“I spent my 40th birthday touching everything in my house. And I haven’t done it since.” One of my in-laws shared that nugget with me last month. And while I don’t know her exact age, I do know that she isn’t 41.
Did that make you shudder? Phew. Me, too.
There’s just one small problem. I’m not sure I’ve ever touched everything in my house. In fact, I know I haven’t, especially not in one fell swoop like she suggested. That’s when it dawned on me. I wasn’t actually shuddering at something she did or didn’t do. I was reacting to myself, my house, the way I continue to choose to live.
I’ve never been a fan of bric-a-brac. I’m not big on souvenirs. I was raised in a house with empty tabletops, clean counters, and nary a family photo on the wall. So how in the hell do I still have so much stuff?
I’ve written extensively about my shopping, both in terms of defending an outrageous shoe purchase and likening all of my shoes to lattes. I’ve also touched on the missteps I made when it came to couponing. And I’ve talked a good game about decluttering. I weeded out almost 70% of my home office and decluttered the kitchen. I earned a pretty penny reselling online. And it seems a donation bag is constantly being filled. But what I haven’t fully disclosed is the sheer amount of stuff that I just haven’t parted with yet.
And the biggest reason why I never told anyone that I am, in fact, the proud owner of seven bottles of hydrogen peroxide–only two opened, almost all expired–and three tubes of antibacterial cut goop–one Neosporin, the other two generic–is because, until this past week, I honestly had no idea. That box of stuff my dad packed up and dropped off one day? I never even opened it to realize it contained five faux-gold participation trophies to commemorate five glorious seasons of subdivision soccer during which I scored exactly one goal (Hey! I played defense). Truth be told, I forgot those trophies existed long ago. Who knows how long they could have lived in that bin without me noticing? Who knows what else is stashed away in the columns of tidy storage cubes our basement? Clearly, not I.
When I set goals for myself to make $100 selling things in a month or to part with 100 items, I let myself off the hook far too easily. I pick the things that are easiest to part with or the items that will net the biggest bang for their buck and for my time. But I don’t look at the big picture. In fact, I go out of my way to avoid the big picture because it is nothing short of overwhelming. Truly.
I’m not aspiring to be the next Thoreau–though Mr. P does have a lovely shed next to our creek and I think I could be fairly self-reliant in our garden–and I’m not looking to be labeled a minimalist. But I am looking to live with less, significantly less, and I’m looking to start soon.
Only this time, I’m not looking to thank my clothes. I don’t need to think about which handbag or pair of shoes spark the most joy (Spoiler alert: they all did. That’s why I bought them.) I refuse to follow the Goop tutorials to fold my t-shirts and exercise gear into neat little origami bundles that are too perfect to actually ever remove from the drawer again.
What I’m looking to do is touch all of my stuff, take out all of our belongings, hold them, sit with them, come to terms with the fact that these stowaways have been rent-free burdens for far too long. This isn’t just about confronting what I can live with. It’s about deciding what I can’t live without.
And those trophies? They aren’t it.
So Tell Me…What are your tips and tricks to ruthless decluttering?