Striving For Less Stuff

One of the things I have been spending a large amount of time on over the last couple of months has been minimizing the amount of clutter in my life.  As part of a holistic approach towards reducing waste on all accounts there is one area, outside environmental waste, that I have been particularly focused on and that is wasted time. The feeling of constant clutter surrounding me in my household has steadily led to lesser and lesser productivity, at times almost shutting me down as I felt bogged down by the amount of stuff littering my home. Even though I have always leaned slightly towards a minimalistic tendency, I have also had a little of that “hold on to things so I don’t have to buy it later” mindset. You know, the jeans that are nice but don’t fit all that great or that thing you might finally find a use for? But the amount of stuff I was contending with didn’t start to feel like it was out of control until the birth of my daughter. Why all of the sudden was it so much harder to keep things straight and organized? I’ve lived in a home with my husband and his stuff for several years already, so what’s the difference now?  Then it hit me that the reason that the clutter feels like more now than it did say, when I was in college or even my mid-twenties, is because not only did I have more stuff than I did 10 years ago but my husband also had been accumulating stuff as well.  Add in a third little person who has her own slew of stuff and this became a recipe for stress. Being home with my daughter and constantly faced with that clutter, it seemed like a large part of my days were spent constantly repeating the tidying up process.

So I made a decision to cut it out. Cut as many of the needless things from our lives as possible. The less you have, the less time you have to spend sorting, folding, organizing, and straightening up…or at least thats the theory right? The fewer dishes you have, the fewer that can pile up. The less clutter on your countertops, the easier it is to clean up. Also, at the core of living a life of less waste is living more simply. The more you live with less, the less you find that you need more to live. <boom, drops the mic>  I was already totally ready to feng-shui the heck out of our home, then my husband expressed how much he felt like we needed it too. Since I wasn’t the only one feeling consumed by the excess in our lives, it was super easy to dive right in!  You know the funny thing is that once you start cutting things out of your life, it almost becomes addicting. The hope of having a more simplified home fueled me to keep cutting and cutting.

The first thing I did was cut down on the duplicates around our home: serving utensils, plates, cups, wine glasses, bowls, towels, blankets. Goodbye third set of measuring spoons, see ya fourth and fifth spatula. We even eliminated an entire wooden block of knives because we already had so many other better quality knives that it didn’t make sense to have knives-on-knives-on-knives. All this led to was a constant build up in the sink while I was cooking because instead of cleaning as I go, I would just move on to a new knife. This also led to eliminating needless gadgets and other miscellaneous things we just weren’t using around the kitchen. You know, the fancy cheese slicer, the single function vegetable chopper, the George Forman grill…stuff like that. Moving around the rest of the house, I tried to minimize things that tended to pile up on a routine basis or unnecessarily took up a large amount of space.

Next it was time to cut out old DVD’s that I knew I wouldn’t watch or books I wasn’t going to read anytime in the near future, if ever. Recently I was reading something about time management and it said there will never be enough time to do everything on your to-do list. The best solution is to remove the little time consuming things from your to-do list that aren’t necessarily going to bring you closer to your end goals.  So, I did just that. Ever hold on to a magazines with the hopes of finally getting around to reading them but never do? Yea, us too. We both had subscriptions of magazines that were given to us back over a year ago that we neither had time (or prioritized high enough) to read. Instead, they sat around, taking up space, weighing me down as something I felt like I needed to do but wasn’t ever getting done. I decided it was time to face the fact that if we hadn’t read them already, we probably weren’t ever and there was no sense in hanging on to this “to-do” any longer. Since most of them were less than a year old our local library was happy to take them off our hands. Speaking of library reads, I tend to get a little overzealous with checking out books, usually biting off more than I can chew. These books end up sitting around waiting to be read and just added to the clutter, so back they went! I figured I could always check them out again when I had the time but until then they wouldn’t be hanging over my head.

The next step was to clean out my closet! At first I was reluctant to clean stuff out when I wasn’t going to be able to add anything back in for the rest of the year. But knowing that having less in your closet actually makes you feel like you have more to wear and in effort to minimize excess, I majorly weeded out all the clothes, jewelry and accessories that I wasn’t wearing, had worn out or were no longer my style. The amount of jewelry I had been hanging on to was epic and I was able to weed out probably close to 90% of it to be sold at our yard sale (or donated). My husband also did a top-to-bottom clean sweep of his clothes, eliminating all the extras that either weren’t seeing the light of day or had maybe seen a little too much.

