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Decluttering: Purging House and Mind

Posted by Alice Moon on Mar.11, 2009

©iStockphoto.com - tepic

©iStockphoto.com - tepic

I went through a major life change a couple of years ago. I reclaimed myself, gave myself a life makeover. One part of that process was getting rid of items I’ve kept for decades, carried from house to house as I moved. I almost never saw or used any of these belongings, but I felt a deep sentimental attachment to them. However, a time came where I realized they were holding me back. I had to let go and I was ready to do so. Inspired by some of my efforts, here are a few tips on reducing clutter in your own home, plus a little lesson I learned in each area.

The kitchen: Use your environment to help positively guide your habits.
The kitchen is where I had the most fun culling. I hate doing dishes. I took this opportunity to get rid of every inferior modern accessory that had been clogging my cabinets. If a whisk offended me, off it went. I reduced down from a Martha Stewart inspired collection of table settings to enough dishes to serve my small family for a couple of days at a time. This kept me from letting the dirty dishes pile up and gave us more room to experiment with actual cooking. Now we are very cautious about any new additions. We think each purchase through carefully and usually wait months to see if our minds change before adding anything new.

The bedroom: If it doesn’t fit, you must get rid of it.

In the bedroom, as part of my pack rat mentality, I had filled our closets with bargain coats. They joined the piles of clothing I kept because I may someday need it. I was savagely harsh in my sorting, keeping only items which fit that day and which I’d worn over the past year. Anything uncomfortable, just a little off for any reason, anything I’d intended to mend but had never done had to go. Also, I must be honest, there were some pieces I wore long past the point where I should. Each item I’d kept because I liked how soft it felt or because I needed something to wear in the garden or garage, every stained shirt and pair of pants full of holes, I had to purge. I found that I quickly wore out other clothing which replaced those pieces and I didn’t miss them for a moment.

The office: Make room for something you enjoy using by getting rid of what you don’t.
The home office was the easiest because I wasn’t as attached to the clutter I’d stashed there; random twist ties and paper clips don’t pull at the heartstrings. I found I’d saved a bizarre grouping of old phone cords and jacks, wire and plastic bits and pieces I couldn’t even identify, let alone ever put to use. I discovered I owned ten rolls of various kinds of tape. There were dated computer games, discs I no longer had a functional drive to fit, manuals for machines I don’t remember owning. I was able to go through this area quickly, but organizing what was left took time due to all of the rubber bands, batteries, screws and assorted muddle that had made its way into the deep drawers over the years.

The pen jar gets special mention because at some point I realized I owned a number of writing utensils I could not stand to use. They remained in the jar, year after year. I passed them on to my mother, who collects half used pens like rare coins. I then invested in my most favorite comfortable pens, ones sure to be used daily.

Media/Entertainment: Appreciate a few important pieces more by keeping less.
This was by far the hardest category for me to process. I owned a ton of magazines, music, books, videos. I had every form of recording from albums and eight tracks to MP3s. I decided to upgrade it all. I let go of the older recordings altogether, simply got rid of them without attempting to transfer them, because I didn’t have any interest in those particular pieces and there weren’t numbers enough to bother over. I took my vast collection of CDs and over the course of a couple of weeks saved each one onto my computer. I didn’t need the discs and cases since I was interested in the songs, not the artwork.

The best part came when I took all of my old music to nearby stores and sold the CDs, cassettes and videos for a nice piece of change. It was like getting a bonus for having done such good work. I didn’t lose anything in the bargain. I still had all my own copies on my computer and my iPod. I gave away all the tape players, CD players and related accessories. That opened up more space than I expected in my home office because I now had no mystery cords or converters hanging around.

The magazines were tough. There might be information in there I may need to absorb! I decided that if I hadn’t taken the time to read them yet, I never would. Besides, that information would be outdated in many cases. Stacks of them were sent to be recycled, donated, or given away. I tried to avoid looking at the covers as I did this, a precaution against giving any issues a reprieve because a title caught my eye. If I allowed that to happen, I’d still have the stacks looming.

Books. Oh, how I love books, but there is precious little need to own them with the increasingly available and portable electronic titles. In many cases, they downgrade once read, become something I have to dust rather than valued items. I kept a few instructional titles and special favorites and pared the rest down. I tried to keep only an amount which would fit on my shelves or in one storage tub.

I was a hardcore movie buff and collected VHS tapes extensively. Then DVDs began to join them. I finally had to come to the understanding that the titles are still available when I want one, that they don’t need to be on my shelf, close at hand. I’m still working on a few of the videos, some older tapes with clips I hope to transfer to DVD before we part ways.

Know where you’ve been so you can see more clearly where you’re going.

I came by my habits honestly. My mother and grandmother were lovers of garage sales. My father would save anything he might be able to use again at a later date. Since childhood, I saved every toy, every piece of cloth, every school paper I could. But at some point, sanity has to intervene. There are items, many, many items, which just won’t be useful again. Or which may seem useful, but will no longer serve due to their age and condition and will need to be updated regardless of good intentions.

I didn’t want to be chained to my piles of stuff any longer. I didn’t want to have piles. I wanted space, order, function. I wanted to pass on the things I was saving for a “just in case” future to people who needed them now. These thoughts helped me to pare down a house filled with junk to a few sentimental pieces and functional items. The process allowed me to open my life to new possibilities, because I now had the mental and physical space to let them in.

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Posted under Green Cleaning, Home Environment.

Article By: Alice Moon

Alice Moon

Profile: Alice holds a degree in Political Science and the four highest awards in Girl Scouting. Once an intern at the prestigious Smithsonian Institute and the National Zoo in Washington DC, she now makes her living as a writer. A gluten free vegan, she can frequently be found foraging in the countryside or at the local farmer’s market. In her free time, she enjoys keeping fit through yoga, martial arts, biking and hiking. Alice lives in the rural Indiana countryside where the cows can observe her antics. She is frequently chased by farm dogs as she runs the back roads. My new online dating advice site is INDATE http://jamestwohats.com/indate/

Website: http://jamestwohats.com/quartremoon/

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1 comment for this entry:
  1. Beata Craiger

    I have been absent for some time, but now I remember why I used to love this site. Thanks, I will try and check back more often. How frequently do you update your site?

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