The clutter that is life

One of my goals for 2018 is to declutter.

No one who’s ever been to my house would ever accuse me of being a minimalist, so perhaps you can appreciate that this will most likely be a year-long task. And yet, I’m determined to plug away at it for more than a few reasons.

  • I’ve realized we are the owners of too many things we don’t love and didn’t choose to own. Between the two of us, Tim and I have a lot of items that were handed down to us from family—some of it wanted, some of it forced on us with guilt trip attached. As we continue to incorporate our personal, albeit eclectic, style into our home, we find those things less and less appealing. Tossing some of those unwanted items feels like a release of a long-carried burden, and the memories are released right along with them.
  • I don’t want our kids to have to slog through all of it after I’m dead. This is not morbid at all. Believe me, I’ve given this some serious thought over the past years. When my dad passed away seven years ago, my mother wanted the grandchildren to have a lot of his things. The problem was, most of the items she wanted them to have were not things they wanted: a belt, a pullover sweater from the 1960s, socks, “old guy” pajamas, 1970s polyester slacks. It became harder and harder to keep saying no, so we took whatever she offered and then got rid of it later. There was a handful of truly special items we still have, little things that have sentimental value like his Zippo lighter and gorgeous beer steins from Germany, and that was enough. The rest was unwanted bulk. When my mother passed away almost two years ago, going through her house was overwhelming because there was just . . . so . . . much. So much food. So many clothes. So many knicknacks. So many “as seen on TV” items. So many never-opened-but-have-to-have-this things. Items she had no use for, but didn’t want to give to someone else because she just had to keep them. While going through piles of old birthday cards from decades ago, leftover wedding invitations from 1961, clothing patterns from when we were kids, piles of magazines dating back to 1997 and more, I vowed that my kids would never have to deal with that. Not on a grand scale, anyway. I’m sure there will still be things I keep that they’ll immediately toss, but they will not have to find their old standardized test scores from high school in my piles of papers, as I did when cleaning my mother’s house. Have I mentioned that I’ve been out of high school for almost thirty-five years? When all was said and done, most of what I kept from my childhood home were photos—and all the gifts I’d bought my mother over the previous five years . . . still in their wrappings, unused. All of those were redistributed to people who now love and use them regularly, which makes me smile.
  • All of this clutter used to be someone’s money. Whether it was mine or someone else’s, somebody spent money on something that’s not loved. Maybe it was at some point in our lives, and maybe it never was. The point is, if it’s not loved anymore, it needs to go. And I wish I had the money that was spent on it, to be honest.

So I have a plan, inspired by a friend who has moved so many times that she didn’t care to pack “heavy” anymore. She went through a lot of the sentimental things, decided what was truly, seriously, majorly, not-to-be-negotiated important, and kept only those things. She took pictures of the rest. Any items that were shared memories were offered to the other party, with no guilt if the other person politely declined.

I don’t know that I’ll ever live a completely decluttered life, but I’m willing to try a little harder to make sure my kids don’t have to dig through the house to find me when they visit in future years.


4 thoughts on “The clutter that is life

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  1. I have a path between my house and the Goodwill. They know me down there and offer me coffee when I arrive. My philosophy is if my kids don’t want it, I’m sure someone else will. Send it into the universe.

    1. I feel the same way, especially after attempting to clear out so much of my mother’s stuff. It made me want to head for home immediately and toss all kinds of stuff. As for the items that can be passed along, I know what it feels like to have someone make me feel bad for saying, “No, thank you,” so I’ll never do that to my kids.

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