Clutter insinuates itself into our lives. I don’t mean the hoarder-level of clutter, but rather stuff like shoes that tumble out of the closet each time you open the door, or those clothes we’re keeping for “when I lose the extra weight” or every doodle your child ever created.
We’ve all looked at boxes of tiny baby clothes and thought, “I might need that one day” or “I’ll save these for my future grandchildren.”
Now, special outfits such as christening gowns–yes, please store them properly and save them for posterity.
But, tiny tee shirts and onesies with cute sayings on the front, box those suckers up and donate them to your church or to Goodwill.
Your children and grandchildren will thank you for your act of selflessness!
Why So Much Stuff?
Why are we so attached to our stuff? Maybe…
- You didn’t have much as a child
- You grew up with frugal parents (a by-product of their upbringing)
- You attach sentimental meaning…to everything
We learn our behaviors from our parents. My parents grew up during the Depression. They remembered the soup lines and the sea of human suffering that surrounded them in New York City.
My mother once told me that as a child, she remembered baked bean sandwiches as being a special treat for her and her siblings. For me, as a child of the sixties, I had great trouble parsing bean sandwiches as a treat.
My mother’s life as a first generation American was very different from my father’s life. His family had settled in America generations ago–his father had a steady job and was able to support nine children. But even though my father’s family didn’t experience the anti-Irish sentiment that my maternal grandparents did, his family did experience scarcity.
Frugal behaviors, such as reusing or re-purposing household items gets passed down to the next generation. So, if you find yourself hanging on to old margarine containers (who needs Tupperware) or every article of clothing you ever wore, you probably had frugal parents… or perhaps you experienced scarcity yourself.
I have a friend who loves shoes. I mean LOVES shoes, she has dozens of pairs. Most of them she’s worn only once or twice. As a child, she owned a pair of sneakers, school shoes and maybe a pair of plain sandals for the summer.
Once she got a job and earned some money, she started buying all the pretty shoes she’d coveted when she was a little girl…and thirty-plus years later, she hasn’t stopped buying.
You may have a strong sentimental attachment to EVERYTHING you own. If you’ve ever watched American Pickers, you’ve seen how an unhealthy attachment to stuff can overwhelm you and quickly grow out of control. These people collect cars or toys or lamps or whatever, and I’m sure they were nice when they first got them…but after fifty years of being stored in a leaky barn, most of these “treasures” are rusting away.
It won’t be long before before the only thing the items will be good for is the scrap heap…and still the owners won’t sell to Mike or Frank. They’ve attached tremendous emotional significance to the items that are rotting in their barns.
Wave Goodbye to Clutter
Maybe your life isn’t cluttered with stuff, maybe it’s full of people. How can that be a bad thing? Well, people change over time. What counts as a friend when you’re ten, probably won’t cut it at twenty, or people that seemed amazing when you roomed with them at college, may not be in the same place when you’re in your thirties and forties.
It’s fine to have lots of friends and acquaintances, the problem occurs when you hang onto people long after the relationship ceases to be mutually beneficial. Are you hanging onto toxic people?
Personally, I have no trouble letting go. I used to cling to my old friends, even though the relationship had run its course or had become toxic. I hated to give up on these relationships, I hated the idea of being alone and friendless. But here’s what I learned, when you free yourself from relationships that drain or irritate you, you make room for newer and healthier friendships.
Since it’s almost summer, it’s time to take stock and declutter our lives.
Six Ways to Declutter
Go through your house, room by room and ask yourself the following questions
- Have I used this in the last year?
- Does this still fit me?
- Is this a cherished memento? (pay attention if EVERYTHING seems precious)
- Do I need this?
If the answer to any of these questions is NO, then you need to either toss it or donate it. Let someone else benefit from your largesse. Don’t let your stuff rot away when someone else could use it.
- Could someone else benefit from this NOW?
Will the clothes or books or whatever you’re hanging onto even be useful in the future? Styles go out of fashion, books fade and get moldy and appliances rust. Unless you’re saving something special, and have an actual recipient in mind, you may want to let it go.
I de-cluttered my home office today and I feel extremely relieved. The spare bedroom turned work space had become a catch-all of old toys, extra linens, suitcases and winter clothes. It had gotten to the point where I was having to step around boxes to get to my desk. I kept telling myself that I’d straighten it up once and for all, but somehow it kept dropping to the bottom of the list as more critical (or more pleasant) activities cropped up.
Another way to put your accumulated stuff into perspective is to ask yourself…
- Could this be replaced if my house burned down?
It’s a scary thought, but it can help you determine what you REALLY value. Old pictures can be digitized, meaning you’ll have them forever, regardless of what happens to the original. You might want to get a firebox to store your valuable papers. Create memory albums for your children and grandchildren, this can help you organize the tonnage of documents you’ve saved throughout their lives.
Finally, ask yourself, Why am I so attached to this item, what benefit does this bring me?
The answers you come up with may surprise you.
When you declutter your life, you’ll find you feel lighter and happier. Your spirit will feel lifted, not only due to your cleaner, more organized surroundings, but you’ll know that your discarded treasures helped someone else today.