Feel Good Words of Wisdom for Declutterers

Feel Good Words of Wisdom for Declutterers

Janel Laban
Jan 10, 2011

As we work on making a fresh start at home this new year, it's important to mention, realize and recognize that it's not always easy to let go of things, even when we know that they are clogging up our homes and making it more difficult to live well. Hearing how others have tackled the "can't let go" blues with good results can really help. Check out what some wise members of the Apartment Therapy community have shared on the subject of decluttering:

I think there's a right amount of stuff, not too little, not too much, that makes our lives work better. It takes some fishing around to find it, and the perfect amount may change at different times in our lives. It's undoubtedly less than we think it is, because we've gotten used to having a lot of stuff in our rich society, and we might actually be happier with less, besides using fewer resources. On the other hand, if decluttering becomes a ridiculous obsession, it's the mirror image of hoarding, and just as dysfunctional. The point should be living, not managing stuff.

A special note on books. My books make me happy when I look at them. Ergo, to me they are not clutter. I acquire many, I get rid of many, I keep many.However, if books (or sweaters, or pots, or papers) feel like a millstone around your neck, then they are clutter to you. I think the key is how you feel about your stuff, not some rule someone else has decreed. - zephy

My husband and I live out of suitcases for months at a time while we travel for work. You realize after a while that you don't need all the "stuff" and without it you are free to have more experiences. I've found I don't have to own things to enjoy them - much like this blog it gives me pleasure to see the offerings but I don't have to have them to enjoy them. - bzb
I think the main message is to only keep what speaks to you and enriches your life, if that is books, then keep the books. I know I have some I would never get rid of. But go ahead and toss that trashy novel you bought for a long flight. And while you are at it that dusty broken blender and those shoes you never wear you and are constantly tripping over in your closet. It really does feel good to clear it all out. - adamwa
My problem with clutter is what drew me to Apartment Therapy in the first place, and I can honestly say it changed my life. What have I learned? I only kept what I loved, and that's made all the difference. Keep what inspires you or just keeps you curious. And even then, move it off your surfaces--tables, chairs, and desktops--after a week. Yes, I said chairs I think also the practice of giving to others -- whether it's time, attention, or in my case, quite literally a ton of stuff -- helps you put focus on what is valuable in the now and not what will be someday, which for me is quite powerful. - sheltering sky
I don't even remember the stuff that I've gotten rid of...20s or otherwise. The separation anxiety was a big issue for me, but now that I've gone thru it once in a big way, stuff has much less of a hold on me. I can get rid of things easily now without having an out-box (for me it was a "for my next yard sale bin"). The key for me was that I couldn't see the items on a daily basis: Out of sight, out of mind. - eclectorama
Clutter is a big problem of mine, too. I started my outbox on Monday and it's been a really great experience. Coming to terms with getting rid of things before actually disposing of them is clearing the clutter out of my mind as well... it's helping me see what I actually like and don't like, right now. And it's also helping me see the floor, which is a relief! :) - Dots LaHots
I cleared out a storeroom..wait...walk in closet of mine last month. Took every thing out of the closet, divided it into categories and put back only what I loved and needed. Much of the leftover items were put in an outbox...I needed that separation time to lose the attachment. Two weeks after the big clean out, I was able to move the outbox items to their proper destinations (thrift store, recycling bin, or to friends. Many friends were given items and it was fun to see the smiles on their faces when they received their items. I asked them first if they wanted such-and-such item and most jumped all over it to get what I no longer wanted or needed.) - sunnygirlsf
I have a really hard time letting go of old clothes. I've tried the "if you haven't worn it in a year...." idea, but I usually end up taking the piece of clothing out and think "ooh, I really liked this!" or "but it was expensive!", then back it goes.

The only solution that's worked well for me (with clothes) is to have my best friend come over. She loves my clothes, we have similar body weight, and she doesn't have a lot of money to buy things herself. So we go "shopping" in my closet and have fun with it. I feel so much better giving her my clothes that I end up usually clearing a ton away -- even stuff I wear now! She's done this twice with me in the last year and its amazing how much its helped. I start looking forward to giving her as much as I can. I think she sometimes now says "oooh, I love that, yes I'll take it!" even if she doesn't so I'll be sure to get rid of it (then she takes it to consignment or gives it away). That's what friends are for I guess. :)

One last thought: she also hosts a "clothing exchange" with friends. Every few months, everyone goes to one house with a bag of clothes or objects to give away. As long as you bring a few things, you can "shop" from anyone else's pile. Take as much as you want. Whatever is left over is rounded up and the host gives it to charity. Add wine and some appy's, and it makes for a fun's girls night...and free shopping! - khyberclark

Through time I have been gifted by my Mom and Aunts that are now gone, many wonderful family pieces. I couldn't possibly get rid of them, but have found another solution...I pass the treasures onto their children or my cousins, nieces and nephews. I always try to find a home among the family, where these heirlooms will continue to be loved. Thank goodness, my extended family is large! - LIH
Select local charities who can use the stuff you don't want to keep. It allows you to feel good about items that will benefit worthy causes and make it that much easier to part with them. Although I don't call my system an Outbox -- I keep a box or large bag in the garage and eventually fill it with items I've decided for whatever reason to give away. Then I put the box in front of my home on the day when the Big Brothers/Big Sisters organization are collecting in my neighborhood (they mail out a monthly flyer). The Big Brothers Big Sisters accepts books, clothing, linens and other small household items. If I have larger items that Big Brothers Big Sisters can't handle, I post descriptions of the items on my local Freecycle site and wait until someone emails me telling me they want it. I then give them my address so they can come and cart the whatever away from the side of the driveway or elsewhere outside that is accessible to them -- that way I don't have to have anyone I don't know enter my home. End of story. There are plenty of worthy causes that will benefit from your castoffs and it makes it much easier to part with things you don't use or need. - Motherbear
I've been using the outbox method for a while without realizing it. After my divorce, I moved from a three-story house into a teeny (but happier!) place. With all the emotional upheaval at the time, I couldn't handle dumping everything at once, so I rented a storage unit and worked through the bags and boxes at a slow but steady pace. I came up with a system to help me decide what I really love and what I might be hanging on to for other reasons (guilt, the money I paid, memories, whatever).

My outbox is in the trunk of my car. I put in whatever I'm considering letting go of. It's usually a few days or maybe even a week before I get around to stopping at the charity dropoff. I know I can change my mind and "rescue" anything I want, but usually by the time I drop it off, I realized I haven't missed it since I took it out of the house. Only on rare occasionas do I rescue something and take it back home, and then I know it's something I appreciate enough to keep for a while longer. For me, getting it out of the house for a little while is the key. - cabyrd

The problem isn't "getting rid" of stuff, the problem is "getting stuff". Stop bringing stuff into your home, and you'll stop needing to get rid of stuff. Don't buy cheap, trendy furniture, and clothes, buy quality, classic things that will appreciate rather than depreciate.
The focus should be on the "inbox"--what you bring into your home. You can take a 1-week waiting period here too: if you want to buy something, think about it for a week, and go back to get it if you really need it. Many of our things will outlast us, unfortunately, not in any usable form. So the things you should bring into your home for newness should be organic things that won't stick around: flowers, food, houseplants. Or borrow things for newness: books, movies, clothing. Bring in people who will give you fresh ideas. We don't need more stuff from ikea to make us happy! - jillebean

Thanks to everyone above for their wise words!

Image: Andreas' Greektown Loft

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