Life was messy with ‘stuff’ and stress. I felt stressed because I had too much stuff and my life was too busy. My stuff got stashed on the first open shelf or cupboard.
I didn’t take the time to organize any of it or even know where it all was. I thought material things were suppose to make my life happier and easier but I was finding an excess of material things caused me stress and frustration! Part 1 of this Guide will examine how I right sized my stuff.
Once I had my stuff right sized, I needed to work on right sizing my lifestyle. This will be discussed in Part 2. I worked all day at my job and most evenings I was busy with other organizations without time to rest and regroup. They were all good and worthwhile organizations; however, I was too busy. Not only did my stuff need to be right-sized but also my lifestyle activities like cooking and cleaning, hobbies, memberships and relationships. All of these activities have stuff of their own (i.e. supplies, gym bag and clothes, etc.) so items connected to these lifestyle activities needed to be evaluated also.
For me, right sizing was not just downsizing but it was the amount of downsizing to a ‘right-size’ that was ‘right’ for me. Right sizing takes time with continued paring down of things. When my things were right sized, I felt comfortable knowing what things I had, where they were, AND they were all things that either I used each year or had great sentimental value!
THE FORCES TO RIGHT SIZE
Two events in my life brought into sharp focus the fact that I had too much stuff forcing me to simplify and right size my stuff. I am convinced that if I had less stuff and it was more organized, I could not have felt as much stress in these stressful times.
The first was when our last child graduated and the 5 bedroom house was too big. It became overwhelming to try to see and find what items I had.
After re-evaluating many aspects of my life, I moved to a two bedroom apartment with my husband.
The second downsizing opportunity came when we only had 48 hours to clean out our home and garage due to impending flood waters.
I was thankful we had right sized prior to this time. The flood waters came up 5 feet on the main floor and destroyed almost everything we had left. Ironically, still adhered to the wall in the den was the saying “The Greatest Things in Life Aren’t Things”.
We lived in a two bedroom apartment for two years with a fraction of our stuff. When we found permanent housing and I was able to go through my things that were put in storages that I hadn’t used, I found I really didn’t need most of it and really didn’t miss it. A lot of that was donated or sold.
I started by finding a guiding principle of how to determine my right size for stuff so when I would get overwhelmed amidst boxes and bags, I relied on it for strength. Mine was ‘an item needed to have been used in the past 12 months OR it had to have great sentimental value to be kept’.
WHY DO WE HOLD ON TO STUFF?
In order to right-size my stuff, I needed to look at why I held on to things. I had been worried that I would offend someone if I gave or threw it away. I also worried that a moment of time would be forgotten if I didn’t hang on to the remnant that reminded me.
Some of my reasons were very valid such as the old chipped ceramic Santa Clause that had been in my family for generations and truly brought joy as it was set under the tree each year. However, some reasons were downright silly such as keeping 25 pairs of pantyhose because they were a ‘good deal’ even though I rarely wear them anymore.
A few things that I had kept, and moved, through several states, were from people I was hard pressed to even remember. I was surprised at some of the things on shelves or in closets I found that I had purchased exact duplicates (as I didn’t remember I already had one!)
THREE PILE METHOD
I decided to go through the house room by room and started with the easiest place to right size which was shelves in the basement. Storage shelves are typically the dumping ground for things not needed or used. I hadn’t looked these since we moved in several years earlier. I made three piles – one to keep (as determined by the guiding principle) – one to toss or give away and one ‘I don’t know’.
The ‘toss pile’ ended up either in the garbage, donated, or sold through consignment or an online bulletin board like Bisman or Craigslist. It was good to get rid of the stuff within a few days so I could see my progress (and extra room).
The ‘I don’t know’ pile is tricky because while the stuff in this pile is not part of your everyday living, it is felt to be of ‘value’, whether sentimental or material. I went through this pile with my husband who helped me honestly decide whether to keep or toss after hearing you ‘make your case’!
