Decluttering and Downsizing

As we get ready to do a whole lot of work on the house, the first step is dealing with all the stuff we have in the house. Some of it is easy: construction debris can go to the dump, extra supplies can be given away or sold. But we'll have to move out of the house and put things in storage, and I hate storing things. Plus, we've been in this house for 12 years and we have too much stuff. So we are getting rid of a lot of stuff. I got started before Christmas, throwing things into boxes as I decided to get rid of them.

I have kind of a leg up here, because about 20 years ago I had a decluttering business (in my copious spare time), and I basically kept that going on and off until very recently. As somebody who likes stuff, I know a lot about how to get rid of it. And I do tend to hold onto a lot of stuff, but that's mostly been because we need to have a sort of library of things in order to get projects done in any kind of reasonable fashion. With the big renovation being done by others (thank goodness), we don't need to have a lot of things we'd been stocking up on, and we can let those things go.

And in fact, a bunch of other things are going because they are just not inspiring or exciting. We will be having built-in bookcases built, so all our multiple mismatched IKEA and hand-me-down bookcases can go to new homes. Our cheap or hand-me-down living room furniture can move on and be replaced with nice new stuff that actually works for this space.

When I finished architecture school I gave away a bunch of my unused supplies and materials, because I was literally never going to have to build a model every week again, ever, so I did not need to have a stockpile of basswood and plastic. I'm taking that approach now, looking at how we will be living post-renovation and what we will really need.

Some people suggest keeping only the things you would grab as you race out of a burning house. I'm not sure that works.

Living an everyday life is not like bailing on a burning house. For one thing, in everyday life getting rid of all of my clothes and just keeping expensive electronics and the paperwork for our cars is a pretty stupid idea.

Instead, I think about when I went to architecture school in San Luis Obispo. We had just bought the house, and Noel was staying there because he was staying at his job while I went away. We got me an apartment and furnished it with a minimum of stuff, and over time I would realize I needed a thing and bring it down there. We had a real limit on what we could carry down to San Luis Obispo, and the apartment there was small, so it really clarified things. And apart from the absolutely massive piles of model-building junk I accumulated over the years I was there (half my gigantic closet was full of them), the things I had in that apartment were just the things I needed, which helped keep things orderly.

So I'm taking that approach now, sorting things to decide if they are worth moving twice. It's a slow process, but we still have to get through planning.

And now, some related reading:

And honestly? I got started writing this and pulling together links that are helpful, but stopped. There are a lot of organizing tips and decluttering secrets, but the biggest and only real thing that will declutter your home or your life is to get rid of a lot of stuff. More stuff than you are comfortable with getting rid of. Those cute toys for a cartoon show you like, stuffed animals if you a human adult, "decorative objects" that aren't carefully chosen to fit a design. Extra sets of dishes for entertaining you never do. Furniture that is shabby or that doesn't serve any real purpose. Craft supplies for a craft you are wasting your time on (sometimes you also have to declutter hobbies, at least if you are like me). Decluttering is all about editing down ruthlessly. Have less stuff in your house than you have space for. Have less stuff filling your day than you have time for. Give yourself a little whitespace.

And that is what we are working on now, between finishing up the bathrooms and getting the new drawings in order for submittal to the city.

posted by ayse on 01/06/15