I honestly thought decluttering my house would be easy. As I saw it, most of the junk in it wasn’t even mine. I had tons of things that I had inherited from my mom after her passing and things my adult children were “storing” at my house. Once I had sorted all of that stuff, either threw the items out or returned them to their rightful owner, my house would be clean, spacious and a true reflection of me and what I valued.
How wrong I was!
Believe it or not, the biggest revelation I had when I started to purge my over-stuffed house was that at the end of the day, the biggest problem was me, not all the things that others had thrust upon me.
If you are just beginning to declutter your home and embrace a more minimalist mindset, be prepared to learn a lot of hard truths about yourself.
7 Brutal Self-Realizations When You Get Rid Of Your Stuff
1. I like to hide my crap and give the illusion my space is clean.
Oh no! Aunt Brenda is stopping by on her way through town! We need to clean up quick!
I know you’ve done it too. Guests are on the way over, so we clear all the clutter off the coffee table or out of the guest room, and stuff it somewhere else. Or we go on a cleaning spree, boxing up unused items with the intention of sorting them for donation later on.
We get the immediate payoff of a cleaner looking space. The clutter is out of sight, out of mind. But our drawers, closets, attics, basements, garage, and even areas behind furniture or other stuff in the house have turned into hiding places. And soon or later, we run out of places to hide stuff.
I knew I had a lot of things in my house but I didn’t realize exactly how much till I started pulling things out from behind and under furniture. I am truly a master at Jenga! And guess what? Most of the items that were hidden away could be pitched. So why did I bother finding places for this stuff?
Note to self: If I have to stuff it where the sun don’t shine, maybe I don’t need it at all. I should save a step and throw it out now! Or better yet, never bring it home in the first place.
Solution: Adhere to the one in, one out rule when it comes to dealing with clutter and excess. If you buy something new, especially something to replace a worn object, make sure you pitch the old. For example: new baking sheets, magazines, towels, furniture or appliances.
2. I waste a lot of money.
When I think of the vacations and dinners with friends and family that I have foregone because I “didn’t have the money”, it infuriates me. Because technically, I did have the money, I just chose to waste it on stuff. Stuff I forgot about pretty quickly.
When you start decluttering, you will come across a lot of things you spent money on that you don’t really need/want/like or have never, ever used. The real kick in the pants comes when you realize that you are probably still paying off some of that stuff on your credit card. Ouch!
Impulse buying clutters up your home and puts a strain on your finances.
When you get out of the habit of shopping for the sake of shopping, buying things just because they were on sale or might come in handy one day, you’ll find that you have more money left each month.
Note to self: Instead of buying more “stuff”, use that money towards experiences that make your life richer.
Solution: Set a 24-hour rule for any purchases over $25. That gives you enough time to properly assess if you really need it. Especially when it wasn’t a purchase you originally went out to get! (Damn those checkout aisles and long lines.)
3. I start a lot of stuff I never finish.
My aunt, who past away almost 40 years ago now, taught me how to sew, needlepoint, knit, crochet and more. And every once in awhile, mostly during the dark, winter months, I get the urge to take up a yarn craft. I go shopping and come back with a bag full of colour. It’s fun and exciting to start something new. I bet it’s even more fun to finish it but I rarely find that out.
Is one of your sources of clutter unfinished projects? Art, crafts, jewelry making, or scrapbooking? Do you have all the supplies you need to support these “hobbies”? If you never complete – or even start most of them, maybe your hobby is shopping for the projects and not actually the projects themselves. (Things that make you go hmmm.)
Or maybe your obsession is new activities. Do you have gear lying around for things you wanted to do that sounded fun, like camping, golfing or container gardening, that you haven’t touched in a long time.
Of course, trying new hobbies and activities is a wonderful thing! But if you truly don’t have the time to devote to sewing a new bedroom set, and you’ll be lucky if you make it to a campsite once in the next five years, then all these items are creating clutter – and probably making you feel a little guilty for not following through on these ideas.
Note to self: You can’t do it all. At least not well anyway. Pick one hobby you really enjoy and focus on that.
Solution: If you want to do a specific creative project, carve out dedicated time to get it done before you buy all the supplies. And if you want to give a brand new activity a try, or you have activities you enjoy but rarely ever do, consider renting the gear (or borrowing from a friend) only when you actually need it.
