De-Cluttering My Home: A Check-In

How to pare down when you have too much stuff Okay, I admit it. Getting rid of 1,000 things is a bit more time-consuming that I'd realized. I gave myself -- and all of you -- a pretty hefty challenge: de-cluttering my home by getting rid of 1,000 things in one month... and while I'm still up for the task, it's definitely daunting. 

When you're trying to break a habit or take some other drastic-but-healthy step, it's pretty amazing how strong your inner critic can be -- and, if you're me, how downright pushy! Here are some of the things I've heard (yes, from myself, but still):

"But you might need that someday!"

"Your best friend/grandmother/little cousin gave that to you... don't you love them anymore?"

"You've been keeping that for [fill-in-the-blank project]. It would be foolish to throw it out!"

"Well sure, you don't love it, and it doesn't fit exactly right, but it was expensive! And it's pretty! And, and, and..."

And, my favorite:


But I've learned to conquer my inner critic. If I don't need something now, and I haven't needed it within the past year, chances are the world isn't going to end if I get rid of it and end up needing something just like it a few months from now. I can't hoard everything -- something has to go, and the stuff I "may need someday" seems like as good a place to start as any.

Speaking of stuff I don't need, my great-grandmother surely didn't cherish the broken plastic turkey baster that was taking up space in my kitchen drawer -- throwing it away doesn't mean I loved her any less. And no matter the quality -- if I don't love it, or if it doesn't fit (me, my home decor, my storage space, etc.), then someone else should have it. 

When I think about it, a lot of this boils down to feelings like guilt and obligation. Certain things are easy to part with: the practical objects for which I have neither use nor space; objects that are broken or duplicative (I don't need five bath mats in a two-bath home!); basically, stuff that hasn't been imbued with emotion or meaning.

But the other stuff is harder -- the stuff that has outlived its use but reminds us of a loved one or a special memory; the stuff that represents some unmet promise or potential.

And so I've added a new rule to my list, to deal with those things that aren't necessarily useful on their own, but might fulfill a different purpose: If that otherwise-not-so-useful thing makes me happy when I see it, then I'll consider keeping it. But if it inspires mostly guilt or obligation or stress, then out it goes. No more broken ceramic pots I've kept for years with the intention of gluing them back together (I haven't yet, which suggests I likely won't); no more letters and photos from certain old acquaintances; no more broken plastic turkey basters.

It feels great. I'm behind on my gathering and culling and sorting and giving away, but I'm hopeful and already feeling just a bit lighter... How about you?