De-Clutter 2014


*deep breath*


So my friend SRB is running a de-cluttering challenge called Who Needs It?  over at her blog Veggie Sausages and it’s kind of exactly what I need right now.

Brief background: I am very nearly a hoarder by nature. I’m not kidding about that. I develop a weird attachment to certain items in my home for no reason. Well… okay, if I think about it, there actually are a few identifiable reasons:

  • guilt (“someone gave this to me, I have to keep it!”)
  • guilt (“if I throw this out and then later I need one I’ll have to admit that sometimes I spend too much money on things I don’t need, so to make up for buying it I have to house it for the next five years until I maybe need it”)
  • guilt (“we can’t get rid of this, it used to belong to X who is gone now and they would be SO SAD if I got rid of their old set of cloth napkins that are still in the package because they never used them”)

That’s what I came into this house (and marriage) with– twenty-five years’ worth of saved notes from school friends, trinkets from Christmas swaps, very old pillows, shoes that I loved that never actually fit, and… okay, bear with me… a bottle of old hair spritzer from seventh grade that was completely empty but I loved the smell and it was discontinued. Are you starting to build up a picture in your head now? Yeah.

On top of all of this, we moved into this house along with a whole lot of furniture from my in-laws, and when my father-in-law unexpectedly passed away a few years later all of their things became our things. This means that their three homes’ worth of everything they owned was now ours, in our half of the house we now owned along with it. We really tried to cram as much of it into our house as possible, but it was too much. We’ve spent the past few years since then slowly getting rid of things and it never seems to lighten the load.

I remember one day in particular, cleaning out my father-in-law’s apartment with my husband and mother. We gathered up 38 trash bags’ worth of clothing, kitchen items, books, unused toiletries, bedding, and other miscellany for donation. This was after weeks of cleaning, sorting, saving, donating and throwing away everything in that apartment. I looked down the stairway into a living room filled with the largest pile of trash bags I’ve ever seen and remember feeling both overwhelmed by the size of the project and the fact that a house can contain so much stuff. But it’s hard to part with the things that people you love behind, and it was especially so for M. There was a lot of his childhood left behind in those items, and memories were all he had left of his family.

So combine me and my stuff, M and his stuff, all his family’s stuff, and then put it into a moderately-sized apartment and you have a problem. There’s a silver lining, though– I now constantly want to throw everything away. I’m sick of stuff!

The feeling of “too much” has been particularly strong for me lately. Everything feels overwhelming a lot of the time. I am terribly, bitterly envious of people who start a life together and have the freedom to go out and get whatever furniture they want! Even if it’s all thrifted and doesn’t match! We have a lot of very nice, fancy furniture that isn’t “our style” but you don’t just get rid of that. You can get rid of the smaller things, but boy do I sometimes wish we had to start from scratch. A friend bought her first home a year ago and is still building up a furniture collection because she wants her home to be filled only with things she truly loves. I want that, too, but the idea of shuffling things in and out, moving some stuff to the side so we can get another thing in, then pushing it back the other way to get the first thing out… too much. It’s too much!

So I am de-cluttering. I am going to go through everything we own– everything. Every room, every drawer, cabinet, bin and box.

(I think I’ll go into more detail later about what “clutter” means to me and how it affects me, but for now, I recommend SRB’s post on defining clutter.)

I started today, with The Closet at the Top of the Stairs. It’s more dramatic if you capitalize it that way, which seems appropriate for how bad of a mess it is. See also: dramatic camera angle!


A closer look:



A further look (because when you pan out, it gets worse):


Messy closet, small room off the hallway full of office furniture and stored junk (art easel, oscillating fan, laundry basket full of knickknacks, old maternity clothes), clothing in need of repair hanging on the banister, outgrown baby clothes that don’t fit in the tupperware… I just… what is all this stuff?

Oh, yeah, it’s our stuff. Stuff that we keep buying.

I found all sorts of things today. We must have had enough dentist office samples to comprise three years’ worth of visits. There were pump soaps I bought in bulk and then forgot we had (because duh, you can’t find anything in there). There were three Clorox Wipes containers, two half-full different kinds of generic Windex, almost no clean towels, and ahem, apparently I keep purchasing Always products and then forgetting I have some and buying more, and more, and more because the amount of that stuff I found was absolutely mind-blowing.

It was a daunting task. But guess what I did.

I cleaned it!


(If you look closely, you can see that I will “Always” be well stocked up. Cough.)

You can’t see it terribly well here, but I even labeled the shelves. (SRB, I GOT A LABEL MAKER!) This is a critical step in the “Husband, I love you but I just spent four hours cleaning one closet and SO HELP ME if you put a single towel out of place” negotiations.

