Recently I’ve been on a mission* to get rid of stuff. To purge unnecessary items. To cut out clutter. To simplify. In essence, to create space.
*(does anyone immediately think of Nickelodeon magazine when they hear the phrase “on a mission”? I know I can’t be the only one)
Physical clutter is frustrating for a lot of people, how else would we have an entire store dedicated to containing all our stuff? I love The Container Store as much as the next organizer fanatic but the issue is about more than clutter. Even if everything I own right now was 100% organized in my home, the excess would still bother me. Those tidy and organized boxes are still holding things, things I may never use again. These are things I don’t need to hold on to.
Sometimes my anxiety seems related to the amount of clutter and stuff around me. I almost feel claustrophobic, like my collections of things will trap me. I’m weighed down by my material possessions and I obsess over how to reduce them.
I’ve always preferred neat and tidy. But my recent fascination with downsizing and getting rid of things is new. I blame a lot of it on moving twice in two years — does anyone like packing? Or moving heavy boxes up and down two and then three flights of stairs? How about unpacking? I hate moving. I hate moving and every time my husband I moved I realized we still had too much stuff. Even though we’re done moving for a while (we bought our first house in August of last year) I still want to get rid of things we don’t need.
Another event that has inspired my desire to simplify is my grandmother’s passing. My Grandma, Ruby, died in 2014. Soon after, my family went through all her belongings that my Grandpa wasn’t keeping. My Grandma was a collector. She collected so many different, interesting things: ruby glass, vintage and vintage-esque food tins, jewelry, cardinal figurines and more. She was also an avid crafter. She painted gorgeous ceramics and made her own jewelry. Seeing all her belongings laid out in my aunt’s basement made it feel like she was with us. I even found an empty perfume bottle: it smelled like her.
That afternoon going through my Grandma’s things was cathartic. It was bittersweet but educational – I learned things about my Grandma I had never known. My dad and my aunt shared stories from their childhood and my sister and I recounted ours with our cousins. But what do we do with all her things? We took turns picking items to keep, a ruby glass piece or a cardinal figurine. I selected several pieces of jewelry and some of her vintage style food tins. But even after everyone had chosen something to remember Grandma by, we still had so much. It was overwhelming! At first, we worried that if we didn’t keep it, it meant we didn’t love her. But we realized that Grandma wasn’t contained in the things she left behind. We keep her alive in our memories of her and by talking about her. This helped us be able to choose items to donate or sell at a garage sale later in the year.
This experience made an impact on my parents and my aunt and uncle. They didn’t want to leave a bunch of things for me and my sister or my cousins to sort through and wonder about. “Why did they keep this?” or “What should I do with this?”. Our semi-regular family garage sale that year was huge. We all went on purging sprees. We actually held more than one garage sale at many family members houses — sometimes at the same time!
The last reason that I’ve been especially focused on reducing for the past few years or so is that I’ve been reading more about simple living and minimalism. The idea that we don’t need more stuff to make us happy is appealing. I follow blogs about minimalism and listen to podcasts on the topic. I save tips on how to purge your closet of the clothes you don’t love and read books about decluttering.
I’ve decided to share a little of my journey in “creating space” with you. It’ll be a multi-part series. I’ll share some of my experiences along with the tools I’ve found most helpful along the way. A post on what I did with all my excess stuff is a must as is a post on how to not fall back into the same habits again.