Thursday, September 17, 2015

How I Threw Out 30 Bags of Stuff and Started Loving My House

So like two years ago I started a post on decluttering that I never finished. Because I never decluttered. This is what I wrote: 

I have a clutter problem.
I think it stems from three main sources.
1) I like shop when I have nothing in particular in mind that I need - just to browse around and look at things and imagine them in my house. Most of the time I'm pretty good at not buying them, but every once in awhile, I buy something even when I have no idea where I will put it. And then it has to go somewhere.
2) I have a problem throwing things out - particularly things that have been given to me by someone - so I hang onto it and it takes up space in the open or takes up storage space in one of the many, many boxes I have stored at my parents' house.
3) When faced with a pile of clutter of any sort, even when that clutter is a pile of mail, I have a paralyzing mental block and I just stare at it and push it aside into a tidier pile instead of, you know, doing something about it.
I have some friends who have the most glorious, clutter-free houses. I have a mom who has a house with lots of knick-knacky stuff in it, but stuff that stays relatively organized so the effect is cozy and inviting rather than stifling. Somehow, I have managed to fail to achieve either of these ends of the spectrum.
This cannot continue.
I thought it was a really good beginning of a post, but alas, because of the above problems, I didn't ever finish it because I had NO IDEA what to do about it.

Then a few weeks ago I saw The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo in a friend's Instagram feed and I really wanted to read it. So naturally I bought it for my husband for Easter. (He is always pushing for less stuff, so he wasn't sad about it - and I think he was excited that I was ready to undergo a major project of this sort.)

The KonMari method has a couple of major points that really worked for me. 1) You have to go through all of your stuff and throw a lot of it away before you reorganize it. If you just keep reorganizing all of your stuff, it's always going to be a mess again soon. 2) You decide whether you want to keep things or not with one simple question, and that question is not, "Have I used this in a year?" or "Does this still work?" That question is, "Does this item bring me joy?"

I don't know why this worked so much better for me than anything else I'd ever tried to do, but I suddenly felt released from all of the stuff that for some reason I felt obligated to keep because it was still good or I might use it sometime or it seemed like a waste to junk it. "Does it give me joy?" made me go, "Nope. Toss it," to a lot of stuff that was filling up my little apartment. So each night we've been choosing a category and going through things and sending garbage bags filled with stuff we just didn't like that much to the donation pile or the garbage.

You guys. Why was I hanging onto some of that junk? I had shoes I hadn't worn in years that had cracked soles. I had stacks of notes from college and text books sitting on my shelf that I haven't looked at in 7 years except to pack them to haul them from one place to the next. I had kitchen appliances that I had used maybe once since we got married taking up huge amounts of space in my pantry. I threw away probably 20 pairs of cheap earrings from Claire's I'd had since Junior High when I got my ears pierced. It. Was. Ridiculous.

Here's the amazing thing about throwing stuff out. Suddenly you realize that it is not your room's fault that you don't like it. It's YOURS for filling it with a comforter you don't terribly love, cheap tv stands standing in as night stands, all the pictures you didn't feel like putting in the living room where people will see them, and two bookcases full of books you don't care about. In one night we donated an entire bookcase full of books, got a headboard with shelf space so we could junk the ugly space-sucking night stands, donated the bedding set that we picked when we got married because my husband was talking about how everything at Bed Bath and Beyond was too girly (I realized after about a year that I didn't love it, but it was a nice compromise until it started pilling) and replaced it with one that we both love, etc. We tossed out two-thirds of the contents of our closet so it became a beautiful and easily organized space, and now it's my favorite room.

This is my new favorite spot. The baby is a nice bonus.

Suddenly I don't just buy stuff because it's cheap and fills the need. I wait a little longer and pay a few dollars more and get something I really love.  I don't need more stuff. A few things that give me joy are so much better for me than a bunch of stuff that makes me feel blah. Because yes, stuff doesn't really bring you joy in the deep spiritual sense, but your things should give you some pleasure - otherwise why have them? A clean, organized space is bringing me SO much more joy than all of that stuff I've thrown out. I don't even remember what half of it was already.

1 comment:

Cara said...

I just ordered this book about a week ago (waiting for it to arrive!) and am working my way through apartment therapy challenges. I hoping to tame my closets. I've managed to keep the rest pretty under control (as in 1 pot and 1 pan kind of a kitchen), but I get nostalgic about clothes! Thanks for sharing this!