Friday, May 3, 2019

My Decluttering Rules

So a few years back, my minimalist guru, Cait Flanders, set out a three-point plan for reining in her debit cards, ratcheting back her possessions, and redesigning her budgeting tools to make them work better for her life.

In fact, I liked the book so much that I am putting together my own year-long trifecta of shopping less, sorting through, and saving more of my money. 

Yesterday, I laid out my shopping ban rules. As I mentioned, I like to buy new things as much as the next person, but over-shopping is not a problem for me. I feel pretty confident that I can stick to my plan, stay focused on essentials, and let go of any impulses to overspend. We shall see what actually happens when I'm alone at night with twenty open Etsy windows and a debit card whispering in my ear, but right now I feel good. 

Now, with my shopping plan sorted, I'm ready to take on decluttering.

^ My gigantic antique pine cupboard is currently resting on its side in the garage, and I'm experimenting with this DIY slim shelf in its place. I cannot get enough of this new light and airy look. 

candlesticks | Crate & Barrel
coffee cups | Crate & Barrel
chair | IKEA

Let's get one thing straight. 

I love to declutter.

Love. Yes, love. That is not too strong a word to describe the swell of emotion I feel during a midnight sort-and-stash session in which I end up surrounded by a sea of paper grocery bags full of giveaways, and a counter/cupboard/shelf spaces that feels refreshed and ready to breathe.

I declutter regularly, whenever the whim strikes me, and I'm not ashamed to say that a special, secret  joy sneaks over me when I notice that a desktop or a drawer has been let go, and realize that I'll have a new mess to clean.

My closet right now is a bit out of sorts, and I'm waiting for a nice rainy day to lock myself into my bedroom and give it a good go. 

I feel ridiculously warm and cozy inside just thinking of the transformation that will transpire. 

^ In the afternoon sun, tiny rainbows sparkle across this wall near my back door, born from a pair of prisms that hang there. My first instinct was to leave the wall completely blank so the rainbows fully capture my attention. But that was a bit sterile even for me, so the painting and the plant were invited to come back. 

painting | me
chair | amazon
table | Saline Antique Market circa 1984
snake plant | Home Depot
basket | thrifted

And here's another true fact. 

During the past few months at our house, we've had some work on done on our floors that has required me to temporarily move  

every stick of furniture, 
every item on the walls, 
every single possession, 

out of every room of my house. Upstairs and down. 

And as my topsy turvy house has slowly returned to normal, I pretended that I was moving into a new house. Rather than just shoving everything back to its familiar place, 

every stick of furniture, 
every item on the walls, 
every single possession, 
in every room of my house, 

was considered anew. What I found was that I did not want to put everything back. I wanted less in my house - less furniture, less art, less stuff - and so I simply put back only what I wanted. 

^ In reassembling my family room, in order to let the brick and wood details really shine, I stripped all the color out of the room, save black, grey, white, and natural materials. After a few weeks of happy monochromatic living, I decided to get a little crazy and invite back a few tiny splashes of yellow. 

dried flowers | Etsy
ceramic vase | thrifted
pewter lamp | Country Village circa 1986
candles | mostly Target
bookshelf | Standy's Furniture Warehouse circa 1995
wooden box | my mom
petrified wood bookend | my father-in-law
books | mostly thrifted

This was a really fun project. And a fantastic way to make my house feel fresh and alive and ready for a new season of life.

But here is the problem:

My house looks great. But my garage is a disaster zone.

Because remember all those things that I decided not to bring back into the house?

Yeah. They are all jammed into the garage. 

Along with a fairly hefty heap of things that had already been sent out of the house. 

There's a lot of stuff out there, not jumbled in giant piles like a scene out of Hoarders, but neatly stacked and sorted and arranged in such a way that almost fools my eye into thinking the mess is not so bad. 

But it is. It is a really bad mess. 

^ For a long time, this painting sat alone on my family room mantle. Truth be told, I really like it as a stark solo arrangement. But during one of the many moments that I was shuffling things around in this room, I set the bird and the lamp - two fragile and cherished possessions - up on the mantle to protect them. And I found the trio to be a happy testimony to the mothers in my life. 

painting | me
ceramic bird | my mom
teak hurricane candle | my mother-in-law
logs | Abercrombie & Fitch display materials circa 2015
twinkle lights | Target
sheepskins | IKEA

So here's how my year-long decluttering plan is shaping up.

1. Declutter specific areas in the house that need help now:

My closet
Cabinets under my bathroom sinks
Dresser full of kid clothes waiting for my grandchildren to show up.
A few kitchen cupboards.
The LEGO closet playroom under the stairs. 

2. Continue routine decluttering wherever and whenever my whimsies dictate. 

3. Get that garage cleaned up. Within a year. No excuses.

^ These new desks for our office caught my eye with a sleek profile and a sturdy bamboo work surface. But my favorite feature is that each has three slim drawers, perfect for catching stray pens, important bills, and my coveted array of cute postage stamps. I love that my desk top is now a sleek and streamlined monument to outdated technology. 

painting | my second-born
desk | IKEA
computer | I can't even

Now I have no illusions. This garage project is going to be beastly difficult, and involve every member of the family because we've all got stuff stashed out there. And there are some deeply emotional items to be dealt with - how about my father-in-law's lifetime collection of slides, home movies, and photographic equipment, or his 100+ year collection of National Geographic magazines stored in a custom built cupboard?

I honestly do not know how we are going to get through this enormous and complex project. 

^ My husband's college filing cabinet has been taking up valuable space in our front hall closet for decades, and I finally decided I'd had enough of that nonsense. I informed my better half that we were in a do-or-die mode - either the cabinet moves into the office where we can actually put it to use, or out it would go. Lucky for him, the ancient metal beast is in immaculate condition and its color matches almost exactly to the wall. He blends in beautifully, and I invited him to stay. 

paper tiger | online circa 2012
photography | me
frames | IKEA
painting | me
filing cabinet | Sears circa 1974
wire baskets | Target

But, over the next year, that is exactly what we shall find out. 

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Read more about my journey to mindful consumption:

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