Cut the Clutter, Cut the Stress
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This year I am adopting a “less is more” kind of mindset. Less toys, more playing with the things we already have. Less clothes, more wearing the things we have and love. Less buying, less spending, less clutter, less waste. This is hard in a world with so much consumerism.
I am a bargain shopper, and a lot of times I buy more than we need just because I got something for a good deal. This leads to cupboards, closets and drawers full of duplicate items and things that we don’t really need and will probably never use.
I have always loved to shop sales, but I don’t always know when to stop. I go to the store with no real intention of getting anything, and then I see the sale signs – or worse! – the bright orange clearance signs. It’s like a green light for me to start browsing through the racks of clothes (of things we don’t need), and the aisles of toys (that will be played with for a week and forgotten). And before I know it, I have a cart full of things I will bring into my home that will take up space and might actually never even get used. The things will be put away into already-full drawers and closets, and mostly be forgotten.
And I’m mostly ok with it because my house doesn’t actually look cluttered. We have a few overcrowded closets that I’m not proud of, but other than that it looks pretty ok. But even though it doesn’t necessarily look cluttered, the sheer amount of things in any room of the house is really more than we need.
Clutter isn’t something Americans have always lived with. It’s slowly crept up on us over the last several decades. In the 1950’s, the average home size was less than 1,000 square feet – with just 2 bedrooms and 1 bathroom. Space did not allow for clutter in a home that size. Less was purchased then, and if it wasn’t used regularly it had to go – it couldn’t stay. There was no room for it.
Today, the size of the average home is 2,500 square feet, often with 4 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms, or more. The size of the homes we live in today make it really easy for the clutter to build up. But we don’t just keep the clutter in our houses. Once our house fills up, we rent a storage unit to put more stuff in.
Studies have actually been done to test the correlation of clutter in our homes to the amount of stress in our lives. And it’s a match. Clutter = stress. The more things we have in our homes, the more likely we are to be stressed.
So over the last few weeks I’ve made it my job to go through our house little by little and clear out the clutter. And I am loving the results! Our house actually feels lighter, and I am spending less time picking things up (because there are fewer things that need to be picked up), and when I open a closet or drawer to put something away, I don’t come face to face with a disaster area.
First on the declutter list: Toys
For me, toys can either be really easy or really hard to declutter. It’s easy to pick out toys to give away that my boys never really played with, or that weren’t their favorites. But it gets hard when it comes to their most loved toys and toys that were given to them by someone special – even if the toy doesn’t get played with anymore! I get attached to the toy that holds a special memory, and that makes it really hard to part with it – which leads to clutter and toy overload.
Here’s how to handle the toy clutter situation:
Start some piles: Keep, Donate/sell, Trash.
Trash – This is the easiest place to start. Go through all of the bins, baskets and drawers, and throw away all of the little things that have been hiding and are taking up more space than you realized. The kid’s meal toys, birthday goodie bag toys, things that are broken or have parts or pieces missing. Dried out markers, empty containers, broken crayons, used up coloring books. All of the things that were forgotten about a long time ago and won’t be missed. You’ll see an improvement right away, which will give you the boost you need to move on to the next pile.
Donate/sell – This is where it gets a little more tricky. Some toys will be easy to put in this pile. Start there – toys that haven’t been played with for weeks, or that were outgrown a long time ago. Ask your kids if there are any toys they don’t play with anymore and would like to give away. Or maybe they’ve been saving for something new and could sell some of the toys they’ve outgrown at a consignment shop or online and put that money toward what they’ve been saving for.
The things I’m donating get boxed up and dropped off at Salvation Army as soon as I can – the sooner it’s out of the house the better!
I put everything I plan on selling into a tub and out of sight in a closet. As I have time, I post each item for sale online (usually on Craigslist or on Facebook resale sites). Whatever is left I save for a garage sale. Anything that doesn’t sell in the garage sale gets packed up and donated.
Keep – My ‘keep’ pile is always bigger than it should be. So I sort through it again. If there’s a toy in my keep pile that my boys have outgrown and it was a very favorite, I set it aside in a bin to give them when they’re older. Some of our boys’ favorite toys that they play with now are trucks that belonged to their grandpa or their daddy when they were boys. So these are the kinds of things I am saving. For all of the other toys they’ve outgrown (and that I seem to be more attached to than they are), they get moved over to the donate/sell pile. I will hang on to the memory of the toy and let the toy go. Less is more. Keep the things that bring you joy. Let go of the things that go unused and only clutter your space.
One thing I’m going to do better with this year is to just watch what comes into our home. This might be the easiest way to curb the clutter in our house – to just not allow it in in the first place. As the mom and the primary one who does the shopping for my family, I am the gatekeeper of our home.
I will keep watching sales and buying what we need and will use, because if I do it the right way, we can save a lot of money this way. But no more excess. No more buying 2 or 3 of the same thing, just because. And if it’s not coming into our house it can’t create clutter and need to be taken out later.
Less is more.