering a few months ago but I have started round 2 to benefit a local church charity for women recovering from addictions. It is easier this time around. You learn to let go of the things and keep the love!!!

  31. Like so many others, #1 resonates very loudly in my ears!

    I am making a point to blog about your posts daily this week (schedule allowing, of course), to hold me accountable to the blogging universe (a good motivator for me), and to give myself a gentle reminder that I do desire a simpler home!

  32. I found myself thinking of all of these things this weekend as I started doing some major decluttering in my home. Your post makes me feel much better about the car load full of stuff I hauled off to the Goodwill Store. I feel like I am on a roll, and I’m determined to finally conquer the final frontier of clutter in my home–the basement! I’m looking forward to more inspiring posts like this one!

  33. Tsh, this is so right on for me, today! I was cleaning out my kitchen and I came to the realization that the plates hanging all around that were my grandmother’s just weren’t my style. They never have been, really, but I hung them up because they were Grandma’s and that was what she had done with them. I realized today that I can let go of the plates (they are now carefully boxed away) and still love and honor my grandmother’s memory. Thanks for the gentle nudge :-)

    http://www.rockingranola.com/search/label/spring%20cleaning

    Best Wishes!
    .-= Kara´s last blog ..Weekend Showcase: Link Love =-.

  34. Please help! My biggest roadblock is my husband. He uses ALL FOUR excuses. He takes over an area, gradually fills it wall to wall (usually waist deep) with stuff, then abandons it, because he can’t find anything in there. Three sheds are full, and he’s started on the basement. I regularly throw away tens of plastic shopping bags and hundreds of paper napkins (clean) from beside his side of the bed… Does anyone have any suggestions on how to deal with him? Nothing I’ve tried has worked. He thinks I’m being unreasonable, and gets very upset when he discovers I’ve thrown something away.

  35. Several of you have asked about kids’ clothes they’ve outgrown, yet you’re not quite done with. I quickly answered the first poster up here (#14), but I can probably elaborate more into a post in the near future.

    Thanks. :)

  36. Oh boy, did you ever nail me with #1. The other 3 aren’t really issues for me, but #1? Oh yeah.

    I think I’ve gotten into the habit of holding on to so many things because I’m always fiddling around with my house. And since I’m always making over my “finds”, I truly can see a use for all of the stuff cluttering up our basement. I’m lucky that we have a lot of storage space, but every home has it’s limits and we’ve reached ours.

    Just because I can see a use for each and every lamp, chair and shelf in my basement doesn’t mean that I’m actually going to use them. Time for a garage sale!

    Thanks for the kick in the pants.
    .-= Kimba´s last blog ..How to Make a Decorating Decision =-.

  37. Thanks for a great post! I’m guilty of number four the most. I have a few boxes of things from my past that I just can’t let go of…even though they’ve been sorted through down to (mostly) the bare minimum of what I’d like to save. But after reading through your post I’m wondering what good is it to save things that are just going to be in boxes forever? I’m going to have to sort through my garage soon…
    .-= Sam´s last blog ..Spring Cleaning… =-.

  38. I found myself thinking of all of these things this weekend as I started doing some major decluttering in my home. Your post makes me feel much better about the car load full of stuff I hauled off to the Goodwill Store. I feel like I am on a roll, and I’m determined to finally conquer the final frontier of clutter in my home–the basement! I’m looking forward to more inspiring posts like this one!

  39. so I have a pile of stuff that I’ve had listed on craigslist & other free selling/swapping sites for a while now. Should I just take it all to goodwill & forget trying to make a buck or two?

  40. I think my husband and I have finally reached a place where we are both in exactly the same frame of mind concerning our belongings. I am ready to get rid of extraneous toys and he is ready to get rid of extraneous computer cables. It was easy before, decluttering the simple things like the dishes we didn’t like or Christmas gifts that weren’t our style. But now we are into the hard stuff, the stuff WE bought, paid money for, and carried around all this time. It’s really, really good, and I am excited about how our home will feel in a few weeks.
    .-= Visty´s last blog ..The Long Rest =-.

  41. #1 is definitely the one I struggle with the most. As someone who is quite frugal, I have a hard time getting rid of things that I think we may need down the road, knowing that we will have to fork out money or try to find another good deal if/when we do need it.

    I have come to recognize lately that when I feel that way, it is because I am doubting whether my needs will be met. I’m wanting to hoard things now, because I don’t trust that in the future, we will be provided for. It feels so silly to say that, when I look back on all the countless times that God has so richly provided for all of our needs, big and small. He has always been faithful, and I want to be able to let go of these things, and simply trust in His provision instead.

    This is really timely for us because we just found out last week that we are moving (yay- to a house that we really want to move to!) on July 1st. I am going to take these next couple months as a huge opportunity to truly declutter our stuff, more than I ever have before. I’m planning to challenge myself by putting as much stuff as I can down in the garage and trying to live with a whole lot less stuff (I think my house is going to feel barren at first!). As we get closer to the move date, then I’m going to evaluate whether we even need to keep those garage items at all, or if we can simply sell or give them away before we move. I’ve never actually been this excited about packing before, LOL!
    .-= Stephanie @ Keeper of the Home´s last blog ..Real Food Makeover: The Anderson Family =-.

