NEW CHAPTER, NEW STYLE
I am 55 years old. My two kids are married, have kids of their own and live in another state. When I was a wife and mother I kept house a certain way, I cooked a certain way and I kept things because I more than likely would use it later on. But now it’s just my husband and me, we have more time and money than we used to, I know what I like and don’t like and most importantly the people I love most are half a continent away. I need to adjust, streamline and free myself, my money and my time up!
So, the first thing I’ve set out to do is lighten up my living space. I don’t need all this stuff! I don’t want to take the time to maintain all this stuff. I want to be free!
“I AM NOT A STORAGE SERVICE”
Ok, first things first. Since my kids are married and on their own, I don’t have to store their stuff anymore. I didn’t mind doing it when they were in college, they didn’t have a permanent home. However, they can take their stuff and put it in their home now! So, I’ve gone though everything that is technically theirs, texted them photos and said, “Do you want this?” What they want I have either shipped it to them or taken it to them when we visited. The rest? Out of my house!
Now that all I have to deal with belongs to me and my husband, I began a systematic plan of weeding out. I am in the middle of this process, so we’ll do it together!
I find that I spend a buttload ( a real term, btw) of time moving stuff in my house from one place to another. I clean up a room, put stuff in a closet, then run out of room in the closet and have to go through it and because I can’t bring myself to throw it out I move it to a box and put it in a storage area.
When guests come over or a there’s a holiday, I stress out because I have to completely go through my whole house and move junk just so I won’t be embarrassed or because I want to decorate. It’s like one of those torturous tile puzzles: I have to move one thing to make room for another, and then move something else to be able to move that thing!
I’m seriously sick of dealing with STUFF!! I hate coming home to work! I just want to come home to rest, but instead all I can see is stuff I have to clean up, pick up, organize or move. So I came up with a plan of attack. A plan to rid myself of junk and clutter so that I can spend more time enjoying my family and the freedom this chapter of my life (50+ years old) affords!
I feel like in every home there are layers of STUFF. So, I’ve defined those layers and put them in a particular order which will be the order of our attack. We will start at the top, do a sweep of that layer. We will go to the next layer, make a sweep and continue down the layers. You may want to stop, go back to the previous layer or jump to a deeper layer. It doesn’t matter, just do it your way in your timing.
Just like in archaeology we will do a light sweep of each layer. You don’t have to get rid of tons, just a little at a time.
I have gone through these layers about 3 times in this past year. With each sweep I take away a little more each time. And I feel a little freer and a little more organized each time.
Now remember, I’m not trying to get rid of everything in my life or your life. (We’re doing this together!) I’m trying to weed out the unnecessary, the stuff that is keeping me bogged down and burdened so that I can be free to do other things.
DESCRIPTION OF THE LAYERS
Top Layer – GARBAGE – this is literally trash that needs to be thrown away. Packaging, bathroom trash can, kitchen can, piles of unimportant papers, etc.
JUNK – this is like piles of mail, stuff that you borrowed that you need to return, piles of laundry to be put away or washed, basically stuff that needs to be returned to its place.
CLUTTER – this is knick knacks, decor, stuff that doesn’t have a place to be. Or too much stuff in one place that makes you feel smothered or claustrophobic.
DAILY LIFE – this is stuff that is essential to your daily life: your clothes, toiletries, linens, kitchen, bathroom, laundry stuff.
UNUSED STORED THINGS – this would be things you don’t use everyday. It could be seasonal decor, seasonal clothes, camping & sporting equipment.
FILES – this would be important papers that you have stored. Past years taxes, statements, titles, marriage/birth certificates, deeds, etc.
MEMORABILIA – this would be photos, awards, home movies, souvenirs, anything that is meaningful to you and your family history.
Now there is also a GOLDEN THREAD that runs through all of it (except the garbage, I hope) that represents those emotionally charged items that you love. So, you could have some clutter sitting around that you would never get rid of because it’s from your first date or a special moment. You could have your letterman’s jacket from high school in the coat closet. If you’re like me you have a DVD collection or music collection that you’ve worked on for a long time and you love them! So, as we go through each layer, there will be things we will respect because you love them so much!
As we begin, do this:
- Get three containers and one trash bag – one container for Think About It, one container for Give Away and another for Return and a trash bag for trash.
- Don’t try to create a system of organization until later. The first sweep is to just get rid of the things you KNOW you want to get rid of.
Ok, let’s get started!
GARBAGE – FIRST SWEEP
Ok, the first sweep we will make is to just walk through your house and throw out all the garbage. Empty all the trash cans and pick up any stray wrappers, packages, anything that is garbage. Put new liners in the cans. Then round up 3 large plastic bins or box and label one as “Think About It” one as “Give Away” and the other as “Return.” Put the “Return” box by the front door. Then get a large garbage bag to keep by your side. Easy, right?
