I’m serious. My stuff is making me insane — I mean full-on, crazy-train-insane. Let me explain. We never really fully unpacked when we moved here five years ago, and since then we have absorbed a couple of other households worth of stuff from relatives who have passed. I have definitely crossed my clutter threshold. It’s to the point that I almost just want to walk away from it all. I’m sure that all of that STUFF is really valuable, useful and sentimental stuff, right? WRONG!
So I have been on a quest (obsession?) to get rid of the clutter in my house. I have been checking out decluttering, organizing, minimalism and zero waste books like crazy. Wait. We already established that the clutter is making me crazy, right? This quest has actually been an on again/off again thing for quite a while. I read “The Story of Stuff” when it first came out along with “No Impact Man” and even though I was concerned, life crowded those stories out.
The first obvious go-to books are “The Magic of Tidying Up” and “Spark Joy” by Marie Kondo. The idea behind these books is to hold each object in your house and decide whether or not it inspires a sense of joy. Yeah, that’s not going to work for me. That would just have me getting rid of things that I should probably keep (like the vacuum cleaner) and holding onto things that I should probably have let go of by now (like that crazy prom dress). It’s also hard to look at an item like a whisk and say “I need to get rid of that.” No. It’s a tool. It’s useful. We need to keep it. But when I looked in my kitchen drawer — the one that won’t close because it’s so full — I counted 10 whisks so maybe I do need to let some of them go.
The “magic” for me has come from a couple of different books. My primary go-to book has been “Decluttering at the Speed of Life: Winning Your Never Ending Battle with Stuff” by Dana White. She taught me how to declutter without creating an even larger mess. Our previous method was to collect a bunch of boxes, toss things that go to different locations in different boxes, trail the boxes down the hall because there were too many to deal with in any given room, get distracted, come back and not remember what the boxes were for. Dana taught us the concept of clearing in layers starting with the easy stuff first and taking it five, ten or thirty minutes at a time. Five minutes of progress is five minutes of progress.
I’m also discovering that there’s a lot of emotional work that goes along with clearing out this clutter. Much of this stuff used to belong to a loved one that is no longer with us. Getting rid of that extra whisk almost feels like a betrayal. Okay, maybe not the whisk, but you know what I mean. How about that artwork that’s not MY taste or the picture frames that my dad custom made to fit a couple of glued puzzles? How do we let go? We do it by holding onto the memories letting go of the baggage. The book “The Joy of Less: A Minimalist’s Guide to Declutter, Organize and Simplify” by Francine Jay has helped in that regard. It has also helped me to realize that I was resisting clearing my own clutter out of the weird fear of disappearing. I was afraid that if I cleared my own clutter, it would just allow space for the rest of the family’s stuff to expand and overtake and then “POOF!” — no more me. I’m working on that.
Another book that has really helped is “Zero Waste Home: The Ultimate Guide to Simplifying Your Life by Reducing Your Waste” by Bea Johnson. I know what you’re thinking — that’s taking things a bit too far. But is it? Yes some of the things that we are clearing out of our house are wonderful, useful items. We are selling a few things (that takes a lot of extra work) and donating A LOT, but the amount of pure trash that is coming out of our house is actually heartbreaking because not only am I drowning in stuff, the world drowning in stuff. I know that “zero waste” is not realistic in our society but maybe someday it will be, and until then it’s an excellent goal.
I have compiled a list with more books and more insights, which is still just a fraction of what the library has available. I’m going to try to stay on this journey and do the physical and emotional work of letting go for a saner life. Wish me luck.