A Life Lesson from Decluttering

Photo 2011-11-22 11 26 27 AM My new office – with lots of bookshelves!

We have finally finished the massive amount of decluttering we had to do because of our move into the city. (Well, okay, maybe “finished” is a bit optimistic; there are still bits and pieces at the house waiting for disposal.)

It’s been quite a chaotic six weeks (including a closing date which kept getting extended – but everything’s now set to close by the 14th at the very latest. Yay!)

After the movers had loaded up their truck on our moving day last month, Ward slipped behind the wheel of our car and remarked to me, “The house doesn’t look any less full.”

He was speaking the truth.

At first, it was hard, the decluttering. For me, it was mostly books, books, books. We gave away enough books to stock a small bookstore. Not only were there books on all those bookshelves of ours (and we had many bookshelves. Many.), we also discovered boxes and boxes and boxes of books I’d stored away in every nook and cranny of the house.

But as the days went by, I found myself becoming much more hard core. It became much easier to part with things. I only have so much space for books at the condo, so I had strict criteria: Will I ever reread this? Can I buy it in ebook format? Will I ever need the information in here? Can I find similar information online?

After I finished going through all my books, there were all the other things. And that’s when this whole decluttering experience became a real learning experience for me.

I learned about me. About the things I yearn the most for. Because I discovered so many things that had seen so little use. Art supplies. Magazines. DIY kits. Puzzles. Tools. Interesting knickknacks.

As I sighed and carefully packed each almost-new thing into the giveaway boxes, I realized how often I’d tried to satisfy my need for more time with things that I could buy when I had a spare moment here and there. Things which then sat around, waiting for me to have the time to do something with them.

Time which never materialized.

It was a big lesson.

I owe a lot to this whole decluttering/downsizing experience. I feel like a different person – I have far less wants now, and I’m really happy with all the things that I have. And I know the one thing that I really need – more time to do the things that I want – and I’m making that a priority in 2012.

I also like to think about all the money I’m going to save from now on. Because I seem to have developed a resistance to buying things. I’ll go into a store now, and ooh and aah over something, but have zero inclination to buy it.

And honestly? I’m perfectly happy fulfilling any need I have to accumulate or collect things by romping through Pinterest every morning; I pin something and it feels like I “have it”. Strange, but true.

It’s perfect timing for me to experience this lesson, too, with the holidays being so near. My Christmas wish list this year is very small, and it’s filled with things that I know I’ll use, enjoy and make time for.

So decluttering isn’t something that’s on my 2012 list. I’ve already done it! And I have no intentions of ever getting into a situation where I’ll need to declutter again.

8 thoughts on “A Life Lesson from Decluttering

  1. Vasilly

    Great post! I know what you’re feeling right now. My family and I are living in such a small space right now that I don’t want to buy ANYTHING else until we move. I’m constantly trying to throw stuff away even if I need it. My house is pretty de-cluttered but still. . . Feeling happy about yourself and your surroundings is key. It sounds like you’re doing great.

  2. Nicole | blue bicicletta

    Great post! I love your insight about how we often buy things as a way of filling a need for something else {Like buying craft supplies because we want more time to create}. This makes me want to look at my most recent purchases (and future purchases) through this lens. It’s so funny how we think and act sometimes—so often we do the opposite of what we really want because we’re not able to see the real truth. I hope you find lots of pockets of good times doing what you love in 2012!

  3. Barbara

    Glad you’ve been so successful at decluttering. I have good intentions but keep getting sidetracked. I did give away quite a few books this year but need to give away many more. My desk still looks like a hurricane went through my office and I have loads of “stuff” from attic to basement that needs tossing. I’m encouraged by your triumph. Enjoy your new home.

  4. heidenkind

    Great post, Belle! I don’t buy a lot of stuff, but I hardly ever throw anything away, either. The number of cassette tapes I have in my closet is a little ridiculous. =/

  5. Beth F

    Last winter I decided I was going to clear out the attic — I thought I could go through a box or two a week in the evenings. I brought down two boxes. Those boxes are still sitting in the corner of the living room. Really. Sigh.

    On the other hand, last summer I got rid of almost all the books in my office. I realized that I almost never look up information in print any more. I saved some classic editing books, style manuals, and so on, but almost all reference went out the door.

  6. Bernadette

    What a great post. I have always been a great de-clutterer – I love nothing more than to throw things out or give them away – but I always seem to replace the items quickly enough so that I soon have more things to cull. That’s interesting insight you have on the fact we buy stuff (like art supplies) in the hope that we might get time to use them – I do that with cookbooks and magazines – I buy them by the truckload thinking I will make time to cook complicated dishes again – but I never seem to find that time.

    I have grown far less interested in accumulating “stuff” over the years now though. For gifts I like to receive time – a dinner with friends, or a session at one of our local cooking schools, tickets to a show or the cinema – things to share and things that don’t require me to find room for storage :)

  7. Pingback: Planning for 2012

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