If your house is anything like mine, you have too much stuff in it. Way too much stuff. It’s hard enough to keep the stuff at bay when you’re single and eat out five nights a week. Add two kids, a dog and a garage to the mix and the stuff mounts a hostile takeover.
There are many reasons to de-clutter your home. For one, it makes you less likely to die from a Lego-related fall. But it’s also about keeping the energy vibrant in your home, not letting it get bogged down with unused matter. In her eye-opening book Organic Housekeeping, Ellen Sandbeck writes: “Life is movement; cessation of movement is death. It is vitally important to keep materials flowing into and out of the house at a nearly equal rate; a stagnant house, like a stagnant pond, is an unpleasant phenomenon.”
Mmm, pond water…
De-cluttering will buy you more time (fewer things to put away/take care of/search for), save you money (by retraining you to live with what you’ve got) and will give you air, space and surfaces. There’s a reason beauty spas, posh hotels and restaurants go for the minimalist look – it creates calm and generally makes you feel like you’ve just exhaled through an open mouth.
In Organic Housekeeping, Sandbeck details how to execute a clutterectomy and suggests getting your friends involved to blitz to place. With two small kids to chase around, it’s more practical to target small areas at a time – a cupboard here, a box there. The smaller the better, that way you won’t get overwhelmed or interrupted halfway through. I have been on a bit of a mission this year to de-clutter the house. Someone mentioned to me that Dr Phil recommends removing one bag of junk from your house per week. Having been brainwashed by Dr Phil during my uni years, I have been slavishly following this advice.
Things took a more dramatic turn when I read that Zen Buddhists aspire to have only useful items in their house. Out when the fondue set (hubby is dairy intolerant, remember?)! So between Dr Phil, Sandbeck’s book and the Buddha, I have been slowly sorting cupboards and creating space and systems so I own my belonging and not the other way around. And this brings me to an important point: what do you do with your junk?
In the latest issue of Green Lifestyle magazine, my hero and moral compass blogger Sarah Wilson says that one of the biggest mistakes people make when greening their lives is to chuck out a load of stuff*. It’s the same with de-cluttering your home. Before you go crazy and run around muttering “Zen, Zen, gimme the Zen!” while stuffing clothes into garbage bags, just take a step back and think about it: don’t throw out things you will need down the track. It sounds obvious, but I know from experience that it’s easy to go a bit crazy once you get started. A better option is to organise your things and then create systems to find them. I’m lucky enough to live with a systems expert, but some ideas are to label cardboard boxes (recycled please) or to keep a file or A-z directory so you can find things when you need them.
Once you’ve got your stuff under control and have a clear idea of what you do and don’t use, you can seriously cull it. I know you wouldn’t just cart it all to the tip, but here are some ideas on how to dispose of it thoughtfully just to help you along:
- If it’s got value, sell it! eBay, The Gumtree, the Trading Post, community noticeboards – these are all places where people search for quality secondhand goods. Think you don’t have time to post an ad? Turn off the TV and have a virtual market one night.
- Take household items and clothing to the charity shop. We have a box in a cupboard into which we put things we don’t need – anything from chopstick sets to toys. When the box is full, I bag it and drop it off at Lifeline.
- Collect it: a button here and there is useless – a collection of buttons is valuable, if not to you, then to someone else.
- Recycle it: gadgets, old phones, half-empty paint tins all have a home. Visit www.RecyclingNearYou.com.au to find out where you can take them.
- Have a garage sale: It won’t make you rich, but you’d be surprised what people will buy!
- Pass it on: you must know someone who could use that thing you can’t.
These are just a few ideas, I’m sure you have more. The trick now is to keep the clutter at bay. This means learning to live with what you’ve got and really questioning everything you buy. Hands up who hasn’t bought some nice new plastic storage boxes only for them to join the overflowing plastic-box drawer in the kitchen? I really love Sarah’s advice in her post on living simply: don’t go to the shops. Seriously – shop less, want less, have less, live more. It’s that simple.
So with all this in mind, go forth and de-stagnate your home. You’ll be helping yourself and also the environment by recirculating all that old stuff.
* How chuffed was I to be featured in the same article?! It’s about wellbeing bloggers – be sure to check it out… Will provide autograph upon request.