Luke 3:11 – He (Jesus) answered, “Whoever has two shirts must share with the one who has none, and whoever has food must do the same.”
Gratitude Day 813
Want to feel 20 lbs. lighter?
Declutter your house. Garage. Apartment. Office.
When I shared a few weeks ago that Hubby Rick and I moved from the house I loved and adored into a much smaller house, I shared we have gone through a significant downsize. This downsize been very intentional. While the bathroom scale has not budged these last few weeks, I feel much lighter these days.
Because I have less stuff.
Lately, I have had SO MANY conversations about downsizing, decluttering and getting rid of stuff with lots and lots of people. Folks who read this blog. Others. It has become a regular topic of conversation. Yes, I am passionate about this topic right now. But I am finding there are lots of other people who are feeling the same way I am.
If you are a person who is not sure you want to downsize, it’s OK. I am not here to say whether you should. This is a very personal decision. Unfortunately, someone else may make the decision with or for you. If my words are not for you today, maybe my words would be helpful for someone else that you know and I invite you to share this with them.
Hubby Rick and I began this journey of getting rid of stuff for a while. In the last decade, we helped move my Mom moved several times. She found it very difficult to let go of things. Her last moves were painful for her and her family. She wanted to keep more than she had room for. My siblings and I became the “bad” guys. After she moved, she often asked where something specific was. It was impossible for me to know exactly where everything ended up.
Yet, getting rid of things can be a positive experience. A couple days after we moved into our Poynette house, Rick’s Dad had a farm auction. He sold the last of his farm equipment, machinery and lots of “treasures.” Rick spent much of the summer getting ready for the auction. It was worth it. Tony loved, loved, loved this day. He loved having his old friends and neighbors at the farm. It was less about who bought something and more about the joy a bunch of people had in his things.
Notice the difference between how our parents viewed their things. Because my Mom had a hard time letting go, she was not able to find joy in letting others have her things. She held on emotionally to things after they were gone.
During the last several years, I have sorted and gone through 40+ boxes and totes of my Mom’s things, which included things from my grandparents and their parents. I found items from my great-great grandparents dated in the 1880’s. Yes, these items are interesting. But how many times they have been boxed up and moved again and again and again? How many more times will I move them?
People ask: what did I do with all of that stuff? Some was given to other family members. Last December, I distributed the last packages of pictures and mementos to family members and friends. Many items were included in our Deaton Family Christmas Gift Exchange. Lots went into the garage. Some things were donated.
In our most recent move, I moved one tote of things from those 40 boxes. One tote. Boy, does it feel good to know to have a manageable amount.
As I spent hours, days and years going through this stuff, I realized that it was time for me to let go of some of my stuff. How many more times would I move my 4-H ribbons? Do I need to keep yearbooks and elementary art projects? I read through our wedding cards one last time and pulled out just a couple. My personal mementos are more than one tote but I have greatly reduced inventory. I feel lighter. (In a couple weeks, I will do another post on sentimental things.)
For a few years, I felt that I was downsizing. I had gotten rid of stuff. There were empty drawers and half-empty closets in our house. Every year, I challenged myself get rid of stuff I hadn’t used. But when you have extra space, the motivation to really let go of stuff isn’t fully there. I tricked myself into thinking I had downsized. And I had to a point. When we knew we were moving, I remembered the day we moved into our Poynette house.
On a hot and sticky August afternoon, friends loaded our stuff into a rental truck. A group of ants hauled boxes to the truck, when a couple people tightly packed it in. Would everything fit on the truck?
The next morning, 20+ church members helped us unload the truck. By 9 AM, it was over 90 degrees and the same percentage of humidity. We only had access to two large rooms. One room was up about 20 stairs. Those lovely church people lugged box after box up those stairs. Books and dishes. Décor and furniture. I was terribly embarrassed by all the “stuff” these people drug up those daunting steps. I mentioned this to one of the ladies, who graciously told me that everyone else probably had as much stuff as we did. They just weren’t moving it.
I did not want a repeat of this story. So, we hired a moving company. Next, I was determined to have a truck that was not full. And it wasn’t. But only because we were super intentional about downsizing.
We moved into a one-third smaller house. Not everything would fit. Our old house had a ton of storage. Our current house? Very little.
