How to keep stuff from overtaking your home

I am by no means an expert in minimalism. In fact, I default toward packrat. I’m pretty good at seeing the potential in things and I can always convince myself that there’s a really creative use for whatever stuff is taking up space in the back of the closet. But I’ve learned that for the most part, this tendency just adds extra stress to my life. What I really want is a calm and clutter free home that I don’t have to constantly clean and reorganize. So there are a few things I’ve learned that can help a packrat like me live a more minimal life.

Give your stuff physical boundaries

Anytime I find it difficult to find the space to keep my stuff, I know it’s time to purge. It’s natural to think that you just need to get more containers and boxes and storage units to hold your stuff, but in my small house I don’t have the space for those things either! So rather than try to squeeze things into the space I don’t really have, I find it’s useful to decide on the space I have first, and start filling it from there. I make sure I include the best/most useful items first and anything that doesn’t fit when I run out of space gets kicked out of the house.

One example where this has really been useful is with kid’s toys. We recently started to feel like Charlie’s toys were taking over the living room. So we gave them some boundaries. He can have the amount of toys it takes to fill one drawer in our console cabinet, the shelves on a small bookcase, and a couple of cubbies in my desk. Everything else had to go! My living room is now able to be used by adults and Charlie hasn’t missed any of his old toys!

Find a worthy cause to take your stuff

One of the hardest things about getting rid of excess stuff is getting over the feeling that you’re “wasting” it. Especially if it’s something that is perfectly useful and sometimes barely used! I’ve found that it really helps when you have a plan to give that stuff to a person, cause, or organization that will appreciate it much more than you ever did. Goodwill is always an option, but if you look a little harder most communities have ways to make donations that will go directly to people in need. For example, a homeless shelter can always use good clothing, coats, blankets, and shoes to give to the people it serves. Our town has a ministry that helps refugees set up house in their new country. These people sometimes come into our country with nothing, so donations of furniture, household and kitchen items, and bedding can go a long way to help these people get settled and comfortable. A crisis pregnancy center could make good use of all your old baby gear. Getting rid of that perfectly good set of pots and pans feels a lot better if you know it will be used by someone who really needs it.

Be honest with yourself before you start purging.

I find this tip to be most helpful when dealing with my closet. Even though I may have good intentions to mend that hole in that shirt I wore once, or make some simple alterations to make that cute dress actually fit, the truth is that I will never actually get around to doing those things. So before diving in and trying to decide what should stay and what should go, I find it’s good to think about the reality of my life. I’m not going to do any sewing. If something is uncomfortable, I won’t wear it, even if it is super cute. And if something doesn’t fit, chances are neither I or the clothes are going to magically morph size or shape. When I have some guidelines in mind it’s a lot easier to be ruthless when getting rid of things that are just taking up space.

I’m pretty sure I will foreverandalways have more stuff in my house than is necessary or useful, but I feel like over time I’ve slowly but surely started to open up the space in our home by following these guidelines. I might need to work a bit faster in the next few months though. We have to make room for a whole new person!

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