The following is a guest post from Kandice of The Simple Year Two, who shares what she and her family have been up to since her year ended, and how their decluttering and downsizing efforts continue.
I’ve been reflecting a lot lately on my Simple Year and what has happened in the years following it. My family and I made so much progress during that year, which I sometimes refer to as decluttering on steroids.
The project, and regularly blogging about it, brought both accountability and structure to the process. I was stuck at home alone all day, recovering from major spine surgery, so the blog also functioned as a connection to the outside world. It forced me to break an overwhelming process into manageable pieces.
It’s Been 4 Years? What?
Since my year ended, as happens to everyone at some point or another in their lives, things took a turn for the worse. My physical condition deteriorated so fast and so drastically, I could not drive and I left my bed solely for medical appointments. My legs would regularly give out from under me and I would faint from second order effects of my condition.
Any extra bursts of energy were spent fighting my insurance company – they denied a surgery two surgeons said was necessary to treat my condition and that was my last possible hope for quality of life. I’m not being melodramatic — the situation was really that dire.
Momentum on our decluttering project ground to a screeching halt.
When you get knocked down, GET BACK UP.
Fast forward, I won my 2 year battle with the insurance company, got the surgery I needed, and now, 21 months post-op, I’m still in physical therapy. This may be as good as it gets, but I have around 3 (short) good days a week, 4 when I’m lucky. The other days aren’t awesome, and some entire weeks I function at a bare minimum, but I’m not complaining. My family isn’t complaining. A month or so ago, I went to one of my daughter’s sporting events, which was the first one I’d attended in 7 years.
At this point you may be thinking, “Well, thanks for the update, Kandice, but I don’t care about your back. What does all of that have to do with your decluttering project?” To which I say, “EVERYTHING!”
I’ll be brutally honest. In the last few years more stuff came into our home than I would have preferred, things were purchased for convenience that weren’t necessary, and the dreaded paper continued coming in faster than I could get rid of it. I was basically incapacitated, and our lives lived in survival mode, so I’m not beating myself or anyone else up over it.
Lasting Behavioral Changes: We Are All Different
One of the more big picture things we learned from the project is that each member of the family has different strengths and weaknesses when it comes to stuff management. We now know what they are, whether it’s decluttering, refusing, or patterns to our daily living behavior.
By way of example, a few weeks ago, I heard a lot of activity coming from my daughter’s room. When I walked in to see what she was doing, I found her piling up clothes she’d outgrown. She had designated sell and donate piles, had a bag for recycle, and a bag for trash. She told me she’d looked around her room, felt like it was too full of stuff she no longer wanted, needed or used, and got to work. I call this a major win. Decluttering now is a strength of hers. Her weakness, on the other hand, is that she has to constantly battle a desire for stuff. So, she’s great at identifying what needs to go out, but she has a hard time limiting what comes in.
Our son is the exact opposite. He is best at not buying a ton of stuff or bringing random crap home. He doesn’t care about wearing hand-me-down school uniforms and asks for the bare minimum in school supplies — he’s fine using what we already have at home and being creative with it. His weaknesses are electronics, gaming gear, and gaming convention memorabilia. These are big purchases he saves up for, so they are less frequent. But, holy goodness, nothing ever goes out. We have to work on that.
Stephen and I are similar. I am more likely to buy stuff out of convenience or on impulse, and eventually designate excess for donation. Stephen doesn’t bring as much stuff home, but he has a harder time letting go of what is here. We both wage epic, ongoing battles with paper. We both independently take opportunities to declutter hot spots as we can, and when we simply get irritated by them.
Downsizing Our Home
If you followed along during Simple Year 2, you’ll remember one of our goals was to downsize everything, including our home. That goal was put on hold, but it is now back on the front burner.
Because our family has had, and continues to have, so many conversations about decluttering, needs, wants, mindless accumulation, recycling, the use of resources, and values, we are better equipped to look around and analyze how our home and everything in it is being used.
We have determined, as a family, that we never use our pool, our children no longer play outside in our huge yard, no one uses our formal dining room, sunroom or guest room, and while this house that served us well for a decade, it no longer fits our lives. We all would prefer that the resources (financial, energy, maintenance, etc.) currently directed to areas we don’t actually use instead be diverted towards travel, concerts and other experiential things.
We are starting the research phase with respect to neighborhoods we will consider moving TO, our strategy with respect to the sale of our current home, and identifying items in our home we need to process OUT in anticipation of moving.
I am grateful the entire family is fully onboard, as opposed to me being the driver and my family simply humoring me, as was the case during our Simple Year. The kids are excited about this change, which should make the process less difficult and stressful.
Looking back on the project, it was unreasonable to expect we would accomplish all of our goals in one year, especially given our particular circumstances. But everyone has their own challenges, whether they are physical injuries or illnesses, a divorce, or something that brings them to their knees.
The fact that goals are audacious shouldn’t stop anyone from making them. Even if you only get halfway there, you can still be proud of the progress you made. And that progress can still improve your day-to-day life.
What wins, big or small, have you all experienced? I’d love to hear all about them. Let’s cheer each other on in the comments!