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.
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.
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.