February 8, 2009

an uncluttered life

One of the "adventures in adulthood" that I've been really working on has been de-cluttering my life. I have always, always been a pack-rat. For as long as I can remember, I have saved ticket stubs, notes from friends, birthday cards, clothes that I associate with a particular day, etc. More often than not, these things get buried away for years, behind more clutter, and become all but forgotten.

When I went away to college, I brought way more stuff than I needed, even though I was only a 45-minute drive from home (or a UPS package away from anything I may have suddenly needed). Photo albums, all four high school yearbooks, nick-nacks from friends, clothes I'd never wear, etc. I probably barely even glanced at half of the photo albums I brought, but I was so attached to my memories that I needed them there with me, even in a 10' x 10' cinderblock cell that they got away with calling a "dorm room" that I shared with another person.

When my mom sold my childhood home five years ago, there was an overwhelming amount of stuff that had to be cleared out of my old bedroom. I threw out a lot, but eventually I was so overwhelmed (and emotional) that I just boxed up whatever was left and moved it to her new basement. Over the last few years, I've tried to slowly go through those plastic bins filled with my youth and weed out the things that just aren't important anymore. Some things, I don't even remember why I saved them; other things I still associate a memory with, but then I have to ask myself if throwing out whatever token I have kept all these years will help me remember the memory any more clearly? The majority of the time, the answer is no.

I have really learned to reevaluate why I save things, and I've learned to get rid of clutter before it consumes my space (and my life). Nick has helped me with this; he often gets frustrated, but I try to remind him of how far I've come, and he reminds me when something isn't worth keeping. The apartment that we have now shared for two and a half years was solely mine for two years before he moved in. I had more clutter filling up this apartment during that time than two of us have now, so I think that proves that I've come a long way.

Instead of once or twice a year, I now go through my closet every few months to get rid of any clothes that I don't wear anymore (we donate old clothes to the Salvation Army). Recently I finally got rid of the pants that I wore on my first date with Nick. I probably hadn't worn them since the fall we met five years ago. Isn't that ridiculous? It's as if for the last five years, those pants signified to me how far our relationship has come. Well, my husband is sitting right next to me now, so I think that's a pretty good symbol of how far we've come. Bye bye, pants. (However, I do still have the Violet Beauregard Halloween costume I was wearing the night we met. There are some things I will always be attached to!)

I buy a lot fewer magazines these days than I used to, but now the only ones I save are Real Simple (and if there are interesting articles in other magazines, I'm starting a binder with items I'd like to keep for reference). Any books that I have already read (or haven't read and I have realized that I never will) get donated to the used book store down the street. (Unfortunately, this just closed last week, which I'm really sad about. They only accepted books in excellent condition, and every book was $2 to purchase. They were in such condition that you always felt like you were getting a brand new book for $2.) When my birthday or Christmas is coming up, I ask for things I need or really, really want so I won't end up with a bunch of stuff that just sits around taking up space (and was a waste of someone's money.... I hate knowing that someone spent their money on something that I'll never use).

Last weekend, we spent a good amount of time cleaning/purging, and I finished packing up the last of some wedding items that I sold through the Weddingbee Classifieds. Since last weekend, I have been in a noticeably more upbeat mood when I am at home at night and on the weekends. I feel more relaxed and a lot less overwhelmed. I feel more inspired to start little projects because I have a tidy space in which to work on them. It really makes a huge difference to live in an uncluttered space. Today I discovered Unclutterer.com, a great blog with daily tips on organizing your home and work space, which I'm going to bookmark to help me stay uncluttered.

Do you struggle with being a pack-rat, or do you live a minimalistic lifestyle? How do you decide when something is worth keeping and when it is just taking up space?


  1. I definitely feel you on the magazines! It's an addiction. We (my fiance and I) have a small one bedroom apartment and there are literally magazines in every corner! Great idea on the binder - I may have to do that!

  2. Modern Ink Studio - we have a two bedroom apartment, which is definitely a lifesaver at times when it comes to the amount of clothes I still have (even after a lot of purging), so I can't imagine being restricted to one bedroom! In terms of the magazines, I realized that I was saving all the "good" magazines but didn't remember what I was saving them for.... clipping the articles I like and putting them in a binder (or scanning them if you have the patience for that) is definitely a good space saver, as well as being an easier way to find what you're looking for!

  3. It still amazes me that my husband threw away so much stuff that when he moved down to TX from UT he was able to fly down and move everything in TWO SUITCASES. That was it. When I moved all of my stuff down less than a year later in a VW cabrio that was stuffed to the max he about threw a fit, and claimed that I was a packrat, but when we moved in together he realized that in just over a years time he was able to accumulate almost as much stuff as I brought from college. There are always so many things that we "need" to buy. I'm constantly walking through the house looking at things and attempting to evaluate if we even need them anymore.

    I hear you on the wonderful feeling after you throw things out. You make me want to go through my closet yet again and see what I can get rid of.

  4. Lately, I've been disorganized, but I blame it on our space. The 600 sq. ft. and poor layout stifle any organization I attempt, but that will all end this weekend when we move into 1700 sq. ft. of living. I'm not sure what I will do with myself. But one thing's for sure: I won't run into the bathroom wall trying to brush my teeth!

    I can't wait to feel what you feel after decluttering your life, I'm sure it feels wonderful and bravo for coming so far. My parents are pack rats too, and could never get rid of stuff!

  5. I have problems with keeping too much stuff but we recently re-sorted the first half of our apartment and got rid of a bunch of things so that's helping. The bedroom is next - wish me luck!

  6. Two Excited Nests - I think one of the problems I encountered when living alone was feeling a need to fill up my space. I had never lived alone before and I felt like it would feel more homey if I was surrounded by lots of stuff. Eventually, I had more stuff than I did space, and the majority of the stuff was completely useless to me. Since you are going from a small space to one almost 3x the size, you have surely learned the value of every inch of space :-) Congrats on the move and enjoy some empty corners!!!

  7. Besides binders (I use blank sketchbooks from Borders' bargain shelf myself), I also take some of my favorite images and frame them into collages of sorts--kind of like inspiration boards, but less chaotic. We'll also frame some favorite New Yorker covers if we find one that particularly appeals to us.

    Other than that, it's mainly sending them to the recycling bin when I'm done with them.


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