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Permission to Get Rid of Stuff

10/26/2011

This is how I want my home to feel--like a breath of fresh air!

I oftentimes find that I have a Depression era mentality about the stuff around my house, meaning that if I think I might need it, I’ll hold on to it since I know I won’t be able to afford to buy it again. I’ve been on a graduate student budget for so long that its affected my thinking about the stuff around our home. The frugal part of me also doesn’t want to buy something again if at one point in my life I owned it. The green part of me wants to repurpose things into something new and useful, so I hold on to them with plans to eventually do that. This is fine if it actually works, but lately my husband and I have realized that its NOT working and have been wanting to have a major clean out.

One morning last week I decided to give myself permission to get rid of every single piece of clothing I didn’t love or that didn’t fit me very well (inspired by reading Megan’s post!), every item around the house that I wasn’t using, and any item that I was keeping because I felt some kind of guilt associated with it (i.e. I bought it at a yard sale and then it didn’t end up fitting like I’d hoped it would, so I’d basically wasted money). I also gave myself permission to get rid of half done sewing projects that I knew I’d never finish or fabric that used to be my taste, but really isn’t anymore. Nothing was off limits! I got rid of a bunch of extra drinking glasses because we used to have tons of people over, but that was before we had kids and we haven’t had a party for 20 people since then. I even got rid of my orchid because, no matter what I’ve tried over the past year, I’ve never been able to get it to bloom again and I was tired of it sitting out and not looking pretty.

I spend my day moving our stuff from one place to another and I don’t like it.

It was so freeing to see all of that stuff go out of my house! (Don’t worry. I didn’t throw it away. Its all getting donated to Goodwill.) I also came to a stark realization: I spend my day moving our stuff from one place to another and I don’t like it. Some of that is just part of being a homemaker–you have to keep doing the laundry (moving the clothes from little bodies, to the washer, to the drying racks, back the the closets, and repeat.) But a lot of that is just because we have accumulated too much clutter. I’d rather spend my time doing things I love–sewing, playing with my kids, hanging out with my family and friends–than constantly feeling like a slave to our stuff. (Actually, I usually do that stuff to the neglect of our home. I still don’t have that balance down yet!) I need to streamline our home so it takes less time to keep up.

The sad part is that even after cleaning all of that out, our closets were still full, they just weren’t jam packed. Same thing with the kitchen cabinets–they are still full, just not jam packed. Even sadder than that is the fact that I’d already done a clean out of the house to have a yard sale earlier this year. How are we accumulating this much stuff?!

I’m taking baby steps to rid our house of needless things so I can free up more time for other more worthwhile pursuits. The first step was that big clean out. The next step is another big clean out–this one even more ruthless than the first. (I’ll probably need help to do that!) I’m also going to curtail the kids clothes. I’m going to pick out 10 or so outfits that I like for each child and then put everything else in a box in the attic. If I don’t need anything out of that box after a couple of months, it gets donated to Goodwill. I’m going to need help with this step too since I have a hard time getting rid of anything for the kids that actually fits. Slowly but surely I hope to make sure that all of the things in our home follows this wise saying by William Morris (with thanks to Simple Mom for introducing me to that quote):

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

 

Do any of you fellow green and frugal people find yourself also having trouble getting rid of stuff? Anyone found any effective strategies for keeping the clutter away? Please commiserate share in the comments!

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12 Comments
  1. Sarah permalink
    10/26/2011 4:23 pm

    I lived with my grandparents for a large part of my childhood. They help on to everything. EVERYTHING. I ended up revolting and turned into a complete minimalist for years. Now, I’m striking a balance. We bought a salad spinner for pennies on the dollar once. But it was just so darn bulky and annoying that I’d rather not have one in order to have peace of mind. So out it went. I figure, I know enough people that if it’s something I really need to use to don’t have {or can’t buy} then I can borrow. So far, it’s worked out pretty well. At least my friends don’t seem to mind….

  2. 10/26/2011 5:35 pm

    Found you from Emily’s blog :) I LOVE getting rid of stuff !!! But it all goes somewhere worthwhile…charity, friend’s kids, church, school library. i want to live with LESS STUFF!! I For me it keeps my head clear….life a little less uncomplicated …….

    LOVE this post! Thank you…think I will go have a good clear out tomorrow :)))

  3. 10/26/2011 5:51 pm

    At least twice a year, or major season change. I go through our closet and if there is something I only wore once, twice, or not a all, it goes. I do that for the both of us and it clears out at least a quarter of our closet a couple times a year. And EVERY night after Nolan lays down, Chris and I both go through and put up everything (toys, clean dishes, and laundry) that way the house is straightened up for the next day and it takes us less than 15 minutes :)

  4. 10/26/2011 10:20 pm

    This reminded me of a post that I read recently on Penniless Parenting blog. I think that living where we live has helped us keep the clutter down to a minimum. For one thing, closets in NZ are t-i-n-y, so we don’t have much storage space. I have wondered how having a kid would affect the clutter status of our life, but so far we’ve kept it under control. Joe really doesn’t need a lot of toys, but I think that the prevailing mindset is that you have to give them lots and lots and lots of toys. If I’m honest, Joe is just has happy playing with a tupperware and a wooden spoon with ribbons tied on it as he is with the latest fancy gear. As for clothing, it’s so expensive over here that I try to get by with the bare minimum. The real challenge will be not buying a lot of needless things when we are in America… I’m sure that I’ll be tempted because of the lower prices!

    Overall, the best way that I’ve found to reduce clutter is to do what my mom always did – make sure the dishes stay washed and are put away each night no matter what, and don’t leave clothes to lie around! I also pick up Joe’s toys after he’s in bed and put them on his playmat, then put that in the corner of the room. Yes, I’m just going to get them out again in the morning, but it makes me feel better :-)

  5. 10/27/2011 7:41 am

    I remember a quotation I read recently…. Organization is the greatest gift you can give to yourself… Now if I could only follow that!

  6. Karie permalink
    10/27/2011 8:48 am

    Since starting the packing process I put about 80% of the kids toys in a box leaving them just a few things to play with and you know what-they are just as happy. I realized they have spent as much time playing (or complaining they are bored) as always. They really don’t seem to miss them. I think when I start to unpack in the new place some of those toys are just not going to show themselves…consignment sale here we come! :-)

  7. 11/01/2011 1:08 pm

    Sometimes it’s hard to get rid of stuff, especially when you’ve paid a lot for it, but when you realize how much it is costing you in terms of time and effort, you realize that it’s just not worth it. For the kids clothes that you want to donate, consider going to a second hand children’s store (Once Upon a Child, Mom’s to be) and sell it back to them. They’ll buy the gently used stuff, which is a bonus :)

    Liz Voce – Sort It

  8. 11/08/2011 11:27 am

    Oh girl, welcome to my LIFE! Like you, the frugal and green part of me really struggles to let go of things. Then there is the sentimental part of me. Those three things together make for a dangerous combination.

    We used to live in an apartment with no attic, garage, or decent basement for storage. Our tiny space was CRAMMED full. When we decided to have a baby, I got rid of TONS of stuff. Then 9 months later we bought a house. In the packing/moving, I got rid of TONS of stuff. Now it is 1.5 years later and I still have TONS of stuff in boxes that we haven’t unpacked. Someone please explain to me how that works?!!??!

    If you find a cure for this disease please let me know!

    • Kate permalink*
      11/08/2011 1:36 pm

      We have a loose rule around here that if we haven’t used within the past year, then we probably don’t need it and get rid of it. It would work if we consistently did it. :) Thanks for commiserating with me!

  9. 11/08/2011 1:07 pm

    Found you from a link on Simply Rebekah’s site. I am so tired of the excess stuff but with a family of 5, I can’t find the balance either. I’m working on it though! Thanks for the encouraging word to get rid of what I don’t love or really use! hopping over from Hobbies on a Budget and Real Life Deals

  10. Margery permalink
    12/13/2011 1:00 pm

    I think the best policy is to set aside scheduled time each week for decluttering. List something on Craigslist. Take outgrown or unloved kids clothes to a consignment/resale shop. Gather a bag for Goodwill. List something on eBay. Take old books to a used book shop. You get the idea.

Trackbacks

  1. Insane Goals: The Dreaded Closet Clean Up | Simply Rebekah

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