Just under 2.5 years ago, we moved from a 246m2 two storey, four bedroom, two living area, internal access garage house to a small, circa 1950s 110m2 single storey home. While we had spent the months before our move decluttering and reducing unnecessary possessions, we still had to cram what had been the contents of a house twice the size into our current home. Needless to say, we were pretty cramped at first
We knew when we moved that we would still need to dispossess ourselves of a lot of furniture and items and have spent the last two years doing exactly that. Furniture that looked great in our bigger house was too large for the smaller rooms of our new house and just had to go. We also had duplicates of some things. To date we have sold the following furniture using an online trading site:
- A queen sized bed
- A dining table and chairs
- A 3 x 1 lounge suite
- A bookcase
- A large coffee table
- The girls’ old cot
And that’s just the big stuff. We have also donated a lot of clothes and shoes by using the local clothing bins at the school and supermarket.
Every time we have let something go we have experienced the sense of freedom that comes with living with less. Our spare room and garage now have visible floor space.
It was surprisingly easy and it all happened without too much effort or difficulty.
After our initial success, things got harder. We still had a number of items that we weren’t using that were taking up space in the garage. Every month or so, we would get frustrated, move things out of the garage, go through them, get rid of a few items and move them back in. The reality was that we were just moving stuff around. We hadn’t changed anything so nothing had changed. The worst thing about this was knowing that ‘the garage’ was hanging over our heads in all its cluttered glory and wasn’t going to go away on its own. We had lost momentum and were in a kind of a frustrating and demotivating holding pattern.
So we decided to get serious. We would decide what was adding value and what was not. We would move these non value adding items out of the garage and they would leave the property that day, either to a donation centre or to the waste transfer station. Once we had decided this, the whole process was easy. Really easy. Embarrassingly easy. We looked up some places to donate items on the internet, loaded up the cars and off we went.
Later that evening we sat down and talked about how we had ended up in a cycle of doing nothing when it was almost laughable how easy it had actually been once we set our minds to it. Ultimately we worked out that it came down to two things.
- We had not seriously considered the future of some of the items in the garage. We had made no decisions around whether they were adding value or not and this had led to us moving stuff around instead of out.
- On top of this, being reasonably new to the town, we didn’t yet know where or how to dispose of items other than by online sale or by using our renovation skip bin. Because of this, we got stuck in the cycle of moving things around without really doing anything. We realised that the hardest part was actually working out where to go to dispose / donate items and then actually go there. The unknown quantity of how and where to take unwanted items was causing us to procrastinate.
For those of you who are experiencing difficulties after the first phases of decluttering or just want to get started, here are some key things we learned for how to re gain/ keep momentum on your decluttering journey:
1: Understand your values and passions.
Be clear on what you as the customer of your life are trying to achieve.
The reality is that we can’t do everything at once and at some point in time we have to choose what is going to add value now and be prepared to let go of some of the things we would like to do but aren’t prepared to sacrifice something we value for. This might be accepting that a past hobby no longer adds enough value for you to sacrifice the garage space you might need for starting your new business, or for storing the family bikes. On the other hand, it might mean making space for that hobby by paring down your tool collection that you hardly use any more.
2: Question your use of the space you have and the items in it.
Reconsider items in your house / garage that you have taken for granted as value adding. Does that sideboard in the living room have a tangible purpose other than for somewhere to put knick-knacks and whatever the kids have left lying around? If not, do you really need to be walking around it and dusting it?. How would your life be better if the sideboard was not there in the first place?
3: Make a plan for decluttering that goes all the way.
We have been caught out in the past by decluttering inside and moving items that no longer add value out to the garage, where they contribute to the general garage clutter.
When you are starting a decluttering project, have a plan to move the items off the property as soon as possible. This might mean allowing enough time to clear the items and deliver them to a charity store, or planning to take photos and post them on an online trading site the same day. By all means, if you are unsure about an item you have decluttered and want some time to make sure you really don’t need it, take the time. But schedule another day to revisit the items with a plan of removing them. By planning enough time to clear it out as well as move it out you will avoid having to deal with the clutter more than once.
4: Give items a deadline.
We came across a number of things that we felt the kids weren’t really using and were taking up more space than we would like but decided to give it one more summer before donating them. This way, we could see what things they were actually using and what went quickly by the wayside. In the case of our four year old, we could also start on phasing her out of her outgrown tricycles by explaining that this would be the last summer she could use them as she would be WAY too big for them next summer.
What I really like about this method is that by creating a deadline, we created a plan for these items so they no longer feel like clutter. They have a purpose for the next three months and then after that, we can let them go.
There’s still a lot of clutter in our garage. We know that the journey towards minimalism is a long game. Working through the obstacles to take the next steps gave us both clarity and a new sense of purpose for dealing with what can sometimes feel like a never ending, overwhelming task. Moving forwards, we know we can apply what we learned to avoiding get stuck again.