Every has their own experience with clutter and deciding how best to go through it, this guest post is reader Holly's experience with de-cluttering.
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I grew up with Depression-era parents. While my friends had garbage cans that were overflowing, we had jars/boxes that were neatly stacked with wires, lids, screws, nails, etc. Nothing was too small (or too large) to be saved, so long as mom or dad knew what it was to be used for in the future.

After I grew up and moved out, I carried on the tradition of saving…only I did so to an extreme. I had stacks and stacks of JUNK. What I saved was not useful, unless someone needed supplies to start a fire. My turning point with saving “junk” came when I made a series of moves: I moved from my home state to a different state, then another, and finally landed in the town where I currently live. There was a large (and heavy) box that I had moved with me each time; in fact it had been with me since I lived in my first apartment. After moving it repeatedly for approximately 9 years, I opened the box. It contained garbage. No, not the stinky, yucky kind of garbage; this was paper…old mail, newspapers, flyers, etc. I had moved a box of garbage with me for 9 years.

See, I had good intentions: “Waste not, want not.” Somehow I had missed the key part of that…saving something for a specific future use. When I told my dad about the box of garbage that had traveled the country with me, he had a good belly laugh about it.

“Waste not, want not” is only pertinent if it’s something you want to begin with. If it’s not something you want, and you can’t immediately place it in the hands of someone who does want it, it is called garbage and we need not fill our lives with it.


I’m not talking about recycling, or saving the scrap wood for a Boy Scout drive, or anything like that. Saving something for a specific person (or group) to pick up on a specific date is exactly what we should be doing. Saving things for “someday” when I “might need this” is exactly what we should not be doing. In looking through all the “treasures” I had saved (read: in sifting through years of garbage), I realized that yesterday’s garbage was preventing me from fully enjoying today’s blessings.

Since that day, I have tried to pare down what I save to only the things that I know I will make use of or need. Everything else is donated, sold, recycled or thrown away. I haven’t perfected it yet…I still have some boxes in my basement full of “keepsake” stuff; things that belonged to my parents (who are now deceased) that I just can’t bear to part with, but things that don’t really fit into my life right now. I know I should get rid of most of it, but I just can’t force myself to do that yet. Once a year I go through all those boxes and always get rid of at least a few things. My motto is “Progress not perfection.” (That’s not something I made up, I heard it somewhere but can’t remember the source.)

Every day I clean a cupboard or a closet, purging it of things that we no longer need, organizing the things that have earned a spot in our life. Some days I might spend hours on it, others might only take me a few minutes.

I have discovered a new nemesis in this process: the junk drawer in the kitchen. We have one drawer where things go to hide. It started out holding a pen, pliers, small hammer, 2 screwdrivers and a small container of screws/nails. It now contains everything that has ever been lost…that sock that went missing from your laundry last week? It’s probably in my kitchen drawer. No matter how often I clean out the drawer, it’s always a mess. If any of you have any secrets to share about keeping the drawer clean, I would love to hear them.

7 Comments

  1. Anonymous // Friday, December 11, 2009 9:18:00 AM  

    "Progress, not perfection" comes from Flylady, at Flylady.net, a great site for learning to de-clutter.

  2. Michelle // Friday, December 11, 2009 10:19:00 AM  

    Use the drawer for useful things only. Deny it being a junk drawer. Put the hammers and tools in the tool box, pencils & pens in the office, etc. Get a small basket and use that for junk, and sort it weekly. That is what I *try* to do, at least. I will admit that the darn small basket is overloaded at the moment..lol

  3. Rachel // Saturday, December 12, 2009 7:54:00 AM  

    Loved this post. I too struggle with too much stuff. There is another blog that I love called "Rowdy Kittens." It is all about simple living. Here is her suggestion for the junk drawer: http://rowdykittens.com/2009/10/shutting-it-for-good/

  4. Debbie // Sunday, December 13, 2009 10:33:00 AM  

    I used to have a junk drawer but I repurposed it and now I have a space on my counter that collects those things but because it is not out of sight they get put away a lot faster. I am still the one who cleans it up but I do it as I am passing to go somewhere else. Grab a few things that belong in the bathroom as I am passing the counter to go there, etc. It gets cleaned up a lot faster that way.

  5. Dawn // Sunday, December 13, 2009 1:48:00 PM  

    Thank you all for your suggestions and comments, I will make sure reader Holly has your feedback!
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    @Anon-1
    Flylady has some great one liner, helpful advice. Thank you for that one.

    @Michele
    I am also that way, if it is out of site I will never put things away in their proper place. I also have a 'junk' bowl.

    @Rachel
    Thank you for the link - that was very good to read.

    @Debbie
    I have a bowl on my counter - I can handle some small stuff in there but eventually I hit my limit and start cleaning it out.

  6. Anonymous // Sunday, December 13, 2009 8:31:00 PM  

    I too have parents of the depression era. My dad once fixed a furnace that conked out over a holiday weekend with a motor he had saved from an old washing machine!
    As my mom has aged (90 yrs young!) she is less willing to let things go. So he has become somewhat of a packrat.
    I think I have inherited some of this. I am vowing to pare down in2010.

    PS. Dawn I love the site!

    Janet in Ma.

  7. Rhiana // Tuesday, December 15, 2009 12:59:00 PM  

    Great review. I like your site. You have some really good links on here. Thanks!