How I fell in love with decluttering

The Linen Closet

I stood on tired feet, starring into the small linen closet.

For a brief moment, I was really proud.

I’d washed, folded, and put away all of our linens. It was a small closet; a miracle to behold so many beautifully folded linens tucked away so neatly. Then it dawned on me.

If I decided to take one out later on – you know, to use it – the entire thing might fall apart like Jenga blocks. The worst part was that I didn’t even like many of the linens I’d put away. They were so scratchy, old, tattered, and torn. Plus, some linens reminded me of tough times I’d rather not recall.

I immediately felt deflated. I’d just wasted several hours washing and folding linens just so … in order to squeeze them all into a closet. What was I doing with my life?

Quickly, in a fit of rage, I began pulling out every piece that made me angry. Beach towels, bath towels, bath mats, sheets, pillow cases, hand towels, washcloths went flying everywhere. Many of them fell on my dog, who looked up at me with the kind of loving but confused/judgmental eyes only a dog can give you.

My dog, Louie, who was adopted from the Wake County Animal Shelter in 2007.

At the end of my fit, I was left with about one third of the linens still folded neatly in the closet. They were the best of the best: the softest, most luxurious linens we owned. Each shelf had plenty of room to breathe, nothing was crammed in too tightly. Then, I donated the rest to a local non-profit that I like supporting.

A week or so later, I did some laundry. Then I folded our linens. And when I opened the closet door, I was welcomed with the perfect amount of space to put them away.

It was glorious.

(Well, about as glorious as it can get when you’re doing housework.)

Whole-Home Decluttering

What I learned from the linen closet began showing up in other areas.

It was as if a fog was lifted. I was surrounded by way too much stuff. The amount of stuff made my home feel crowded, cramped, and cluttered. It was distracting and frustrating.

Slowly and methodically, I began culling the things that my husband and I owned. I went through one closet, drawer, or cabinet at a time. I pulled out everything that could leave our house, went through it with my family for a green light, and got rid of it as soon as possible.

While sorting, I’d ask myself:

  1. Do we enjoy or actually use this item?
  2. Does it hold any sentimental value for us or other family / friends?
  3. Should it be given away, sold, thrown out, or donated?

If it was useful or sentimental, we kept it. If we knew someone else who could use it more than we could, we offered to give it to them. If no one wanted it, we donated to a local charity. Or we recycled or trashed it, depending on the item.

It felt so freeing to get rid of stuff!

Unexpected Results

Although I was becoming addicted to getting rid of the things that no longer served our home and family, I didn’t expect the results to be quite so dramatic.

By owning fewer things, it was easier for us both to keep the house tidy. Cleaning and organizing took significantly less time. Because, duh, we weren’t overrun by stuff and didn’t have to cram things into crowded spaces (drawers, cabinets, or closets).

We also didn’t spend as much time hunting for things. There was a place for everything, and everything in its place. This meant saving money because we didn’t buy multiples when we couldn’t find what we needed. (I still own entirely too many measuring tapes, for example.)

Here’s another really cool thing that happened. By living without the outdated, tattered, and broken things, I could tell if I actually needed them or not. Eventually, I replaced the things I missed or needed after decluttering. I replaced them with much more practical, higher-quality versions, too.

For example, last year we donated an old five-piece set of luggage. It had about 15 years of wear and tear. Wheels and handles were broken; it was really sad luggage that made us angry every time we used it. It was a small but infuriating / nagging inconvenience.

Well, guess what we got from my in-laws last Christmas? The most beautiful set of luggage! It was wonderful! Every time we use it, the new luggage makes us incredibly happy. It’s so lovely and it makes all the difference for us while relaxing on vacation.

And here’s another thing that really tipped the decluttering scales for me.

The freedom that came with decluttering was so refreshing.

I was no longer weighed down, obligated, or frustrated by the stuff in my home. I’d been hanging on to so many items for emotional reasons. When I looked at certain pieces, I relived those tough times: family challenges, loss of loved ones, and heaps of struggles in the working world. Hanging on to those things ( and the memories attached to them) was a waste of energy. It was daunting, depressing, and overwhelming.

After decluttering, however, my home felt more inviting. It felt more spacious, hospitable, and peaceful. Everywhere I looked, the spaces and things in my home made me happy. In turn, it made me feel so much more peace every day. I felt creative, motivated, and healthier. Weirdly enough, I also started losing weight and being more successful at work, too.

It was incredible to feel such peace and joy on a daily basis.

Total Obsession

Y’all, this is how I became obsessed with decluttering. 

It’s been pretty revolutionary for me, and it’s something I want everyone else to experience. I desperately want my family and friends to know the sense of peace and freedom that comes from owning fewer things.

Let me be perfectly clear about something: this is a work in progress for me. Because I say that I’m obsessed with decluttering doesn’t mean I’m a minimalist. I’m not ready to live in a tiny house! I still own way too many things, and I’ve got a lot more to go through. (Books are a big weakness of mine, for example.)

Clutter accumulates quickly, though. It’s a daily, weekly, monthly habit to keep things in order. I’m not always that successful at it. But I keep trying.

Resources

When I first started using the word “declutter” a few years ago, it was hard to find any resources on the matter. Auto-correct kept trying to change the word, too. I wasn’t sure if anyone else was interested in this kind of thing.

Since then, however, there have been a wave of resources available! Books, blog posts, TV shows, movies, podcasts, etc., are popping up all over the place to discuss minimalism and decluttering. It’s kind of amazing.

I highly recommend Denise’s book and bootcamp. Learn more here.

I’ve also fallen in love with the connection between decluttering and making money, thanks to Denise Duffield-Thomas.

Get more info on Denise’s books, bootcamp, and stuff right here. (By the way, that’s an affiliate link. If you make a purchase on Denise’s site, I’ll receive a small commission which helps sustain this blog.)

One of my favorite books about decluttering is Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Kondo’s book is short, easy to read, and explains our emotional connection to the things we have in our homes. It’s become a New York Times Best Seller, too.

What do you think?

Use the comments to tell me what you think.

I’d love to hear if you’re decluttering, what resources or methods are your favorite, and how it’s changed your life. Let’s geek out about it together!

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