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.

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11 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.

  2. I can relate to this well. When my mom died in 2008, Dad didn’t want to get rid of her stuff, so now, that he’s gone, it’s stuff that belonged to both of them. I’ve been at it a year now. Maybe halfway done? But it has made me want to declutter my own house, too, one pile, one corner at a time. If someone else can use it, great, otherwise, trash or recycle. What a process!

    1. Oh, I feel you, JoAnna. Each time I’d come home from my mom’s house, I would look around my own home and think, “I need to get rid of at least half this stuff.” It’s such a looong process.

  3. I applaud your decluttering for the sake of your kids! My parents have a two-car garage with an attic that is top to bottom, side to side filled with junk (not even to mention what is in their house). I know there is some valuable stuff in there, but I can’t deal with that. I’m going to light a match to it when they pass.

    1. No joke, that might be your best bet. My daughter, my oldest niece and I worked like crazy to get rid of what felt like tons of stuff in my mom’s house. A week’s worth of throwing things away and carload after carload of donations taken to the local thrift store. My sister would load about nine large garbage bags or boxes in her car to take, and by the time she’d return, we’d have a porchful ready again to reload her car. The house looked like we barely touched it. Since my sister wanted the house, I finally gave up and figured she could deal with what was left. After looking at so much, I didn’t even want anything anymore—like you said, there’s valuable stuff but sifting for it is probably not worth it.

      Thanks for the visit! I found you through the A to Z (I’m participating with my other blog, Easy Reader Editing). I’m looking forward to whatever screwed-up Mother Goose you have in store.

  4. I’m literally in the middle of this. In this house – which we moved into on March 5, 1981 – have been 37 years of living, three children born, reared, homeschooled, and launched; a writer; a highschool teacher after he was laid off, with his whole division of reserach chemists; and, for the past five years until a few weeks ago, a chinchilla with her own room.

    I have not had the energy, but it has to be dejunked, the good stuff packed to be moved to a two-bedroom apartment in a retirement community in California, and sold.

    We have re-homed massive quantities of things. I have packed each kids’ homeschooling into five total scrapbooks in one banker’s box (and dumped the rest!). EVERYTHING is under scrutiny.

    Fortunately, we are not very materialistic, and little here is worth much (an ill mother makes priorities very clear), and we still have way too much stuff to go in the pod. My assistant comes three times a week for three hours most weeks, and it seems like I have to look at each item, and make a decision. Millions of decisions have been made; millions more are coming.

    We are NOT leaving this mess for our kids. They don’t want anything except what they already have.

    1. I’m finally getting back to this blog and answering comments from late April, so I already know you’ve figured out all your moving plans and are living out of boxes for the most part. Sifting through every item can take so much time and energy, and yet even for the things we toss, it gives us one last look at something that used to be important enough to keep.

      1. I see you’ve been through this.

        Living out of boxes after several reshufflings is unbelievably difficult.

        So use a card file, label every box with a letter/number combo, and write on the card as much detail of what’s inside as you can. And update the darn cards when you take things in and out, or they’re worthless after a few diggings.

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