Living Lightly

I have been feeling like I really need to declutter the house this summer, but I get overwhelmed whenever I think about it. I read a post here about this family that lives in a 750 square foot chalet, and has just the minimal amount of stuff to live beautifully and simply. It looks so lovely.

Then, I was reading in Crystal Paine’s Moneysaving Mom’s Budget book about decluttering (she’s a minimalist too), and she was saying that there’s no point trying to have a budget or goals when you’re drowning in clutter and really you need to set aside a weekend to get your house decluttered and in order before going any further. She also said that when she and her husband got married they lived in a 750 square foot apartment (notice a theme here?) with one bedroom and one bathroom. She said this, which I think is profound: the less space you have, the less stuff you need.

Isn’t that brilliant? I think that’s so true. Our family seem to follow that 80/20 idea pretty well, that we use 20% of our stuff 80% of the time. Most of the junk in the cabinets and closets and drawers we NEVER use. And because we live in Oklahoma, where housing costs are so low, we have what most people in this country would consider an enormous house. But because we have all that space, I just keep hanging on to stuff I don’t need anymore, because I can stick it somewhere, except then all the cabinets are full when I come home with a giant container of toilet paper there’s nowhere to put it so there are rolls of toilet paper on the floor, and nowhere to stuff the clean laundry, and it’s just exhausting.

I’ve never really organized my husband and my bedroom/bathroom area, the whole thing, all the way through, since we’ve got married and I moved in with all my stuff and we sort of just shoved it somewhere. Since we got married. Ten years.

So Thursday night, I read the part in Crystal’s book where you set a timer for 30 minutes and go through a room. I already know that Crystal and I live in parallel universes, so 30 minutes in her time is at least 3 hours in mine, so I was planning on a good few hours. It took two days.

From early Friday morning, to when the kids were at the Friday afternoon babysitter, to when my husband and my dad took the kids to the YMCA to swim today, every moment I could, I worked. I counted up about 20 hours. Actually, I still have a few hours of putting things away in other rooms left, so I’d say maybe twenty-two total. And this is for ONE room! Well one room plus the bathroom and the closet, so it was more like three areas, but anyway, one HUGE area filled with tons of stuff.

But, oh, it’s so glorious. I went through every drawer, every tub under the bed, every corner, every nook, every cranny, every shelf of the closet, the cabinets in the bathroom, every bit.

I took 5 huge black trashbags full to Goodwill. We threw 10 + black trashbags away. And most of the decisions I was dreading weren’t even hard. Holey undershirts? Trash. Twenty half-used travel bottles of lotion? Trash. Old sweaters my husband never wore? Goodwill. Cute candleholders I got for a gift but never used? Goodwill. I just had to flip that switch in my brain to ask: Have I used this in the last two years? And if the answer was no, it went away, with only a few exceptions. I kept thinking—if I were moving to a 750 sq. foot house would I take this? Usually the answer was—no way!

I’d say we reduced our stuff by half. We got rid of at least 50% of the stuff in that room. But we have everything we need and use, easily at hand and organized. What’s left is exactly what we need. (We might add a few more things out of the closet later. These were just the easy, no-brainer things.) I might even wear makeup now occasionally now that I can find it!

I grew up with my parents keeping everything forever, because a) there could always be another use for that broken, old something or b) some sentimental reason (someone gave it to them, it was some great aunt’s plate). I have to get over that. It’s getting easier. Each time I do this (I’ve done this before in other rooms) I love the lightness of the space and the utility of it so much that I don’t regret getting rid of a thing. It’s totally worth the time and effort and mental energy to tackle this in order to have a life that works again.

I am excited about our room! I think I’ll actually have the energy to paint (and call a painter friend for parts), and swap out the outdated fixtures now. Before it felt like way too much work, but now that so much junk is gone, it seems totally doable. I am taking pictures so maybe I’ll post some when it’s all done. For now just picture lots of trash bags of junk exiting our house. Beautiful! (Also, I’m not posting any pictures because it’s too much work. I need to go to bed.)

Next up: the kids’ rooms and putting away the laundry basket full of stuff from our room. Hopefully we’ll get them done in two days because the carpet people are coming on Tuesday, thank heavens, to clean our disgusting carpet.

Oh, and then the best part! My parents-in-law got me a Yankee candle gift card for my birthday so I got yummy new Yankee candles. My husband was home so we had dinner by candlelight in a clean kitchen with our hilarious children, the tiger lilies my daughter picked for me in a vase, and actual food to eat. Granted it was from Subway, but still, it was food, at our table, in a clean kitchen. We’re making progress.

What about you? Have you ever and a cleaning frenzy and felt better afterwards? What do you like to organize?

2 thoughts on “Living Lightly

  1. Doesn’t it feel wonderful? Our house now is 900 sq. ft., but our apt. was 750 in Albertville. It does force me to de-clutter often because we are bursting at the seams. You can still have your lovely spacious house- just neat, organized, and clutter-free. The best of both worlds! Thanks for the inspiration…

    • Yes, you guys are a great example, of living with a family of 6 (almost 7) in a small space. And, the whole process of going into missions –giving up most of your stuff (and storing some) to pare down to the essentials. Scary and hard, but freeing I bet. Thanks for checking in Dana! I miss you guys! I was just listening to this radio show talking about fresh peas in France. Yum! :)