Nothing screams “we have way too much fucking stuff in our house” like the preparation for a move to a new place. Once the packing begins and the realization of how much stuff a family owns sets in, it’s a wakeup call that sends shockwaves to the system that signals the need to declutter your home and get organized.
Or it just leads to the dramatic desire to toss out everything and live life like a damn hermit.
When my wife and I moved to New York City from Florida, we downsized from a large two bedroom apartment to a studio.
You want to get an idea for how to live with less? Try squeezing your entire life into a tiny 500 square foot Manhattan apartment with two small closets in a space smaller than some hotel luxury suites.
After a few years of never having a door to slam if we got mad at each other, Angela and I finally graduated from the studio apartment to a one bedroom.
We came up like The Jeffersons – lived on the East side and everything, too. It was like living in a damn mansion.
Then we had a kid. And the junk piled up once more.
Young families in particular can find themselves ensnared in this web of clutter that makes the living room look like a junkyard full of random toys and crap.
Boxes of diapers and wipes. Baby toys. Pictures books. Strollers. Cribs. Baby clothes. Baby blankets. Everything they make for adults, we had the baby version.
All of it squeezed into our one bedroom New York City apartment. It was clutter all over again.
We had the closet packed to full capacity like Monica Geller.
While I enjoy the concept of minimalism and reducing the amount of material, corporate-level processed junk around my life, I wouldn’t call myself a minimalist necessarily. I still like my stuff.
But, it’s important to find the right balance between stuff and your own sanity in order to survive and clear out the physical junk to help make space in the mental framework.
Simply put: we end up being prisoners to this stuff and it can end up taking control of our lives.
“The things you own end up owning you.”
– Tyler Durden, Fight Club
Side note: To get in the mood for this new adventure of living a life with less, be sure to read the novel by Chuck Palahniuk or at least watch the classic film, Fight Club.
There are knowledge bombs galore by Tyler Durden on why we need to declutter our lives, appreciate what we have and find the true beauty in living with a little less materialistic junk.
While I’m not necessarily the type to cut all ties to technology and pursue a life of a Monk living in a mountainous region, I do think it is important to learn to live with a little less.
Human beings have been doing this life thing for thousands of years and doing it without three TVs, two cars and 15 different versions of pizza, pasta and bread makers.
This is not a declaration of a hatred for technology. I happen to enjoy my Apple products and PlayStations and even the comforting “Good morning” welcome messages from Alexa.
But we can certainly look within to challenge ourselves to live with a little less by lightening the load of junk that dominates our daily grind.
For many of us, the reason for allowing crap to build up is an inherent laziness or some made up sentimental connection we’ve created to prevent us from giving up on material objects.
The answer for that is to take action by applying the following 10 Ways to Declutter Your Home:
While it may be tempting to give it all away and take up life as a monk living in the mountains somewhere, do realize that some of the stuff you own is likely important.
Go through everything to find what absolutely positively must stay.
Set up a traffic light system of stay or go. Green items can stay. Red items are junk and can go. Yellow items you may want to revisit once you’re going through everything in case you discover there’s a reason for keeping it.
Although, I’d challenge you to stick to green vs. red and don’t trick yourself into thinking that you need everything.
Making a commitment to decluttering the home doesn’t require a fully orchestrated and choreographed production of the entire family. All it takes is a few minutes to get the ball rolling in the right direction.
Start small on this new adventure and dedicate a few minutes over a weekend to get the feel of getting rid of some stuff. Maybe there’s a stack of papers that have been sitting on a desk for far too long, tackle that mountain first.
When we first start working out, our muscles need to adapt to the new stimulus and we likely feel the delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) kick in a few days after that first session.
If that DOMS is so bad that we don’t have the ability to get back in the gym again for another week, chances are, the good habit of a consistent workout will have already been broken. That’s the case here, too.
Don’t overwhelm yourself so much that you won’t want to return the next day to continue the adventure.
Five minutes certainly won’t be enough to clear the entire household. But it’s a start. Celebrate that. Then get back at it again tomorrow with another five minutes. And then the next day. And the next.
Toy with your emotions
Kids have way too much crap. Humans have been doing the whole raising of children thing for thousands of years and not since the rise of the mass production toy industry have we spoiled our little ones with such clutter.
