Friday, January 9, 2015
My Journey to a Clutter-Free Home
I'm not a winter person, but I do like how clean the snow makes everything appear.
A few months ago, I did a big clean out of my belongings as one of my seasonal cleaning projects.
I've been living clutter free for three months now, and I love it.
It is everything you think it is, and also some things you probably wouldn't imagine. While the mind references popular images of clean counter tops and sparse rooms with decorative baskets holding two books and an umbrella, it is not that. It is livable without being sparse.
Here is what clutter free means at my house: Everything is in use, has a use, or is something we flat out love. If you love it, that alone makes it useful.
Clutter free does not mean that I never have to take three things out of a cabinet before I find the bottle of vitamins that dropped down behind some dishes. It does not mean there is never anything that needs to be sold, donated, or reassigned. It does not mean that we do not have to store anything. Indeed, there will always be Christmas decorations in the attic, wrapping paper tucked away for the next gift, and swimsuits and towels that await warmer days. I maintain one small laundry basket in a corner for items on their way out, usually the final stop before they are donated.
While I'm uncertain that there is a one-size fits all solution to getting stuff out of your living space, here is how it unfolded for me:
It took time. Three years worth of cooking magazines did not show up on my doorstep all at once. Also, persistence. Every time something was moved around I would analyze whether it was something we still needed or desperately wanted, especially with seasonal changes. A few posts back I mentioned our small house, and I think that is also a big help. If you don't get rid of the things that are no longer useful, you will have no room for new things to come into your home. Most of us have a finite amount of space to work with, and valuing the creation of empty space is as important as filling a space.
I adopted a one-in, one-out philosophy. If I was bringing home something, what was it replacing? More often than not, something that was broken or worn out.
It's a constant process. Although there is a time when you can savor and enjoy the things you own without the distraction of old stuff that has worn out its welcome, living without clutter require vigilance. After all, we're people who require tangible tools for living, and sometimes that is a family heirloom or less romantically, something made in China. There will be new stuff, old stuff, sentimental stuff, and stuff you can't stand.
The biggest challenge? Getting everyone on board with it. The Mister is a man who likes his stuff, but even he realizes you can't fit a castle in a cottage. The mail delivery assaults us with new paper every day, and if Old MacDonald read just a fifth of the farm journals that arrive each month, there wouldn't be much time for pigs and cows. Be gentle, persuasive, and a good example. If all else fails, buy nice baskets and put stuff in them, and then remind the owner of the contents that the basket needs periodic attention.
When clutter knocks on your door, it may wear a disguise. It could be a bag of hand-me-downs that are the wrong size and season, or something that seems like a bargain although you don't need it. Calmly explain that your treasures are being stored up in heaven.