Decluttering and minimalism is all the rage these days. But with our three and a half bookshelf stacked high with the written word, I suppose we wouldn’t really fit that bill.
Still, we like to surround ourselves with stuff we actually value. If we replace something, the old item should leave. If we’re gifted something we don’t like, weeeeell. It used to take me over two years to work up the courage to donate it, but these days I’m more callous (and these days we don’t receive many gifts, on account of our gifting attitude).
Our cosy apartment with a view is by no means minimalist, but we try to ensure every item has a place. That way, cleaning is less of a “where does it go?” and more of a “put everything back where it belongs” quest.
Most of the time. You’ve caught on by now that we’re not perfect, right? Good.
In our hallway, being childfree as we are, there is a half-full cardboard box. Right now, it holds an insert cupboard for an Ikea shelf that we got for free and removed. Some clothes I was happy to let go of, some movies we don’t watch and some plastic plates that were part of the deal when my grandmother sent us a whole slew of cups and plates for our new place.
All this stuff is destined to be donated to a charity shop at next possible convenience. It is all useful and whole, no using the charity organisations as trash cans.
Being lazy buggers and the nearest charity shop being 45 minutes walk away, that box has been sitting there for months, slowly growing every time we find something we realise we do not and will not use in the foreseeable future.
In London, we had a similar decluttering bag. And with a charity shop just down the street on my way to work, it was so easy to just bring it along on the way.
The weird thing always was though, as soon as you take the bag to give it away, you almost always find a new item worthy of donation the moment you step back inside your home.
It is the decluttering bag/box paradox. You can never be done decluttering, so just accept that there will always be one container in your house, dedicated to stuff you no longer need. We have just resigned ourselves to this fact.
Don’t fall for the trick of thinking you’ll remember that you’re giving it away the next time you gather stuff around the house. Take it out of its shelf/drawer/storage location and into a dedicated donation box, or I’ll guarantee you’ll forget most of it.
For people with children or nosy pets, I have heard wardrobes and cupboards are good places to store it.
If you have one room in particular you really want to declutter, like a kitchen, bathroom or closet (or the entire house in theory, but one step at a time), you could try out the dot tag method I learned while decluttering 40 years worth of science teaching equipment in a London college.
What you do, is you buy a stack or tiny coloured dots, all in the same colour.
Every time you use an item, it gets a dot. You could also write a list, especially for things that would loose dots in, say, the dishwasher. For clothes I know some people clean our a particular place in their closet, and move the things they use over to an empty space.
Anyway, it gets a coloured dot or whatever equivalent you chose to employ. Continue this for one whole year.
The next year, you go out and… you buy a new stack of coloured dots. The crux here is to make sure they are a different colour from last year’s dots.
Start afresh and tag everything you use.
After the end of your second year, you should have a fairly good idea of what you use somewhat regularly (should have two dots, different colours), and what is more sporadic (only one dot, either colour).
For all the items with no dots, take a real hard look at them. Do you love them? Is there a reason they are in your home? Do they bring you joy?
No? Destined for the donation box.
Our last trick to avoid spending lots of money on clutter is to just not buy it.
When we identify a want, we write it down. If we keep thinking about wanting it after a few days, we start researching online if we can get it used for free.
No? Still really want it?
Can we get it used for much cheaper than new?
Very often, yes.
Is it worth the hassle of taking the bus halfway across the city and/or carrying it a long way?
Very often, no.
As I said, we are lazy people. I’ve been wanting a watering can since we moved in, the angle is easier to aim, but an empty bottle does the job amiably.
Mr. E. is distracted by the ticking of a clock I was given years ago. But a silent analog clock is not easily found used, and we are lazy and cheap, sooo… maybe later.
I recently came across a tip for avoiding impulse spending that I really liked. It can be found as the first comment on this post about grocery shopping.
In short, add your goals in big, bold letters to your grocery shopping list (you do shop with a list, right?). If you put “Pay Off Student Loan Debt!” In red, right between oats and tomatoes, mayhaps you’ll be less tempted to grab some snacks that were not on the list?
We haven’t tested this one ourselves yet, but we LOVE the idea!
We realise that it is a privilege to have so much stuff that we even feel a need to declutter. But here we are, trying to live a more meaningful existence where we own our things, not the other way around.
Do you have some rockin’ tactics for keeping a home that brings you joy and isn’t drowning in stuff? Please let us know, we’d love to hear it!
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