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April: Declutter To The Bone

Despite reading books on how to simplify life, declutter the home, and reorganize priorities for years, I never seemed to quite grasp the “thing” that would finally get me to the simple life and a peaceful, decluttered home. I would make small strides here and there, but there still seemed to be too much stuff. Then I finally read the best-seller which I overlooked for years, and which is now a favorite audiobook, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo, and it started a domino affect of getting a lot of things in order- my home, my finances, my exercise regimen. The idea of being surrounded by what I love, and only what I love, was happy-making.

It’s been a great journey of creating an environment for myself where everything I look at makes me happy, and my family as well. Life is simpler, our home is more spacious, and everywhere my eyes rest is a space that makes me filled with good spirits. I carefully choose what comes into our home now- from pictures for the walls and toys for the boys, to information sources and subscription services. It has to be rewarding, especially if it takes up our precious resources like time and money.

It’s been good ♥︎

Here are my favorite tips if you are on the same path as me:

Stop buying stuff

Declare a moratorium against spending for a week. Before you start, fill your fridge with stuff you need (like eggs, milk, bread, etc) and that is it. If you find something you want to buy during this time, bookmark the page and consider if you still need it at the end of the week (forget wants… it’s unbelievable how much your love of something dissipates once you own the thing you were madly craving, so never let your desire for something be a mark of how much value or happiness it will add to your life. You should need the thing too).

If you find something that is a great deal, and you worry it will never come along again in your lifetime, hold off anyway. Trust that for this week that you found this post, and are following these tips, fate is in your favor and will not rob you of a great deal you need just to spite you. Trust that when the time is right, it will come along again (and by then, you may have discovered you don’t need it or were creative enough to work around it). There is definitely a spiritual aspect to decluttering and not living wastefully… trust that everything you need in life will come to you as long as you live well and not wastefully.

Once you get to the end of the week, try to go longer. Isn’t it great to save money and not have more junk in your house that gives you buyer’s remorse? Your credit card bill is going to be smaller, so try to keep going for a full month!

Ruthlessly declutter

We’ve all heard the rules and suggestions… “If you haven’t used it in a year, give it away”, “Put away things you aren’t sure you want to toss in a box, and if after six months you haven’t gone looking for any of it, throw the box out without opening it up again”. There are many others, but this may not work for you for the same reason it didn’t work for me… I can’t throw out perfectly good things that I paid good money for.

I also can’t giveaway perfectly good things I spent good money for to those donation boxes and not know if the person on the other end who receives it isn’t just going to throw it out, or will sell it and profit from it. I don’t want to donate anything unless I know it’s going to help someone, so if you are like me, grab totes and bags, put a post-it note on each with the name of the intended recipient, and start to declutter with a lighter conscious. No waste! And be ruthless. Ask yourself the Marie Kondo “Does this spark joy” and try for a full day to truly follow it. If it doesn’t make you happy, give it away (unless it’s garbage- then toss it. Don’t donate garbage, poor people don’t deserve your broken radio or stained shirts, but feel free to give them your lovely sweater that just doesn’t fit or is the wrong color for you).

If you are looking around as you go and thinking “Boy, there isn’t much left here”, ask yourself if what is left makes you happy. That is the goal. Only stuff that you want and that makes you happy… a house filled simply with useful things that make you feel joyful brings a peaceful of relaxation and peace. Thanks Marie Kondo!

Put away what is left in the storage you have left

Don’t buy more storage products to store your excess. If you need to, you still have too much stuff. There should be a spot for everything, and everything should always be put back away in its place, and there should be no more spots created for excess things that don’t have homes. If it doesn’t have a home right now, it’s probably because you don’t really need it. So think really, really hard before you buy bins, drawers, storage totes, containers, etc to store (read: hide away) things you don’t know where to put. You are just starting the hoarding process all over again.

If it hurts to get rid of things you paid for, good… let that be a lesson to you

The most painful aspect of decluttering is the distinct feeling of the money lost. It’s painful. I know. I go the eBay route to recoup at least some of my money, and other resale sites, and frankly, the shock of how low the resale value all this stuff is is pretty sobering. My beautiful Coach and Kate Spade handbags are worth less than 20% of what I paid for them?? Well, they are made in China and used, so yep… and I now wonder why I spent so much on them in the first place. And that’s a good thing, because thinking about how much we spend on things (like an iPhone model that will be obsolete in about a year or two) is a good way to start evaluating our priorities.

We should think about how much we waste on things that are over-priced and low value, and really, really think before we buy in the future. It’s one of the best ways to not find ourselves surrounded by expensive, useless clutter that doesn’t bring us happiness ever. There are better things we can do with our money (and I’ve been working on that too, of course, and will share in a future post).

3 extra tips to declutter

1. Go paperless, especially when it comes to bills. I always worry my bills and bank documents (and thus all my personal information) will be sent to a neighbor or another state, so paying bills online saves paper, stamps, and seems more secure to me. If your bank is hacked, they will get your info anyway (whether you pay by snail mail or online), but paying online provides a level of protection against you personally being targeted. Going paperless may also remove the finance fee at your bank (mine deducts the annual fee if you go paperless).

2. Get books on the kindle app, or subscribe to audible and listen to books, and sell your CDs on eBay and donate your books to your local library. You don’t have to store cases, keep them dust free, or tote them around when you travel or move if it’s all stored on your apps and smart gadgets. I’m not one of those “I love the smell of musty old books” and never understood this (despite being a voracious bibliophile), and if you aren’t either, join the modern technology age with me and carry your library in your pocket.

3. Give your very expensive and valuable things away to a friend who could use it, with the agreement that you may need to borrow it once every couple of years or so. If you have been storing a power washer away and literally use it once every 5 years, give it to a friend who could use it annually. They are expensive to buy or rent, so your friend will probably appreciate it and not mind driving it back to you for a day or two every few years. Consider this with many large, very sporadically needed items. If you have a friend who loves to cook, but you only use your heavy, cast iron roasting pan for Christmas dinner once every other year (when it’s your turn), and it otherwise collects dust in your tiny kitchen, give it to your friend and just borrow it when you are hosting. It’s sort of communal sharing and a great way for everyone to save money and waste less.

Happy decluttering! Check out The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, The Joy of Less, and Zen Habits (the blog) for more insiration on decluttering and simplifying, and stay tuned for more life makeover posts coming soon.