Do you ever look around your home and wonder how you even managed to acquire all this stuff?
You don’t have to qualify for an episode of Hoarders to feel like it’s all just a little too much. Your home could look beautiful and organized to those around you. You may spend plenty of time picking up clutter and organizing closets and dusting shelves.
But you know the truth.
The stuff has gotten out-of-control. (Again.)
You read books and blogs and articles and believe that you are doing something wrong when it comes to purging and organizing and downsizing. Because you STILL aren’t done.
But here’s the thing – purging and downsizing aren’t typically a one-time exercise.
In my experience, it takes time to really get to the root of the “stuff problem.” And that means revisiting your stuff again (and again and again). It means looking at things with fresh eyes. It means purging items this time that may have made the cut last time. (I’m looking at you, bin of table runners.)
And that’s exactly what I’m doing now.
Our home is much lighter than it was two years ago. I feel much less stress to maintain and clean and manage our home and things. There is more than enough space for everything.
But I still think living a “downsized life” (whatever that looks like to you) takes time, consistency and vigilence. And at this point, I know we still have too much. So I’m looking at things with fresh eyes, after living in our home for almost a year.
Because if it hasn’t found a home by now, maybe it’s time to let it go.
Here are a few ways I approach purging (for the second or third or fifteenth time). Because for many of us, it takes more than one clean sweep. Maybe you need some encouragement to start purging (again), too.
(And maybe you just need someone to tell you it’s really okay if you aren’t done yet. IT’S OKAY.)
Start with perspective.
Twelve years ago, I was an unmarried college junior. And in May, I loaded a 2-door Pontiac Grand Am with nearly every single thing I owned. I even had room to shove a giant hand-me-down red shag rug that my friend no longer wanted. (“Thank you very much, a red shag rug is just what I never knew I always wanted.”)
Let that sink in. (Not the rug. The stuff.)
12 years ago, I could fit everything I needed to live and thrive in a 2-door vehicle. And folks, I wanted for NOTHING.
Now, we have a 1,500-square-foot home and a few extra people and dogs and a lot more stuff.
We have closets and cabinets a’plenty. We have dozens of bins that hold items I only use to decorate the house once a year. We have a 2-car garage and an entire BARN, for goodness sakes. The barn also has plenty of stuff (admittedly, in a semi-organized fashion) – tools and gardening items and vehicles and even a guest space.
And as time goes by, I’ve been thinking more and more about the amount of things we have in our home. And how many things we really, truly, actually need and use regularly. Especially when I know that I have lived with much less – and was happy doing it.
This isn’t always an easy thing to consider. In truth, it’s easier to just consume and buy and fill those closets and proudly display to the world just how much we’ve really MADE IT.
Because obviously, the more stuff I have, the more successful I am. Right?
It’s harder to analyze the reasons why we have so many things we actually don’t need. It’s harder to cut off the constant influx of things into our home. And it’s harder to get rid of things when I’ve spent good money on them/wonder if I may need them one day/feel sentimental toward them.
So I’ve been revisiting the big picture –
- How much we really need to be happy (not much)
- Why we are keeping everything else (ego/pride/fear/laziness)
This is just simply giving me perspective – that I don’t NEED all these things. And they don’t make me happy. I’ve been happy with far less.
Doing this helps me to start purging with an open mind. Because keeping something out of fear or laziness isn’t good enough for me.
Over the years, Ryan and I have managed to downsize a lot. But one of the hardest things to downsize for us has been sentimental items. What do you do with all those sentimental things?
If you are like us – many of the items stay in the basement. Forever. In dusty boxes.
Instead, consider what items you really love and want to keep. And then figure out where they should be displayed – because if you don’t love something enough to display it, it may not be worth keeping.
And once you’ve done this, you may have some things you still can’t bear to part with. That’s when it’s time to set limit. Ryan and I have tried to narrow down our sentimental items to one large bin each. This gives us some flexibility to keep items we just can’t bear to get rid of (like Ryan’s baseball cards and my school mementos).
Purge duplicates (ruthlessly).
I’ve learned the hard way that when it’s time to purge, you have to see all the contents and literally touch and debate everything. That means cleaning out the entire drawer, the entire closet and the entire bin in the basement.
It would be much easier to just cherry pick the items you know you can get rid of. But you’ll have better results when you start at square one – and empty space. Because then, everything has to prove its worth to make its way back into the drawer/closet/bin.
When you are doing this – it’s also important to group like items together. In the bathroom, I dumped out the whole bin of cosmetics and group items together.
- Then, I realized that I had 14 nail polish colors and I haven’t painted my own toe nails in four years. (Toss.)
- And I realized that I had three containers of powder foundation that were empty or old colors. (Toss.)
The list goes on and on.
Focus on things you truly love.
I have a tendency to want to keep things I like, even if I really only use and display the things I love.
For example, I have plenty of decorative items. But I tend to use the same “favorites” all-year. So why keep those extra vases/jars/trays/table runners?
The short answer – I shouldn’t. And maybe there are things you don’t really “love” anymore, either.
Embrace the empty spaces.
I’m learning to live with a little margin. Actually, I’m learning to thrive with some margin.
Because when stuff is crammed everywhere, it feels overwhelming.
But there’s something calming when every inch of your home isn’t packed to the brim. So I’m learning to love a little more margin. And I’m also working on creating a little more margin in our home through purging – that could mean getting rid of things I actually like for the sake of more space.
Take your time and give yourself grace.
If you are anything like me, you are pretty good about extending grace to others. But you need to give yourself a giant helping of that, too. Because too often, our expectations for ourselves and our homes are higher than anything we’d expect of others.
What does that means
You don’t have to be done today. (You also don’t have to be done tomorrow. Or, like, ever.)
You can work toward the goal of a more “downsized home” over time. Start somewhere – but don’t rush and don’t beat yourself down if it takes a long time. Because, it’s really about the process as much as the end result. It’s about changing our perspective and mindset to a life with less stuff.
So start somewhere – with that overfilled closet – or your bathroom – or a junk drawer. And then celebrate with a mojito. I’ll be raising a glass right along with you.
And before you know it, you’ll look around your home and feel proud of all the progress you’ve made. Just one step at a time.
P.S. Need a little boost? I’ve been very inspired to live with less by several great books – 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker, The Joy of Less by Francine Jay, and The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. (These are affiliate links.)
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