The Decluttering Diva

I have a thing for decluttering. Maybe it’s because I grew up with my mother, or because I had a bad dream once about a mountain of stuff collapsing on me. Or maybe it’s because I see room for improvement wherever I look, and it pleases me to open my closet door and see everything organized.

Whenever I’m bored (which happens far too often, my father tells me), I prowl the internet for books to read, then check them out at the library. This time it was Decluttering at the Speed of Life, by Dana K. White. I’ve read a lot of books on getting rid of stuff, from Marie Kondo (don’t keep it unless you love it) to books left over from garage sales without a single crease in their spine. (A gift from a relative hoping they would not have to deal with that person’s stuff one day?) But this is the first decluttering book I’ve read from an actual former hoarder.

Most people are pack rats. Some of them are hoarders. Hoarders are the people who have so much stuff, they have to walk between piles of it to reach the bathroom. There’s lots of them on YouTube, where you can spend hours watching clean-freaks tackle the houses of compulsive hoarders. (What? You watch otter videos instead? Shame on you!) Some hoarders keep “every- thing” (like plastic lids, full trash bags, stacks of newspapers, etc), but more common are “selective” hoarders, who just have too much stuff because they never, ever downsize or throw stuff out.

Dana was one of the latter. She talks about picking up clothes off a pile on the floor, because she had so much stuff in her drawers, she never folded her laundry. She talks about the ton of ironwork in her backyard because she was “going to weld any day now.” She talks about stuffed kitchen cabinets and bathroom closets.

The biggest, most mind-blowing thing I learned from her book is containers are to limit what you have, not something you buy to organize more stuff. Her bottom line is simple: if it doesn’t fit, don’t keep it. If it won’t fit in the pantry, either eat or throw out old food (cans have expiration dates, you know!). If it won’t fit in the closet, either it can’t stay or give away something else so it will fit. She says the things you love most or use the most get top priority; any space left, you fill with “lesser” items of personal value, and give away or throw away what’s left.

She talks about releasing yourself from guilt, by giving away things you don’t want or have never liked—if it’s not hanging in your closet, you don’t have to feel guilty for spending so much money on something you’ve never worn. If your uncle gave it to you and you hate it, put it in the donate box. Someone else can love it, instead. She also said to “declutter” your dreams regularly, meaning get rid of hobby materials you haven’t touched in years (and aren’t likely to take up again) and all the “someday…” Someday, she wanted to learn to weld. But not enough to go out into the garage and weld. 15 years later, after hauling a ton of tools to several houses, she finally got rid of it.

declutter

She talked about visible surfaces in your house and home, but I’d take it a step further and say, “Declutter your life.” Do you need a thousand digital photos from your vacation or 30 of the best ones? Do you need to keep emails from five years ago or just the last six months? Have you emptied your computer’s trash folder lately? And deleted old documents?

I like my life best when it’s uncluttered. When I can see the few precious items on my shelf rather than having them hide behind other things. When I can see what I have in my closet, and wear it, rather than forgetting that little black dress. When I don’t have to dig around in a drawer for my make-up, because I only have one mascara. When I can find things on my computer, and it runs faster because all the old documents and files are gone. When I fill up my life with the people and hobbies I love most and fill my free time with other things.

For me, part of an uncluttered life means not being in such a rush. I like to sit out on my porch with my family over a cold soda and talk for a half hour about… whatever we want, while my cats eat grass so they can later barf on my rug.

I hauled six bags of stuff and a bunch of old, heavy furniture out this week. I think my house just breathed a sigh of relief. She appreciates her new weight-loss plan.

Here’s a few super simple ways to Declutter.

Dump out your make-up. Did you know most make-up you should use within six months? If it’s so old, you can’t remember when you bought it, throw it in the trash. Your skin will thank you. If you have not used that mascara for ages, and even bought a different one to avoid using it, trash it.

Clear off a shelf. Put back the things you love most, first. Then, the stuff you like. Do you need the rest? If not, put it in a give-away box.

Put all “like” things together. You don’t know how much you have of something, until you gather it all up. You may find out you own 14 of the same size Philips head screwdrivers. Keep the best, give away the rest.

Prioritize space for what matters most.  I like to host teas for my friends at least four times a year. Therefore, I can justify having space for several different-colored tablecloths, napkin sets, and plate chargers. I may have to clear out a space to keep it, so other “less important” hobbies must go.

Keep less, use it more. When you only have a few things, you notice and use them more. Yes, they wear out, but it’ll be from a life of love.

10 thoughts on “The Decluttering Diva

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  1. I go through my house every year and get rid of stuff — I usually host a massive yard sale that my friends join, though this year, we’re having it at church and donating all the money to missions. And STILL I have too much stuff.

    I’ve learned over the years that I often need time to say goodbye to physical objects. So I’ll think, “I could get rid of XYZ,” and then it will take me about six months to actually be ready to let go of it. So I try not to beat myself up over that, but instead to allow myself time so I don’t later have this huge bout of regret over giving away XYZ.

    Sometimes I get rid of books or movies that I think I’m done with, and then later buy another copy of them cuz it turns out, nope, not done having them in my life. So I try to be careful when culling my shelves in particular.

    1. I live in the middle of nowhere, so yard sales sadly don’t work for me. 😉

      Most of the time, I don’t regret getting rid of things… I often forget I owned them in the first place! But I’m very hesitant about giving away movies (more so than books, since I don’t buy many books) — because like you, I’m afraid I’m not done with them after all. I’ve learned to buy fewer movies. Or… I’m trying. The fact that I walked in with Jurassic World II yesterday says I’m not done buying movies altogether. HAH!

  2. I kinda need to get rid of the clothes I really don’t like wearing, & replace them with new ones.

    But then half of my brain is all “it’s wasteful to ditch something that’s not worn out, even if you don’t like it at all“.

    Shut up, Brain 😛

    1. When giving something away to a thrift store, think of it as re-gifting them to people who could not afford them when they were new. Being generous is not a sin. 😉

      1. That’s a lovely idea! You’re right, I CAN afford new clothes and there are people in my community who can’t–so my still-in-good-condition used stuff will make them happy. At the same time as I’m buying stuff that makes ME happy . . . I like this 😉

  3. Good post! I did go through my clothes a week or so ago and got rid of some stuff. It is nice to have a little more space in my drawers/closet. There are some other areas I need to clean/reorganize. Hope you don’t mind comments like this from new commenters.

    1. I always think, “Oh, I don’t need to declutter, I haven’t kept anything I don’t need…” and then I realize I totally have kept things I didn’t need. In my case, I’d lost some weight and half the stuff in my closet no longer fit right. (Great reason to give stuff away, right? But still… I had to give away my favorite jacket. Who knew you could lose weight on your SHOULDERS?!) I think there’s still a couple of dresses in there I’ll never wear, but I like them so much I hate to get rid of them.

      And no, I don’t mind random comments from new followers — I’m delighted to speak to new people. 🙂

      1. Who knew indeed? I was removing mostly stuff I didn’t wear or was old/stained. I am glad to meet you too! I hope you have a good weekend!

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