Thursday, August 2, 2012

Which came first, the pack rat or the clutter? Three ways to clear clutter.

My parents are downsizing.  I spent the other weekend in a flurry of dust, with a kerchief tied around my face like a cowboy, sifting through college essays and grade school science projects, trying to make their house presentable for the upcoming open house.  It was exhausting.  And, in between sneezing fits, I kept yelling at myself for keeping all this useless stuff.

Do people gather clutter to grow into the spaces where they live or do people find places to live that will fit all the stuff they want?   It's a chicken and the egg kind of question.  My husband grew up in a city apartment, and-- consequently?-- he is a bit of a minimalist.  He's teaching me how to throw things out. 

Unfortunately, I did not know my husband back in the summer following my senior year of college when I carefully placed my history course pack and a stack of essays on WWII on a bookshelf in my parents' house because someday-- and this is the motto of all pack rats I believe-- I might need it.  And I did not know him back in 10th grade when I devoted an entire desk drawer to poetry drafts because someday I might want to finish them.

Now, in no small part thanks to my husband, I am less of a pack rat.  Mr. Minimalist lives by the rule that if at that moment in time it doesn't fit, make you feel good or help you out, then you need to just throw it out.  Integrating that into my psyche has really helped, and I find it easier to part with things now.  And it's so great knowing that everything I need is around me, accessible, and everything I don't need has been dumped, donated or re-purposed.

I find I have more room to breathe in my little apartment than I ever did in my parents' house.  And somehow, I don't think it's just the dust.

Getting Rid of the Clutter

Here are three reoccurring themes that come up in my reading on clutter clearing.  They say that knowing is half the battle... so hopefully coming to terms with how these themes affect your life will help you win your own battle with clutter.  


Should I keep this?
If you keep that collection of hotel shampoos, you'll never need to buy a bottle again.

Just throw it out.
By the time you get to using the whole collection, it'll have gone rancid, or you'll hate the smell, or you'll have forgotten where your "handy" spare bottles are.  Just chuck it and buy the shampoo you want when you need it.


Should I keep this? If you throw away your child's collection of tutus, you'll be throwing away memories of  their childhood.

Just throw it out. Will you really forget the first time you ever saw your child dancing on stage?  Keeping those tutus won't make you a new parent all over again, but seeing a little girl on her way to a recital will make you smile and think of days gone by... and the vision doesn't take up room in your closet.  (And if it's that sentimental, just keep one and store it neatly!)


Should I keep this?
That mess in the [junk drawer/closet/basement/office] will take too long to go through.

Just throw it out. 
If you think it takes too long to clear out your target messy space, just picture what life will be like after 30 years of telling yourself you just don't have the time to deal.  Spend less time thinking, and more time throwing, and you'll be amazed at how fast it can go.

What do you think of all this?  Stay tuned for future posts on clearing clutter.  Living in a small space, this is a big battle for me!

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