Housekeeping and wife-ship go hand-in-hand. Who knew? Whether your man has his PhD in making a mess or freaks out because there are hairs on the bathroom counter, choosing to declutter is not only a gift you can give him, but also one to give yourself.
Extra stuff creates stress. Yes, it can be tempting to believe that someday that toaster oven you never use will come in handy or eventually you’ll have a use for those old magazines, but keeping them around only reduces the likelihood of a clean, relaxed environment. Not only that, but it also makes hosting on a whim a very stressful situation!
Growing up, clutter was a continual stress for my mom. Especially at Thanksgiving time. My parents have a relatively large house (though it didn’t seem that way at the time) and for several years, they were tasked with hosting the family get together. This wasn’t your usual family thanksgiving that most people experience with a small extended family. At the time, our celebrations averaged over one hundred people (mostly family, many “adoptive” family plus a few stragglers who had nowhere else to go) walking through the doors to join us for the holiday meal. It was pure chaos.
Kids running here and there, tables and chairs all over the first floor, dozens of sides on the kitchen counters to complement our two turkeys and a ham, and wall-to-wall people. If you left hungry, that was your own fault. But what about the clutter I mentioned? Mom carefully stacked the extra things by the walls and covered them with blankets. We still cleaned and tidied for two weeks leading up to the holiday, but we never quite managed to get it all hidden out of sight.
Decluttering can be really hard. When weighing the pros and cons of keeping an item, we have to separate our emotional attachment to things from our practical need to house it. This is especially difficult if fear is the deciding factor for holding onto an item. Fear tells us that we might need these things and that by getting rid of them we will also be parting ways with our security. Fear might even come across as the pounding question of what if I need it down the road and I don’t have it? If your marriage has been on a rocky path, finances have been tight, or you grew up in financially strapped situation, you might subconsciously approach clutter as a security blanket.
You might find yourself approaching a decluttering project with great fear. If so, take a step back and ask yourself why you so desperately want to keep these items. Should anxiety keep you from decluttering, I encourage you to seek out Godly counseling or mentorship to help work through whatever is holding you back from letting go.
Early on in our friendship, my husband would come over and help us declutter rooms in my parents’ house. It’s amazing how many things can fall through the cracks only to be forgotten and discovered years later! We certainly ran into our fair share of “hidden treasures” on those late night cleaning sprees. And I think that is to be expected if decluttering hasn’t taken place in a while. The first time you go through your things, you will be surprised at how many unnecessary items have been taking up space.
When my husband and I moved from Northwest Ohio to Colorado Springs, we went through our things room by room using an easy to apply system.
Has the item been used in the last year?
The first question an item had to pass was pretty straight forward. If it wasn’t used in the past year, then the likelihood of needing it again were not strong enough to hold on to the item. (Please note that I was not going through children’s clothing or baby items. If I had been and was expecting more children, I would have approached this question differently with those things.) Should I find myself in a position of needing it again, I would try to borrow something similar from a friend to serve the purpose.
Is the item a duplicate? If so, is it really necessary to have multiples?
Some items in multiples are necessary, such as coffee mugs or pairs of socks, but some things just don’t need backups. You know your situation and your needs. For me, a duplicate that I needed for a long time was a heating pad. I kept one either in my backpack or by the couch and the other by the bed. You might find a different item that is used all the time or traveled with that also requires a spare.
Was the item an impulse purchase?
Don’t you love those spur-of-the-moment purchases that are really unnecessary? My splurges always took place at the thrift store down the street (Great deals! I found a low-grade espresso machine in good condition for $1.50 one time!) and when we did start hauling our unneeded items to the donation bin, I had collected an entire car full of random things.
Impulse purchases are nine times out of ten unneeded items or things we would have been better off borrowing.
Was it intended for a specific occasion or purpose? If so, is it still needed?
I’ve made the occasion I-only-need-it-once purchase and then tossed the item in the back of a cabinet. One of those purchases was an extensive collection of stemmed Christmas glasses for my Christmas brunch. Those 15-20 pieces took up a considerable amount of space in my cupboard and I only used them once! Not only was that wasted money (once again, I should have borrowed glasses from my parents or a friend), but also a lot of space that could have been used for something else.
Did this item come as a gift? If so, do I even like it?
Gifted items are the worst! We can be given gifts that are not only impractical, but also terrible. For many, letting go of a gift can bring about guilt. But this should not be enough for you to consider it an item you must keep. You can be grateful for the present and appreciate the thought behind it. All the while keeping it from consuming space in your home! (If the item is nice enough, you may be able to regift it!)
If the item was handmade, consider passing it along to someone else who likes it. Should the item be a family hand-me-down, consider “loaning” it indefinitely to another family member. Who knows, she may wish it had been given to her instead of you!
Does it still fit?
This is the golden question. Whether you’ve lost weight or gained it, hanging on to an entire wardrobe of clothes with the idea that maybe you’ll be able to fit back into them someday is not practical. (If you are pregnant, please don’t get rid of your clothes mid-pregnancy. Wait until you are months beyond carrying a child in your womb to make that decision.) If you are actually losing weight and on target to fit into smaller clothes, then by all means hold on to them! But don’t allow them to take up space if you aren’t actively trying to achieve that size again.
You may desperately want to fit into an old pair of jeans. Unless you are currently losing weight, it doesn’t make sense to keep them. Just today, I dropped off a large bag of clothes that no longer fit me. I really like several of the items, but I had to face the fact that I probably wouldn’t fit into them again. It may seem hard to let go, but you’ll find peace and mental sanity in letting go.
Is it worn out?
There’s no sense in keeping an item that is long passed its expiration. Holding onto things that can no longer serve their purpose is not only a detriment to your space, but also the functionality and streamline nature of your home. I, personally, need to get rid of one of my hot mitts because it no longer withstands the heat. It’s the emotional attachment to the butterfly design that has kept me from parting ways. (Ridiculous, right?)
Before moving, I discovered that I had a few duplicates and one of the two items had outlived its usefulness. It’s really easy to let go of the worn out version and keep the one that will be reliable.
I wish I could say that once you declutter the first time, you’ll never have to do that again. Unfortunately, human nature compels us to purchase and hold on to items that we don’t really need. Ridding ourselves of clutter should be a regular part of our lives. No, it’s not something we have to be doing 24/7, but it never hurts to have a designated donation bin for unnecessary items you run across going about daily life.
Once you do make the decision to let go of things, it becomes easier to stay on top of it. Starting out may seem overwhelming, but just plan to tackle a room a month, or whatever works in your busy life.
I can’t believe the difference taking a more practical approach to things has had in my life! I don’t ever want to go back to a house full of clutter.