Decluttering

Cherie is a ruthless declutterer. Nothing stays here long if it isn’t being used. So we have a generally clutter-free house.

But our place isn’t entirely clutter-free, thanks to some of the areas in my domain.

In my office, for example, the bookshelves are full and books are stacked in piles on the floor. Most are books I’ll never read again. By holding on to them, all I’m doing is preventing them from finding their way to people who might enjoy reading them, while simultaneously cluttering up the room.

Likewise the barn and the equipment shed now contain stuff accumulated over ten plus years for which I can theoretically imagine some future need, but which have served no purpose over the last decade other than to clutter up the buildings.

So decluttering is my list of things to do this winter, when there is time for such projects. It won’t be easy letting go of all those books, or the junk in the barn, but I’m gonna try. Then there is that large tub of compact discs in the basement….

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42 comments on “Decluttering

  1. smcasson says:

    I’ve gotta do the same thing, Bill. And my wife and I both are learning to be more like Cherie, so I’ve got nobody to kick me in the butt about it. It’s gonna be difficult. So far we have been through each room in the house twice to four times and finally have them almost decluttered. The garage/barn though, that’s a different story. It’s a disaster area. Sometimes I feel like tipping the whole thing into a dumpster. Can you tell I’m intimidated by the task??

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  2. shoreacres says:

    In a funny coincidence, I just mentioned Peg Bracken in my new post. She was the one who wrote the “I Hate to Housekeep Book” in 1960, and believe me, we all worshipped at the feet of that woman. Long before someone invented “decluttering” and started making money off the books, articles, etc., Peg had a rule for us: “When in doubt, throw it out.”

    As I pointed out, it’s infinitely expandable and useful in every situation of life, whether you’re dealing with books, canning jars, the brother-in-law in the back bedroom who’s overstayed his welcome by six years, etc. etc.

    I just placed a call last night to an antiques dealer in Michigan who specializes in Art Nouveau, and who’s interested in some of my miniature oil lamps. They’re beautiful art glass, but as I told her: there comes a time. I can’t take them to the grave with me, although the thought of a hearse with a luggage rack has crossed my mind. In any event, there’s a little more to be done around here, and I’d best get to it.

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    • Bill says:

      One of your comments earlier this year (or perhaps it was a blog post–I can’t recall now) inspired me to consider trying to sell some of the clutter on Ebay. Having bought lots of books on Ebay over the years, maybe it’s time for me to become a seller too. 🙂

      With books, my problem is that I just enjoy possessing them. But it makes no sense if I’ve read them already and will never read them again. It seems selfish even. So I’m going to try to mend my ways.

      With other things (let’s call it what it is–barn junk), my bias is toward keeping it on the grounds that I might someday have a use for it. Cherie’s bias is toward tossing anything you haven’t used in a year. I have some things like your oil lamps too. Things that just are tucked away in a closet gathering dust. I hope to send some things like that off to good homes this winter too.

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      • shoreacres says:

        The only problem with a one-year limit is that sometimes you can go a year without using something important. I’m thinking about things like my specialty sanders, or a set of moulding scrapers. It’s been three years since I used my triangle sander, but if I had to go buy another, it would set me back a pretty penny. And some tools aren’t even available anymore, like my Porter Cable orbital with an external mount motor. Those things aren’t clutter. They’re investments. (You’re welcome.)

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      • Amy says:

        I used to be like Cherie, and I suppose that tendency will have its hooks in me for a while yet, but I’ve come to appreciate my husband’s pack rattedness. I have been pleasantly surprised enough times by his repurposing and old things morphing to new and needful things that I’m now a believer: not a hoarder, but I think maybe we strike a good balance? As for the books, I do share that weakness; and I have no advice! I try to part with them, oh I do, but I love them so! But, blessings to your endeavor. It does feel awfully good to weed out and restore a little more order to our spaces!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. bobraxton says:

    not only am I totally empathetic – just reading this prospect leaves me (at age 71) with P T S D

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    • Bill says:

      I hear ya. It’s not in my nature to get rid of potentially useful things–even if the potential use is pretty far-fetched. I’m trying to get better.

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  4. Every time I declutter a few weeks later I always find that I need the very thing I chucked out but hadn’t used for years. I now have declutterphobia and a very full loft!

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    • Bill says:

      I always have that anxiety too. The key I suppose is to strike a good balance. If we really need something, it isn’t clutter. If we’re just rationalizing holding onto things we don’t need, they’re clutter.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. avwalters says:

    We’ve been living in tiny rentals–pending the completion of the house. So clutter isn’t a big problem. BUT, there’s a storage unit waiting and someday, in the next few months, I’m going to be shaking my head wondering, whatever possessed me to drag “this” all the way from California?

