As I try and pack up house full of craptastic odds and ends, simplification is my goal. I asked friend, freelance writer, and sometimes writing partner to help me out. Her article is under this pile of student essays I’ve kept from 2007. Just a minute. — KA
I love to declutter as much as any neat freak does. There’s some sort of strange elation that comes with unburdening ourselves from piles and stacks and over-stuffed drawers. Ridding our lives of unwanted and unused things sometimes helps us rid our minds of unwanted memories, unnecessary worry.
My love for decluttering has taken me to many a blog and several books on the topic. The most recent publication to grab my attention was Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, wherein she explains the KonMari method of ridding yourself of things which do not “bring you joy”. (I’m still trying to figure out how to declutter ab workouts.)
For being such a huge fan of decluttering and minimalism, one might assume I’ve got my house in order, and only own what I truly need.
I wish that were true.
Where There is One There Are Many
While I’ve done fairly well with most of my home, and my shopping habits are healthy, I can still be somewhat of a pack rat when it comes to anything related to entertaining. For example, I have 3 of the exact same serving platter, and I don’t even know how many platters in total (way too many I can assure you), because what if I need to throw a very large party for approximately 200 friends some time very soon? Never mind that my house wouldn’t fit even 50 people. I’m not even cool enough to throw a party that big, nor could I get a doctor to write a large enough Xanax prescription for me to handle it.
And yet the serving platters. And serving bowls. And myriad boxes of wine glasses. And flower vases. I’m not sure what I think I’m preparing for. I’m sure hanging on to these things has something to do with issues I have with getting rid of things that are perfectly lovely and in great condition.
I Propose a Compromise
Marie Kondo and organizing/decluttering folks like her have completely valid points. I love their tips, tricks, and ideas. I’m sure they have just the right number of serving platters. But there are some of us who will probably always get to about 90% and be okay with that.
I feel no guilt or shame for the fact that I fail as it relates to decluttering serving pieces. I also don’t feel like those folks who are “collectors” should feel badly either. You like collecting figurines or model cars or cats (okay – wait, not cats, that’s weird, stop doing that), knock yourself out. There’s a big difference between a tasteful collection, and actual hoarding.
However, we should probably know the difference between collecting, holding on to a few extra things “just in case” (the Queen might seriously come to my big party in Murfreesboro, TN one day), and “you’ve lost your da*n mind”.
So, for those of us fine with topping out at 90%, here is a suggested compromise…
Steps to Decluttering for Those in Denial
- Hold each item in your hands, if it “brings you joy”, keep it. If you can’t tell, don’t worry, I don’t actually think anyone believes that method works. I would use the “is it useless, broken, out-of-date, ugly” method and see if that doesn’t help you decide what to get rid of.
- Take a look at what has been in your house for years that you’re just not getting any use out of anymore, but are in great condition. You may have things like books or tools that you could give away.
- Get real about your clothes. There are surely things you’ve stopped noticing are even hanging in your closet. Try taking everything out of your closet and looking at it with fresh eyes. What is stained, torn, faded, ill-fitting, out-of-style, or uncomfortable? Pull off the Band-Aid and get rid of them. However, do you still have some things that fit a thinner you? I personally say, forget what you’ve heard and keep them! I know, it’s total denial, but I LOVE denial. I can be a lot younger and thinner in my mind when I hold on to a tiny size four skirt I couldn’t dream of squeezing into on my best day. It hangs there saying, “you can do it, one day you can put down that cookie dough and wear me again”, and I need to believe it’s true.
- Print material can be the bane of your existence if you’re not careful. My husband has a great theory: Read it, and then throw it away. That way, you don’t have piles of magazines just sitting around collecting dust. I think his theory is probably really good. Does it work? I have no idea. I still have magazines from over six months ago waiting to be read. I can’t wait to find out about “How to Make 2016 Your Year”.
- Have a place for everything. Trust me on this one, it really does work. In the case of those of you with children, it may not seem like it does. But after nagging and yelling 1,500 times, and finally threatening to throw their things in the trash, this little tip works like a charm.
- Look at the volume of what you own that is the same category. For example, do you have several serving platters necessary only for a very large party you will never be hosting? You’re a fine human, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
I hope that your journey through decluttering brings a renewing to your space and your mind. Any amount of work you do is better than not doing it at all. And for those of you fine with 90%, don’t feel bad. We’re doing fine. I’m sure the Queen will say so when she visits each of us.
Jessica Barrett is freelance writer, mother, wife, semi-enthusiastic runner, and blogger. Her focus is simplification. Visit her blog Mrs. Jones Could Use a Beer for more about her philosophy of “Stop Competing. Stop Comparing. Quit Keeping Up.”