JUNK – FIRST SWEEP
The next layer we will hit will the be Junk layer. This is the first sweep so don’t stress or overthink it. We’re just putting the junk in the general area where it belongs. Ok, so all you do is walk through each room and pick up the junk that doesn’t belong in that room and put it in the room or space where it belongs. So, the kid’s toys go to their room or the playroom. The socks and shoes in the living room go to whoever’s room they belong to. Take that borrowed item to the “Return” box by the front door. That stack of mail needs to go to the place where you pay the bills. Dishes go back in the kitchen. Dirty laundry goes where ever you put dirty laundry.
PAUSE & THINK: Ok, now you’re realizing that there are things that don’t have a home, like mail or charging cords or batteries. So, don’t get bogged down. Just think about what area in your home that thing needs to be in and just put it there.
CLEANING BREAK: Now it’s time to hit each room and clean it up. Pick up toys and clothes and stuff strewn around. Put it all away unless it doesn’t have a home (begin to think of where that home might need to be. Put the homeless stuff in neat stacks so you can eventually make a home for it.) Make the beds, clean the dishes and put them away. Sweep and mop. Dust and vacuum. Now, your house looks awesome! Ready to go deeper?
CLUTTER – FIRST SWEEP
Ok, get ready, now we’re going to get more serious. And this is where everyone will be different so I’ll give you the general plan of attack and you will have to individualize it to suit your taste.
Remember, this is just the first sweep, so you don’t have to make deep cuts at this point. The goal is to remove the clutter that makes you feel uncomfortable or gets in the way of cleaning or living which steals time away from your family.
You’re going to take each room one at a time and do basically the same thing in each room. Bring your bins and trash bag in the room. Stand in the middle of the room and take an assessment. How does it make you feel? Do you like the way it looks? Look at the wall decor, what’s on the table tops or counter tops? Notice if any of it makes you feel stressed.
Now, begin by starting in one corner of the room and begin to sweep through the room. Anything that you can remove, do it. Maybe you’ve chosen decor that you don’t really love, but just used it because you had it. Take this time to get rid of it. You don’t love it, so why not make room for something you do love? The wall or table top may be empty for a while but at least that second rate stuff won’t be there reminding you that you want something better. Remember your bins: “Think About It” and “Give Away” and your garbage bag. And none of those decisions are set in stone, you can change your mind. Just take a chance, see how much you can get rid of.
PAUSE & THINK: We all have to clean our houses, right? So while you’re going through the clutter, think about which of the stuff just slows down the cleaning process. Does it bother you that you have to take time to dust that clown figurine? Do you have to move any of the clutter on the floor to vacuum? Remember, we want to spend less time maintaining our belongings and more time with family and friends!
DAILY LIFE – FIRST SWEEP
Your house looks awesome, doesn’t it? And you’re feeling like you can breathe a little easier. Now, we’re going to take time from the big, broad sweeps and get a little more detailed. This step might take a while, days, weeks, so just chill.
The goal for this layer is to determine what items we need in our daily lives and which ones we don’t. You will be thinking about your daily routine and if you’ve been wanting to make some changes, now you can.
Ok, walk through your day. Maybe you start in the bathroom. Ok, where’s the toilet paper? Where do you store it? If it doesn’t have a home, make one. See how detailed I’m getting? Next, shower. Do you really need all those bottles of shampoo and conditioner? Get rid of some. Where are your towels? Hair dryer? Make sure these items have a home! Get rid of broken, threadbare items. Streamline your makeup, slim it down, get rid of the old junk!
The kitchen? What appliances do you actually use? Is that juicer sitting on the counter because you spent a ton of money on it but you only used it once and realized that you’d rather just buy juice? Put it in a bin! As you cook for the next few weeks, think about what you actually use and get rid of what you don’t. Are you terrified of cutting your finger off in a knife drawer? Get an organizer and get rid of the dull, dangerous knives. Put all your cooking utensils in a crock by the stove. Only keep what will fit in the crock. Do you really need ALL those coffee cups? If you do build a Luke’s Diner mug display! Put them out so you can enjoy them!
Leaving and coming home? Where do your keys stay when you’re not using them? Where do you put your purse or stuff when you hit the door?
Where does the mail go when you get it out of the box? Where do you pay the bills? Where do you file the statements after you pay the bills. Create a file system!
Now is the time to streamline and make a home for all of these daily things we have to deal with. Make a daily routine path that is orderly. When I get my mail, I stand over the trash can and go through it. I immediately throw out junk mail and put the bills and important items in a basket in my bill/file area. Take the time to create these kinds of systems so that you don’t have to spend all day Saturday going through junk mail and you can go to the park with your kids!
PINTEREST FUN! Now is the time to hit Pinterest and discover all those great organizing tools and tips! I’ve put some together for you at Minimalist Grandma on Pinterest.
