Most Americans have too much stuff. They have gadgets and gizmos, ten pairs of the same shirt in different colors, every DVD ever made, a bazillion of this and a gazillion of that. Nooks and crannies are filled to capacity. Rented storage units are overflowing. Did I mention that most Americans have too much stuff?
I am guilty as charged, a fact that has always bothered me. I’m not really a hoarder. In fact, I love purging items I no longer need or use. But that still does not seem to stop the flow of items into our home. Having Tiny only increased the number of material possessions in our home, attic, 20X24 foot “cat house,” and large barn. Oh yeah, let’s not forget the garage and the closed in patio. Good night Irene!
Granted, there is certainly a benefit to keeping some things. Photo albums, some collectibles, family heirlooms and the like. But most of what we humans store is really useless to us.
In the spirit of the Carnival of Natural Parenting’s January Challenge, I decided to focus on minimalism taking it a giant step further. My husband and I sat down and agreed to purge 1/3 of EVERYTHING we own. And then, after we did that, we were going to purge another 1/4 of what we own.
Our motivation was two fold. A) We needed to reduce what we own as we will be moving within the next few months and prefer to take as little as possible with us, especially because there is a strong chance we will be moving into something smaller (storage capacity wise). B) We have a lot of things packed and stored and quite frankly, they will probably stay that way for years to come. So why keep things we don’t truly need and are not using. Piggybacking on that, we have a lot of “stuff” in general and the vast majority just sits there, never getting used for its intended purpose, unless you consider collecting dust a viable purpose.
We sectioned off our home and storage areas and committed to a binge and purge of one room/storage area per week. We would tag team the room for one hour during that week. This would force us to make quick decisions but would also allow us room to breathe between rooms. Getting rid of too much stuff at once would probably just lead to burnout and frustration. The process would take 8 weeks total. Very doable and there was even a little wiggle room should we feel empowered to tackle more in one day or if something prevented us from keeping to our schedule.
I was confident in my ability to simplify. Visual clutter and a lot of “stuff” overwhelms me. Knowing that there are oodles of boxes full of our possessions drives me insane. I like to use what I own, not stare at what I think I have somewhere.
I was a little worried about my husband. He is more of the “we might use this one day” type of person. He isn’t a hoarder by any means but sometimes he holds on to things that should be repurposed or rehomed. He gets a little stuck on the idea that we paid XY&Z for something but won’t get that back either by selling it or donating it. So I had my reservations about how much he would let go of.
The first room we tackled was the kitchen. Now this is basically my domain so most of the decision making rested on my shoulders. Tiny and Rasta Daddy were mostly there for moral support. I dove into the task with gusto quickly creating piles of “must keep – use frequently,” “might keep – use every so often,” and “get it the heck out of here because I have never used it and quite frankly forgot I owned it.” Much to my pleasant surprise, the “get it the heck out of here” pile grew rapidly and by the end of the hour I had tons of new cabinet space in the kitchen (which will remain empty thank you!) I was actually embarrassed by how many gadgets and serving bowls and utensils and cups I owned but never used. There was also quite a few items still in their original packaging. Talk about embarrassing!
The next room we tackled was our bedroom and closets. I will admit, I am a reformed clothes whore. I used to love to shop and would buy several of the same items when I found something I loved and knew I would wear often. I have a lot of clothes that I never wear and will probably never wear again. Pregnancy and my C-section did a number on my body and the clothes I used to look good in make me look like a hot mess and a half now. And all of those “clubbing” clothes. Yeah – I can retire them. I pretty much live in the same few outfits since Tiny has a penchant for getting me pretty dirty by the end of the day. I really have no use for most of the clothes that I will never wear again anyway. So, I boxed them all up to sell and donate. I literally got rid of over half of my clothes and in round two I will get rid of more. I only stopped because I hit my one hour limit.
My husband owns much less than me in the clothing department but even so, he did not purge 1/3 of what he owns. So his clothing clean out was a fail, this time around.
The office was pretty easy to clean out. I only keep important paperwork as it is so there was nothing to purge from our file cabinets. We do own a lot of books but they are all very special to me and I am pretty good about letting go of books when the time is right. The office closet had a lot of crap in it and I was able to meet and exceed our goal of purging 1/3 of that room.
The attic was daunting. It was filled to its small capacity. But after one hour, we went from 16 totes full of stuff to 3 totes of keepsakes plus 4 totes full of clothes for Tiny as she gets bigger. (It would be stupid to get rid of nice clothing just because she does not fit into it yet). I was pretty impressed and my husband was shocked that I was able to simplify this much. I was/am a Scooby Doo fanatic and had several totes filled with collectibles. I was easily able to let go of most of my collection. Why? Because it was taking up space, could be sold or given away to someone who would really use the items, and was not ever going to find its way out of the boxes so why keep it? There is no point in owning things just to store them,
We still need to tackle our shed and barn as well as Tiny’s room. My husband will also tackle the garage and I will go back and handle purge #2.
All in all I am extremely impressed with our ability to simplify our lives by reducing what we own. Next step – committing to minimalism and only purchasing used!
What steps have you taken to reduce your “stuff?”
Photo Credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.com