My quest to reduce clutter began when Matthew and I married in 2012. We had both lived on our own for quite some time, so in essence we were combining two full households. There were basically two of everything and to fit in our quaint rent house, we had to pare down. In addition to having doubles of things, it was also evident that Matthew had way less stuff than what I’d accumulated and that made me feel a little self conscious.
You see, I had an addiction to keeping everything. After doing a bit of self-exploration, I realized that most of this tendency came from a fear of not having what I needed. I was afraid that if I got rid of something and needed it later, I wouldn’t have the money or ability to replace it. I’ve also experienced my fair share of losing loved ones. This caused me to have boxes and boxes of sentimental items that I simply must keep because they originally belonged to someone that I loved. The reality is, most of these things were just given to me, not things that I actually chose for a reason. Shortly after Matthew and I were married, I purged so many things. We had an epic garage sale and the result made me feel pretty good about myself and our home.
My second voyage towards a clutter-free home came when we bought the new house. Even though I’d purged quite a bit from the rent house, there was still so much extra. When we moved, I was determined to not fill this new house with extras. The tall ceilings and ample windows made me really want an open, airy, and tidy home. We had another garage sale and donated so many things. I considered it great progress.
After these two large purges (and several small ones), things were looking up. There wasn’t nearly as much stuff, yet there was still more than we needed or used. Then, I picked up Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. Honestly, I did this primarily out of curiosity. The internet acted like this book was indeed life-changing and I read about it everywhere I turned. I figured that I’d read the book, maybe pick up a few new tricks, and then go on about my life. Instead, reading this book prompted one of the biggest purges of my entire life and has completely changed how I look at things in my home.
First, I immediately tackled my closet. Even though I’d thinned quite a bit in the other purges, I was still hanging on to so much extra clothing. My approach was to either hold on to it because “I might wear it again” or because “I’d not gotten my money’s worth out of it.” Therefore, even though I’d thinned and thinned, I still had a closet full of things I didn’t love or feel fantastic in. I had mentioned some tips for cleaning out your closet before, yet I still had so much extra that I “might wear under something one day.”
After just a few chapters of this book, I was filling garbage bag after garbage bag of items. It was like something clicked and finally gave me permission to get rid of those things I didn’t really want to keep anyway. Kondo’s approach is to take every single item that you own into your hand and ask yourself if it brings you joy. If it does not, then it’s just taking up space and it’s time to get rid of it. This approach alone was responsible for me purging over five large bags of clothing and shoes and 200+ writing utensils.
Not only has Kondo’s book helped me to make serious headway in a curated home, it’s also changed my approach to shopping. I no longer by things that I just barely like because it’s on sale or a good price. Instead, sometimes I pay a little bit more for things that I love. Overall, I’m spending less money and not bringing as many extra things into my home. Because of this book, I have a new outlook on how easy it is to have a clutter-free home full of only things that you love. If you’re even slightly concerned about having a home that you’re proud of, I recommend the book. It’s a no-nonsense approach to tidiness and you’re guaranteed to find at least a bit of insight as you read along.
Another way that I’ve been able to create a much more tidy home is by actually using my sentimental items. Rather than continuing to store box after box full of miscellaneous sentimental items, I got rid of the things that meant nothing to me and am now actually using the others. (There are still a few boxes of these items in the attic that I’m prepared to cull.) I read somewhere that our grandmothers would much rather us actually use their old wedding China than have it stored in a box in the attic where we never even see it. The risk of breaking a plate is worth it for the years of memories we’ll create using those plates and thinking of our grandmothers. Those family quilts should be draped across our couches and used for family movie nights instead of stuffed away in clear containers in the closet. You should wear your mother’s pearls instead of just seeing them in the jewelry box occasionally. I wish I could find the link to that post to share with you, because reading this made me realize that I was just storing things instead of using them. Even if a quilt becomes more tattered or a plate gets broken, I’d still rather have the memories with those items rather than my home being a storage unit for things we don’t touch. Beginning to use my sentimental items alone has contributed to less cluttered storage space, and using those items brings me joy now rather than the sadness I used to feel when opening a box and being flooded with forgotten memories.
There are a million and one strategies that you can use to reduce the clutter in your home and we can all have different approaches. Whatever method you use, I know that you’ll feel like a new person as you reduce the clutter because I certainly have. I found that by having less things stuffed in my home, I get to actually live rather than spending all of my time working on my things. There’s less to put away. We don’t need as big of a house. I don’t have to spend entire weekends trying to get things back in order. And most importantly for me, I don’t loathe putting away my laundry as much as I once did. Instead, I can tidy quickly and easily and the rest of my time can be spent exploring new hobbies or spending time with family and friends. There are still some areas and closets that I hope to tackle. However, the progress I’ve already made feels amazing.
Keep in mind that I’ve been working towards this goal for three years now, so don’t feel like you have to tackle everything in one weekend. Instead, start in one little area and do a bit as you can. And be sure to read the book. It very well could change your life.
*The earrings pictured above belonged to my great aunt and I wear them often.*