I am by no means a hoarder. In fact, when I feel like we have too much stuff, I’m notorious for whipping through the house in a frenzy and toss things in the donate box without thinking twice about it. However, I am definitely an Idealistic Productive Holder On-er.
I could justify keeping anything. It was a quality gift. I could craft with this or that. This will one day be useful. It’s a good tool to have on hand. My house was drowning in good intentions of “someday” things.
Recently, I was gifted a Kindle Paperwhite, finally bringing closure to all those jokes that have been made over the years about my excessive number of books. I happened across an ad for a book called Decluttering at the Speed of Life that felt like almost an attack for someone who was gifted a tool for less books.
Now, let’s pause here, because I’m a little jaded about all these decluttering “experts.” I don’t believe material possessions bring measurable joy. I don’t believe in the energy of objects. However, this book hit me right where it hurts – usefulness and practicality.
The author focuses on a few core values. First, that your space should be filled with items that fit the life you have now (not who you used to be or think you might become.) Second, that everything should fit in its designated container (no spare back up storage or overfilling.) And finally, using some key questions, items in the home should fill a purpose and that purpose is wholly determined by you.
After reading only a few chapters, motivation bit me in the butt and I interrupted time with my in-laws to go evaluate two bookcases in our guest room that were filled with books I’ve read. Yes, I had two bookcases whose sole purpose was to hold the books I’ve already read. To be fair, I had good intentions with this – put read books in the room where our guests stay, if they want to read them, they can take them. And a lot of time they did. But… why? I’m not a library. And if I’m willing to give them away, why am I holding onto them?
After sweeping through the bookcases and being honest about other bookcases in the house (was I ever going to read “x” book?), I got rid of over 70 books and the two bookcases. Our guest room was transformed. It seemed so much larger and airy.
Thus set off the chain reaction. We ripped through the house – Hank addressed an ignored (but full) nightstand, his clothes, and parts of the garage. I went through hidden storage areas (pretty bins full of junk) and my office.
My office was the hardest and most impactful area to address. Because in it is a closet, and in the closest were storage containers, and in the storage containers were loads and loads of craft supplies.
Good craft supplies too! Scrapbook paper in every color of the rainbow. Unopened packages of cards. Paints and canvases. Cute fabrics. Hole punches. Stamps.
But also in these containers were half finished projects. Loads of cards that were never finished for my Etsy shop. Knitted scarves that never reached their end. Fabric scraps that never got made into that cute thing that I don’t even recall what it was supposed to be.
Some of these projects have been laying in wait for 10 years.
And it was at this moment that I realized why they made move after move with me. They were all unfulfilled dreams – especially the supplies that connected to my old card business. Now, I didn’t ever believe that selling cards on Etsy was going to facilitate quitting my day job. But man, I loved making them and the thrill of a sale. I enjoyed the entire process.
However, after sitting there for years, untouched, what was the likelihood I would complete these projects? Even if I did want to start a card business again in the future, what are the chances it would need these exact supplies?
It’s the same philosophy behind getting rid of clothes that don’t fit you anymore. Once you lose the weight, will you want to slip into your old clothes? Or buy new ones? You’re going to buy new ones that are in style and make you feel good.
Thankfully, my husband was right there by my side as I ditched most of my supplies. The first stage was easy – throwing out dried up, faded, or unusable supplies. Then the donate bins started to fill up. A huge supply of paper went with Hank to work (he works for a non-profit.) The rest when into donate boxes. Lots and lots of donate boxes.
As the shelves started emptying, Hank kept checking in, “How are you feeling?” I thought I would feel wasteful. All that time, all that money. But I kept reminding myself that time and money are gone. And while some would say I could have sold some of this stuff to recover funds, I find the selling process to be wildly tedious and frustrating (listing the items, communicating about the items, the strangers, the negotiating, ugh.) So selling wasn’t in the cards for me. Tossing into the donate bin feels good because it’s fast. Put in box, take box to donation center, move on with life.
I could not believe how much lighter I felt as I let go of items that felt like they had strings attached. This project needed to be completed, even though I didn’t want it anymore. This tool needed to be kept because it was good to have around. This fabric needed to be kept because it’s as gifted to me. Being realistic about who I am now and what is useful to me right now made all the difference.
And for those of you who are thinking, “But you could use it someday!” I have a Joann and a Michael’s within 5 minutes of my house. If one day I need it, I’ll get a new one.
There are still areas of the house that need to be evaluated, but we’ll get there when we get there. It doesn’t all need to happen now or on any schedule. However, a beautiful byproduct happened from all of this decluttering. For the first time in years, I feel inspired to do projects around the house. I can see the possibilities. I also have released myself from the guilt of a closet full of unfinished projects that I feel ready to take on something truly new.
And that, my friends, is a beautiful thing.
Get the book: Decluttering at the Speed of Life by Dana White