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    • Bill says:

      We had a massive yard sale when we moved from Florida and it was disconcerting to me. Yet when we started unloading the truck here I remember thinking more than once, “Why did I keep this?” There is stuff in our basement now that made that trip 13 years ago and has never been used. The only reason it’s there is that it is “my” stuff, in a corner devoted to “my” stuff. It would’ve been gone long ago if up to Cherie. I don’t expect those items to survive the winter. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Laurie Graves says:

    Decluttering is an admirable goal, but Karen Humpage is right. Often when you get rid of something, you inevitably find that you need it. Most galling of all is when you have to go out and buy what you just got rid of 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  7. nebraskadave says:

    Bill, decluttering. Yes, volumes of books have been written about this subject. People hang on to stuff for different reasons. In the case of my mother in law who has lived through the depression era, her drive is never to run out of any thing. Therefore she has cupboards full of food to absolute capacity. In my case, I collect things for future projects that some times takes years to finally get inspired to complete. And …. well …. then there’s my basement. Fourteen years ago when my wife died, I just stuffed everything in the basement when I cleaned the rest of the house. For years I let it rest down there without intervention. A couple years ago I started the process of sorting, throwing, and giving away. Now that my grandson wants that area for a play area, I’ll being putting a little more effort in cleaning it up. It’s time to give up and let go of some useless stuff. My grandfather was one to keep stuff with the thought of using it some day. When my uncle, my grandfather’s son, quit farming and retired, truck loads of junk was hauled away from the three different shop areas.

    Have a great decluttering day.

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    • Bill says:

      I know what you mean. Decluttering also helps those who will have to deal with our junk when we’re gone. It took us years to sort through all the stuff that was in our old farm house. Generations of accumulated stuff–treasures and trash (mostly trash) of 100+ years. And of course these days we accumulate stuff far faster and more abundantly that they did in those days. My mother, bless her heart, is one of those people who never gets rid of anything, because she fears she may need it someday. She’s got mountains of stuff that she’ll never need or use.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Bob Braxton says:

        among what my mother left behind (she died almost six months ago) is eight children. I am firstborn. The executor / executrix – third (male 1947) and sixth (female 1955). “never” is a very, very long time. (or not).

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  8. Joanna says:

    Sigh! I have to do the same, it is driving me absolutely nuts. Here’s to a decluttered future

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  9. Good luck Bill! I’m like Cherie, I get rid of stuff all the time! ❤
    Diana xo

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  10. Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

    Hmm, about your “extra” books; now that you have visitors staying in the Old House, I’m wondering if a library might be a welcome addition there?
    I am a capitol “s” Saver. I hate it when things don’t work properly (a girlfriend always called me McGuyver) and I like to buy things that have history, things that can be repaired and were built to be fixed. If there’s a use to be found for spare bits, then I’m your girl – but, unfortunately, these odds ‘n ends might be considered by some to be “clutter”.
    These days, we are being brainwashed into believing that everything is disposable, cheap and easily replaceable (off-shore): Those of us who were raised on a farm – an increasingly endangered species, as you pointed out – know that is not the truth.
    There are still lots of Makers in the world – those who actually can make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear – so, knowing your mindset, “letting go” will most likely be to the ReStore or other second-hand places like our “Beyond the Blue Box”; places like those I loved so much when GranMa would take me to visit: places like the Sally Ann, Crippled Civilians and Hospital Auxillary Shoppes…
    But, it is good that you and Cherie have a balance, non?: )

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    • Bill says:

      We have made a library of sorts there and it was a good home for some of our books, as well as for our mountain of old Mother Earth News magazines. But we’re serious booklovers. We have LOTS of books. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

        Oh say! Speaking of Libraries… How’s your local Public Library’s stock of what you’ve obviously got as an embarrassment of riches?; )
        Barring that, if you check out the prices of out-of-print volumes on ABE Books – where my local bookseller has sent me every now and again – selling your “extras” on eBay might be a really good idea: )

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  11. After spending the past year going through everything on my aunt and uncle’s farm with my siblings to get ready for an auction (it’s this weekend so we are done with all the work), I tell people to think about what you DON’T want to leave behind for someone else to deal with. Everyone talks about what they want to leave their heirs. How about not leaving them with a big task. Bless my aunt and uncle. They are in assisted living 91 and 88 years of age, and doing better with proper care, but not able to help us in any way other than “this goes to so and so,” etc. We came across so many things that would have been wonderful for someone else to use. A lot of thrift stores and the recycling center benefited this past year. And, my siblings and I have all been decluttering our homes. Happily, our parents are too which will help us at some point in time. Anyway, we’re feeling good about the auction this weekend so this hit close to home. Take care and make some space! 🙂

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    • Bill says:

      It’s an excellent point. I have a friend going through that now with her father. Keeping clutter around does create a burden on those who will have to deal with it all someday when we’re not around. I encourage people to give things away if they’re useful but not being used. As someone put it, there are no luggage racks on hearses.

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  12. Peggy made the mistake of leaving me alone when we were packing up to leave Sacramento several years ago. Every once in awhile, she will mention “I thought I had one of those…”

    Books, oh so true Bill. We gave away over a thousand when we came to Oregon, but we still have a house full of book shelves and upwards to to three thousand books. I am about to cut out another thousand, but oh it hurts.

    My most dramatic decluttering ever: When I went on my six month bike trek and decided I didn’t need anything I couldn’t carry on my bike.

