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Are you drowning in clutter?
The de-cluttering, purging, generally living with less movement that has taken pinterest by storm is a great thing. I love it. And I pin every post I read that inspires me to keep moving closer to my ultimate goal of living with just what I need.
I often (really – I do mean often) gather a box of stuff that I have decided I can part with and I feel so much lighter and happier when it’s out of the house. Seriously!
Why? Because once I was drowning in clutter. Too much stuff. And I will not ever go back to that.
Stuff was everywhere! Not quite like an episode of hoarders. But it was too much, it was overflowing from the cabinets and cluttering the counter tops and I hated it but didn’t know where to begin to make it go away. And that was bad. But what was worse was that I didn’t know how to make it stop multiplying.
You think those people on hoarders (drowning in their stuff) collected all those things overnight?
It’s a problem that starts small, like a tiny crack in the hull of a ship where just a few drops of water are starting to seep in. Eventually, it’ll sink the boat.
Recently I wrote about how to conquer clutter when it’s emotionally difficult, which is super important, but really deals more with the clutter that’s already in your house. The stuff you’re already attached to. It’s gonna be a bit of an effort to deal with that stuff. Maybe you aren’t ready to deal with that stuff.
But if you wanna get out from under your stuff, you have to start somewhere, and I think that the somewhere to start is to plug the crack, stop the water, before it drags you down. There isn’t any point in bailing yourself out one bucket (or box of crap) at time if the water is gonna keep pouring in.
What’s causing you to gather stuff?
We all have different demons that force clutter into our lives, and you’ll need to identify them before you can squash them. I’ll talk about my big ones, cus I think they’re pretty common and maybe you’ll be able to recognize some of them 🙂 There’s two kinds of stuff we get, and both kinds come with different challenges. Both of them bring stuff into our homes. Both have to be dealt with.
Stuff that’s free and stuff we buy.
Gathering free stuff
It can be hard to keep free stuff out of our houses for a few reasons. Guilt – about being wasteful, about consuming resources, about not taking action to save money, is one that sticks out to me. I grew up in a frugal, environmentally conscious family. (A huge blessing, I’m not complaining about that.)
It’s easy to feel guilty or wasteful for not being able to use perfectly useful things. My great grandmother saved every glass jar she ever got her hands on because she used them. (Also, she didn’t get one every week.) I don’t NEED to save every glass jar that comes into my home because I can’t possibly USE every jar that comes into my home. But my gut reaction is to wash the jar and save it.
Ever seen those “things to do with used k-cups posts?” Yeah. DO NOT, really, DO NOT keep a box of cleaned k-cups because you might use them one day. Nope. (If there’s something you really want to make with them, then plan the project, save THAT number and the day you finish saving, do the thing you’ve got planned. If you’re only saving your k-cups and planning these “projects” out of guilt over all the wasted plastic, then you need to make a choice. Either no more k-cups come into your home, or you give yourself permission to throw them out. A or B. No weird box of unused k- cups you can’t bear to send to the landfill.)
Recognizing that things have changed a little bit in the last 30 years helps me to adjust my views on keeping stuff accordingly. There are awesome recycling programs and thrift shops so the stuff that I get rid of isn’t necessarily wasted. It’s maybe more wasteful to hoard a bunch of jars than it would be to allow them to be recycled.
I keep a box of about 8 jars with lids (mostly tiny ones, because that’s what I use) in the top of my pantry and other jars are not allowed. They must leave.
This applies to lots of things that could come into your house and be “free” and useful: sturdy plastic takeout containers, shoe boxes, clothes that people offer you (that you won’t wear), toys that your kids don’t need, used wrapping paper, the pretty little jars candles come in. It might be useful. But it will definitely be clutter.
To sum up this whole “guilt about being wasteful / not frugal” thing, I’ll say (adamantly) that there are things that I DO NOT KEEP, even though pinterest (and sometimes other people / my brain) tells me
A) I should re-use these things to make awesome stuff
B) I could sell these things for money on e-bay (toilet paper rolls anyone?)
C) I’m a horrible person because I’m so wasteful
But I get rid of the stuff anyway. Because am I really better off if I assuage my guilt but drown myself in crap?
No. Worse perhaps, since I can teach myself new and healthier thought patterns but I can’t actually teach myself to live comfortably while my ship is going down. Not to be like, hugely negative, but sometimes in this world things look lose / lose.
