Last fall I went on a cleaning binge. It wasn’t simply a matter of dusting or vacuuming; I felt a need to clean out the clutter in my life. Since that time, I haven’t felt the urge to replace the stuff, but I have been more aware of the value of the money that bought that stuff.
The Clutter Theory
I read in Suze Orman’s The 9 Steps to Financial Freedom that holding onto clutter actually reduces our prosperity. Her theory is that by holding onto items we no longer value, we aren’t making room for new things that we value more (like money).
You probably also heard this same theory if you watched Oprah’s hoaders episode or ever watched Clean Sweep. I won’t get into the psychological theories here, but I can see the truth in the statement.
How I Cleaned out the Clutter
I started under the bathroom sink – a pretty easy place to clean out clutter. From there, I continued through the closets, kitchen, and home office. I produced 8 bags of trash and 3 bags of clothes to give away.
In addition to tossing expired medications and makeup, used up cleaning supplies, and worn out clothes, I also took a hard look at my books, CDs, videos, and DVDs. I ended up throwing out at least a dozen old videotapes and selling numerous books. Most of the CDs and DVDs belong to my husband, and he wasn’t yet ready to part with them.
The Result of My Clutter Purge
Now that I’ve gotten rid of so much stuff, I can actually see what I have and make use of it. I tossed out about half my supply of candles and vases, and now make a point of using the rest. I tossed out several pairs of shoes, so now I can see which shoes I have and want to use. I got rid of old clothes, which means now I can find the clothes I do want to wear and that still fit me.
In the kitchen, I found food that had long since expired, or food we no longer eat. The good food went to a food drive. The bad food we tossed, and now I can actually find stuff in the cupboard.
Since my purge, I haven’t felt an urge to replace that stuff. Instead I’d rather use up the stuff I already have. I also think more carefully before buying something new. I confirm that it is something I will actually use, not something I think might be nice to have but don’t have an immediate use for. It certainly made my Christmas list much shorter last year! I just didn’t feel the need to get more stuff.
I can’t say that it’s directly related, but our debt has declined significantly since I completed the purge. I can say that uncluttering my life made me feel freer and happier. It also makes me much happier when I opened the linen closet or reached under the cabinet for a new bottle of shampoo. And sometimes, it’s the little things that matter the most.
How to Clean Out the Clutter
If you want to purge, start with one small section of your home. Set aside an hour, or maybe just fifteen minutes, to clean. Bring two trash bags: trash and donate. I suggest starting under the bathroom counter or the medicine cabinet, a place where most of the items have an expiration date. It’s pretty easy to toss a box of cold medicine that expired a year ago. It gets easier as you go. If you find something that’s still good, but will never use, then put it in the donate box. Shelters often need personal care items.
For serious clutter, you’ll also need a keep pile. Remove everything from the closet or room, and then sort it into one of the piles. Once you’re done, take a second look at the keep pile. Make sure everything you’ve decided to keep has a use. If it’s an heirloom, find a place to use it or display it. If you can’t, pass it on to a family member who can.
I completed my purge in an afternoon, but I have an apartment. If you have a big home or a lot of stuff, allow yourself more time to work through it all. At first, purging is hard. Once you get on a clutter-clearing roll, you won’t want to stop and the freedom you’ll feel is amazing.