Buy a bin or two, fill both up with the best and most used toys and then dump the rest.
Want to gift your kid with something for the holidays? Not a problem, encourage your child to then give up a toy or two to make room.
Give those old toys to charity for a double win that declutters and teaches a valuable lesson to kids about giving back.
Buy less stuff
This seems like an obvious point. But it’s a point worth stating. A surefire way to end up right back at the starting line with a mountain of mess is to keep buying new stuff to fill up the household.
Curb the desire to constantly bring in new material items into the home and try to find that appreciation for what you already have.
Of course, if you’re still wearing some nasty ass underwear that’s got a ton of holes in it and some questionable track mark stains, it’s definitely time to make a purchase.
If you’re still working with a toaster that ends up burning bagels to the point where the fire department is on speed dial for the three-alarm smoke alerts, by all means, buy a new toaster.
Just try to learn to live life with a little less.
Once we start learning to live with a little less, we actually start to realize how much stuff we already have.
Again, the key is to start small so as not to overwhelm, but once you get into a rhythm, it all starts flowing. Go through the kids’ closets and dresser drawers and under the beds.
Find the kitchen appliances you aren’t using and determine if you’ll ever actually make a panini. If you think you might make paninis, great. Now determine if you can’t actually figure out how to do so without keeping that never-been-used before wedding gift maker that’s taken up space for five years.
Newsflash: paninis have been made and successfully pressed for hundreds of years without the use of a fancy electric panini press.
Clothes it out
Most of us have way too many clothes.
Most of us have so many clothes that there are t-shirts and pants and jeans sitting at the bottom of a closet somewhere or hiding underneath underwear in the drawer that when you finally pull it out of its hiding place, you marvel at how old those garments must be since you haven’t seen them in years.
If a piece of clothing is collecting dust, it’s time to get rid of it.
Here’s a challenge: open up the drawer or closet right now and find 10 items that you can give away. Practice doing this every quarter or every six months at minimum to open up a vast new world of space and comfort.
The key is not to run to the store to replace those clothing goods once you’ve actually cleared the space.
Wash the dishes
Letting the bowls and cups and plates pile up in the sink leads to massive clutter that spills over into other areas. Suddenly it’s okay to leave a few papers on the kitchen counter because you’ll straighten it up when you wash the dishes.
Then, papers end up on the dining room table. Suddenly the dining room table is the de facto paper storage area and the family is eating on the couch in the front of the TV watching Modern Family reruns instead of talking to each other.
Don’t let that shit happen. Stop it now by washing dishes as you go. It takes less than a minute to scrub a bowl and a spoon and put it away. Don’t be lazy.
There’s a reason why we sometimes shy away from putting up our coats or clothes in their respective closet spaces.
Their homes are so damn packed and slammed with objects and jackets and other crap that it’s a hassle to put everything away.
When purging the house, be sure to leave some extra room to make things a little more manageable for reentry.
Encourage clean habits
Our family puts away all toys before eating any meals and at the end of the night.
We should be eating dinner as a family in a comfortable, junk-free setting to avoid having to remove a G.I. Joe from dad’s ass at all costs.
Do the same for your family.
Designated a time each day and night that clothes and toys are put away. Then take an extra step to add in a 30 minute cleaning ritual every Saturday that teaches the entire family the importance of chipping in around the house to keep the living space clean.
As a kid, I spent a little time each week cleaning my room and then vacuumed the entire house and learned how to clean my bathroom.
Declutter your home regularly
From new toys to seasonal clothing to school paperwork, kids collect a bunch of crap.
It’s important to stay on top of this with regular check-ins. Schedule a monthly purge of old junk and declutter the house to ensure you don’t ever fall behind and end up right back at square one.
“Reject the basic assumptions of civilization—especially the importance of material possessions.”
– Tyler Durden
Okay, we don’t have to take it as far as Mr. Durden here. But, there is something to be said about taking a real inventory of our stuff and determining what we could live with and without.
It’ll open up a whole new world of space, mental clarity and perhaps provide some additional calming sanity to your life.
If you really couldn’t live on without that panini maker, then you can always go buy another one.
But, I’d challenge you to try life with a little less to see how it fits.