Free

Posted | 18 comments

Free

A couple of years ago I looked around my house and didn’t like what I saw. Don’t get me wrong, my house is comfortable, nice even. It’s somewhat color coordinated. It just no longer reflected me.

There was just too much stuff. Too many tchotchkes on the tables. Too many art and office supplies crammed in the drawers and closets. Too many unused kitchen utensils and tools sitting in the pantry and garage. Too many books lining the shelves. I was tired of moving stuff from one location to another. I was tired of dusting and rearranging and rearranging some more. I realized I just wanted less stuff.

I decided the first step was to stop the bleed. If I could eat it, wear it, use it for work, or needed it to replace something that was actually useful, then and only then did I buy it. Otherwise, I left the stuff in the stores for some other shopper. A Kindle for Christmas ended my need to purchase books. Less stuff coming in felt good.

Next, it was time to actually get rid of things.

I’ve never been a pack rat. I’ve had several yard sales over the years. I regularly give away or donate items that have outlived their usefulness. If it’s ripped, torn, or stained to the point of tackiness, it’s gone. If it’s broken beyond repair, it’s in the trash. If I no longer need it and someone else can use it, it’s theirs. You won’t find me on an episode of Hoarders anytime soon.

But with this newfound desire to par down to the bone, to winnow out every item I could winnow out, I had a lot of work to do.

At first it was easy. I hit my closet and pulled out clothes that no longer fit or flattered and items I just no longer wore. I went through the drawers in my kitchen. Did I really need three coffee scoops? No. Did I really need two can openers? No. The leftover glitter and glue, colored papers, and scraps of yarn that my children used to fashion crafts when they were young? Those were out too.

Except for a few photos and doodads that truly meant something to me, the tchotchkes that cluttered my table tops were removed. As each holiday rolled around, I scrutinized the decorations I had purchased over the years and only kept ones that truly delighted me. The next year I got rid of even more.

Then it got more difficult. The children’s artwork, photos from 24 years of marriage, scrapbooks and memorabilia; what do you do with those? Essays saved from high school, old yearbooks, the dollhouse my mother and grandmother painstakingly decorated for me; was I just to toss these out too? For me, these were not easy questions to answer.

I’d like to tell you that my house is perfectly neat, tidy, and organized. I’d like to tell you that there is no clutter, no junk, no unused items, but that would be a lie. What I can tell you is this; it’s a process. The point is to have a space in which my family and I can relax and work. The point is to surround ourselves only with things that we find useful and beautiful and soothing.

I’m getting there. My commitment ebbs and flows and that’s fine. I go for a few weeks just living in my space, just being. This is followed by a couple weeks of tough scrutiny and the release of more things I no longer need. I’m looking for my sweet spot. That place where I have exactly what I need and not one item more.

Yes, I realize the sweet spot is elusive.

But here’s the bottom line. With each item that leaves I feel lighter, more free. As I clear my house of the things I don’t want, I find there is more room for what I do want. And that has been the point all along.

18 Comments

  1. I raise a toast for the ever elusive sweet spot! May we all find it sooner than later, and not under a stack of unread magazines!

  2. very insightful, i always felt cluttered ,until 2009 when we moved to Oregon- we moved up here with one truck load of stuff and i have tried very hard to NOT gather too much stuff!! its not always easy , i find myself giving stuff to Goodwill every other month ,this way it makes room so i can shop!!! take care – great to read some little tidbits too!!!!

    • This is my secret dream: to move just taking my most precious items and start over. Lucky you.

  3. Ditto. I have also been doing this for about 5 years. I agree that it ebbs and flows, but i really enjoy purging!
    Stephanie
    PS I hope that you kept the dollhouse!

    • I agree. It does feel so nice when you can clear out a little space. BTW…I did keep the dollhouse. ; )

  4. I have been desiring this white space in my life for some time now. I even wandered into a “minimalist” workshop by accident at a summit I attended this past summer. The universe nodding to me gently, yes? But somehow I keep “moving” the piles instead of discarding them. Perhaps today will be a little different.

    • Getting it out of the house can be a challenge. I keep a bag or box in the hall closet and toss in things to donate then drop it off every couple of weeks. Otherwise, I end up moving it around the house too. It’s not a foolproof system but it works. I very much enjoyed Ryan and the Joshua’s. Their blogs are worth your time.

  5. I love this post! I too have felt the positive feelings that come from throwing away STUFF that just isn’t necessary. Unfortunately, I tend to fall back into clutter chaos all too quickly! I am going to save this post and try to remember to read it this weekend when I need some inspiration to clean and throw away! Thank you!

    • Really, I don’t know where it all comes from. I’m blaming my kids. ; )

  6. Ahh… and even better is when your “junk” is someone else’s treasure. I love seeing the neighbor girls wearing my daughter’s clothing. I love packing up and even shipping loads of home-school supplies to my younger cousin who is home-schooling her…8 children… (yes 8) I love donating to shelters and to people who will actually use my stuff. I too have a long way to go but it is really a freeing process.

  7. I hate to throw anything away too and it has to be really bad for me to toss it in the garbage. That being said I’m on a first name bases with the guys at Goodwill.

  8. Lots for me to do in this area. My sticking spot is with half finished projects, lots of those in limbo here!

  9. This is my constant challenge, to manage what comes in and try to eliminate the unnecessary “stuff” of life. It feels like a battle sometimes! I completely relate to this desire to be free. To not have things define me or clutter my life. Thanks for the inspiration to keep at it!

  10. A post after my own heart, Denise! I often write on this and similar topics (one essay you’d enjoy is called The Psychic Weight of Stuff).

    It’s certainly a process, this paring down and getting to a place of comfort with one’s possessions. I find that too many things around me create this horrible chatter–it’s like everything is demanding my attention and I jsut don’t have the time nor interest.

    Time to start clearing away more dustables… 🙂

  11. For me the best part about decluttering is the transformation of old, stale energy into clarity and peace of mind that takes place. It’s so freeing. Beautiful post, Denise.

  12. Hi Denise,
    I admire your commitment over a long time. I love to purge and do it 2-3 times a year yet find it hard to ‘look’ at the sentimental items like artwork, photos, old school stuff . . . It’s fascinating to me how the ‘urge to purge’ can almost feel like a compulsion/obsession for me that must be rooted in an old emotional state that needs to be FREE, clear, simple and clean from the inside out. Thanks for this piece, a refreshing reminder to stay committed to letting go and allowing what I truly want to come into my life. xo M

  13. I do this every now and then – start throwing things that are unnecessary. What a relief, I love it! But it’s hard, the feelings attached to the things … 2,5 years ago we moved across the globe. We came with three bags, had nothing else. Today we’d need a van to move all of our stuff. Still I really try to only get things that are useful and when it comes to clothes – if I haven’t worn it in 6months/a year it’s going out. I try to stay paperless also but it’s hard for someone who loves to take notes on paper 🙂 We should all try to get rid of the extra we have, who need three coffee scoops anyways? 🙂 (I got two, just in case,lol)

  14. I recently had a BIG declutter of my kids toys. They have been fortunate enough to have accumulated an abundance of playthings.

    While they were out one day, I removed probably about half of what they had. Anything broken or that hadn’t been played with in a while.

    Its amazing how much nicer our house has felt since. And how much more they have played with what they have (their favourite toys are easier to find now I guess) … and what surprised me most is that not once have they asked about any of the things I removed …

    Its been a few weeks now … and its all still lurking in the boot of my car …. just got to get it to the thrift store now LOL

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