    –Curt

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    • Bill says:

      I heard a podcast recently about a couple who got rid of everything they owned other than their bikes and what they could carry with them, then set off on a biking trip across the country. Now that is what I would call dramatic decluttering!

      There are no shortage of tips these days on how to choose what to keep and what to get rid of. One memorable one I recall was the “fire test.” If your house was on fire and you were rushing outside, would you grab the item and take it with you? If so, it stays. If not, it goes. That one seemed a little too extreme for me. 🙂

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      • Living in fire country, we certainly think about what we might take. But I am with you Bill, that approach might be be a little too drastic for everyday decisions. For example, in a fire, the refrigerator stays behind. Foe everyday life I prefer to keep it around. 🙂 –Curt

        Liked by 2 people

  13. Cherie and I could co-chair a declutter group. 🙂 We made a cross country move about twelve years ago, and it was a matter of cost. It was painful as I did it, but then we had a year of living in a furnished rental where all we had were the clothes in the suitcases. Suddenly all that ‘stuff’ wasn’t that important. The books were easy for me because we utilize the local library and have found that relationship to be wonderful – borrow, take it back. The funniest thing was when we bought a new entertainment center for the TV, I didn’t have anything to put on the shelves – nothing. LOL Cleaning the garage is easy but in the barn you always have those ‘things’ that might be future projects. Good luck with that. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      When I was growing up I loved the library. Buying books (other than school books) was out of the question. Much later as a grownup I began buying books and bookstores replaced the library for me. That’s a major reason I’ve ended up with so many books. Now that we’ve made the lifestyle change I’ve rediscovered the library–and I love it. Now before buying a book I check the library’s online catalog. Only if they don’t have it will I buy it–and when I buy a book I try to find a used copy. I’m reading as many books as ever, spending far less, creating less clutter, and enjoying them just as much.

      I smiled at your barn comment. I don’t save “junk” in the house, but in the barn I have pieces of wire, rope, metal, boards, broken tools, etc.–anything that might theoretically be useful someday. At some point the barn turns into a junkyard. It needs a good purging this winter. 🙂

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  14. Fareeha says:

    Aww… I havent decluttered in a year. I am also quite a ruthless declutter… but life has caught on this last year and need to sort out so many things.. sigh

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    • Bill says:

      It’s a good skill/discipline to have. My wife goes through the house one room at a time, about once a year. But she hasn’t gone into my study, and it shows. 🙂

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  15. EllaDee says:

    You know if you throw out/re-home something you’ll probably find a use for it after it’s gone.
    I’m ambivalent. I’m fond of tidy but if there’s a place for something, a possible use or simply even affection, then it has a place. I ‘decluttered’ a decade ago moving on from a previous life. Since, I’ve managed to re-stock. We joke that the executors of our wills will have an interesting time of it. I hope they find many things they can’t part with. As for the rest, well, at that time I’ll be done with it and it can go to new home. The clutter I detest, and I’m not being ungrateful truly, are things we are given for occasions… I hate mandatory birthday, Christmas gift giving… “I got you this” because etiquette dictates I must! After hanging onto far too much of it for far too long out of a sense of reciprocal obligation I cleared out a tub full of it recently. Now I just have to liberate the tub from the G.O.’s shed where it ended up.

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    • Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

      Thank you to you both! Ella’s “if there’s a place for something, a possible use or simply even affection, then it has a place” hit it right on the head!
      Like you Bill, I too grew up with the essentials (and the library was like my second home). When we gave, they were gifts from the heart – never expensive, often hand-made – because we knew it would be useful to and appreciated by its recipient. That’s still how I view my possessions and why to simply refer to them as “clutter” seems disrespectful and goes completely against the grain. (And yes, I too have far too many books, but they are my “embarrassment of riches” and I am grateful to be so wealthy.

      Liked by 1 person

      • EllaDee says:

        I meant to say ‘space for something’ but you knew what I meant. I love hand-made, even second hand gifts that are thoughtful, and like you I have many as keepsakes… often other bought-on-demand gifts are simply waste of money and space.
        I like that ’embarrassment of riches’… we are wealthy in that way too 🙂

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    • Bill says:

      Those “mandatory” exchange of gifts drive me nuts. So wasteful and a high percentage of the time the gift isn’t wanted but we end up holding on to it out of a sense of obligation. We tried giving gifts cards to restaurants, charitable gifts in the other person’s name, food–anything that wouldn’t just end up as more clutter (while encouraging others to do the same)–but finally we just gave up and asked our families not to buy us gifts anymore. We’re Scrooges (or just plain weird) I guess. 🙂 Needless to say Christmas with the extended family is a little awkward now.

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      • Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

        Well, I certainly wouldn’t consider you strange for that. These days, the gifts of time, love and laughter are far more precious to me than anything that could be bought in a store and compulsive gifting, followed by a requisite purge is nothing more than societal anorexia):

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  16. Dani says:

    If you get it right, please tell me how you did it… 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    • Bill says:

      I’m actually looking forward to having a well-organized, clutter-free barn, shed and study. Those are winter projects. We’ll see how they go. 🙂

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