I have been on a serious decluttering kick in the last couple of weeks – and I tend to constantly be decluttering, so that’s saying something!
Here’s what I’ve given away so far:
- 12 upholstered dining room chairs – very comfy but wide and could only comfortably fit 10 around the table; it was a pain when guests came to have to switch some narrower chairs with our regular chairs
- 1 set of pots – I was washing a lot of pots at the end of the day, and it hit me that it was because I had so many that it was easier for the kids to just pull out something clean each time they needed it
- 1 set of dishes, service for 14 – this was hard to get rid of because I paid so much money for them, but I inherited a set of stoneware dishes for 12 that was better suited to Shabbos, and I recently bought a nicer melamine set of dishes for the week – so more than one set was definitely overkill, and the set I gave away was never quite what I wanted
- two sets of encyclopedias – one regular, one Judaic – I love the idea of having them but they take up a lot of space and we weren’t putting them to good use
- 1 treadle sewing machine – a machine that isn’t powered by electricity is fantastic, and treadle machines are particularly good for kids who are learning to sew – but I don’t know how to use it and haven’t learned in the three years since my mom asked me to keep it here
- 1 sewing machine in cabinet – I have two portable sewing machines that are more space efficient, even though this one is much better quality (made in the old days when things were made to last!); practically speaking it’s easier for me to bring the machine to where I am than take myself to where the machine is
- high chair
- car seat- I’ll get another one when I need one
- 3 large garbage bags of baby boy clothes – it was shocking how many baby clothes I’ve accumulated – I could have easily dressed triplet boys (still holding on to baby girl clothes, though – I’m still hoping we’ll one day even the score!)
- several hundred books – donated to a book exchange, still have a box with probably a hundred more that I’ll take tomorrow
- homeschooling curriculum and textbooks
- 2 full size bookshelves
- gave away a number of board games that we weren’t using (though the shelf still seems full!), also a chemistry set
- 1 cordless phone – our kids chipped in to buy use a new phone that has two handsets and an intercom feature (our room is in the attic on the third floor, and this makes it possible to get a message downstairs without having to really raise your voice), so we no longer needed this
- in addition to all of that, today – one overflowing shopping cart to Goodwill – blankets, cushions, clothes, shoe.
What prompted me to do this at this particularly busy time? I took a look around and started thinking about where most of the mess comes from, what makes me feel relaxed, and what makes me feel less than positive. One big project that grew out of this thinking was something that I’ve spent the last three days on.
We had 8 full sized bookshelves in our home, all about 6 feet high and all stuffed. Four were in the dining room, three were in the hallway upstairs, and one was in ds17’s room. I decided that I wanted to move all the bookshelves out of the dining room to open up the space – I love books and we use them a lot but they create a lot of clutter, visual and physical. (When my littles take a book off the shelf, they end up taking off another 10 or so at the same time, most of which end up scattered on the floor right in front of the shelves.)
To begin, we moved a double bookshelf to the living room, but first had to cut it down by 3 inches so it would look right in the available space. You know I wasn’t rebuilding it – good thing I have a very competent son who is willing to help his mother with her great ideas. Then with those gone, I only had two more bookshelves. This required a lot more work than the first set of shelves. To do this, I needed to: a) find another bookshelf to bring down to replace one of them so I could move it to a better spot – only one bookshelf in the house was narrow enough; b) move books from one bookshelf to a shelf upstairs; c) empty an entire bookshelf upstairs to make room for the migrating books.
Well, this wasn’t simple at all, and if I try to explain all the logistics of how I turned everything upside down to put it all right side up again, I’m going to lose you because it’s complicated. Even my family members who were watching me and who I kept explaining my idea to were having a hard time following me. But after moving almost every book in every single bookshelf, and a few days in which hallways were stacked with books and only the periphery of the dining room table could be used for meals, it’s done. I’ve eliminated 2 entire bookshelves, meaning 1/4 of the books we had, ds17 no longer has a bookshelf in his room, and I incredibly have extra space on a number of shelves!
Though I was definitely the driving force with this project, when dh came home tonight, he got right to work sorting through his seforim (Jewish religious books). I had asked him in advance to mentally be prepared for that since it was the last part of the project and I couldn’t do it for him. Amazingly, he was far more ruthless than I could have even hoped for! We have about four banana boxes full of books – one box will be donated to a local synagogue right away tomorrow morning, the others are stacked neatly in the basement while we decide what to do with them.
My husband has a habit of picking up books that I’ve checked out to read from the library, and then keeping them with him until he’s finished with them. Since he takes them to work and doesn’t read as fast as me (not many people do! ), that usually means I don’t end up reading whatever book he’s taken a fancy to before it’s due. Such was recently the case with the book The Power of Less (I finally checked out another copy for myself). He found it very valuable, and it was this reading that helped him mentally shift into a readiness to let go of things he’s had for a long time.
These books were all purchased retail, have been through numerous moves, transatlantic, cross country, and intercity. So a lot of money, effort, and emotion has been spent on them. But you know what? Sometimes we hold on to things because we spent so much money, and it feels like a waste to let go of it. But it’s crazy to keep holding on to something just because we have to justify the past investment in it. The money was spent, and the money is long gone! So I decided, if it’s not serving me right now or in the reasonably foreseeable future, then it needs to go.
Though I was looking at my decluttering from an analysis of how the 80/20 rule could be applied to keeping things clean, and my husband was viewing it from a different angle, we were really on exactly the same page.
On Tuesday a thrift store that I sometimes drop in at happened to have some beautiful used furniture – and I happened to have taken both bench seats out in preparation for my monthly shopping at the suggestion of dd9 (more often I only take out one bench seat). And what I saw was a set – two dressers and a hutch, and for an incredibly low price – just $20 for everything! Apparently it had just been put out at the end of the day before closing, and then we came in first thing in the morning – so we were definitely in the right place at the right time.
The dresser in the boys’ bedroom is falling apart and this was such perfect timing – it was wonderful to get such an amazing bargain, but it was also fantastic that at this busy time, I didn’t have to go out of my way to shop for this, which I really needed. Their room just wasn’t staying clean and it was because with some drawers not working properly or even broken, they didn’t have enough space for their clothing. So tomorrow morning we’ll take the old dresser and some other odds and ends to the dump – more purposeful decluttering!
Moving the bookshelves and giving away the bulky dining room chairs has really opened up the space in the dining room – when dd11 and ds15 came home tonight from MI, they both immediately commented on how much larger the room seems. And because bookshelves attract clutter – loose papers and items that don’t have a home seem to find a place there – there’s will be a lot less to clear up and clean around.
It was a huge amount of work, particularly since the older kids weren’t around to help much, but it was worth it. Getting rid of things that don’t serve you is very freeing – it feels like I’m making room for more good things to enter our lives (and I don’t mean more ‘stuff’)!