Minimalist decor appeals to me. I don’t actually live that way – the people in my life prefer cozy furniture and plenty of electronics. They like print fabrics, warm throw blankets, and color. We also have stuff – I’m sure it’s more stuff than some families and less stuff than others. Like Goldilocks I’m trying to find the just right spot for our family.
Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been doing a lot of de-cluttering. I’ve donated some clothes and household things and I’ve contacted a place that takes building supplies and furniture to come get the leftovers from a few projects. Unfortunately I’ve also had to throw away quite a bit of stuff. I swear two trash bags worth of detritus exploded out of the kids’ drawer – old crayons, party favors, string.
All this cleaning and decluttering has me thinking about how living with less frees us to live life abundantly and feel good about the choices we make. It has also impressed on me how hard it is to keep stuff from entering the house. Even though I’m intentional about purchases, free stuff and kid presents still enter the house. I have to accept that things will always enter our lives, but there are steps I can take to make keeping a clean and appealing home easier.
1. Buy less – skip the dollar aisle, don’t buy things just because they are on sale, buy only what you need. I actually avoid certain stores because the visual overstimulation causes me to make purchases I regret. Set space limits on certain items like nail polish, socks, and school supplies. If you buy more than what fits in the space it’s time to weed out the old.
2. Avoid ads and tv shows that encourage consumption – HGTV I’m talking about you. Low key advertising only between shows is one of the reasons I love PBS Kids. Most channels aimed at kids have very intense advertising. Ads are created to make us buy things we wouldn’t otherwise. Advertising tries to create discontent. Throw away the catalogs. DVR your favorite show and skip the ads.
3. Sign up to stop ads and credit card offers. You can use opt out prescreen to stop credit card and insurance offers. Catalog Choice and DMA Choice can help you reduce the amount of junk mail that comes to your house. I signed up for these several years ago and it really helps.
4. Make it easy to recycle. I stand by the recycle bin to sort the mail. By eliminating credit card offers I’ve dramatically reduced the amount of mail that needs to be shredded and I’ve moved the shredder to a convenient location to avoid a backlog on items that need shredded. We also keep a small recycle can in the kitchen.
5. Use a scanner to make a digital record of documents you think you MIGHT need or want again. Paper clutter has always been an issue for me. About a year ago I got a small Doxie Go scanner. It’s slow but easy to use. You can use a service like Evernote to store your documents in the cloud (free) and create a file cabinet of searchable ($) PDFs.
6. If an item isn’t working for you, don’t feel guilty about giving it away. Get rid of things quickly while they are still useful to other people. The bike your son outgrew last month is easier to find a good home for than the one he outgrew 3 or 5 or 10 years ago.
7. Think about the space you will gain by getting rid of items and how much easier it will be to find what you want and keep the house clean.
8. Borrow before you buy. Check out books from the library. See if your friend has an extra cooler or folding table before you buy them just for a party.
9. Get rid of an item if you buy a replacement. Whether it’s clothes or kitchen items, there seems to be a temptation to hold on to old things after we replace them. It’s fine to have one old pair of shoes for mowing the lawn, but you don’t need 4 old pairs of shoes for mowing the lawn.
10. Buy less, buy less, buy less – skip the dollar aisle, don’t buy things just because they are on sale, buy only what you need. This was already on the list at number one, however it is the most important step if you are serious about reducing clutter.
Have you taken steps to live with less?