Uncluttered Living, Part 1

Category: Daily Diary

I no longer like "stuff".

As a kid I LOVED stuff.  I kept everything.  Pins, buttons, small stones, pieces of paper, plastic trinkets, ticket stubs.  Drawers and drawers of stuff.  It wasn't about the stuff, per se.  It was about two things.  Either the memories associated with the stuff or the desire to please others by having what they needed  immediately so as to solve a thorny problem.  If I kept the parts to everything, if I kept all of the remnants of things, I would always be prepared, right?

Well, no.


I wasn't prepared.  I was buried.  I could never find what I needed and I felt like these things were weighing on me.  They were hard to dust around.  Difficult to organize.  There was no breathing room.  But I kept packing them into boxes and hauling them around with me from place to place anyway.

Until the HouseInProgress.  Where we ended up with more stuff...someone else's stuff.  A lot of someone else's stuff.  And, over the past three years, I have started to become a reformed stuff addict.  And I like it.



How have I been getting rid of it?

  1. If I have a group of items that represents a memory or a person to me, I will choose 1-3 things from that group to keep that most represents that person or memory.  And the rest is either given away, donated or pitched.
  2. I treat my stuff as a "shop" and set a limit on the amount of things that I am allowed to "take".  For example, if I have 10 knick knacks, I choose 2 or 3 only.  The rest go.
  3. If it is a charming item that I know a dear friend or family member would enjoy, i give it to them.  I ask them first and assure them that saying "no" will not hurt my feelings.
  4. If I think "But that is worth something!", I go to eBay and figure out what it is worth.  If it is an item worth more than $50-100, i arrange to sell it.  If it is less than that, I donate it.  If it is too difficult to sell or ship, I donate it. (TurboTax has a new feature called ItsDeductible which makes it absurdly easy to track the value of donated items.)
  5. I have been creating a seasonal "uniform" of sorts as far as clothing is concerned so that I don't purchase things that are unflattering, don't fit or don't match anything else.  I have a limited number of items, they all go together, 90% of them are washable and I can mix/match them.  If I find the perfect pair of black slacks?  I buy two or three pair.
  6. I try very hard not to impulse shop.  In fact, I rarely go to stores at all.

That was just scratching the surface.  Although initially anxiety-producing, letting go of these items was a relief.  I felt lighter.  Our space felt cleaner.  It was easier to find things.  The things that were chosen to stay were the most attractive and nice things so it was like putting my best foot forward.

One day, as I was dropping off another donated station wagon load of "stuff" from the house, I had a chat with someone in the thrift store who was curious about the boxes and boxes of things I was dragging in there.  It turns out that, when her mother passed away, this dutiful daughter had to travel to another state and go through her mother's house.  Which was packed--basement to attic--with stuff.  She held three estate sales in an attempt to liquidate.  What remained was shipped via TRACTOR TRAILER to her home state where it has sat, in storage, for four years.

"I keep meaning to go through it.  I mean, that stuff is really worth something!" she exclaimed.

 "How much do you pay for your storage space?" I asked.

"Oh about $400 a month," she replied. 

My jaw dropped.  She had paid over $20,000 to have these things shipped and stored for four years.  And had no plan for getting rid of them.  

I came home and started clearing out things in earnest...

(to be continued)

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I'm the collect and purge type. I'm a pack rat until it reaches an intolerable level of chaos, and then it all has to go. Not a good habit, I've accidentally thrown out things like baby photos and passports in my fervor :P I think this habit stems from a visit to my great Aunt's beautiful townhouse in San Francisco, a pack rats heaven (hell) that smelled like cat pee. I don't want to end up there.

Wow! Congratulations on that! I am in the same boat, having both gotten married AND moving into a smaller place. I was the keeper of the Family heirlooms, so when someone got rid of something or passed away, I would take things to "keep them in the family", even if no one (including me) really liked it. Your rule rings true- less than $50.00, its not worth dealing with. For each box I donate, the better off I feel. I have now begun the difficult task of getting rid of furniture - Stuff that has been part of my life since birth but no longer makes sense, or I don't really care for the style. My rule is "If I saw this in an antique shop, would I buy it or even look at it?" If the answer is No, off it goes. The item is just a trigger - the memory is in your head... Good luck on your odyssey to de-clutter - once you have the momentum built up, its gets much easier.

You come by your obsession to keep everything honestly - I am your worst nightmare. It will take forever to get through the mountains of memorabilia because "I am the keeper of the flame." Good luck and when the time comes you will think of me fondly and with laughter - right? Mom. p.s. When can I send your baby teeth???

My kind of gal!

I too, am a recovering stuffaholic - I would find myself hardly able pass a thrift store without an intense craving to "browse" (usually walking out with some treasure I felt I couldn't live without).

My particular addiction is side chairs. For some reason, I find them curiously seductive, especially if they require some "work" to bring them to the outside beauty I feel they have inside. I currently have 16 in my home, and an additional 5 at my sister's.

Things would be easier if my husband wasn't a stuffaholic too - he's a costume designer, and finds it difficult to get rid of clothing and catalogs & magazines (for "research").

But we're working on it - I put things into bags and boxes with a dated label into the basement and if we don't miss it within 6 months, I bring it to Goodwill.

Since our place is not so big and closet space is at a premium, I have become anti-clutter. I used to try and organize my closet and get so depressed by the clutter. Now I can breathe when I look in there. I have to take baby steps though and I repeatedly go thru things once a month or so and eliminate. It takes practice.

Steve is a very good influence on this front as he is totally anti-chotchkey. I often donate items to Brown Elephant here locally and take the tax write off. We had a big yard sale when I first moved in- who needs 2 irons, blow dryers etc...?

It really feels good to simplify doesn't it? And I know you have a challeging situation there so hats off!

I do draw the line on my books though- I will have my wall of books although I will get rid of some. But I still have most of my collection in our basement till the den is done and I can't wait to be reunited with them later next year-dear olf friends those books...

I am a total pack rat. It bugs the $h1t out of my wife. I prowl fancy neighborhoods looking for lawn equipment and cast off furniture to restore. I have so many clothes, putting an additional pair of pants or shirt in my closet causes the collars of its neighbors to become hopelessly crinkled.

I honestly think I have a problem. I'm not the Howard Hughes-esque, piles of old newspapers and milk bottles full of bodily fluids sort of scary...yet. But at the same time, I wonder if it's such a large leap.

The good news is, when we get back from our expat assignment, we're going to be buying our first home together. That'll *force* us to get rid of oodles of stuff....

It will...

WON'T IT?!?!

Arturo Fuente used to make a very good cigar!!
POPS --30--

I used to be a terrible packrat, though I've made great strides these past few years. My parents were my inspiration for shaping up - they went from a 3-bedroom home to a tiny RV in one fell swoop, and got rid of nearly everything they owned. And they felt really, really good to have so much less to worry about. Seeing them do that (and seeing how much work it entailed) was a good wake-up call. We should all practice being less attached to our STUFF - I'm sure we'd feel much less weighed down.

I love a good house-purging, and make frequent trips to the Salvation Army to drop off goodies. I shop there quite frequently too, so I'm actually paying to trade my stuff in every so often. But if it stops me from shopping elsewhere (like the mall) then ultimately I'm saving lots and lots of money, so I figure it's all good. ;)

The one thing I haven't conquered yet is the clothes hoarding.... I admire your approach! Someday I'll get there.

Inspiration! I just filled up a big bag with clothes I'll never wear. Of course the big bag came home last week full from the Thrift store . . . in the process, I fixed some drawers that were askew. Restored to right angles, the bedroom looks tidier already.


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