With a move coming my way mid-August, I’ve got a lot of things to sift through as far as my household is concerned. Let’s go ahead and get this part straight: I’m more or less a hoarder. I think “One day, I’ll need that, and if I throw it out now, then where will I be?” Though my brain tries to rationalize the answer as, “Up Shi-Tall Creek,” the true answer is, “I’ll be just fine because I haven’t even thought about that thing in months.”
To be fair, this mostly applies to my closet’s worth of art supplies. Why is it so hard for me to let go of paper? Perhaps somewhere along the road, my brain really did break.
This is the same guy who as a child stashed backpacks of canned food and seasonal clothing around the house just in case of a fire or if I had to run. Look, I don’t know what I was so afraid of and I’m sure there’s some interesting psychoanalysis to be done, but this isn’t the space. The comments section is that space.
Decluttering and downsizing are two different things in my mind. The former focuses on household organization and the flow of materials in and out of the home. It’s a lifestyle, defined by the dweller(s), on how to maintain the home’s overall feel. The latter is a lifestyle change that focuses on what the dweller(s) need and whittling down the household materials to just the necessary items (this is and is not minimalism depending on one’s goal). The two go hand in hand, so we can go about them in a similar fashion, though I would not recommend doing them simultaneously.
When I think of downsizing, I think of big changes: furniture, automobiles, the quantifiable items you own and whether or not they’re allowing you to #LiveYourBestLife. This is the Marie Kondo “Does it spark joy” test. Because if the answer’s “no,” then it’s got to go. Having had the experience once, you’re then less likely to somehow obtain another in the future – you’re changing how you think about the material, consumer-driven world.
When I think declutter, I think about donating the clothes you don’t wear anymore, recycling old magazines, and reorganizing your kitchen drawers to better suit your cooking methods. This isn’t as long-term or as final a solution as downsizing. Decluttering gets rid of things now or finds a better use for them or finds a way to hoard them out of sight. It’s a short-term solution to the day-to-day flow of materials, but is no less important than the above.
I mentioned above that I don’t recommend decluttering and downsizing simultaneously. I think one can lead to the other, but if you start big and work to the small, it’ll all even out in the end.
Step 1: Determine Your Needs (big)
What are the parameters you’re going to live by? What things can you cut down on and commit to not re-purchasing? How many of what do you need, honestly? For example, I have a strict rule I’ve been following since 2018: “Books in bits, comics in atoms.” I no longer buy paper books (unless there’s strictly no way around it), I download everything onto my Kindle. Comics, however, I will allow myself to purchase for ease of use, the immersive experience, and the nostalgia. Determine the need, set the rules, live by your own rules.
Step 2: Determine Your Wants (small)
Does the thing spark joy? Level with yourself: What’re you saving this for? Can you even recall what it’s supposed to remind you of? Can you replace it under $20? Get rid of the things that either don’t serve a purpose or have outlived their purpose. In my previous moves, I’ve shed tons of craft supplies, old birthday gifts, mementos from college, too-old-for-the-IRS-to-be-interested documentations, repeat items, articles that no longer fit my style, etc., etc. If you’ve moved on emotionally, it’s time you move on physically.
Step 3: Determine What to do with All That Stuff
I highly recommend recycling whenever possible, gifting if you can, and donating to better causes than Goodwill. Finding a new home for things can be as simple as a yardsale, a “free if you pick it up” post on facebook market, or inviting a couple friends over to dig through your stash of clothing/books/kitchenware. Schools, libraries, community centers, shelters, local social organizations, and even churches/temples could make better use of your items than a department store. They’re not as convenient, admittedly, but you’d make a greater impact.
There’s so much possibility as you’re looking into your new space (or re-defining your current one). It’s a bit silly, but I usually take on a new persona when I move. I always think, “What will this new Mallory have in her bedroom? What will these items say about her and how will they remind her to keep pressing on?” Style, then, becomes a huge factor in how we express ourselves to ourselves and confirm the person we want to be. I let this guide me more than “needs” or “wants” or anything else. Who is it that I want reflected back to me? How do I want the world to read me?
My goals this time around (before the “Spark Joy”) test:
- 3 1/2 bookshelves of books reduced to 2 bookshelves total. (Reduce by 1 shelving unit and approx. 50 books)
- My craft table reduced to a small laptop desk (swap for smaller furniture)
- Broken, heavy, uncomfortable office chair replaced by sturdy, lightweight office chair (furniture swap)
- Love seat fold out (reduce completely)
- A closet worth of craft items (reduce to two containers)
- Reduce all electronic items to the ones only used daily (recycling computer parts)
- Reduce kitchen wares only to the things I like
- Get rid of all CDs that aren’t vital (basically all of them)
- Anything left in a box that still hasn’t been unpacked (clearly I’m not missing them)
There’s so much information already out there, notwithstanding Konmarie’s Netflix show about how different people utilize her method, so I won’t over burden an already too-long post. I’ll simply leave a few links that helped me get on board:
- Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. I didn’t read it, but there it is.
- Melissa Haag’s blog post “Konmari vs. Minimalism” is catchy and relevant, though posted in 2016. Also, her istagram is adorable and her blog “The House of Plaid Fuzz” is filled with helpful minimalism lifestyle things.
- This is an article for senior-living, but incredibly relevant if you’re a materialist like myself whose memories are wrapped in souvenirs. It also has great links to an NPR interview and a scientific article on the subject.