After watching an episode of Hoarders recently on TLC, I realized that my clutter problem is actually not that serious.
Nevertheless, I have decided not to wait until every drawer has become a junk drawer or there is no more room to walk before I begin the process of getting stuff out of my house.
Managing clutter has always been a covert operation in my house. As long as it is in a drawer, or a closet, or a cabinet where it can't be seen, I've reasoned, then it's not a problem. I just keep them closed and trust that no one will ever know.
But I always know. Old receipts, cough drops, magnets, toothpicks, business cards from people I have no accessible recollection of, batteries, takeout menus and various plastic party favors gather in junk drawers throughout my house.
I have decided that I am no longer satisfied with my system of maintaining this assortment of useless and unnecessary stuff. In the spirit of trying to raise a child who isn't attached to material things, I have spent the last few months on a mission of de-cluttering.
Here is what I have learned from my time in the clutter cleaning trenches:
1. Don't do it all alone. My friend and I take turns going to each other's homes to offer support on our respective decluttering journeys. My friend is great at cutting through my nonsensical reasoning about why I have to save a ballet ticket stub from 2006 even though I don't remember who I went with or why it it matters. She explains (and not gently) that there is such a thing as too many different bottles of sunscreen and that they do,in fact, expire. I get rid of a lot more when she is around.
2. But...do some of it alone. Once you have gathered some momentum from going at it with a friend, give it a go on your own. This means no kids! I have gotten rid of bags of my son's old toys that he has never missed or even asked about. Having kids under foot can really slow the process down. Between stopping to keep them entertained and dealing with a tantrum about you giving away a toy they haven't played with in a year and a half, you may find yourself in over your head. I drop the toys of at the on El Camino Real or save them for the Community Yard Sale.
If your kids are old enough or mature enough to actually let go of stuff, however, you can let them give you a hand during a portion of your efforts. I tried this when my son was three and we had zero success. He couldn't part with anything and didn't understand why he should possibly ever need or want to. Now, 4 years later, he recognizes the value of space and knows that part of having what he wants means getting rid of what he doesn't. We went through a giant bag of stuffed animals yesterday and he kept seven of them and got rid of twenty-one. Now that's progress!
3. Reward yourself! Find a shelving unit online or a beautiful plant at that you will only be able to purchase once you have decluttered and created space for the item. If you have your sights set on a specific addition that you know will bring organization or beauty to your home, making space for it can be motivating and fun.
4. Let the empty space remain empty space, at least for a while. My old version of decluttering involved less getting rid of things and more rearranging of things. I didn't like having empty space. Now I relish the feeling of filling up boxes with perfectly good mugs and pillows and DVDs that I have no desire for anymore. I take them to places like and feel good knowing that someone else will now have a chance to enjoy them.
When I get rid of stuff, I remind myself to take time to breathe in the empty space the items leave. I know that the emptiness does not need to be filled. It can just be. Then, when something worth having shows up in my life, I will have plenty of places to put it.