Three Early Lessons

Last week I introduced myself and wrote about the four objectives I’m going to work on this year. All four of them matter a lot to me. But I’ve realized I need to make a lot of headway towards my first objective if the other three are going to happen.

Objective #1 is To create a home which contains only things we need and love.

We live in a small house, about 1500 square feet. I like the coziness of small homes, and I realized a long time ago that we don’t need a bigger house because we don’t fully utilize all the space we have. Instead, we need to own less stuff.

I’ve managed to cram a lot of my clutter out of sight, but its existence still drains and stresses me. Over the years I’ve tried to get rid of things, but it seems to never end. I’m hoping this year will be the last time I ever do a major house purge. Since January I’ve donated a lot of clothes and miscellaneous items, and wanted to share what I’ve learned so far.

My second round of donations

1. The answers to our clutter problems are not in a book. Over the years I’ve brought home several books on decluttering and organizing, hoping just one would hold the key to dissolving the mental block which has led me to keep a pair of flannel pajamas from 1991, and more. Books about decluttering can be really insightful and motivating.  And while it’s great to learn about the underlying issues that lead us to hold on to things, reading is passive and decluttering requires action.

2. There is a definite chance we will give things away which we later need. Instead of using that as an excuse to keep unneeded items, look at it as an opportunity to think creatively. Recently I regretted donating a huge cooking pot which I never used. I’d promised to make a pasta dinner for a friend’s family and planned to make the same meal for my family. I needed two large pots, one for the pasta and one for the sauce, but only had one, which was also too small to cook all the pasta at once. After briefly kicking myself, I realized I could make the sauce in the slow cooker and cook the pasta in two batches. A little creative thinking helped me work around the problem. I still don’t miss that big honking pot.

3. Adding just one thing to a donation box is a victory. More than once I’ve opened my garage door, intending to go in and work for an hour. Instead, I shake my head and close the door again. I’m getting a reprieve at the moment because it’s too cold to work in there, but spring will be here soon and I will have no excuse. And when the time comes I’m going to think smaller. Since immediately slamming the door shut and walking away is my baseline, getting rid of even one thing will be an achievement. That’s where I’m going to begin.

On Wednesday I’ll talk more about how I managed to get let go of everything in the boxes and bags. My daughter is off from school this week, so I’ll also talk about the challenges of decluttering when you have kids.

8 Responses to Three Early Lessons

  1. Did a double take when I read ‘We live in a small house, about 1500 square feet’. We live in a small house of 400 sq ft, and 1500 is big to me. Although compared to the average American home 1500 is probably seen as small.

    As for ‘There is a definite chance we will give things away which we later need’ I find having lived in a tiny Paris apartment like YouTube channel Rachel Khoo Little Paris Kitchen makes one invest in multi use items. The same L Creuset cast iron enamel Dutch oven that I use for soups, stews, and slow cooked meats, also works for baking my no knead artisan breads. The loaf pans can be use for making cake, bread and/or meat loaves.

    And having a tiny kitchen a Vitamix does the job of a blender, food processor, stand and hand mixer, and frees up counter space.

    • Great tips! Thanks! I definitely like the idea of multiple uses for things. I have pared down quite a bit with pots and pans but still have a lot of separate small appliances. When it’s time to replace I think I am going to look into some multi-purpose ones.

      For where I live, my house is probably a little smaller than average. I’d say the average house around here is about 2,000-2,500 sf.

  2. dang, I’d rather read than most anything so I guess I was thinking I was “working on my clutter” when I was just procrastinating.

    I’ve done #2 {snicker} and worse, through something away that was missing a small part only to find the small part the next day when it was too late.

    #3 really hit me. I’ve become clutter blind to the garage so one ITEM at a time should be something I can do.


    • I’d rather read than do most anything too, and we have a lot of books. There are definitely going to be posts on storing books, buying books, donating books, etc. I have a problem with used book sales, I should really not be allowed to go to them because I buy way too much.

      I like the phrase ‘clutter blind.’ It’s great!

  3. When I decluttered my kitchen a little over three years ago (which was the tipping point that led our family to minimalism), everyone thought I was crazy. I have yet to come across a situation where I truly need something I let go of. I’ve only ever had to borrow one thing: This winter, my girls decided they wanted to make Christmas cookie cutouts and did not appreciate my “round ornament” idea. My mother lent me hers, and it was fun to see the cutters I’d grown up with. And equally fun to give them back when we were done.

    We also live in about 1500 square feet. Interested in seeing your process this year!

    • Thank you! It’s very rare for me to regret donating something, there’s just one time I donate something of my daughter’s and I am still traumatized by her reaction. Borrowing your childhood cookie cutters sounds like a great nostalgic moment, made better by the fact that you don’t have to store them!

  4. This message is the only way I found to tell you today’s post is somehow not working… I can read it in my mailing system, but not on the blog. Thought you might want to know.
    I have enjoyed reading your first posts, and am looking forward to the year to come on this blog. I am an ex-teacher myself, and stepped back three years ago to concentrate on my family, because life is so short…

    • Thanks for letting me know Janet- I accidentally published today’s post too early. It must have still gone out to the email subscribers. I’m still learning. 🙂 It’s good to hear from another ex-teacher!

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