I don't remember when I started realizing we had too much stuff...probably the first time we ever made a military move. That would have been late 2002 - Alaska to Alabama. Having someone else pack up my stuff really helped me see it from another person's perspective. Watching it all be boxed and crated really helped to quantify it for me. There was really no reason for 3 people to have NINE crates of belongings in addition to the 'important stuff' that was stashed in the 14 foot trailer we towed behind our Pathfinder.

However, just because I started to realize we had too much stuff doesn't mean I actually DID anything about it. In fact, we added another person - and another person's STUFF - to the mix. And then we moved to Hawaii. Moving into a house that was many hundreds of square feet smaller than what we had been living in on the mainland once again showed me we had too much stuff. Rather than start to pare down, I looked for ways to 'creatively store' our excess. I searched for storage benches and boxes and bins - anything to hide our stuff.

And all this talk of 'stuff' reminds me of the George Carlin skit...

***warning...language alert***

The turning point came three years ago when our lives were turned upside down. Our 'stuff' that had just been a minor source of raised eyebrows and the occasional attempt at 'decluttering' began to feel like an albatross around my neck. With all of the uncertainty surrounding us, where was I supposed to PUT all of this stuff if I needed to uproot our family quickly? How would I pack it? Store it? Ship it? It simply added to my already-panicked state of mind. Thus, the push toward a more minimalist lifestyle began in earnest. Hence 'minimal(ish)'.

And the '(ish)' comes in because I am only 1/4 of our household. I can have some effect on the amount of stuff my children possess but I have very little control over the amount of stuff MacGyver possesses. And oftentimes I find myself trying to compensate for all of his stuff by getting rid of even more of MY stuff. That can lead to resentment so I fight very hard to avoid going down that path. I'm a practical person by nature so I do my best to take a rational look at our belongings. How many sets of sheets does a family of 4 really need? Do we need 5 sets of placemats? What clothes do we wear REGULARLY? Can we get rid of item B and make item A do double duty in its absence?

I frequent a variety of decluttering/minimalist blogs and Facebook pages, not as a way to motivate myself or compare myself to others (comparing myself to others simply takes the joy out of my life and that's not my goal). I do so in order to help myself critically assess our belongings. How many sets of sheets DOES a family of 4 really need? Oftentimes, reading someone else's thoughts helps me clarify my own. I also like to challenge myself in areas like this so I'm always curious to read about tactics others have used to help pare down their belongings. Can I really go an entire year without buying new clothes for myself (aside from undergarments and special event clothing, if necessary)? Can I find a way to make item A do double duty and take the place of item B? Can I set a budget for things like homeschool curricula (a budget that, in the beginning of our homeschooling adventure, I would have thought to be ridiculously meager) and then stay below it? On any given day, can I find 10 items in my house that are either broken or missing parts/pieces and recycle or throw them away? Can I find 10 items in my house that we no longer use that I can either give to others or donate to a thrift store? If I buy something new and bring it into the house, can I find something else to take OUT?

Yes. Yes, I can.

So I'm trying. I'm trying to cut back on the things we have and don't need or use. Really, each of our beds only needs 2 sets of sheets - one that is on it and one that is clean. Add in an extra set for the guest bed and that's really all we need. Two sets of placemats works for us - one to use and one being washed. So far this year, I've only bought 2 pair of capris and a tank top for myself and have managed to already cull 2 giant trash bags' worth of clothes I do not wear. I also went through and turned everything that is hanging around so that the hanger faces 'backward' on the rod. If an item of clothing is worn, after it's washed I put it back on the rod with the hanger facing the right way. At the end of the year, anything that is facing 'backward' goes (unless it's a special occasion item or something sentimental like the silk robe I wore on my wedding night). Same goes for shorts, pants, skirts, jammies,  shoes, etc. I expect to unload at least 50% of the clothing I had when we left Hawaii by the time I am done. And I'm doing the same for the kids' clothes as well. I'd rather they have a small selection of clothes they LOVE as opposed to a large selection of clothes that just sit in their closets, taking up space.

It's a process. And there are areas I've not yet tackled (Christmas decorations, anyone?). But I'm getting there. Slowly. It's going to be one heckuva yard sale in the fall!


- hfs


Kate said...

I'm with you! Every move, I feel depression at the amount of stuff delivered to my house. It is just too much! Slowly, slowly, I think we are improving, but our weight keeps going up with each move. As my Italian landlord said, (on a different topic), "piano, piano." And as Flylady says, "Your house didn't get that way overnight!"

P.S. I was totally with you about the sheets, and was going to throw out A LOT this move, then we had a sick houseguest and went through all those crappy, about-to-be-thrown out sheets. Now I'm scared!

Have been thinking about you and hope you are well.

April M. said...

I really need to get on board with this one. I'm gearing up for the fall/winter.

Mom5Kids said...

In preparation for the abandonment of the over 18 children and job move, I culled. We still have too much stuff in Hawaii, but it is more manageable. For some reason (possibly because we have 5 kids and I use and reuse) people seem we need stuff and a very large percentage of our stuff has been given to us. I have been learning to say "No, I don't want nor need your stuff, no matter how wonderful or good it is." But, it is hard.

My problems are books and the hidden one I need AA for, Art stuff (I do use it all, but there is a lot of it). I did manage to cull about 1/5 of my library most of which went to the library for their book sale. They were quite excited.

As to sheets except for the baby crib, which the kids didn't sleep in, we usually have one set per bed and on occasion we have two sets. If someone gets sick, it's a long vigilant night (or day, but it always seems to be at night) and washing the sheets has to be timed just right, i.e. they can't be in the wash when hubby wants a nap...

I am prying for you, keep your chin up!

Mom5Kids said...

Well that would be praying for you :D (my proofreading is slower than my button pushing)

Crista said...

I'm with you in that I can control what I have and I have a smidge of control over how much the kid has but I can't control how much the Man has. He just has TOO MUCH. Although, I gotta say, he filled his truck bed with stuff and sold it to the surplus store last summer when we divided into two households. I flat out told him, "I am not storing this stuff at my condo, so either take it to Kansas with you or get rid of it" and he finally did it.

We still have toooooo much. Although, I only have two sets of sheets for all the beds. Ok, maybe not true. We have two, kiddo has one, spare room has one, and two sets of twin sheets (one that kiddo uses for summer camp and the other goes with the twin bed stored in the basement).

We are several thousand pounds below our weight allowance but would be in deep trouble if there were another kid in the house.

We don't keep "real" books for the most part. The Man has more books than anyone else in the house. I have kept my true favorites and some reference material. The rest are gone. I use mostly eBooks now, particularly from library loans and freebies. When you have so many book boxes the movers ask if one of you is a doctor or lawyer, that's your clue. lol

I get rid of stuff every time we move and as often as I can in between moves. I get rid of things when we're organizing prior to a move and again when unpacking.

One of your recent posts inspired me to dump three 13 gallon trash bags of shredded paperwork. Yeah, don't think I need the maintenance paperwork and loan paperwork on a car I traded in 11 years ago.

There is a pin on Pinterest that has a year long calendar for sorting and decluttering. It gives you a manageable task for every single day of the year. I was doing really well with it before we began our massive moving adventure in May. That adventure lasted about 6 weeks. I figure we're pretty organized after unpacking two households into one, but we'll see if I get antsy with this again.

Why do I always write novels on your blog when I comment? lol


Wrote this six years ago. Nothing's changed.  One of my favorite movies is 'Bull Durham'. And one of my favorite scenes in ...