I’ve recently had the opportunity to go through two major rounds of de-cluttering in my life. The first was two months ago, when I cleaned out my office of 18 years as they refurbished it. That place was pretty much my second apartment/home and had more junk and decorations than I care to admit.

The second has taken place over the course of August, as my wife and I prepared to move to a new house. We’ve lived in this home for a decade with four kids, and while none of us are excessively messy or hoarders, you can imagine that stuff piles up.

Our moving strategy was to cut clutter to the bone — we gutted rooms, packing only what we really wanted to keep and donating/selling/trashing the rest. We cleaned out areas that hadn’t been touched since we moved in. We got rid of half-used paint cans, dug through a mess of outdoors stuff in the shed, and sold more than half of our furniture through Facebook groups. I found myself going through boxes of stuff that I had been lugging around since college and chucking most of it (I kept only things that I would want to share or give to the kids some day). I shed myself of about ten boxes of books that I’d packed up once I got a Kindle.

The thing was, the more we did this — both in my office and at home — the more we started to like our environment. When it came time to move back into my office, I didn’t want to unpack that much because I liked how clean and modern it looked. And we kept remarking how open and clean our house looked without all of the stuff that had been taking up space here and there. It wasn’t that we wanted to live an ascetic life, it’s just that somewhere along the line, we had gotten used to a certain level of clutter and stopped seeing it around us. Once it was gone, the house felt refreshing and new.

I’ve certainly experienced this on a smaller scale by “de-cluttering” parts of my life. Maybe I was too busy in one area or too disorganized in another, and I fixed that. Often it was straightening up my work space or coming up with a storage system that kept the clutter firmly under control.

As I head to a new house and new office this week, I’m hoping that we can take this newfound appreciation for a clutter-free space and try to carry it forward. I think that electronics have helped to consolidate some of the entertainment/work clutter of the past, but there’s always kids’ toys, kitchen goods, and the million other things that we lugged along with us on this journey.

7 thoughts on “Decluttering

  1. Pasduil September 6, 2018 / 12:28 pm

    Things that are always there become practically invisible. It’s the way the brain works, if we had to pay attention to everything around us all the time, we’d have a hard time figuring out what is important to deal with.

    So I guess it’s as if the brain does “mental decluttering” by tuning out stuff; a kind of “nothing to see here, move along now” response. Which ironically makes us oblivious to the actual clutter.

    I’m also trying to declutter right now. Without the incentive of moving house it’s going to be a lot more gradual than what you achieved, but over time it should make a big difference.

  2. Pasduil September 6, 2018 / 12:32 pm

    Btw, interesting to hear about selling stuff on Facebook. I barely use FB, and it never occurred to me that it might be a good way to sell (or give away) stuff.

    Any tips on how to use it for that? Do you sell to friends and acquantainces? Is there a way to list what you have for sale to other people in your neighbourhood?

  3. Minimalistway September 6, 2018 / 1:34 pm

    There are many books about this topic, i recommend one of these two: Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less … or The More of Less.

    Or .. there are countless weblogs talking about simplicity.

  4. Bhagpuss September 6, 2018 / 3:28 pm

    The refreshing effect of decluttering is temporary for exactly the reason Pasduil gives – you adjust to it and cease to notice or appreciate it in exactly the same way you adjust to clutter.

    I am a strong advocate of not de-cluttering. I can quite literally remember each of the several times I’ve done it and I can remember the things I disposed of that I now bitterly regret. Conversely I have never had a bad feeling as a result of keeping something – I’d far rather have a lot of things I’m unaware that I have than not have even those few things I know I used to have but have no longer.

    That said, pragmatism dictates that if you move from a larger space to a smaller you have to allow for the difference. By far the most satisfying solution I ever came to for that was the three years when I lived in a studio appartment, having moved from a two-bedroomed terraced house. I didn’t get rid of any of my stuff – I rented a storage unit and kept 80% of it there. It was wonderful. I had all the advantages of a clean and comparatively uncluttered home wihtout having to give up any of my precious possessions.

    What was even better as that I could cycle things in and out of storage at will, so I had different things around me as my mood or the seasons changed. It was perfect. From there I moved to the five bedroom house I’ve lived in for twenty five years, with more than enough space for everything I owned then and have acquired since, but the next move will be to somewhere smaller and then I hope to go back to the storage solution!

  5. Syp September 9, 2018 / 9:37 pm

    I’ll check that book out!

  6. Syp September 9, 2018 / 9:37 pm

    She sold through local mom-to-mom groups that form on Facebook for that specific reason.

  7. Pasduil September 12, 2018 / 11:43 am

    Thanks for the info on FB. I will see if there are any such groups in my area.

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