For years I struggled with decluttering and getting organized. I would spend so much time finding the perfect place for everything and the perfect containers for storing things. I’d get things just right, and then, within a day or two (sometimes an hour or two), it would all begin to slide back into cluttered chaos again.
Then about five years ago, everything changed. I’m not claiming my house is perfect, but it’s significantly better, and, more importantly, it’s significantly easier to keep organized. I can (usually) find things, my kids have room to play, and we are able to appreciate what we have.
What prompted the change was an assignment to write a book review of The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. I really did find the process life changing. The book helped me understand a couple concepts I’d been missing: you can’t keep a bunch of things organized and you can’t appreciate what you have when you have way too much.
Since there’s nothing in her book for moms, I, as a mom who has found a way to keep life (mostly) decluttered and organized over the last five years, can offer a few suggestions.
Decluttering Tip 1: Get rid of stuff!
It’s obvious, of course, but you need to do it. Just get started. Donate, pass along to friends, sell, whatever works for you, but get rid of stuff that you no longer need. And, you likely need a lot less than you think.
You don’t have room to save everything
I grew up with very frugal parents. We didn’t buy much and we saved everything. The problem is, I now do buy things and we get a lot of gifts from relatives. If I saved things like my own parents, my house would look like it came straight out of an episode of Hoarders. Before I started the decluttering process, I was giving some things away, but not nearly enough. That’s a lot to keep organized. Something has to give. Here are my best tips for letting it all go.
What if you need it some day?
One problem I had with giving things away was a nagging fear of, “What if I need it someday?” It seemed irresponsible to get rid of something and then have to buy it again. I solved this problem by choosing an amount of money that I would have been willing to pay to have a better organized house. I picked an amount and I told myself that if I got rid of something that I ended up needing and had to buy it again, I would take it from that amount, and it eased that concern. In five years, there have only been three instances when one of us wanted something I’d given away. And, only one of those things did we want so badly that we replaced it. It cost me $16. That’s a minuscule price to pay for the peace of mind I’ve gotten from decluttering. And, if you sell some of your stuff or claim a tax deduction for donations, you can offset that cost and come out way ahead.
All those sentimental things
Decluttering items with sentimental value provided it’s own challenge.
There were things that I was only keeping because they were from one of my grandmothers. I wasn’t going to use them, and I wasn’t going to display them. There was no reason I should keep them, but it was hard for me to part with them because, Come on! They were from my grandma! But I kept telling myself that my grandmothers gave me these things because they wanted me to enjoy them. If I didn’t want them anymore, they wouldn’t want me to keep them. They certainly wouldn’t want their gifts to be a burden for me.
After I worked through that, the next thing I struggled with was not saving everything for my kids: the outfit they wore home from the hospital, baby blankets people gave us when they were born, Every. Freaking. Piece. of artwork they ever made. I mean, my mom saved these things for me. And that thought is what finally helped me. A few years back, my mom had given me three big boxes of things she’d saved for me, and I had recently gone through them. I sifted through artwork I’d made, outfits my mom loved, and random other sentimental objects. I didn’t want any of it. Those things were actually my parents’ memories, not mine. That helped me realize my kids wouldn’t want most of the stuff I was saving for them, either. So, I only kept the baby things that were truly special to me and saved them in a small box for myself, not them.
I got the artwork situation under control by designating one bin for each of the kids. They decide what they want to keep in it. When it gets too full, they sort through and decide what is meaningful to them. And, if it’s something they made for me that I want to keep, I’ll keep it in my box.
Another thing I did with a few things that were just taking up space but I felt sad parting with was snap a picture of them. It’s amazing how many “things” can fit inside a flash drive!
But… all their stuff!
Okay, so you’re on board with decluttering, you’ve gotten rid of tons of things, but what about your kids and All. Their. Stuff!?
In Part II, we’ll talk about teaching your kids to declutter and how to think about your own reservations about parting with some of those toys.