My husband took two straight weeks off from work this summer.
We went to Florida one week and the next week we stayed closer to home and did something we grasshoppers have never done before while on vacation: we purged.
We cleaned out closets, the garage, the office, Ladybug’s bedroom.
Nobody was more surprised than we were that we’d spent vacation days doing something so boring.
But we’ve been realizing something over the years: less clutter equals less stress.
Nothing gets my husband’s goat quite like going out to the garage to find a tool, only to trip over a mountain of misplaced crap to reach that tool (which is likely covered in more junk that we haven’t used in three years).
What we did with all that stuff: We took two old microwave ovens to the Washington County Environmental Affairs office (they deal with electronics), left two old vacuum cleaners and a few other odds and ends by the curb for the city to pick up, and we took LOTS of stuff to Goodwill (including two old fax machines). We took our nice, but we-never-wear-them clothes to Plato’s closet and got a little cash. We took a huge collection of books to the Dickson Street Bookstore to sell.
As we moved through various parts of the house, de-cluttering and cleaning like fiends, we got to experience something we quite liked: we started enjoying our house more.
The more we purged, the better we liked it.
Therefore, I highly recommend you try it, too. If you’re into that, here are my Top 5 How-To De-clutter Tips, written by a recovering slob (that would be me):
1. Don’t overthink it. If you do, you’ll spend all your time trying to gather cleaning supplies and trash bags and then your energy will be sapped before you even get started. If you want to clean out your closet, just go in there and start pulling stuff out.
Start making piles: of things you want to keep, things you want to give away and things you want to throw away. If you wait until the end of the drag-things-out-and-assess-them exercise then you’ll know if you need more bins for storage or a over-the-door shoe cubby.
Or maybe you’ll get rid of most everything and you won’t need any of this. Chances are you only wear about six things in your closet over and over anyway.
2. Do it when you’re in the mood. I know, some of you are thinking it will never happen if you wait until the mood strikes. But if you start thinking about how good you’ll feel once it’s over, you WILL get in the mood. And one victory will make you want to score another one. Organized the closet? Yes! Now you know how good it will feel to get that bathroom de-cluttered!
3. Find a cleaning buddy. Having my husband work with me while he was home on vacation made it lots more fun — and productive. Maybe you and a friend can switch out helping each other purge. When it comes to almost anything (including exercise) it’s better with a friend.
4. Be brutal. If you’re in doubt, throw it out. I have been absolutely ruthless with my own crap and my daughter’s crap. I tossed stuff I’d kept for years — or I donated it if it was in good shape. It feels good knowing that some other child will get to enjoy my daughter’s puzzles, books or clothes now that she’s outgrown them.
5. Win small battles first. You must have small, obtainable goals. You need to tackle one area at a time, not the whole house. That would be too overwhelming. Once you’ve conquered a few smaller projects you’ll feel more confident to stand atop the rubble of bigger projects with your big ole victory flag.
Some extra slobster notes: The older I get, the less I enjoy “things”. I used to collect little trinkets, cute figurines and mementos from trips. Not anymore. I like experiences. Now the only things I bring back from trips are memories and pictures.
Well, while were in Florida that first vacation week I did buy a whimsical refrigerator magnet.
Speaking of the refrigerator … you’re next, mister!
Not today, though. Because ♦today’s my birthday♦. I may de-clutter while on vacation, but this grasshopper refuses to clean out the refrigerator on her birthday.
Shannon Magsam is mama to Ladybug (a salty/sweet tween girl who still likes things like superheroes and unicorns, thank goodness) is wife to newspaperman/entrepreneur John and is co-founder of nwaMotherlode.com.