Uncluttering, Very Slowly — A Guest Post

by Katy on July 31, 2010 · 20 comments

The following is a guest post from 1 Sentence Diary, which is wonderful new blog. It’s written by a high school friend of mine who recently came back into my life. She may have started out with the idea of single sentence posts, but luckily for us, she’s actually writing full length columns. She’s in my blogroll, so make sure to check in on her now and then.

The quest to declutter my home has temporarily moved to the back burner, as summer is a difficult time for me to accomplish much of anything. (Seriously, getting dinner on the table and the laundry tended to is a minor miracle!) Having said that, my 14-year-old son is just now finishing up decluttering his bedroom in anticipating of the exchange student who arrives on Sunday.

I hope you enjoy this column, I know I did!

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”

Lately I’ve been feeling somewhat overwhelmed by Stuff. You know, all those things that seem to accumulate in the house. Items that sit around requiring organization and taking up space. All that Stuff.

I’d like to get rid of some of my Stuff. I’m not anywhere near the level of hoarding, but I still have waaaaay more Stuff than I need. Clear and open space in my home makes me feel calmer and more relaxed. I’d like to have more relaxed feelings and less Stuff.

I’ve been working on this project intermittently for about a year. Somehow, though, it seems that as much as I clear away there’s still an enormous amount of Stuff left. I read blogs like Unclutterer and Simpler Living, and though I don’t aspire to the extreme minimalist lifestyle of Miss Minimalist, I do aspire to clean out as much Stuff as I can.

Those of you who follow me on Facebook know that a few months ago I did a massive closet cleanout and brought several large garbage bags of clothes and shoes to my local thrift store. (And, though embarrassing to admit, all of these items came from just one closet. I still have the kids’ closets to go through, the front hall closet, and a couple of storage closets as well.) It’s a wonderful feeling of lightness, like a heavy weight has been lifted, when I can see all the items in the closet and easily find the one that I want. Although I have fewer clothes, I feel like I have more to wear.

But I find that like many of life’s endeavors, uncluttering is an iterative process. I can’t get it all done in one swoop; I have to keep returning to the same items again and again. Looking at my closet today, there are things I had decided to keep just a few short months ago but whichI now know I should give away. There are still some pants that don’t fit me well, some shirts that may be just right for work but which I haven’t worn in at least 5 years, and some cute but very uncomfortable pairs of shoes. I’m not sure why I couldn’t get rid of them on the first round of closet cleaning, but I do know I’m ready to get rid of them now.

With the iterative nature of decluttering in mind, I decided to take a stroll around the main living area of my house to see if there was anything else that suddenly seemed unnecessary.  A quick look around (the space is not very big, after all!) and I immediately found 10 objects that I can definitely do without:

  1. The stereo, including the Speakers,
  2. Receiver,
  3. CD player,
  4. and a double tape deck. Plus all the power cords associated with those items. None of them are even set up at this point! The CD player doesn’t work, we don’t use cassette tapes any more (does anyone?), and we have other means of listening to music and radio. Our small docking station for iPods, which I received as a gift last year, has speakers, a radio receiver, and plays CDs. It’s a lot smaller than the whole stereo, and the fact that it works is clearly a plus! :-)
  5. Staplers. My quick look around found 4 staplers. That’s more staplers than people in the house. Clearly, this is a simple case of disorganization. Since the staplers were scattered around in various rooms, I didn’t realize that we had so many. I’m thinking that one stapler is probably enough.
  6. The Phone Book and Yellow Pages. I resisted getting rid of these for a long time, thinking that it takes too long to boot up the computer just to look up a phone number. But now we have iTouches and laptops which are nearly always on. I can’t remember the last time I cracked open the big old phone books. Time to recycle those.
  7. Broken watches. To be honest, I think some of these aren’t broken, they just need new batteries. But still, how many watches can I use? I wear the same watch every single day. I may keep one extra as a backup, but the rest are headed for the door.
  8. Pieces of non-working humidifiers. Yep, I know it’s hard to imagine in this sticky, hot weather, but in the winter the air around here is so dry that I sometimes run a humidifier in the house. I’m not sure why I saved the pieces from the one that broke two years ago, though.
  9. Tiny tea cups, and saucers. I have a full set of dishes that, though I no longer love the design, I still use regularly for larger groups. Someday I may choose to replace them, but in the meantime they are useful. However, the set came with tiny little teacups and saucers, and I think I have 16 of each. Which we never use. And they are space hogs because they don’t stack well. If we’re going to have a cup of tea (or coffee or hot chocolate or any other hot drink), we use a reasonably-sized mug. I’m packing up those teacups today.
  10. The teacups made me consider some of the other items in my china cabinet as well. I’d rather have a few things that I love than a cabinet full of things I never see.

I couldn’t believe how quickly and easily I found 10 things I don’t need. Maybe I should start looking for 10 things every day! What about you? Are you on an uncluttering kick? If so, what have you found recently?

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

WilliamB July 31, 2010 at 6:44 am

Decluttering is definitely an iterative process with the emphasis on the process – I’m not sure it’s ever done. I suppose one might be finished if one lived alone and never received gifts.

About those staplers, though… There are some things that someone might find useful to have many of. If you read Unclutterer you may remember a recent conversation along these lines. I have 3 pair in the kitchen alone: food scissors in the knife block, one pair near the fridge used for things that hold food together, one pair in the eat-in area for paper/mail/random threads, etc. And another pair at my desk, another with the mending kit, another in the attic mostly used for cutting paper and tape, another in garage, and another in the closet hardware box. Wow – that’s more than I realized. But for my household it’s the right number. It’s scissors where I use them a lot or need them for emergencies, and means I can, for example, take care of junk mail as soon as it gets in the house.


