A Clean Slate

Ten years ago, I was able to move everything I owned (including my futon bed) in one car (A 1990 Nissan Stanza).  When my wife and I moved last summer, it took a medium-sized moving truck filled to the brim, along with my car and a friend’s mini-van to get all of our stuff from our one-bedroom apartment to our new two bedroom house.  I get frustrated by the clutter that all of our possessions have  created in our new house.  Looking at pictures prior to when we moved in, there was nothing here (it was a repo house).  In the year since we moved, between our possessions moved from our previous one bedroom apartment and things that we have picked up since that time, things have become a little cluttered.

I kind of flipped out a couple weeks ago in frustration because:

  1. I couldn’t find something I needed in the clutter.
  2. It was getting difficult to do anything in some areas of the house due to “stuff” being everywhere.

I’d really  like to get one of those massive dumpster bins and throw everything I own into it and start over.  I can only imagine that kind of feeling, of starting over with a clean slate – to attempt to do it all over again.

Besides not being a financially reasonable option, it would be environmentally irresponsible to just throw everything I own into the garbage.  As an alternative my wife and I are going to attempt to either sell (if at all possible) or Freecycle/Donate a good chunk of our stuff over the next few weeks.

I know a lot of people who feel restricted in homes that are significantly larger than ours due to that amount of material possessions they’re storing.  I don’t want to be one of “those” people who feel they need to upgrade their house because they have outgrown their small home.  I want our small home to feel huge by the end of this purging process and to never have to deal with the clutter and messes that have invaded some areas.

I was given a lot of things as wedding presents, and as a result have a lot of clutter in the kitchen.  For example, I went from having one plastic mixing bowl to 3 full matching sets (all much nicer than what I owned).  I have 5 frying pans.  My wife and I are the only two people in our house, and rarely entertain and we have 8 place settings.  Things like this lead to massive amounts of clutter and not a lot of extra space.

So, this is our current project (rather, I should say this is my wife’s current project as I am studying for a large exam that will take place on June 9th) – ridding ourselves of clutter.  If successful, we are hoping to have a much less stressful home life, as in the summer we have very little time to clean – we are rarely home on weekends, we are visiting family or friends all over the province.  This kind of schedule means that our whole life revolves around either cleaning out the car from the previous weekend or packing it up for the next weekend, and leaves little time for cleaning.  With less stuff, we’re hoping for less mess.

Ideally, I’d like to be back to a carload of possessions, but with the inclusion of things like couches, tables and a real bed – this really isn’t possible.

Have you gotten upset over the amount of material possessions you have somehow accumulated?  Did you make any money doing it?  Did the “closet-piles” regrow soon after, or have you been able to maintain the cleanliness achieved?

8 thoughts on “A Clean Slate”

  1. There are people all over world who can’t even imagine having your problem; people who own little more than the clothes on their back – nevermind too many mixing bowls. It’s all relative, I suppose.

    I would declare a moritorium on anything new coming into the house (unless something goes to make room for it). I would also donate all my dupliate/extra stuff to charity. I think a women’s shelter would be grateful for your extra mixing bowl sets for the women and children who are starting over with nothing.

    I was shopping for appliances this past weekend and found myself standing in a showroom pitching a small hissy fit because the manufacturer couldn’t change the handles on the appliances to make them all match. Later, I was given a dose of perspective by a child who told me that there are children in Africa who walk 5 miles one way each day for clean water.

    It’s just stuff.

  2. Glad to hear someone thinks the same way as me. I moved into a small house 10 years ago with a bed and two chairs plus some clothes. 10 years later and it is bursting at the seams. I am not a consumer, I rarely buy new things and hate clutter, however I’ve had roomates for the past 10 years, and they always leave something behind when they move out. I have trouble throwing stuff out as it is a waste to put it in landfill, however much of the stuff is not something I could sell or even donate to a charity. Last fall we had a baby and now suddenly it seems every time we go anywhere, someone has to give us something for her. Does she need 45 teddy bears? At 9 months of age, her favourite toy is a cardboard tube. On top of all of this, we are moving to Paris for the summer so my wife can attend a cooking school, we’ll be living out of 2 suitcases in a 160 sq/ft appartment.

    After living with little stuff in a confined area, I plan on clearing out our house when we return (roomates will be gone then as well). I’ll donate, sell, and if need be throw out anything we don’t need. I can hardly wait to clear away the clutter. I waste a huge amount of my time looking for things and while I’m generally a laid back calm guy, it drives me nuts having to look for stuff.

    I have over the years had a few “spring cleanups” where I’ve rented a cube van and taken a load to a charity shop, and listed a few items on ebay (you’d be amazed what people will buy!)

    I also agree on the not moving into a bigger house, all my friends are starting to do this now as they have “outgrown” their starter home. If anything my family would like to downsize, we waste far too much time cleaning our current house which is actually small by our city’s standards.

    Good luck, maybe take some before and after shots!

  3. We used Kijiji to sell two computers and a bunch of baby things. We also donated a lot of old clothes (from the kids and from us). It’s really nice to live in a house that’s less cluttered, but it can build up again pretty quickly.

  4. We went through a big purge leading up to the birth of the baby a couple weeks ago. Freecycle/Goodwill/garbage, you name it. Very nearly went top to bottom in the house.
    Now the main 2 floors are in great shape, and the basement is fairly well organized with what remains.
    Nice feeling!

  5. The space equivalent to Parkinson’s law applies to space … clutter expands to fill the available space.

    The best strategy I have seen is to get a small for those with little self control or use the one-in-one-out rule for those with more self control. Then there are various closet tricks for determining what to keep and what not; I assume those are all known.

    In general, other people’s clutter isn’t worth much, but it depends. Also it is a lot more difficult to sell than it is to buy.

  6. @ Dana – I realize that this is a stupid problem to have, I would not classify myself as much of a consumer, but what I do consume tends to linger in my house.

    Thank you for mentioning the Women’s shelter – seems like a great place for some of our stuff.

    @ dabcan – not sure if you saw this article that I wrote: http://blog.canadian-dream-free-at-45.com/2009/11/17/reasons-i-wanted-a-tiny-house/

    but living in this small of an area would force me to optimize anything I were to consume.

    Have fun in Paris!

    @ Ben – I’m hoping I can achieve that feeling….

    @ Jacob – Once it’s clean, I’m hoping that employing the one-in-one out rule will help, as my spouse does not approve of the mobile home or tiny house that would severely cramp any pending consumerism.

  7. It will be a big relief when you start freeing up space in your home. You’re on the right track. Just don’t expect it to take a few weeks to sell things. Garage sales are fast, but yield little money. The money is in selling online. A book can be posted on Amazon in less than 5 minutes start to finish. EBay takes a good bit longer due to posting pics, writing descriptions, etc. Thankfully, both shipping processes are relatively fast. Also, know that you’ll sell/donate in stages if you want to do this right and not start the throw out/regret/replace cycle. You’ll spend a few months selling everything you think is unnecessary, then find a whole other batch of unnecessary things to sell a few months later. Within a year or two (hopefully the former, due to your moving plans), you’ll have a truly proper volume of possessions.

    Email me if you’re looking for any selling/minimizing advice. I have been paring down for more than a year, and have no regrets.

  8. I am in exactly the same situation today. I need to sort thru 15 years worth of stuff. I’ve also evaluated the same thoughts of “not being a financially reasonable option” and “environmentally irresponsible to just throw everything into the garbage”. I’m considering sending some of the stuff I’ll be tossing to the local auction houses.

    I’m interested in @Scott’s minimizing advice. Please send him my email addr.

Comments are closed.