For me, downsizing was not just because of less storage space. I simply want less stuff. When I think of all the time – hours and days – I have spent managing stuff, I am sad. I want time to do things that I enjoy rather than taking care of stuff. Relationships and experiences are more important to me than finding room for things that I seldom use or hang onto for the wrong reasons.
One does not have to move to downsize and declutter. Yes, our move has a huge encourager. In this house, I am very intentional and specific about what I keep. I am only keeping things I use regularly or give me joy. If neither criteria is met, I throw it away, or donate it so someone else can enjoy it.
How can you get started with decluttering and downsizing? Here are a few suggestions:
- Start small. Pick something very manageable, a single drawer or container. Something you can complete in 20 minutes. Do not start with sentimental things. Keep it super simple.
- Label three empty boxes: garbage, donate, and give to someone or move.
- Empty the drawer or container. Go through each item and make a decision. Only keep things you use regularly or bring you joy. If it does not do one of two, it goes into one of three boxes. Make decisions quickly. Your first instinct is usually your best decision.
- For things that should be in a different location, put them in the move box.
- When you are completed, the drawer should only have things that you love or give you joy. Put the garbage in the garbage. Make a plan (date/time/location)for the donate box. Move the items that belong someplace else to their new location. Create a plan for the items you will give to someone else.
- Repeat this process. If you feel good about the drawer and want to keep going, pick another drawer or container. When you start feeling overwhelmed or distracted or tired, stop. Pick a date/time to do this again.
Over the years, I have used this method over and over. I have often dedicated 20 minutes a day to go through things. Do this for a couple weeks and be amazed how much progress you can make!
When packing for our last move, I wanted to downsize more. As I packed, I challenged myself to get rid of an another 10%. Ten percent of a drawer, a container, a closet. Some areas I eliminated more than 10%. Some areas, 10% was a challenge. This goal helped me focus on only moving things that really bring me joy. The rest, I let go off.
Sometimes, people think about the money used to purchase an item. They feel they spent too much money to let it go. Or that it is worth something and should be sold. When I sort things, I do not think about what it cost. The money has already been spent. I think about what it means to me now, not when I acquired it. Rather than hanging onto something for the wrong reason, I release it and let it go so that someone else can enjoy it. Love it. Use it.
I also ask myself, “How much do I really need?” Do I need five similar items? Is one enough? Maybe two? Can I follow Jesus’ directive and give the other ones to someone else who needs them more than I do? And I let them go.
Are there things that I got hung up on? Absolutely. These metal tins are an example. If remember watching movies on a reel-to-reel movie projector, these tins might look familiar. They are tins that movie reels were stored in. They were my Grandma Deaton’s. She used these tins to take goodies to church, card club and other social gatherings. She put bars or cookies or cakes inside of them. They still have the tin foil in them she used.
When packing for our move, I held these tins in my hands. A bunch of emotions welled up in me. I had been eliminating at least 10%. I’d let go of SO. MUCH. STUFF. Until these tins.
My dear friend MaryAnn was helping pack. She saw me pause with the tins. I told her the story of where they came from. She gave me permission to put them in a moving box. And so, I did.
Friends – it’s OK to keep those things that are worth nothing but mean something to you. I’d rather keep these tins than something I know cost a lot more money but I have no emotional attachment to. These are the things that bring me joy. And what I should keep.
This Lent, I hope we can embrace the theme of Simple is Better. Because I have less to unpack and deal with, I have more time for Hubby Rick. I have more time to spend with people who I care rather than “things” that have historically taken up too much of my time and emotional energy.
If you yearn for this, start small. Challenge yourself to spend a little time every day or week eliminating things no longer are special to you. Be thrilled they did at some point. Now bless them and allow them to bless someone else.
I would love to hear your stories and antidotes about decluttering and having less. It’s a process. It takes time. I am discovering that doing so allows me more opportunity to do other things that are most important to me. I pray you discover this as well.
For the opportunity to share my belongings with those in need, I am grateful.
Holy God – Please forgive me for all the times that I put too much emphasis on the wrong things on this world: on “stuff” that I thought was important. Encourage me to have less, to want less, to yearn for less so I can have more time and emotional energy to put towards the relationships and experiences that are super important to me. Amen.
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