There were several good laughs when listening to myself reasoning why I thought I ‘needed’ to keep an old jar of buttons (I don’t sew) or a gift from our wedding that I didn’t’ like then and never used.
Keep in mind two additional questions for each of these things:
- Would it be worth paying a storage fee for it? Even if your stuff doesn’t require a storage unit, it is a good question to ask. Every square foot of a house (and garage) has a price!
- Would others in the family keep this if they were going through your things when you die? Ultimately someone will go through all of your stuff. If I felt that one of the children would truly want something I had been storing, I asked them rather than store it assuming they did. Sometimes I ended up giving it to them then so I didn’t have to store it longer!
EVALUATE ROOM BY ROOM
My bedroom closet was evaluated. This closet held my childhood mementos that
were easier to keep boxed up instead of looking through. The faded flowers from proms long ago could now be tossed. There were still a fair number of special notes from a parent or sibling or best friend that I still could not part with. I have always allowed myself one bag or tub where no reasons are needed!
This same method was then used for an attic, cubby holes, closets, and other places that accumulated ‘stuff’.
The kitchen was the next room I went through. I pulled all of the things out of the cupboards and then made the 3 piles. I found a rice cooker actually took the place of a few other pots and pans and saved space, so it stayed.
My spice cupboard held several very old cans and bottles of spices that I’m sure were not potent anymore and some I didn’t even know what they were used for. A few bottles of YL essential oils (like Oregano, Nutmeg and Cinnamon bark) keep a long time and take less space. The same was true in the refrigerator replacing larger bottles of outdated lemon and lime with smaller bottles of lemon and lime YL essential oils that have more flavors (and don’t need refrigeration)!
How many cool whip containers did I need? I tossed at least 15 cups/mugs that were free and did not meet my guiding principle of “an item needed to have been used in the past 12 months OR had great sentimental value”.
A few other areas in the kitchen were reviewed. The contents of my ‘junk drawer’ went in a box and was put away to go through later (or the rest of my allotted time would have been sorting paperclips and trying to figure out what things were). The things I used all of the time (like scissors, tape, batteries) I took back out as I needed them and then placed these items in a smaller box after I used them. The majority of things left in the ‘junk drawer box’ after a few months were not worth taking up space (and a drawer) so were tossed. More space under the sink was made by recycling plastic and paper bags, combining opened boxes and bags of cleaning supplies and tossing old cleaners, replacing them with small bottles of YL essential pure oils like Lemon, Purification (for eliminating odors), and Thieves (a cloves based cleaner).
DVDs, CDs,and stacks of books were tackled next. Did I plan on watching or listening
to or reading them in the next year or ever again? If not, they were sold or donated – unless they had great sentimental value.
I love books! Many are like old friends that bring comfort and enlightenment each time I read them. Sometimes just seeing a certain series (Lauraine Snelling’s or Roxanne Henke’s) or special ‘tough books’ I conquered (like The Republic by Plato) make me smile and I kept those! But books take up a lot of space so again, use your guiding principle and the two additional questions?
A couple other rooms need to be mentioned for right sizing such as the den and my
bedroom. I went through all of the file cabinets in the den and asked myself if I even had the items (i.e. an old TV from the 2000 or a long discarded camera). Anything further back than 7 years for taxes were tossed. My bedroom closet and drawers were also emptied. I looked at each piece of clothing and tried to remember when I last wore it. If it wasn’t in the past year, the piece got donated or taken to the consignment shop. For those items I was ‘sure’ I would wear again, they were disposed of if not worn in the next season.
Many things I got rid of were easy, some surprised me and some were downright hard to let go. But finding the right size has definitely given me a more simple life and less stress! Going through these two events helped me develop a Guide for right sizing. Perhaps this Guide will help you accept the challenge and make time to find the right size of your stuff.
Part 2 focuses on right sizing my lifestyle from grocery shopping, cooking and eating habits,
to hobbies, memberships and relationships. Check these out at acabinbythelake.com.