Before you de-clutter… How to break the clutter cycle.

I’m assuming you’ve already decided that you need to simply your life. If you haven’t, here’s a quick refresher on why I’ve decided to simplify:

1. To make room for more joy

2. To make room for more peace

3. To make room for more freedom

4. To reduce the burden of “stuff”

5. To reduce my workload of taking care of my “stuff”

6. So I can enjoy quality instead of quantity

7. To find happiness by doing instead of owning

The last two are probably my most recent “revelations.” No, I’m not a minimalist. Not even close. But I think minimalists have found happiness far easier than me, the pack rat, the hoarder. Reading Joshua Becker’s Becoming Minimalist has change my life. I, like Josh. will never become a true minimalist, but simplifying my life, reducing the clutter…has already changed my life.

Here’s my problem. I started this trek about a year ago. I even blogged about the change in my office. I cleaned out my closet. But one year later, I feel like I’m back in the hoarder household, all over again. What’s up with that? One year ago I hauled out 12 bags of give-a-away stuff, but yet…my office is overflowing. My closet is still a wreck. My kitchen counters are filled with stacks of stuff…

I discovered that there are a few basic things that need to be ingrained inside your head before you start…or you’ll end up where you began. Like me…

This summer (one year later) I’ve learned some important concepts that I missed the first go-around.

  • Learn to be content with what you have. (MOST IMPORTANT!!!) All the decluttering in the world won’t matter….because you’ll just want more if you’re not content!
  • Stop shopping! No really! No more retail therapy. If you’re buying things to feel better, it won’t last. (Trust me!) Here’s a RED FLAG WARNING: If you’re buying things you don’t need, it’s because you’re dissatisfied in some way. Shopping won’t fix it. Learn to stop buying non-necessities.
    • Try a 30-day waiting period. If you want something, put it on a list. Wait 30 days. If you still want it after 30 days…. (Chances are your impulsive buy mode may dwindle and you’ll change your mind.)
  • Realize you already have what you need. Food, water, basic clothing, shelter, loved ones. (Everything else is extra) Here’s the pitfalls (or material addictions I struggle with):
    • The need for the latest technology. (My worst addiction!)
    • Stylish clothing. (Thank God I’ve been overweight. Being overweight strips you of that addiction)
    • Cool new shoes. (Okay…maybe this is my worst addiction!)
    • Fancier car.
    • Bigger house.
  • Learn to be happy by DOING, not owning. And by doing, I don’t mean shopping as an activity. Do things like talking and being with loved ones, cooking, creating, singing, exercise.
  • Learn the concept of enough. (Big challenge if you’ve been raised by depression-era parents. You hoard because you don’t know when the next famine will happen.)
    • Don’t get caught in the cycle of more. Having more breeds wanting more.

You accumulate clutter by being in the mindset of ACQUIRING rather than a mindset of ENOUGH. You accumulate it by having a fear mentality, not wanting to let go of things, wanting to hoard, wanting to keep everything for sentimental reasons.

So….You can declutter your home and get it looking beautiful, but if you don’t have a pre-cluttering intentional philosophy nailed down, a system of habits in place, a new mindset…in one year you’ll be back to square one….because….

  • You kept buying
  • You start putting things down in any old place
  • You refuse to let go of something sentimental.

BEFORE YOU START DECLUTTERING:

  • Determine what is a necessity and what is a want. Is this really a necessity? Can I function without it?
  • Determine your priorities. It will make deciding what to keep and what to give away much easier.
  • Decide that you will only keep one or two keepsakes from a deceased loved one. (I kept a quilt/aphgan from each of my grandmothers. Made it easier to get rid of the stuffed animals they gave me.)
  • If you don’t have room for it, if you don’t have a designated place to store, get rid of it.
  • Figure out if you’re keeping something for your kids and whether or not they really want it. ( I made my daughter go through several boxes of her baby clothes. We got it down to a small container of what she wanted to keep.) If they’re going to discard it after you’re gone, save them the trouble and do it now.

photo-1Last weekend we pulled everything down out of the attic. It’s was roughly 30 boxes. We were able to throw away or give away ¾ of the boxes. We only put 5 boxes back in the attic. Trust me, getting rid of my own baby clothes was hard. But I did it. Only kept a couple of outfits for nostalgia. I feel lighter.

My daughter is moving to grad school next month. I told her she could have anything out of my kitchen. She took a bunch of stuff. I haven’t missed a thing. Clearly I had too much!

Here’s to staying clutter free…

Comments

  1. The thrill I get from getting rid of stuff is as enjoyable as the thrill I get from shopping. But the former costs less than the latter! :-)
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