Do you ever walk into a hotel room and think to yourself, ahhhh this is so relaxing? It is the same feeling you get when you walk into a house that is for sale and has been properly staged for viewing.
Clutter creates anxiety. De-cluttering is relaxing. Why? Because, clutter is chaos and when we are faced with chaos our brains try to bring order to it all which takes energy.
“A primary method for gaining a mind full of peace is to practice emptying the mind.”
~ Napoleon Hill
Buddhists will tell you that clearing the mind is the path to inner peace, and so it follows that clearing the house is the path to a more peaceful house.
Until recently, I was a lifer pack rat. I would keep sweatshirts that I wore in University, cell phones that I bought 15 years ago, books I would never read, old magazines, stuff I had bought and never even opened (still in the package), furniture in the garage that will never make it back into our house and a basement full of boxes of stuff I would open and then re-close assuming that it must be worth keeping. At one point I even had a storage locker to keep my junk. Part of me thought one day we just might need that stuff and if we keep it we won’t have to buy it again. Usually that day never came.
I have never seen the show Hoarders, but I imagine I was more like the people in that show than the friend of mine that moved from Ottawa to New Zealand and took only what would fit in his car.
Once kids come into your life the clutter can reach new heights and I guess in my case it was my breaking point. I realized two things: that keeping all this stuff was a huge energy drain on me and it was a waste keeping it all when someone else might be able to use it.
With my wife’s help we set out to break my ways.
First we gave a truckload of stuff from our garage to the local Montessori for their garage sale. That was liberating, but it hardly made a dent and I was still somehow attached to a lot of “junk” in our house.
But we kept going. We moved mountains of stuff to our garage for the neighborhood garage and priced things ridiculously cheap to sell it…and we sold very little. What we didn’t sell I took to Neighborhood Services and was shocked to learn they wouldn’t take everything, so I called 1-800 Got Junk, but we didn’t want to pay to have stuff removed so we still had a lot of stuff that had to go.
By this point, I had Learned a couple more things. For one, I hate throwing stuff out. It feel wasteful and that may be why I hung onto so much stuff, but I also enjoy giving stuff away and even get a little kick from earning a few bucks for selling junk. Once I feel like the stuff won’t be wasted, it is easier for me to let go and in the end, I like the feeling of having less stuff because I can get more enjoyment of what is left behind.
Eventually tons of stuff went found new hoes via pawn shops, kijiji, friends and family. Now we have a lot less and I consciously avoid trying to collect things. It is still a work in progress and I think there is plenty that can still go.
My latest trick for getting rid of stuff is a sort of baby steps strategy. I make a point of getting rid of something every day.
And what is the result. It makes a world of difference to have more space in the basement and to see empty shelves everywhere. Feels awesome. Many rooms in our house that ahhhh feeling and I love it.
For quick reference, here are my top suggestions for getting rid of stuff and de-cluttering your home:
- Friends, Family, and Co-Workers – let them have first pick at your stuff. Feels good to help them out.
- Neighborhood Services – surprisingly, they won’t take everything, but they will take a lot of stuff and make sure it doesn’t go into a landfill.
- Kijiji and Other Online Classifieds – you can sell or offer stuff for free and find a taker for almost anything. Even if it’s only coffee money, you are still making sure the stuff doesn’t go to a landfill.
- Community Organizations – daycares, schools and other not for profits are often eager to acquire free stuff. Talk to them to find out what they need.
- Recycle Box or Muni Dump – when the first two R’s in in Reduce, Reuse, Recycle don’t apply then as an absolute last resort, toss stuff out, but try to make sure it goes somewhere other than your trash where it will ultimately end up in a landfill
UPDATE – May 23, 2011
Found this awesome Lifehacker article entitled How to De-Crapify Your Home: A Start-to-Finish Guide – some great tips.