In case you didn’t notice, I took a week off last week. It happened to be the same week that I took off last year due to my Stroke of Luck. So, I decided the anniversary of my stroke will be a Summer vacation for me going forward. I figure I’ll give myself a week off during Christmas week also. Not that you guys care, but I thought I would state it ahead of time, so it doesn’t seem like I’m just slacking. Truth be told, the last thing I’ve done is slack lately. We finally moved last week and its felt like pure chaos ever since. Moving a family of six is more overwhelming than I anticipated, especially when the one-year-old and I were both sick with colds. What it’s taught me, though, is that I have too much stuff.
I couldn’t help but recall a stand-up comedy bit Jerry Seinfeld did on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, where he says, “All things on earth only exist in different stages of becoming garbage. Your home is a garbage processing center, where you buy new things, bring them into your house and slowly crapify them over time.” You really should check out the link to enjoy the whole bit. His thoughts on the matter leave me questioning why I hold on to as much stuff as I do?
Sentimental reasons or “just in case” seem to be the biggest culprits of accumulating unnecessary stuff. Ironically, my husband came in from the garage the very moment I typed that last sentence and said to himself, “Why do I need another drill, when I already have two? It’s just more things.” He had contemplated the need for his third drill that had been lying around, and it sounds like he got his answer. I’m guessing the third drill was a “just in case” situation. But, what about the sentimental stuff? I have so much stuff of my mom’s that I have kept merely because it was hers. Some have special meaning to me and are worth keeping, others are just taking up space.
I’ve heard mention of this book that’s become popular on this very subject of tidying up the “stuff.” It’s called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo. I haven’t read it myself, but my BFF told me about it and how she’s #137 on the wait list at the library down in LA. That’s a good sign of its popularity. After telling me how far down she was on the wait list, she said, “I see no point in buying a book that talks about getting rid of stuff.” Touché. I hear the gist of the book is that you’re supposed to hold an item in your hands and ask yourself if it brings you joy.
I have a pile on my kitchen counter of items that I cannot find a spot for in our new home. It is a pile of needful things, but it is certainly not bringing me joy at this time. In fact, I’ve spent time wandering aimlessly in my kitchen area just trying to make sense of the mess. Mess does not equate to joy in my world, yet the pile remains safe from the fate of the trash. On the other hand, there is a box of my daughters’ drawings and sketches that they have done on random scraps of papers that brings me no joy. Don’t get me wrong, I keep some of their art work and special notes, but this box mine as well be considered a trash box. Here’s the thing though, that box does bring my children joy. And that’s where I get into a bit of an issue. I’ve gotta figure out the level of joy for things for six different people with differing views on the value of an item. Oy vey. It’s no wonder Marie Kondo is able to be so tidy, she doesn’t have any kids.
I don’t have the perfect answer on this topic. I wish I did. For me, it’s been a process of asking myself the following questions when I stumble upon an item that needs a place, even if that place is the trash.
8 questions to help cut clutter:
1. Have I used this item in the last year?
A little over a year ago, we got this bread maker for free from one of my husband’s co-workers. We used it and quickly learned that none of our kids liked the results from said bread maker. My husband and I would struggle to finish each loaf between the two of us before the bread went bad. I’m sure we could have given it more tries, but it just didn’t seem worth it to us any longer. The bread maker has not made the cut.
2. Is it needful?
Here’s a perfect example of an item from the counter of chaos. I have trash bags and sandwich bags on that counter. Sadly, I have no more storage space in my kitchen. But, guess what? Those trash bags will not be going inside themselves. Bags make the cut and I am on the quest to purchase a Storage Dynamics Over door Storage Basket Rack. Yes, it’s one more thing, but it will help organize other things.
3. Is it helpful in case of an emergency?
I have a limited amount of food storage and I’m keeping it. You never know when an emergency might strike. Flashlights? Keeping them. First Aid items? You betcha! You get the idea.
4. Will I remember I have it already, when it comes time to use such an item?
Have you ever had this happen to you where you think you need something, go buy it, and later find out that you had plenty of the item in your home already? This happens with me with Costco items a lot. I’ll see that something I use is on sale and snag it in bulk, only to come home and see that I already purchased the same thing recently. At one point, I think we had enough Life Cereal in our home to feed a small army.
Another way to avoid this from happening, is assigning intuitive spots for items. For instance, I wanted to pick up some removable hooks that I could hang our family calendar and aprons on. It was on my list of things to buy, when I stumbled over a box of remaining hooks from a previous purchase. The hooks were with like items, I had just failed to unpack all of my boxes at that time. Hooray for intuitive storing!
5. Does it have sentimental value that continues to be meaningful?
The sentimental stuff is the hardest, don’t you think? You’ll notice that the question is not just whether an item has sentimental value, but whether it is still meaningful to you as well. I have this darling little “Girlfriends” book that one of my closest friends from high school had given to me shortly after we graduated. She had written little inside jokes within the book’s pages. It was a sweet and touching gift. I carried it from house to house for years and only glanced in it when considering whether or not to keep it. Sadly, she and I grew apart over a decade ago, as often is the case with childhood friends. I haven’t seen her in over four years and though the book made me smile again when I flipped through it, the memories felt emptier knowing where I friendship is now. Perhaps it’s cold of me to do so, but the book finally went into the trash today after years of being moved from place to place.
6. Does it tell a story of my family history?
I have LOADS of family albums. I mean LOADS. I have photo albums with pictures from the early 1900’s. Sometimes it feels like so much to store, but it tells a part of my family history and that means something to me. It’s not even a sentimental thing as much as a desire to have a greater understanding of my ancestry. I wish the photo albums had more comments about the date and people involved so that I could get a better understanding of it all.
7. Can I easily get this information elsewhere?
This is a good question for addressing books. I cut my cookbook collection in half with this move. I can get almost any recipe I want through Pinterest. Then it’s just a matter of which recipe really is the BEST ENCHILADAS EVER? Cookbooks that made the cut are How to Cook Everything and personalized ones bound with friends’ recipes. These types of cookbooks seem better suited for print or cannot be found on-line.
8. Can somebody else get better use out of the item than me?
Our new home has a bathroom painted a deep red downstairs. I had purple mats and towels in our previous guest bath. Purple and deep red don’t really jive. I have no other need for the purple mats, despite them being in excellent condition. So, alas, the mats don’t make the cut.
These questions won’t solve every decision regarding your stuff, but hopefully they will help. I’m trying to challenge myself to really let go of more stuff, because it just seems so ridiculous how much stuff we have. Don’t even get me started on toys. We recently put all of our kids toys into one large bonus room. Heaven help me, it’s a disaster in there. I’m hoping my efforts to de-clutter will have a rippling effect in our home.
Wish me luck and feel free to pass along any words of advice on this topic! I’m still knee-deep in unpacked boxes and I’ve already run out of storage space in our new home.