As I was moving things and putting clutter in its place one day I had an epiphany. Our family and our society in general has a vast amount of thing that we keep “just in case”.
*Just in case we have company we keep an array of serving dishes kitchen ware and even extra chairs. We have company about twice a year and it’s always a casual gathering.
* We keep an insane amount of tools around just in case something breaks. We live in an apartment complex that has a maintenance man.
*Just in case the furnace or electricity goes out we have extra blankets, candles, and matches. Go back to the part where we have a maintenance man and family less than ten miles away that we could stay with if we needed to.
*In the event there is nothing on cable, Netflix, or the computer we have an enormous library of DVDs. We wouldn’t want to say, talk to each other?
*Just in case the stores all run out of clothing or we don’t do laundry for three weeks we keep enough clothes to adorn three people each with some left over. Spacebag anyone?
I could go on and on. You get the idea. Some of our parents and Grandparents have the excuse that they went through the last World War when things were rationed. I’m not saying that couldn’t happen but the likelihood of us having some warning would be pretty good. I do believe in being prepared and that some people do find comfort in keeping a survival kit which seems reasonable. When looking around your home makes you restless and you have to take time and energy on a regular basis to move things around its time to rethink your stockpile.
Think about what is reasonable to keep. Here is a list of questions I had to ask myself:
1) Do I really need three types of glasses in two patterns? How many people actually use them at once?
2) Do I need china? How often do I use it?
3) Do I use any of the formal dinnerware I have?
4) How often do we really have company and could I borrow things when I do have company?
5) Do I need a sandwich maker, electric can opener, electric grill, waffle iron, or other counter top appliances?
6) What can I do without?
7) Have I used it in the last year? last six months?
8) Do I really like this or do I keep it around because someone gave it to me?
9) Do I keep this much stuff because I pile dirty dishes in the sink?
10) How much food is reasonable to store at one time?
I cleared my counters and donated a crazy amount of just in case to the local rescue mission store. It feels good to cook simply now. When we have company we like to have potlucks, ice cream socials, and finger foods. We buy paper plates that we can recycle and we don’t stress over cleaning up a big mess. We actually get to visit with our guests.
Each situation brings your own questions to ask yourself as well. You can get rid of a little at a time if you want. It doesn’t have to be a big momentous decision if you can’t bring yourself to deal with that. Small steps towards having less are still moving in the right direction towards simplicity and having less stress in your life. If you find yourself to be a “just in case” person ask yourself what brings you so much fear? You might be surprised at your answers.
A day without clutter in my home used to be rare. There was always something yet to be looked at or done. Looking around was unsettling as the realization occurred to me that there was always “stuff” to be moved. It never ended. The thought of cleaning was exhausting. There were always our child’s papers to cherish, bills to be paid, and mail on the kitchen counter. A variety of books were at reach whenever we needed them. That also meant that they are out for anyone to see. Our three bedroom apartment had enough stuff for one and a half families. We were not hoarders or messy housekeepers by normal standards but we had plenty of “just in case” items. Now I am able to have company whenever I please and it takes a short time to clean our home. What did we change?
1) Get rid of clutter over a period of time.
This took some guts. To make the decision to rid our home of everything that wasn’t essential I had to be patient enough to do it over time. The actual time that it takes you depends upon the situation you are currently in. If you live in an apartment by yourself it will most likely take less time than if you have a family of four in a large home. Make a reasonable plan and stick to the time frame that you have decided upon. You may want to get rid of more material possessions after you find out how good it feels to have less.
2) Take care of your things first.
If you try to get everyone that lives with you to buy into your minimalism clutter control plan before you take care of your things first, you could have a mutiny on your hands. The best way to win over the people that you live with is to set an example. When they see how low stress and easy your life is they will be begging you to tell them how to do it. I set the example at our house by reducing my wardrobe then just the extra clutter around the house that was obvious. When my husband came home to a clean bedroom and a clutter-free main living area he started to pay attention.
3) Start with the things you never use.
When you start getting rid of clutter don’t get stopped by worrying about not having enough later. If you start clearing clutter by getting rid of things that you haven’t used in the last year it eases you into minimalism. You don’t have to do it all at once. Pick one room and then another. I decided to get rid of the clothes I had bought for “incentive” to lose weight and vowed to only have clothes in my closet that I could actually wear now. This wasn’t painful to me since I had decided to buy my clothes at the second-hand store from now on and knew that I could replace them for little money. If there is any doubt in your mind box up what you don’t think you will need but aren’t sure and store it for six months. If you don’t use it take it directly to the donation site of your choice. Done.
4) Remember how good space feels.
When you experience how good it feels to have clean space write it down or take a picture. You will be more likely to keep the clutter from coming back if you can recall that feeling of freedom. No mess, less stress, nothing to have to manage but clear space. Ah.
5) Stop procrastination in its tracks.
Now that the clutter has been cleared it is time to keep things that way. Develop a system for mail, clothing, meals, and playtime that will keep you from procrastinating and make you smile as you walk away. When you pick up the mail deal with it right away by putting bills in a file folder and items to read by your chair. Don’t subscribe to catalogs anymore. Most anything you might order has an online catalog that doesn’t clutter space and is easily saved to your favorites bookmark. The age of the internet means that you no longer need book clubs, music, or movie clubs. Do as much as you can online. Buy movies from Amazon Unbox or view free ones at Hulu or Crackle. There are multiple applications for your phone to download as much free music as you want. These internet “helpers” mean that there is really no need to keep a vast collection of any of these items. Sell them on Ebay or donate them to a local charity.
See Managing Clutter in the Digital Age.
A day without clutter is a peaceful day. Minimizing your material possessions and clearing the clutter by putting systems into place isn’t as painful as you may think. Stop being a slave to the market, take some stress out of your life, and just breathe.