Less is More

June 27, 2012

One of my goals for this year was to get rid of 2,012 things in 2012.

On Sunday, while purging our basement with my husband, I surpassed that goal.

Decluttering our house has been quite the undertaking. At first it was fun and even easy, as we got rid of really obvious things. Then you have to try a little harder, and you battle with the “What if I need this someday?” or “What if I miss this?” thoughts that sabotage your progress.

But I found that, the more we got rid of, the easier it was to let things go. It became addicting. It was fun keeping track of the number of items, because it became a bit of a game. My husband, who can be a bit of a packrat (and who has more clothes than I do), even got in on it. I still have to challenge him, but I have noticed that he’s gotten a lot better about getting rid of things. He has noticed how much less clutter is in our house, how it is easier to find things that we do love or use. That it’s easier to keep a house clean when it has more empty space. That it motivates you to keep it that way, because messes actually stand out when they aren’t against a backdrop of STUFF.

Our house isn’t perfect. We are both collectors and buyers, and decluttering will be a constant in our lives. Especially with kids in the house. People love to buy things for kids. And they outgrow stuff. Toys and clothes constantly need to be sorted and purged based on needs and wants, likes and dislikes.

But the progress is there. Will we ever be true minimalists? No. But I have learned so much from this process. In just about six months, I have realized that clutter affects more than just the potential space in your home. It affects your moods. It’s a reflection of yourself. That having less really can be more.

Purging toys, for example, has made it possible for my son to play better. No, really. Kids don’t need so many toys. Heck, he still has too many. But I noticed an almost immediate change in the way he played earlier this year, after getting rid of so many toys and keeping the categories more basic. He was able to easily find the things he wanted. He was able to remember where the toys belonged. He began to help put things away (usually with my prompting, but not always!). Yes, he’s still a toddler. He still likes to throw things and make messes, and that’s okay. He still knows that there is an order to things, and I think that brings a bit of peace to brain that already goes a million miles a minute some days.

I would challenge anyone who ever feels like their house is always messy, or that they have too much stuff, or that they need to be more organized, or WHATEVER… to challenge yourself to do away with it. Go ahead and declutter.

When I first saw the idea of “2,012 things in 2012″ earlier this year, I thought, ‘Wow, no way could I get rid of that much stuff.’ I mean, looking around our house, it’s not like we belonged on an episode of Hoarders. You didn’t need to clear a path to walk to the kitchen. But it was surprisingly easy to find those things. It happened in layers. I’d declutter an area of the house, only to declutter that same area again later and find even more to get rid of (that I just wasn’t ready for the first time, or I didn’t even realize at the time that the stuff was unnecessary clutter). We got rid of some big things, and we got rid of a LOT of small and medium things. Clothes, accessories, shoes… nail polish and office supplies and old pictures… going through the layers of our home made me realize how much STUFF we had. And how all that stuff just got in the way.

I am still decluttering. But it has become easier. It has become more of a maintenance routine, or a challenge to see what else we can do without. We still like things. We still buy things. But we have become pickier about what comes into our house, or what we buy. And, while purging our basement this weekend, we couldn’t help but laugh at ourselves as we tossed and tossed and then tossed some more. Because why did we keep all that stuff? Why did we move all those things from house to house with us? Never again. The next time we move, that stuff won’t have to come along. And some day, when our kids have to go through our stuff because we are gone, I hope that it is easier for them. That they will sort things that matter, either because they really did have meaning or because they really were useful items. And they won’t have to sort through box after box of crap that wasn’t worth unpacking from the apartment we were in six years ago.

I will end this with some before and after photos. Because nothing can show a change quite like seeing it for yourself. I have more that I will share another time… but here’s our kitchen. This is actually embarrassing to share, but I think it speaks volumes for how much my mentality has shifted. The first picture was taken in November, before I did a little facelift to the kitchen to brighten it up. It’s when I first became inspired to declutter.

The sad thing? I didn’t even REALIZE how much clutter was in our kitchen. This was normal to me:
beforekitchen1.jpg

beforekitchen2.jpg

Just look at the first picture. All that stuff on the countertops. Don’t mind the dirty dishes in the sink (if you can even find the sink). Minus that and some stuff on the way left-hand side, all of those things were on the counters at all times. I didn’t even see it as cluttered. There are canisters, a cereal dispenser, more canisters, a fruit bowl, three soap dispensers, a candy dish, a cactus, a wine refrigerator, and a Kitchen-Aid mixer. Wowza.

And the after?
kitchenafter1.jpg

kitchenafter2.jpg

Not to brag, but the difference is astounding. The after photos were taken a few months ago, and I can honestly say that if you walked into the kitchen right now it looks almost exactly like this. It actually makes me crabby now if there is a mess on the counters, because it stands out so much more now. I relish those clear countertops. It motivates me to keep them that way. I end the day, most days, by cleaning up the kitchen so that it looks like that when I wake up. It is peaceful. It is nice to wake up and make coffee and start the day in a kitchen that looks this way, instead of that way. And I didn’t even realize how much the old way of living affected the way I lived and felt.

2 Responses to “Less is More”

  1. My husband is the king of, we may use it later. I love the summers when I am home because I throw something of his away like every day. Stupid shit. Like empty boxes, ‘good’ cardboard.. oh god if it weren’t for me HE would be on hoarders.

    • haha, I have told my husband the same thing! That he’d be on Hoarders if it wasn’t for me. Now, I’m no angel and have gotten rid of plenty of my own stuff… but getting him to get rid of clothes that don’t fit or whatever? Like pulling teeth. I don’t get rid of his stuff without his permission, or anything major of ours, but I’ve done a lot of decluttering without him around. The good thing, though, is that he’s gotten a lot better since I started. But I still have to convince him with certain things… that just because something is “still good” doesn’t mean it needs to be in our house (or that it gets worn, or whatever).

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