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.


  • 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…

From Hoarder to Minimalist: Finding Happiness in Between

hoarderI confess.  I hoard things.  Things that don’t make sense to hoard.  Like t-shirts with arm holes ripped or shorts I can’t stand to wear.  My desk several weeks ago was a pathetic mess. Deadlines and summer break was creating a time crunch in my life. Everything that didn’t have a “place” in the house was pretty much getting dumped on my desk. I wasn’t keeping up with the piles of mail. I just couldn’t throw away ANY catalogues and so I had two and a half topsy-turvy piles on the brink of dumping over onto the floor.
This pretty much symbolized my emotional state at the time. There’s a stack of unopened mail, a box of thank-you notes to be written for a birthday party from 2 months back, a wedding picture to be framed, receipts to be filed, a gift to be wrapped, a stack of books to be read, a dress to be repaired, a mother’s day gift to be mailed (picture taken in July) and stacks of cool little gadgets that I got on sale from the web.

No wonder I was feeling such anxiety. To sit and work with this mess looming behind me was like a ball and chain strapped to my back. My office really was a reflection of the inner turmoil I was feeling as I chased after “things” and hung on to (or hoarded) possessions instead of pursing the things in life of lasting value.

I hoarded catalogues. When I finally went through the stack, there were catalogues from last Christmas! Now why was I hanging on to them?

Another addiction that you don’t even see pictured here was my daily trek through the “daily deals” websites. I was spending my valuable time perusing through groupons and living social deals, plus the other dozen or so sites that promoted cheap little gadgets. Okay…some I have really used…like the adapters to convert vcr tapes to digital format. But I haven’t used the dvd disk cleaner or electrical pulse neck massager. I do wear the jewelry….
And what did all the little possessions do for me? It kept me longing for the next possession that might bring me happiness or joy. And they all piled up around me, threatening to suffocate the life out of me.

Then I was blessed with a book called Living With Less: An Unexpected Key to Happiness.

<IMG_0879Here’s what my desk looks like today:

Still needs some improvement, but what a difference! I still have a long ways to go, but I’ve made such huge strides. Now this book didn’t teach me how to organize my office, or how to clean.

After I finished reading the book, I threw away every catalogue. I unsubscribed from most of the online daily deal sites. The interesting thing about this transformation is that the author Josh Becker did not dictate that I should stop shopping. He doesn’t promote strict minimalism, where we need to get rid of everything and live with the bare essentials.

What Josh does encourage is the intentional promotion of the things we value most and the removal of anything that distracts us from it, which involves the unnecessary physical possessions from our lives that are preventing us from fulfilling our greatest purpose.

My closet was the same. I was holding on to t-shirts that were stained and hole-filled. Now why was I hanging on to some of these things?

I feel so much freer, like I’ve just lost 100 pounds! Where I’ve reduced the clutter, I’ve found it’s easier to find things. It’s much easier to clean. My time is not spent looking for that missing thing.

Living With LessThis book is a quick read, but packed full of life changing counsel. It’s geared to the high school/college age group, but is a must read for any adult seeking a more fulfilling life. Even though my parents who lived through the depression, stressed all these concepts to me my entire life, I wasn’t able to grasp the model and carry it on into my lifestyle. I wish I had read this book when I was in college.

I’m excited to go through my house to find things to give away so that I can stop hoarding treasures on earth and pursue something greater.

Before I was wasting so much time and energy plotting, planning, and longing for a bigger house, a better car, the latest style clothing, or the latest technology and thus becoming jealous when others had more… Not a pretty picture.

Today I’m pursuing “greater” rather than “more.” You can too… Don’t miss Joshua Becker’s Living With Less: An Unexpected Key to Happiness.