  42. Oh I am so in need of spring cleaning. I’m closing my eyes Tsh and imagining what I want our space to be like. I see minimal, white, clean surfaces, order, flowers, no clutter!

  43. As we prepare for baby #2 in August I have, of course, dialed into decluttering mode! It has made me reflect on my past patterns of hanging on to things and how and why they have changed over time.

    I have always loved to keep things for sentimental reasons or the “I might use this some day” reason. When we moved into our house almost 8 years ago I really viewed it as a starter house. I thought we would be here for 5 or 6 years and once we started a family we would move on. So I kept thinking, well soon we will have a bigger house so I will just keep it for now and then have a place for it once we move. As time has gone on we have just really grown to love our house and yard and neighborhood and close proximity to downtown. About a year ago I just decided, we aren’t moving soon and so I need to start living within the size of this house. This change in mindset has helped me so much in my ability to get rid of things that “I don’t love or are not beautiful” in my home!

    The other thing I have found that has spurred me along in my decluttering journey is that if I go through the same boxes/piles at least once a year I find it easier and easier to throw things away. What I mean is, as I grow as a person and we grow as a family the things I thought were so important to me a year or two ago from high school or college or even our first years of marriage don’t define me as a person anymore and I am able to only keep one or two things that I truly find important.

    As we have added children to our family I find it much easier to get rid of things I was holding on to from the past to allow room for things that help us live in the moment and enjoy our life together now in our little “starter” house.

  44. This is a great post. We’re struggling with items that were given to us as heirlooms, but which we don’t have space for in our home. We’re not sure what we’ll need to do with them.

    I know someone who is teetering on the edge of being a hoarder based on #1. And my mother-in-law was a real problem for us on the hurt feelings thing – she did get really angry the first few times we gave something back or got rid of it. BUT… now she knows that’s a possibility and she quit giving us stuff unless she’s prepared to never see it again. That has been a huge help.

    Your posts have me inspired – a friend offered me space in her garage sale this coming weekend, and I’m fired up to see how much I can come up with in the next few days!
    .-= Wendy´s last blog ..This is for Texan Mama =-.

  45. Do you have any recommendations on how to proceed when one spouse loves something and the other hates it? The particular items I’m referring to don’t serve any real purpose in our house.

    Examples: A bulky vintage desk that isn’t even in very good condition, a vintage apple corer that sits on our kitchen counter, a bulky green 1970s lounger that collects piles of stuff. We live in a small home in San Francisco and, with 2 young kids, we need all the space we can get and what we have crammed into the house looks cluttered as it is. I’m trying to simplify and declutter but run into road blocks whenever I suggest to my husband that we get rid of things we don’t use.

    Advice?

  46. Interesting psychological analysis of the cluttering mystique! :)

  47. avatar
    Cindy Mancini says:

    Thanks for this article. I can see a couple of things that can go just from where I sit! But I don’t think I can be as ruthless as your definition of clutter demands. For instance, my grandmother’s salt shaker are seriously ugly, I don’t use them, they weren’t passed to me for a reason, they don’t bog me down, I don’t mind housing them and she probably wouldn’t care if I tossed them. They’re simply special to me and so they stay. I guess my definition of what’s worthy of keeping is a little broader — not always just what’s beautiful or useful. Now does that mean I want a whole box of grandma’s uglies? Nope. Like you said, there needs to be a balance. I like your rule of thumb, but hey, quit callin’ granny’s S&P’s clutter! ;)

    • I would actually submit to you that these S&P shakers are beautiful to you, if you use a broad definition of beautiful. They may not be aesthetically-pleasing, but they’re beautiful in the sense of what they truly mean to you. It just takes deliberate thought and decision making — I don’t advocate brutal ruthlessness here. :)

  48. avatar
    Holly Berry says:

    I’m forwarding this article to my husband immediately. Every single one of these points is applicable to our differing beliefs on stuff and you have eloquently reasoned in my favor for each! Maybe this will help encourage him to dump those all those boxes of comic books, CDs, and DVDs we don’t use or let me get rid of some of the “artwork” we keep around because it was a gift. Thanks!

  49. Due to lack of time and energy, my home does not get decluttered like it should. It drives me crazy and makes me feel like the walls are caving in around me. I need to have a home that has minimal stuff. When I struggle with things to keep vs. pitch, I think, “If I were moving, would I want to take it with me.” If I don’t envision in it in my imaginary future home, then it goes.
    .-= Renee´s last blog ..Sounds and Smells of a Spring Sunday =-.

  50. O my goodness this is so in the moment for me right now. We are trying to sell our house so I have been staging our house to open it up and look better. To the tune of taking everything out of our bookshelves in our bedroom, put all pictures in boxes, removing our entire family room furniture and putting different furniture there to show off size of room, declutter, declutter, declutter. I for some reason could not declutter my desk. It was easier for me to remove it all and put in a box then put back only the things I wanted on my desk……FREEDOM. It felt and feels so good. Must get back to it.
    Thanks for the good words.
    Kindest regards,
    b†
    http://www.madreminutes.blogspot.com
    @madreminutes

  51. My question would be, does Spring Cleaning HAVE to be done in the spring? Our family is always over-scheduled in May and June…April is NOW and I have a cold and don’t feel like it. Can we move this to a different time? LOL

  52. You may as well get rid of it now because when you die you can’t take it with you.

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