I don’t think this has to be one of those times 🙂 This is win / lose. Teach yourself to be ok with letting stuff go, and you win. Keep piling it into your house and you lose. See?
Guilt about saying no or hurting someone’s feelings and looking ungrateful when people offer you free stuff is another guilt that you have to let go of. You don’t need to be rude to say no. If you take the time to explain that you appreciate the offer but you are struggling with clutter and wanting to reduce your stuff load, people will understand that. If they don’t understand, it’s really a reflection of a problem that THEY have.
Don’t do this at your next birthday party or family Christmas. Start letting the people around you know now that you want to stop bringing stuff into your house and let them know often. I tell people that I like wine because I don’t keep it long enough to have to dust it and I can never get quite enough of it. It’s a joke, but it also drives home the point (and sometimes I actually get wine… WIN!)
The belief that more is better could be causing you to gather free stuff. (It might be a little surprising to you to realize that you think this.) It’s not something that our brains admit all the time. When I think about my own situation, something that really stands out to me is that when friends offer me clothes / shoes / kitchen stuff / kids toys ect that they aren’t using, my first thought isn’t always about whether or not I NEED more of that thing. It’s free, it’s nice, I’m blessed to be given this!
But do I need it? Do I need another pair of shoes? Do the kids need more toys? Will this thing actually cause me more grief in clutter and overwhelm than it will provide joy?
Is more actually better?
I’m aware that sometimes you need things and will actually put them to great use. Kids clothes are maybe the best example of something you could consider accepting as a hand-me down or passing on to a friend (who wants them) when your kids have outgrown them. My aunt had an extra colander she was getting rid of the other day, and I genuinely needed a colander.
Say this out loud to yourself : Bringing stuff into your home that YOU have use for is very different than bringing stuff into your home that has use left in it.
Free or not. When you are downing in stuff you need to recognize that more is not better.
Gathering stuff that you buy
If more free stuff is not better, more stuff that costs you money (and time) is DEFINITELY not better. Breaking the habit of shopping is a totally different horse than breaking the habit of free stuff collecting. For me, giving up shopping was easier then giving up free stuff. I recognize that I’m pretty lucky that way. I was shopping for two main reasons: ingratitude for what I already had, and for distraction from boredom / sadness.
To deal with the ingratitude for what I already have, I had to change my entire outlook on life. No joke! Learning to be content with what you have is a post for another day, I think, because it’s a pretty important topic in itself. Joshua Becker, of becomingminimalist, is one of my favorite sources of inspiration for needing less and appreciating what you have. It took me some time to change the way I think about my stuff. It will be a process. But it will be worth it.
I am so very grateful for what I do have, and I don’t need any more. And don’t assume that this means I have everything I could ever imagine wanting.
I also had to deal with the fact that I was bored and sad. Not easy. If you are shopping as therapy, go ahead and admit it. That was the worst part of having to quit shopping – having to deal with the fact that I was unhappy in my life.
But once I admitted it, that got me moving in the right direction! I realized that I would rather go through the difficultly of addressing my problems than the difficultly of ignoring them. Neither one is easy to do. (By the way – If you need therapy to help you with your emotional shopping, consider that you might already be spending more on shopping than you would be spending on therapy.)
The benefits of becoming happy with my life and quitting shopping are so huge they are almost impossible to believe. First of all, and most importantly – less clutter. And therefore, more peace. But on top of that, ever heard that the two things you can never have enough of are time and money?
Well… I gave up shopping and now I have more of both.
(If that’s not a good reason to address your shopping problem, I don’t know what is.)
Normally I would put some links here to great de-cluttering books…in case you need more inspiration… But I recognize that the LAST THING you need is to bring another thing into your house (hopefully you recognize that too!), so instead I have a (free) suggestion for you. Sign up for the FREE 30 day trial to Amazon’s KindleUnlimited program. You can check out as many books as you like – read ALL the de-cluttering and organizing stuff you can while it’s free, and soak up the inspiration! You don’t need a kindle – you can get the kindle app for just about any device. And yes, it’s FREE, and it’s not stuff in your house, major awesome 😉
This is where you start when you are downing in clutter
Once you have stopped the incoming of more stuff, THEN you can address the stuff that’s already come in. Once you have stopped the incoming of stuff your battle will change drastically – it will become one that you can actually win.