PAUSE & THINK: So, you can see this layer may take a while. And you will probably think about your daily routine and systems often and find yourself constantly restructuring them. You will find yourself going back to previous layers and weeding out more clutter. You will find that we accumulate junk and garbage as we live our lives and you have to go back and re-sweep those layers. But you are developing a MINIMALIST MINDSET! You will notice that you will think twice about buying something because you realize you might eventually throw it out or it will get in the way of your cleaning routine or it will just bog you down. Why waste your money?
THE VEIN OF GOLD THAT RUNS THROUGH OUR LIVES
You’ll notice on my Stratographic Column of the Average American Home that there is a gold vein that runs through the layers of our lives. This represents all those things we own that have an emotional hold on us. You know the things, the ones that make your heart stop beating when you think about getting rid of them. They are emotionally charged items that you love. This is the source of the fear when we talk about going minimalist! So, what do we do about it? My answer? Love it! But keep asking yourself could you get rid of it?
Example: I have/had an amazing DVD collection. I worked on it for years. I had every production of Pride and Prejudice every put on film! I love movies and I loved my collection. So, I asked myself if I could get rid of them. Of course, the answer was NO! But I kept asking. First, I gave some to my daughter (they really didn’t leave me, I could always get them back, haha!). Then I donated some to the school, to other family members, to my friends. I kept making sweep after sweep and I knocked down my collection from about 1000 DVDs to about 300 and I’m still asking myself if I can get rid of them.
I just shipped off 3 boxes of DVDs to 3 different War Veterans Home/Hospitals because I asked myself, “If I knew of a veteran who was home bound or in the hospital and he asked if he could have one of my DVDs would I give it to him? YES!
But I’m not saying you have to give away all your most precious possessions. You do what you want to do. But if you’re serious about slimming down, freeing up your life and helping others, keep pushing yourself. You can do it!
YOU COULD SPEND THE REST OF YOUR LIFE IN THE FIRST 4 LAYERS. DO YOU WANT TO GO DEEPER? CAN YOU HANDLE IT?
After you’ve swept through the first 4 layers a few times and you’re getting a daily routine and system working (it takes a lot of tweaking, so don’t feel bad if you don’t) and you’re ready to tackle the deeper layers, then get ready, it’s a little harder.
UNUSED STORED THINGS – FIRST SWEEP
Ok, so think about where you have things stored. The attic, the basement, garage, closets, under the bed, cabinets. Decide on an order that you’re going to attack them and may I suggest the smallest and easiest area first, just to make yourself feel successful. Let me use my front coat closet as an example.
This crazy catch-all closet had all kinds of things: sporting equipment, a box of old school papers and award certificates from when my adult kids were in school. (I kept it there and just chunked all their awards and drawings and stuff in there as it came in the house. Can’t throw it away – the Golden Vein, remember? I had a bunch of framed photos, knick knacks, vacuum cleaner parts and a few coats. Crazy, right?
DECIDE WHAT YOU WANT THE AREA TO BE USED FOR!
I decided that I wanted to use the front closet for coats (because our bedroom closet is too small to house them.) and the vacuum cleaner (because I have no where else in the whole house to put it!). Then I followed the same plan that I detailed above by hitting the garbage, the junk, the clutter and then daily life.
I opened the door and immediately threw out the garbage: the broken vacuum belts and bags that no longer fit the newer vacuum, wire coat hangers, etc.
Then I went for the junk & clutter and moved it to the areas where it belonged. The sporting equipment to the basement, the framed photos and box of kid’s certificates down to the storage room where I had similar items.
Then I went for the Daily Life items. I went through the coats and put the ones that I knew we’d never use in the Give Away bin. Then made sure all the vacuum accessories were organized where I could easily get to them.
Well, that pretty much took care of the closet.
Notice I didn’t go through my Golden Vein box or the sporting equipment, I’ll save that for later. But at least it’s in the general area where it will either stay or I’ll get rid of it.
In later weeks, I did another sweep of the closet and was able to get rid of more coats and a couple of umbrellas. My husband crammed a football and basketball in there but I took them to the sporting goods area. He’ll learn!
REPEAT THE PROCESS IN OTHER AREAS – “Sweep & Repeat”
You can do this process in the attic, basement, garage and other places where you have stuffed stored. You can even do it with your food pantry, your cleaning supply cabinet, the linen closet, medicine cabinet, etc.
Do a sweep, clear out as much as you can and if you get overwhelmed, stop and come back to it later. Do another sweep at a later date. Repeat if necessary.
- Decide what the area will be used for and eliminate anything that doesn’t belong.
- Keep making sweeps until you get it like you want it.
- Take your time. No one is rushing you.
(I haven’t gotten to my files yet. I will post as soon as I get there.)
(I am in the middle of working through the memorabilia, I will post as soon as I’m finished!)