One of the first things I started cleaning out before I really started addressing the rest of the house was baby toys.  The amount of toys our sweet baby managed to accumulate over a year and a half of her life was astonishing to me, particularly when we don’t really get her anything.  My husband are of the mindset that little munchkins don’t really need anything to keep them entertained since everything is new and exciting to them and there is already so much naturally going on in the world around them to learn about and explore.  For the few gift giving holidays she’s had since coming into this world, we’ve opted to not gift.  Not only did she not know what she was missing but we knew she would already be getting more than plenty from family and friends, and that to give her anything extra would be nonsense.  Sure we would get the occasional book or developmental toy here and there but otherwise we’ve steered clear of buying her lots of things.  Since I had everything pretty decently organized away into bins, I was slightly shielded by an illusion of less, but I still felt the constant presence her stuff…particularly as it started creeping into other areas of my house.  One day I thought it would be interesting to pull everything out and put it onto display to really see how much it was.

At the time, this sea of toys felt crazily overwhelming to me.  How can one little person have so much???  As I said earlier in this post, stuff somehow starts to add up over time, even when you aren’t trying.  So, boo-girl and I went through and weeded out a lot of toys she was no longer playing with, the duplicates, or those that generally felt like they were just taking up space.  If it wasn’t being played with or providing her with some sort of benefit, we put it in a pile to be sold or donated.  I put a bucket in her closet where I’ve been storing her favorite toys that make noise, trying to keep only one or two noisy toys out at a time. There is also shelf of items that come with multiple parts (like puzzles) tucked away in there as well to keep the small pieces clutter under control.  Up until recently I fell into this illusion that one can never have too many books sitting around.  I was talking to a friend about this who brought up a simple life blogger she had been following who still kept the number of books out at a time to a few.  While books are the bomb and I definitely want to encourage reading, I definitely see how too many books can be just as bad as too many toys.  It’s impossible to read dozens of books all at the same time and having too many options just leads to sensory overload and a shortened attention span.  So now we keep only a few books out at a time and have the majority in her closet to be rotated out every so often.

The last step of the decluttering phase was to look around for all those random things that were taking up space but really didn’t need to be.

Take for instance the entire box of user manuals that I had stowed away inside my closet.  Never once have I referenced these manuals, even when we had something come up with an appliance. Every time we looked up the answer online, so having an entire box dedicated to something that was relatively useless seemed silly.  Into the recycling bin they went!

Another thing was a stack of old notebooks with random notes I had jotted down through the years.  Do you have one of those? A catchall for random thoughts, lists and other information you need to keep track of (if you’re one of the few left who doesn’t prefer to do this digitally). Mine were there when I explored a career change in the past, planned my studying abroad trip a few years ago and prepared for baby girl.  There was no reason for me to hold on to them except for sentimental reasons and I have a lot more valuable sentimental stuff I’m already clinging to so I decided it was time for them to go.  Since a lot of the notebooks contained personal information and hard covers/metal spirals can’t be recycled, the pages were ripped out then shredded and the covers saved for a future craft project!

After all was said and done, everything that wasn’t completely worn out was either sold or donated.  The very few things that were stained or torn were put into a craft box to be repurposed.  Despite this major clean sweep, I still continue to feel the presence of persistent clutter everywhere. Probably because this most recent phase simply cleared out all the obvious, easier to let go things in our life.  Now its time to get down and dirty. Time to go through everything again and decide if certain things really need to stay or if they can go…forever.  After getting hooked on decluttering during the last clean sweep, I’m a little afraid that if I let myself go buck wild, I’ll go a little too far.  But hey, “feel the fear and do it anyway” right?  The way I see it, as long as its something that can be used by someone else and I could find again easily second hand if I absolutely needed to, then its a win-win if it means getting it out of my house!  I just think about all the people who are living out of their suitcases or in super tiny houses, happy as clams because they are just living their life and don’t have an overload of crizap that they have to manage.

Thanks for stopping by today! Here’s to a fun filled (and hopefully chore free) weekend!! 🙂

Cheers, Erica

4 Replies to “Striving For Less Stuff”

  1. You go boo! I didn’t realize how much stuff we had until we moved last year, it was refreshing to get rid of a lot of it! But I still have lots to go through!

    Brooke

    1. I know its crazy right?! It’s particularly surprising when you’re good at organizing it away! But it feels sooooo good to purge. 🙂

  2. Catherine Tyree Herb says:

    Two thumbs up! 🙂

    1. Thank you Cathy!! 🙂

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