5 Steps to Good-bye Stuff

Here in California evacuations are a real thing. Perhaps a fire in the area, rain and mudslides, or earthquakes. I watched evacuations on the news so often this fall. It made me think about what I would take and what would get left behind. That has prompted a new round of clearing the clutter in our home.

My Other Motivations

I’m in my early sixties and that’s a good time to go through our house and get rid of stuff, to simplify. It would be life-giving to live in a home with only what we enjoy and use surrounding us. It would bring peace of mind to pare down to the essentials, giving us more freedom from worry, storing stuff, cleaning, and caring about all the stuff that accumulates over the years.

We have no children. I don’t want to leave a massive project to others to come in after us and clear out our house. I don’t want to have that on my mind as I age. Someday, if we need to move into another living situation, I’d like the process to be as easy as possible.

While working little by little with my ninety-four year old mom on clearing out her apartment, I have come to the conclusion that it will never be easier to part with my precious things than it is right now. I have the energy and the ambition to work on it now. I do not want to be burdened by possessions in my later years. Also, it has been my observation that you have stronger sentimental attachment to your things as you age.

The Layers

Home Decorations: My decorating tastes and style changes over the years. Yet I hang on to decorative items that no longer bring joy or hold meaning for me. I pass through rooms throughout the week, not even noticing this or that until I have to pick it up to dust it. It’s dated and has served its purpose. Yet it continues to be stored in my home. Time to part ways.

Sentimental Items: Then there are items that carry sentimental value. I am learning when a thing carries value in telling life’s story, it is difficult to part with that item. I have learned that the story remains, even after the item is gone. I do like taking a photo of the item before I donate or dump it. The image in the photo triggers the memory and is easier to store.

One thing that helps me, from the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, is to thank an item for the joy it brought or good it provided, and then say good-bye, as I walk to the donation box. That sounded so silly when I first read it, but it has worked to give me a push to part with things.

Hidden Things: Often the most challenging things to sort through and clean out are the hidden things in files, closets, basements, and garages. The papers, clothes, and various things stored around or in a storage unit take some discipline to go through and get rid of. We had to tear down our garage recently. We had to empty it out by a deadline. That really helped us get it done. I’m so glad to have that behind us. We vowed to never have that much stuff stored in a garage that we really didn’t need or use.

The “Too Many” Category: Collections, cookbooks, books, shoes, photos, sweaters. Whatever it is, I have too many of certain things. That’s an easy way to spot a hobby, passion, or favorite. Those are hard to get rid of for me. But I’m making progress when it’s time.

5 Steps to Help Simplify Stuff

  1. Schedule: Set aside an hour a week to simplify. Perhaps 15-minutes a day on four days or whatever works, using a room-by-room schedule, and remember the goal is progress not perfection. No time scheduled? It will never happen.
  2. Story: What items hold a story for you when you see them? Take a photo. Easier to capture the story that way than by holding on to too much stuff over time.
  3. Sort: Divide things into categories – keep, dump, donate, or not sure yet. Maybe add the sell category, depending on if you want to bother.
  4. Sitting Around: Go through the broken things, mismatched things, things that are missing a part, craft to make one day, and meant-to’s – those “I meant to follow-up” things. So follow-up, fix it, or get rid of it. Some things are never going to get the attention you planned to give, so let those go.
  5. Satisfaction: There is progress and a sense of reward, a feeling of satisfaction as you move through a room, drawer by drawer. Embrace that good feeling!

Have you noticed how stuff continues to accumulate? I have to clean out yearly to stay ahead of it, but that gets easier the more we keep up with it. What are your tips for simplifying your possessions?

Stay charming, friends! Here’s to less cluttered homes!