I’m very proud of myself for doing this menial task that somehow took a very long time. I even went on to clean the bathroom and clear out both cabinets in there. Half of the medicines we owned were expired, and it hadn’t even been so long since I last went through them and checked!

Having even those two small areas of the house de-cluttered feels amazing. It’s such a load off. The next step is our bedroom (see foreground):


Cleaning the bedroom will be key for the sort of mental de-cluttering we both need. I want to crawl into bed at night in a room that is simple, manageable and clean. Right now there are dust bunnies bigger than our dog lurking under and behind everything on the floor in that room because I can’t even get to it to clean it. There might even be real bunnies in there somewhere. *eyes widen*

10 thoughts on “De-Clutter 2014

  1. I am a clutter/hoarder queen. I have unreasonable attachment to things too. The root cause being how I was raised and treated by my mother. I also use clutter to shut people out. As in, “if they can’t get too close to me, they can’t hurt me”. I have one corner that my therapist allowed for clutter and the rest of the house has to get de-cluttered. It’s a mentally exhausting project for me, but it’s slowly getting done.

    • If I’m at your house at any point soon and you’d like to, I’ll gladly help you with a corner, bookshelf, pep talk, whatever. You let me know! In the meantime, follow along with SRB’s listing– it’s been really helpful for me, at least, to see what a struggle this seems to be for EVERYONE and how very emotional and messy (pun intended) of a process it is. It’s hard to let go of things.

  2. You described me. I think you might be an alternate version of me. Except we don’t have much for closets so I can’t declutter the closets because they are empty because of weird shapes or bad locations/full of boxes/nonexistent. I like your tally. Very good idea to tally the things that are going away so it’s clear there is Real Progress happening. Decluttering is my new favorite thing and I really want to go knock some of it out now but childcare must happen. Best of luck with the decluttering and the emotions and keeping it tidy once the extra stuff is gone.

    • EVERYTHING IN OUR HOUSE IS A WEIRD SHAPE. Seriously, what is the deal with old houses? Was there a Weird Shape Revival in the immediately post-Victorian era? We have short, angled closets, a pantry with a door that doesn’t close which extends so far into the wall we can’t reach things, radiators in all the wrong places… I don’t understand. A big part of the challenge for me has been and will continue to be maximizing our storage spaces without wasting space.

  3. Yes!!! I want a bedroom just as you described too!! I think my bedroom is the worst because it’s easy to close the door and know no one will go in there. With the kids’ room, sitters or people visiting might have to go in there, so the stuff that has to be cleaned up from the common areas gets thrown into our room. The closet looks awesome, way to go!!! I hate when we have to buy more of something because we can’t find the original and then end up with two or three of the same thing (cough cough JJ and his tools).

    • Thanks!

      Our bedroom is basically a room that’s three feet wider and five feet longer than our king-sized bed. We sacrificed a LOT of space for the Bed of Doom and Glory to fit in there (WORTH IT), so it makes the clutter even more suffocating. I wake up in the middle of the night half-asleep and shuffle to the bathroom amidst a whole bunch of fall hazards. One of these days you’ll see the headline “Massachusetts Woman Dies in Freak Household Accident: Foot Caught on Wayward Bra that was Wrapped Around Cord for Air Conditioner Sitting on Floor in Bedroom in January”

  4. Okay. *BIG HUGS* I know the prospect of this was really, really hard for you and I really appreciate the conversation we had about it. It helped me see how you were feeling, but also confront some things that I am feeling but generally shove back into the box of “general anxiety.” Also, your types of GUILT are spot fucking on and I shall be quoting you on those soon. For O! The guilt!

    As I scrolled through this post I was so delighted to see an After Photo of the Closet at the Top of the Stairs! I did not expect that. Since posting my pics, I have been pretty frozen on moving forward, but DUDE. I saw the labels and I actually teared up! LABELS. For me, labels are key. When there is A Place, the Homeless Crap starts to find housing.

    Love the tally! I am finding the way folks are keeping track to be so neat. So many ways to get to the same place. 🙂

    • I know you were building a metaphor, but I think I’m going to take an actual, physical box (there are SO MANY loitering like hooligans in my back hallway right know alongside the recycling) and write “BOX OF GENERAL ANXIETY” on the side. Then I can put into it all of the homeless items that cause me stress in my house and I will deal with them later. Those are the items that paralyze me and make de-cluttering impossible. Ha!

      Thank you again, by the way, for starting this challenge. Judging by the response so far, this was something we ALL needed.

  5. Pingback: #WhoNeedsIt |
  6. The guilt is TOUGH!! I am excited for you that you are feeling ready to start getting rid of things… knowing it won’t be easy but that it has to be done. You can do this. You can. And hey, that closet shows it!! It looks great and I can’t wait to see what else you do. Good luck!!!

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