I've read bits and pieces of Marie Kondo's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and I've seen things in Pinterest for scaling back that I can do, and I recently bought the super morbid sounding The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning by Margareta Magnusson. I don't think I'm going to die anytime soon (at least I hope not) but the idea of "freeing yourself from a lifetime of clutter" sounds amazing. I also enjoy that her first chapter is called "Death Cleaning Is Not Sad."
Bryce has always been all about the decluttering, and it has always stressed me out. He laughs at me and asks if maybe I was raised during the Depression and don't know it. Ha, ha. It is very, very hard for me to throw things out, and I am always thinking, "but what if I need that..." but for some things, that never happens.
I remember throwing out a giant stack of Real Simple magazines from years ago, after insisting that I could razor out stuff and I would get to it all, and then realizing that there was NOTHING simple about that and that recycling them would feel like a giant weight, lifted. And it was.
Ditto my giant stack of Parents magazines. That one was weighted a little differently, but putting them in the recycling bin was an oddly healing act.
We go through our stuff on a fairly regular basis, but we decided to sort of create our own method, The Purge (not to be confused with the scary movies somehow ALL OF MY 13-YEAR OLD STUDENTS have seen), and it has been lovely to see space open up, stress get alleviated, and the things we love actually get used and appreciated as they deserve.
Principles of The Purge
For this, we go room by room and attack it. We sort of do the whole "Spark Joy" thing, and try to get over guilt that coats items like a glue trap, making it so that we keep things that we honestly don't want or need simply because we feel stuck out of obligation. That's deeply ingrained, and it's hard to loose ourselves from the glue trap of guilt. But we're getting better with it.
We touch everything and decide what's important. For us, a lot of what's important is books. I TOTALLY DISAGREE with Marie Kondo and her assertion that books are clutter and if you haven't read a book because you say you'll get to it "sometime," that actually means "never." LIES. I have actually done a fair job purging some of my books -- ones that are beach reads, or that didn't stick with me, or that I feel I enjoyed and can pass on to others and have them keep passing it on like a lovely literary regifting spree, or donated to a library so that lots of other people I have no connection to can read them -- but at the same time I have books I will NEVER get rid of. And I have books that I received years ago, and just picked up now, and I sure as shit finished them. I like to think of it as my library for the end of the world or more personal apocalypse -- if I have a disaster and can't leave the house for a while, I will have PLENTY of reading material that is new to me. So, no. (But also sort of yes, for the books that were Target impulse buys and were devoured quickly and can be passed on.)
Our goal isn't to get rid of everything, it's just to carefully curate and keep what we love, in a way where we can actually enjoy it and it's not surrounded by a whole lot of other things we don't love, suffocating in a pile of clutter.
Where I Have Trouble
I am super proud of myself, because like I've said, I HATE throwing things out. And I have managed to throw things out over the past month or so and keep them in the trash (or recycling or donation bin) and not rush over in a panic to rescue them. Some things that I keep are just plain weird. This morning I threw out four spent votive candles that had no wick anymore but there was still a chunk of wax, and they smelled really good, so I was like "I can MELT these and enjoy the smell!" But I know I won't actually do that, despite having a wax melter thing. They will just languish in a drawer with the zillion jar candle lids that I collected (and finally threw out). I won't use them as coasters (too unstable), I won't need them once the candle is spent, they should really just be tossed.
I have a tremendous amount of guilt from the tossing, though. There are some things you just can't donate, or that truly have no other purpose, and when I throw them out I feel the weight of the landfill and see the bulging eyes of a sea creature caught in that plastic island out in the ocean. I wish that there were more things that just didn't come with extra trash in their packaging -- I want to make a better effort to buy candles that don't have extraneous lids and are totally recyclable. So there's a plus, too -- more careful selection of items we buy to make sure they don't produce as much trash.
I also have "but maybe I will use this someday"-itis. Although, to be fair, I save a lot of money by smoothing out tissue paper and saving gift bags (I draw the line at wrapping paper) and beautiful ribbons, and I do reuse boxes for gifting or craft organization. But things like pants I don't have a prayer of ever fitting into again (and even if I could, will they still be in style then?), or a hideous (to me) trapeze-style swing tank top in orange and navy that's never been worn but I kept in a Stitch Fix because it was cheaper for the other 4 items... I'm never going to wear them. I should just donate. And make a lot of dusting cloths from t-shirts with stains. If there's another option for clothing that's damaged or stained other than the trash bin (because I don't think you should donate stuff you won't wear because of those reasons), please let me know.
This break was largely about writing IEPs and doing schoolwork, but today I did NONE of that and instead attacked my drawers. I've been slowly redoing my drawers in my closet, which is necessary because I kept the nursery dresser and those drawers are SMALL (but perfect for bras, and pajamas, and exercise wear). Something I love about the whole Kondo philosophy is the folding things so that they stand up. It really, really makes a huge difference. I can see everything and get to it and I can put a ton more stuff in my drawers as a result. I suspect they'll be less wrinkly, too.
So I went and did that to my dresser(s), and it looks so pretty now:
|The drawer that started it all -- my PJ drawer. Still not perfect, but pants on the left and shirts on the right and tank tops sideways at the back.|
|Ooooooh, Ahhhhhh...my shirt drawer! The left are t-shirts with graphics or words on them. The middle are mostly short-sleeve plain t-shirts, with the bottom starting the long-sleeve party that continues on to the right. I can see EVERYTHING!|
|Pants! Jeans are a lot harder to fold so they stand up. It drove me crazy. But I have jeans on the left, my favorite jeans in the middle (I'm wearing the missing pair), and colorful/soft pants on the right with leggings at the back. Ahhh.|
|I put all my tank tops in this bin in the door section of my dresser. So easy, and now I can use some of them more easily for layering with sweaters.|
It feels so good to get things in their place. It feels wonderful to take our house, which felt so crowded and overwhelming before, and make it a just-right space, clearing out what we don't need and keeping/adding what is joyful and useful and beautiful. I'm in love with this ongoing project!