4. I hold onto stuff I don’t even like.
Confession time: When I started to declutter, I found I still had all the photos and proofs from my first wedding (10 albums!), plus all the greeting cards from the guests. Not to mention all of the knick knack gifts. I think that’s close to hoarder territory yes?
So often, when we start to declutter, we realize how many items we own that not only serve no useful purpose, but we don’t even like! This can be everything from clothes you don’t feel good in, to collectibles you’re honestly not that fond of, to items received as gifts that you feel obligated to hang on to.
As you go through the decluttering process, make sure to ask yourself “Why am I holding on to this?” about each item. If the answer isn’t “because it makes me smile every time I see it,” “because I frequently get use out of it,” or something very similar, you don’t have to keep it – no matter how long you’ve had it or who gave it to you!
Note to self: Trying to find a home for stuff you don’t need or want is stressful and you don’t need that in your life.
Solution: Have conversations about gift giving with others and let them know that you are adopting a more minimalist lifestyle. If they insist on exchanging gifts, give them acceptable ideas that don’t involve any actual physical things coming in to lay roots in your home.
5. I have a lot of plastic bins but I’m still not organized.
I should have stock in Rubbermaid. The number of plastic bins in my house is crazy. Need an 11×14 size box? Hold on, I got that.
For years I thought that if I could box my things, and label them of course, I would be organized. And that would be true if I didn’t get lazy and just start boxing stuff up just to get it out of sight. When I wanted to find something, all those boxes and labels were no use at all as I would make a huge mess moving everything around to get at what I wanted.
Organizing without purging is just moving stuff around. What ultimately happens is that you end up organizing and boxing again and again and again.
When we get the urge to “get organized”, the first thing we normally do is run out and buy a bunch of plastic bins, daydreaming of everything in our home neatly put away and easy to find when we need it. But this can easily turn into stuffing items into bins and shoving them into a closet, never to be seen again. Or, you may end up with more “odds and ends” bins than you anticipated, full of items used so infrequently that you really don’t know what else to store them with. Though likely hidden from sight, the bins themselves become clutter at this point.
Note to self: A gazzilion plastic bins will not make you more organized.
Solution: Resist the tempting thought that once you have bins and boxes, organization will follow. Purge down to what you actually need, like, and want to keep, and then go out and get any organization supplies you need them. Chances are you already have a lot of plastic bins at home and you may need to purge those, too!
6. I have a lot of duplicates.
Where the heck is that stud finder, screw driver, covered casserole dish? I know I bought one last year.
When your home is too cluttered to be organized, it’s so easy to forget where you’ve stored things. And when you’re used to disorganization, it’s easy to let things like returning items to their rightful place slide. If you can never find what you need when you need it, you’ll probably end up buying new items to replace the lost ones. And then, eventually, in another decluttering burst, you’ll find that second (or third) stapler, waffle iron, copy of that novel, or pair of winter boots.
Note to self: Stop wasting money buying duplicates!!!
Solution: Avoid ending up with unnecessary duplicates by giving every item a home, and putting things away as soon as possible after using them!
7. I’ve buried the things I truly treasure under a mountain of stuff.
During the most recent purge of my closet, I came across some art I had purchased on my honeymoon. They were images and signs from the beach that my husband and I got married on. I had totally forgotten about them. They are really nice and actually fit my decor. So why are the shoved under my winter clothing?
When you have too much stuff and are buried in clutter, the things that bring you joy can sometimes get lost, or worse yet, damaged. How sad is that?
Personally, I think your home should be like a three dimensional vision board. Things that reflect happy times, dreams for the future and things that make you feel good should be on display and enjoyed. Your home should be a happy place and one that you look forward coming home to. If your head is always spinning about all the things you need to organize and move, you will never truly appreciate the peace and tranquility of home.
Note to self: Don’t hide the stuff you treasure and only bring them out on special occasions. Life is too short not to enjoy those things everyday.
Solution: Display what you love proudly. If you have to bury it under clutter, maybe you don’t really treasure it as much as you thought.
If decluttering has led you to discover some (or all) of these things about yourself, don’t beat yourself up. These self-truths you discover while you declutter your home will help you curb future clutter from entering your home. Knowing why the clutter was allowed to accumulate will go a long way to helping you stay on track and embrace a more minimalistic way of life.
Today is a new day, and you can embrace a new way! Decluttering can be an overwhelming process, but building new habits is worth it. You (and your space) will feel lighter and happier when you kick the clutter, and you’ll open up more room in your life for the things you love that really matter.