Monday, September 13, 2010

Living with Less

One of the things you learn pretty quick when you live in a small home is, besides being organized, you need to pare down your stuff.

Organization is great.  But no amount of organization will make too much stuff fit comfortably into too little space!

It’s just that simple.

That’s like me trying to squeeze my size 16 rear end into size 8 jeans!  Even if by some miracle of cosmic dimensions I actually do…the seams are going to burst out, I won’t be able to button them, they will be too short, cut off my circulation…you get the idea. :P

Stuffing too much stuff into a tiny house…you get the same result.  You can’t breath! There’s no room to move! The seams are going to burst!

It’s essential that you pare down your belongings to fit within the constraints of your home.

How do you decide what goes and what stays?  Well, that’s easier for some us rather than others.

Me, I don’t like to hold on to anything I’m not using or I feel has out-served its usefulness.  Sometimes this is to my own detriment.  I have a tendency to get rid of stuff on a whim when I’m feeling overwhelmed and then regret it later. (I also buy things on the same whims…not good!)

This probably isn’t the best approach.  Ok, no probably to it…don’t do it my way!!  Wait to sort through your belongings when things are relatively normal or calm.  You don’t want to make these decisions based solely on emotion or you will probably end up with some regrets when it's all done.

The other thing I do a lot which forces me to go through my stuff and purge is…I move a lot.  On average, every 2 years! I also do not recommend this approach!  It’s costly and exhausting!

So, what do I recommend you ask?

Well, I’m glad you asked! :)

Start in one small area.  Don't try to do your whole house in a day!  This process could take months! 

Some books say set a timer for 15 minutes when the timer goes off your done this time around.  I think you can go longer than that...but the point is the longer you spend at one time going through stuff, the less impartial you become and tend to keep more.  So, start with one drawer, go through it and stop.  Don't overwhelm yourself!! 

In Erin's school of purging, you would create three piles...Keep, Donate, and Unsure.

Obviously the keep pile will be pretty easy.  It the Donate pile that's tricky.

One of the first things to look at when you are considering whether to keep something or purge it, is, ask yourself when is the last time you used the item?

A good rule of thumb is, if it’s been over a year since you used it or wore it, chances are good…you don’t need donate it!

If you still aren’t sure, one of the things that is recommended is, box up the item you are unsure of. Put a “Discard Date” on the outside of the box, six months from the date you sealed the box. Now store the box in the basement or garage or shed or wherever. If you haven’t needed the items in the box by that date, donate the UNOPENED box! Or better yet…have a friend store it and discard the box for you if you haven’t asked for something by that date! That way you aren’t tempted to open it and keep the stuff that’s in there (that you probably forgot was in there in the first place)!

Resist the urge to open the box because you ‘forgot what was in there’! That’s the whole point. If you forgot and haven’t needed it…you still don’t need it! Just take it unopened and donate it…you won’t miss it!

Sentimental items…well, I could (and probably will someday) dedicate a whole post to the topic. But essentially, WHY do you hold onto items you deem sentimental?

I’ll tell you why…it’s the MEMORY that is attached to the item.  It isn’t usually the item itself; it’s the memory of the person or event that you cherish.

So, take a couple really good pictures and get rid of the item.  Looking at the picture will bring back that same memory...and storing a picture takes up a lot less room than storing the stuff.

Now, please don’t misunderstand me. Sure, there are some things we won’t want to get rid of…and that’s fine!  This is a just a way to help you let go of excess stuff…not stuff you love.

If you are serious about paring down your belongings and are unsure what to get rid of or where to start, I recommend any of Don Aslett’s books!  “Clutter’s Last Stand” was probably my personal favorite.  And I’m sure you can borrow it from your local library for free.

I’ve also read “Clutter Free Finally & Forever” and “For Packrats Only” which are pretty similar in nature to “Clutter’s Last Stand.”

They are very easy and quick reads…and funny!  He makes you look at some of the things you hold onto for fear of ‘needing’ it someday or guilt of throwing it away.  He addresses gifts, clothes, and everything in between.  It’s been years since I’ve read them, but I STILL refer back to what I learned in those books when I’m cleaning out my house.

Now…get emotionally stable and start sorting!

I crack myself up! :)

Until next time…


  1. Amen Erin! I couldn't have said it better myself!

    Many Blessings,

  2. Erin I love this post! I am just like you and am constantly cleaning, organizing and donating my *stuff*. I just breath easier with less.

    Happy Fall! ~Melissa :)

  3. Hi, I was out blogging, came upon your comment about your leopard gecko and I had to laugh...actually other people might be interested. My grandson has one too, my daughter mentioned it on his birthday post on her blog.(-: This is a great post on paring down, I know when I do this I feel so free! Drop by and see me sometime...meanwhile enjoy Simba.