Did I Mention We Live In A Small House? {Thoughts on Clearing The Clutter}

When we chose our little farmhouse we knew, based on square footage, we'd be downsizing.  We were both ok with that.  While our home certainly doesn't qualify for the "tiny house movement", at 1,100 square feet it's considerably smaller than the average home.  Our home has 1 tiny bathroom, no dishwasher, no laundry room {it's in a closet} and no kitchen pantry.  Despite this, I can honestly say that when we move again I won't want much larger of a home than we currently have.  I'd like a slightly larger living room and at least 1 1/2 baths, but that's it.

Knowing we were about to move into less space, after we started the buying process for our home we began purging things we no longer needed or wanted.  But here I am, 6 years later, wanting to purge more.  The Voluntary Simplicity and Minimalism movements speak to me.  A less cluttered space, I'm finding, give me a less cluttered mind.  While I don't ever intend to get rid of everything, or trying to live with, say, 100 things, I do feel a desire to simplify and clear clutter.

I've written about Voluntary Simplicity before, which I use interchangeably with the word "minimalism" to describe my desire to live with less.  Minimalism is described by Josh Becket as:  "the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of everything that distracts us from it.  It requires a conscious decision."  I like this because it resonates with me to get rid of excess and surround myself only with things I value.

I'm a Virgo and have always been a bit obsessive about organization.  I come from a family of collectors - our home was always filled with different collections in every room.  So it's no surprise that I began collecting at an early age.  My collections evolved into organized clutter.  That is, until about 10 years ago when I looked at all the "things" and suddenly realized the stuff no longer brought me pleasure.  Instead, it was feeling chaotic.

As things left our home, I felt a sense of relief.  Lightness, really.  And as I was able to let go of a few things, getting rid of more became easier.  How did we get rid of them?  Over the course of the last 10 years, some things we sold at a garage sale, some things on Ebay, some through our local Want Ad Digest, others were given to friends/family and many things were donated to local thrift stores, daycare centers, schools, churches, etc.

I can honestly say there isn't one item I've gotten rid of that I've ever felt regret for.

The saying "there is more joy in owning less than can be found in owning more" was beginning to hit home.

What I've begun to realize is that "stuff" owns space in my home as well as my time.  The only things I want to own are those that hold a special place in my heart and/or those things I use frequently.  I want to appreciate the things I surround myself with.  I mean, why buy stuff for my stuff?  Organizational bins, totes, etc. are big business because we want to keep our stuff organized so we can add more, well.....stuff.

So, where does this leave me now?  I've decided to go room-by-room and take a look at everything.  At this point all of my "stuff" is in the house with the exception of our Christmas items.  J still has his own collections in totes, but that's for him to worry about and he doesn't feel the same need to purge.

I think purging in stages, over the course of years, has made it feel less daunting, and allowed me time in between the purges to settle and reassess.

What about you, have you started clearing your own clutter?  If so, what have you found works for you?

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Nikala said...

Love this! We live in a 400sqft house...a little apartment in the corner of my inlaws shop. It has a vaulted ceiling, and then a little loft area (tall enough for my 6'4 husband to stand in!). It's our first home together, and our next house will be small, but big enough to accommodate kids! Most houses today are poorly designed, wasting valuable space and much too big! Design it right and it'll be small, cozy, and comfortable!

Rachel said...

Inspiring post! I can relate, as I'm raising 3 kids in a home about the same size as yours. As the years go by, I'm realizing how much clutter stresses me out, and how little we really need. I think that if you have less stuff, it allows you to better appreciate what you DO have. I had to laugh at the part about organizational bins and totes being big business because I have this obsession with getting nice, matching baskets for organization, which then end up hiding a bunch of daunting clutter that I don't dare to go through LOL!

September Violets said...

I'm always interested in reading tips on ways to purge. My trouble is keeping things of my parents that hold way to many memories. I think I feel I'm hanging onto my mother a little longer if I can keep her stuff. She loved her things, and I do too, so it's been a struggle to let things go. I think taking some time away from it for a while does give me the strength to assess my "need" for them a bit better. I like to keep things if I'm using them, but if they're in the way and not useful after a year or so, I have to admit I don't really need it and it's easier to send out the door. It's been a long haul, and I'm not at that "lightened" feeling that you speak of yet. Good luck with your continued purging too. Wendy x

Anonymous said...

We live in a tiny house too and one of the HARDEST things to purge was my collection of hardcover books - hundreds of books that I would never read again just collecting dust (I kept the "good" ones). What followed that gut-wrenching drive to the used book store was a huge sense of relief when I realized I no longer had to dust books that were just taking up LOTS of space in my tiny home. Turns out it was quite liberating. My home is filled with things that make me feel good or add value to my life. After the books - any other purge is quite easy. :-)

Linda said...

A lot of what September Violets wrote applies to me. I'm highly sentimental, so I keep a lot of "stuff" because a treasured family member or friend gave them to me. When I look at those items, I'm reminded of those people who have been special in my life. Additionally, my mother grew up on a farm in the depression, so I got the "you never know when you might need it" message. However, I'm becoming increasingly aware that my home is crowded (although quite organized), so I very much appreciate your post and the reminder that I don't have to have ALL of the items to remind me of treasured family and friends.

Staci at Life At Cobble Hill Farm said...

I agree Nikala and so nice that you're figuring out how to make your space work for you!

Rachel, that's exactly what I found happens - I get things all organized in lovely little totes and never go through it. :)

Wendy, that has been one of the most difficult things I've faced - purging family items. Still is a hard one. :)

Elizabeth, I can relate. My last collection to break up was books. And you're right - so liberating to finally pare it down to a more manageable size!

Linda, we do the "never know what you might need" for outdoor items - pieces of fencing, wood, etc. because we know we'll go to those stacks first. And I too find parting with family items the more difficult things. :)

Terri said...

I'm decluttering over time. It doesn't seem as daunting and I consider carefully what I'm purging. I have things stored in the garage I haven't even looked at yet.

Kat said...

Hi Staci--another great post! You are a kindred spirit, my friend. I find it so funny, that lately, I've been going through the same thing--looking around and feeling restless and squirmy that we have just too much stuff. I go back to the three questions I saw somewhere--"Is it useful? Is it beautiful? Do you love it?". The answer has been too much lately..."ummm--maybe not so much". It might be time for quite a few possessions to move on to become useful, beautiful and loved by someone else. One question, though, how do you handle gifts given by sweet friends or family that are no longer used? I find it so hard to let these (and books...let's be honest...books are a huge weakness, but take up so much space) go? :)