Molly On Money July 31, 2010 at 6:50 am

It an ongoing adventure, cleaning out the closet. I could find 20 things in 5 minutes to get rid of and yet I still consider myself fairly de-cluttered!
If you compare me to last year or even 10 years ago I’m much more de-cluttered now. Does it mean I could do more? Obviously, yes! Do I want to? Yes!
Great guest post!


Jana July 31, 2010 at 11:07 am

My son and I cleaned out the garage this morning and we are planning on listing a bunch of stuff on Craigslist.


Karen July 31, 2010 at 5:50 pm

Yay for decluttering, whether fast or slow. It is truly liberating!

Any of you who turn up excess staplers, scissors, pens etc, remember your local school. Teachers in many districts have to come up with their own supplies. Once a year in the summer, I go through all of my office supplies and set aside any useable extras. Teachers are grateful to get this stuff, so everyone wins.


Barb @ 1 Sentence Diary July 31, 2010 at 8:19 pm

Thanks so much to Katy, and to all of you, for the encouragement.

@WilliamB: I agree, I have lots of scissors and I have pens all over the house. But staplers? I don’t use those too often, and was comfortable giving them away. It’s all about what works for each of us. 🙂

@MollyonMoney: I guess it’s one of those things that will never be “done.” But like you, I’m better now than I was last year.

@Karen: Great idea about giving things to teachers. I will definitely do that.

Best of luck to all with our decluttering efforts. As for me, I need all the help I can get!


Katy July 31, 2010 at 8:20 pm

We took a trip to Goodwill this evening to drop off the stuff from my 14-year-old’s room decluttering.

And I found an incredible hand knotted wool oriental rug for $47.75. And it’s my dream rug!

I feel like I traded crap for a treasure.



WilliamB August 2, 2010 at 2:29 pm

At a hotel’s exchange library I traded an ill-edited late Heinlein for Orson Scott Card’s “Ender’s Game” and ever since have felt that I took advantage.


Anne Marie @ Married to the Empire August 1, 2010 at 2:58 pm

I’ve been looking around and thinking that I desperately need to declutter. I have clothes I don’t wear, shoes that are way out of style, books that I bought on the recommendations of others but didn’t like…

It’s pretty sad, IMO, that our culture is so about consumption that we look around our houses and feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of stuff.


Joy from Just Plain Joy August 1, 2010 at 3:23 pm

I thought about doing a blog series on getting rid of 10 items a day! You should start a blog about it…like SixItemsorLess.com. I would totally join!
I decided to try decluttering just 5 minutes a day, and it’s working pretty well (see http://www.justplainjoy.com/2010/07/26/decluttering-in-5-minutes-per-day/).
If you get rid of more items, please post an update 🙂


Barb @ 1 Sentence Diary August 1, 2010 at 6:18 pm

Thanks for the support! I was on a huge uncluttering kick last year, which got derailed due to a personal/family crisis. But now I’m picking it up again, and it feels great!


jana @ the empty kitchen August 2, 2010 at 7:10 am

i just started reading this blog a couple of weeks ago. i can’t believe how much i’ve learned and have taken away in just that short amount of time. and then…this guest post.

i have recently started a decluttering of my entire house and i, too, can walk into a room and instantly see at least 10 things that i do not need. to me, decluttering is empowering and eye-opening. i love the feeling of getting rid of the past and pressing forward with the now and the future (pictures not included). i love how much bigger my house feels without all the junk in it. and i love that what’s important can now be seen rather than being covered up with unnecessary and unused items.

i can’t wait to get home from work and continue my decluttering!


GLM August 2, 2010 at 7:38 am

I think that screames YARD SALE!!! But I did the same thing, I got rid of 4 boxes, one large bag and one small bag of yarn and spinning fiber over the weekend to my friends. That was only 1/4-1/3 of my total yarn stash, so I’m sure I’ll get rid of more later. It felt GREAT!!


adult fairy costume August 2, 2010 at 11:15 am

If we look closely then we can find there are many things that are unnecessarily occupying our living space which we can do without.


Dinah Sanders August 2, 2010 at 3:57 pm

That fine-tuning our lives to who we are now is an iterative process was the driving force behind my creating Discardia as a four times a year, every year holiday. I’ve been celebrating it since the end of 2002 and I am still always finding that there is stuff I’ve moved on from or learned my lesson from and can let go of.


Barb @ 1SentenceDiary August 24, 2010 at 7:16 am

Discardia! I love it!


Lisa @Retro Housewife Goes Green August 2, 2010 at 9:48 pm

We are on a major decluttering kick! We have taken around 500lbs to our local reuse center.


Betsy (Eco-novice) August 10, 2010 at 4:20 pm

What a great, non-threatening way to begin. Love it.


Jesilee (WEFA) October 9, 2010 at 2:38 am

Am I crazy in that I like having my cabinets open? My mom has been picking on me that in my new apartment while cooking I have a tendency to forget to close them, I would rather just leave them open or take the doors off. Anyone ever seen glass cabinets? I like having my small amount of china on display, its a pretty design. I don’t like how my mom hides so much junk behind closed doors, she puts it there and forgets it. I am starting to think that I might be a bit of person who likes to declutter… Now I have to figure out how to avoid my mother dropping all the “Stuff” in my lap. She already gave me some, and I hate to throw the bowls in the trash but what should I do with the tupperware that doesn’t have lids that I don’t want? I hate to sit it in my house but I dont want it in a landfill…


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: