I once watched a PBS Special called Affluenza: The Epidemic of Overconsumption. I was about 17 and making bare minimum at Jamba Juice, so I wasn’t much in danger of falling into this category, but this was a very eye-opening show for me. It basically talks about America’s obsession with stuff—how hard we work to keep up with the Jones’es, how we keep filling up our cars, garages and storage sheds with more and more stuff, and what the price of all that stuff is—beyond the price tag. Ever thought about how much time you spend at work to make money to pay for the storage and upkeep of more and more stuff? And what is all that actually worth to you? The program showed typical Americans in a life-sucking cycle of stuff, credit card debt, and endless work, masquerading under the title of the “American dream.”
Ever walked into a cluttered house? How does that make you feel? And I’m not talking about TLC’s Hoarders, or anything like that, just a general house packed full of the regulars—sneakers, junk mail, books, magazines, etc. on every free surface. I usually feel the urge to pull at my neckline (although I’m generally in a scoop or V-neck) to get a little more air. And the other day something terrifying happened—I walked into a house, had that feeling, and realized I was on Racquet Club Drive. Home.
So I began my research. And came up with a few tips and thoughts for clearing out some junk from your homes. One of my favorite food for thought moments comes from Julie Morgenstern’s book When Organizing Isn’t Enough: “(Decluttering)….is a transformative process for letting go of things that reprenstent the past so you can grow and move forward.
Ideas For Keeping Your Home Free From Junk
1. Look at clutter for what it really is. Too much stuff is bad for your body, mind and spirit as well as your home and bank account. Letting go of things lets you move forward and gives you more time to live!
2. Start with the easy stuff. If it is garbage, no longer relevant, or you don’t like it, get rid of it. I like to get a big garbage bag and then pick a number and get rid of that many items as quickly as possible.
3. Use a criteria list. This is mine: Have I used this item within the last 12 months? Is this item worth the space it is taking up in my home and life? If I get rid of this item will I seek a replacement for it?
4. Hide “maybe’s” in a box. When there is an item I am torn on I put it in a box in a closet. If I don’t go looking for it within the next few weeks I know I’ve officially moved on from the item and can get rid of it.
5. Get rid of clothes that you don’t wear. It may be the cutest thing in the world, but if you’re not using it then it is just a waste of space. And don’t waste time worrying about why you don’t wear it, some things just aren’t meant to be.
And get rid of things that don’t fit you! Who wants a too-tight pair of jeans making them feel crummy, or a “fall-back” pair of sweats in case you gain weight? Embrace where you are right at this moment and give the rest away.
6. Remember that things come in and out of your life. Life is transitive and progressive. Let your stuff be that way. When something is no longer useful to you donate it somewhere that it can be of use to someone else.
7. Just because something is “still good” or “was expensive” doesn’t mean it is of value to you. If it is not blessing you or your home in some way, get rid of it. Someone else will find it very valuable.
8. You don’t have to keep all sentimental items. When I was little I would cry hysterically every time my mom threw away my old school papers or made me give away old toys I hadn’t played with in years. I distinctly remembering using a line I’d read in an American Girl Doll book, saying something along the lines of: “But Mom! Things remind me of people!” I don’t think that line got me very far then, and it doesn’t now. Keep a few things that really matter to you, special notes, pictures, etc. but remind your emotional self that getting rid of things from a person or a time period does not wipe them from your memory or life. They’re still there. And keeping or getting rid of stuff won’t change that.
9. Declutter first, then organize. There are a million books out there about organization—you can cleverly turn the space under your bed into an old clothes storage, or buy cool baskets to store magazines or old towels, but do you really want to spend a bunch of time and space organizing things you don’t actually want? Be honest with yourself.
10. Don’t give away anything that isn’t yours. So, David had a pair of jeans that he loved. However, they had a hole in the butt which I kept pointing out to him and he kept ignoring. One day I decided to simply remove a few of his old pairs of clothing and do the box trick to see if he’d even notice they were gone. One day, satisfied after a few weeks that he hadn’t even missed his old things, I told him what I’d done. His reaction was priceless. He said something along the lines of “That’s where my jeans went?? I’ve been racking my brain for weeks trying to remember where I left them.” Oops. And this is now one of his favorite stories to tell. Hang out with us and you will probably hear it.
11. Don’t feel obligated to keep every gift you get. Remember the saying “It’s the thought that counts”? Well it really is the thought that counts. Don’t force yourself to keep mountains of things you don’t like because you don’t want to offend someone. Remember, you are reclaiming your home and your space—not theirs. And it is very unlikely it will ever come up with that person.
12. Watch what you bring into the house. When you’re purchasing an item ask yourself where it will go in your house, whether it will be replacing something, and if it is worth the space it will take.
Thirty Things I Got Rid of This Week
And so you know I’m walking the walk, rather than just talking the walk, here is a list of things I got rid of this week, complete with a brief explanation:
1. White pants—purchased from Thrift Town for Orbit Gum Girl Halloween costume
2. Cookie Monster Socks—blue, fuzzy, may or may not have gum stuck to the bottom of the right one
3. Too Low Jeans (am constantly hitching them up. Not attractive.)
4. Cute teal sweater (that I have never worn)
5. Mom’s track suit
6. Blue V-Neck Shirt
7. Black Wedgie Sweat pants
8. Gray Useless Sports Bra (zero support)
9. White Useless Sports Bra (ditto)
10. Blue fuzzy sweater (that is not supposed to be fuzzy)
11. Pig Calendar (pictures of pigs in wigs getting their hair and nails done—if anyone is dying to get their hands on this, let me know)
12. Dangly Silver Earrings I never wear
13. Glasses (had Lasik!)
14. Post Lasik Sunglasses
15. Offensive Sticker Set (“Ritalin! So much easier than parenting!” and “Ran into my ex… put it in reverse and hit him again”
16. Marilyn Monroe shoes (purchased when I was 16. Haven’t worn since I was 19)
17. Nine packs of Christmas cards that David purchased from Cabella’s at $0.99 a box. Very beautiful images of majestic bucks gazing out over snowy landscapes, but not quite my style.
18. Old Vaseline.
19. Ancient hairspray. Still a liquid?
20. Ancient Sunscreen. No comment.
21. The glue and applicator for a set of false eyelashes. No eyelashes to be found.
22. Three copies of Dad’s book “Grace”… in German.
23. Sexy Cop Costume complete with badge and hat that doesn’t fit me (giant head)
24. Sexy Gangster Costume
25. Sexy Pirate Costume. (Yes, I have a lot of sexy Halloween costumes. And I hate them all.)
26. Bad Nail polish
27. Swearing Makeup Remover (called this because few things have made me swear like this horrible stinging liquid)
28. 3 Eye shadows
29. A Terrible Cookbook
30. Assorted combs I bought for less than a dollar.
Great Books on the Subject
It’s All Too Much, by Peter Walsh
When Organizing Isn’t Enough, by Julie Morgenstern
Sink Reflections, by Marla Cilley