Part of an eco-friendly lifestyle is simplicity – the cutting back on having stuff, buying stuff and being overwhelmed by stuff. Since the holidays, I’ve been weeding out my stuff, giving some away, and putting the rest where it belongs.
It’s a prime opportunity, because gifts replace some old items, and I feel I have some spare time. Once the holidays are over, I am relaxed after all the parties and family time are over. This is good time to spend cleaning out stuff. Get a jump on spring cleaning!
Re-think and re-distribute your “stuff”
The very first step in de-cluttering is to stop buying stuff! How much stuff in your house do you actually use on a regular basis? If you have five soup pots, do you need another one? If you have seven sweater vests, do you need another one? Think about what you use before buying anything else.
Then research places to donate good items. Churches, second hand stores, women’s and men’s shelters, the animal shelter, schools and libraries can always use donations. Maybe your friends or neighbors, who are less fortunate than you are, would love a hand-me-down. You can also put things aside and have a yard sale in the spring to make some extra cash.
Room by room de-cluttering
Work on one room at a time. For example, go through the kitchen and see what you don’t use. Once my kids were grown, I wasn’t using some of my cookware, so I gave it to my older daughter for her first apartment.
I did a major overhaul in my kitchen last fall when my younger daughter went off to college. Wow, what a difference! The cupboards held half-eaten boxes of cereal, drink mixes the kids had bought, weird noodles, old herbs and spices, dried herbs from the garden that needed to be organized, cake mixes and canned pie filling (kids again). I was living alone here now, so I took the liberty to clean out things I didn’t need. If you’re not going to use it, get rid of it!
Do this in each room. Do you really need 500 movies or CDs? Do you watch them all or are they just a conversation piece? Do you use all those towels? I bet not. How about knick knacks? Do they serve a purpose or just take up space (and demand dusting once a week!)? I know you have furniture no one ever sits on, not even the dog. My basic rule is that if I have not used something in 1-2 years, it becomes a donation. I never regret purging, either.
What do you really need?
Once you have gotten rid of unnecessary items (and this may take a while!), take an inventory of what you need. I needed new spices in the kitchen. I also needed some bulk items like rice and beans. When I cleaned out my dresser drawers, I realized I could use some new socks. Buy things you need, not stuff you’ll never use!
Organize what’s left. Build storage for items that seem to have nowhere to go, but that you need to have. The designer of drawers in lower kitchen cabinets is a genius! This is a good idea for underneath sinks, too. That is usually a nightmare area. I have small stackable storage units with open fronts for sponges, rags and cleaners.
De-cluttering helps you to get a vision for a new space
I morphed my linen closet into a pantry when I remodeled. I bought minimalistic wire cubes to hold bathroom towels and bathmats. A cute basket holds washcloths. Everything is colorful to add to the bathroom design. There is extra space for laundry supplies, since the washer is in the same room.
Lots of times, if we hide our excess, the room feels cleaner and more streamlined. If you insist on keeping your 500 movies, at least build a cabinet with solid doors to hide their busy-ness. If your kids play in the living room, toys can be quickly and neatly stored away in colorful bench seats, which then have a dual use. Repurpose some of that unused furniture into creative storage!
Sheds and garages are notorious as stuff magnets. After the gardening season, I tend to toss pots and tools into the shed only to have to rummage through the mess come spring. Every year I tell myself to come up with a better system.
Shelves and closets can be built for larger tools. Wall hangers are great for rakes and shovels. Colorful buckets can hold hand tools. Equipment, like lawn mowers and weed eaters, should have a spot designated just for them. If you have a garage, you might want to consider leaving room for your car!
Own your stuff, don’t let it own you
In the end, don’t starve your soul. If your house were completely utilitarian, you’d be bored. Feed yourself with beauty, art, color and creativity. At the same time, learn to scale back unnecessary and impulsive shopping trips. Once you get rid of stuff you don’t use, you might find your house has become unnecessary stuff. There is no harm in downsizing…