Friday, April 15, 2011

simplify: declutter

Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.
When I was giving this blog a makeover a few months ago, I picked the name "Life Simply Lived" for a reason. So far I haven't really gotten to the Simply part because we've been doing a lot of the Life part. But striving for simplicity is something that is on my mind daily, and I want to share my experience with it - I'll post every now and then on this subject. And I hope you will share your ideas as well!

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After graduating from college, I found myself acquiring a lot of stuff. Random things that I thought were cute or fun, but that a) didn't really have a purpose b) didn't really have a place and c) didn't really coordinate with all the other crap I was acquiring. When Joey and I combined all of our acquired stuff, it was like a crap potpourri. Looking back, we really should have just had a garage sale and started over. :) I was determined to not lose MY stuff in the process, and he was equally as determined.

Joey and I weren't (and aren't) really packrats necessarily - you wouldn't find us on Hoarders or anything, but we were doing the American thing where we had this deep desire to gain more stuff it seemed. He and I could match our crap one-for-one - for every tote I had of old vases and "antiques", he had a tote of every newspaper (not clipping, but the entire newspaper) of every noteworthy event for the last 15 years.

When we purchased our house four years ago, I decided we'd moved our crap around for the last time. Walking into our storage room felt like I was suffocating. Looking around at our nice entertainment center, chalk-full of tschotskes that I really didn't even like anymore made me cringe - because I knew the whole thing needed a good dusting and I HATE dusting.

Slowly but surely we began unearthing all those totes full of junk. We trashed stuff, had garage sales, gave it to to Goodwill. We sold things on craigslist. And finally, for the first time in four years, the space we call home feels... nice. It feels comfy. It doesn't feel like I'm swamped. And when I walk around the corner and see a shelf full of things I adore, dusting doesn't seem so bad.

Decluttering is a continual process. For everything we bring into our house, something else gets displaced. (Ok, I promise I'm not that much of a planner to keep track of things one-for-one, but I can tell if things need sorted.) If our closets and storage and living rooms/family rooms/dining rooms/kitchens are full of things that are just mediocre to us in terms of usefulness or adoration, we don't have space for the really good stuff to enter - whether that is an actual thing or just a breath of fresh air knowing that's one less thing to stress over.

Life is full of so much more than the stuff we collect, and as much as I might have adored that particular vase I just had to have - it didn't seem so vital when I realized I ultimately can't take it with me.

So! Spring cleaning time is here! What are your favorite tips for a good declutter? Leave your best ideas in the comments, I can't wait to see them!
My 3 best tips:
  • We keep a loose eye on the toys Bubba plays with, and if 2-3 months pass without him playing with something, we collect it to take to a kids consignment shop. There's already one toy that we got him for his birthday (6 weeks ago!) that he hasn't touched much. I'd rather get this (kind of big) toy out of his space, knowing that he'll have something else to take its place very soon.
  • Our house isn't super huge. Alison from 6 years ago would have just bought furniture to fill a space, without really thinking through how the room/item would be used. Recently I've been on a kick to ditch the dumb furniture I bought in favor of more practical pieces I really want. Sometimes this means looking for a piece of furniture for much longer than I'd like, waiting to find the perfect one. But it always pays off in the end when we have something I love AND something that is useful.
  • Once a month or so I'll pick a closet/room and declutter away. It might take an hour or two, but it's manageable if you just do one area at a time. Letting things go month after month found me with a whole house that needed decluttered.
The weekend is here! I hope you have a fabulous one!


  1. I am all about the simple/decluttered life.
    I do the same thing w/ G's toys - they are overwhelming, esp in a tiny house.

    My tip? Labeling. I have to label things!!! It helps me from a) cluttering up organized spaces and b) from forgetting what in the world that box was for anyway

  2. I am so right there with you on this! I have always like to travel, even before I met my husband, and we travel even more now. I have CRAP. I need to start using my pictures as my souvenirs.

    Good idea!!!


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