Downsizing and de-cluttering when you love 'stuff'!
June 2, 2015 6:46 PM   Subscribe

When I look around my house I see a lot of 'things' that are beautiful or useful, but that I don't actually make use of. I feel a deep urge to purge, but also have that worry that sometime in the future I will miss these 'things.' Any advice on how to proceed?

I have moved house a few times in the last three years and although I am reasonably settled now, I am renting and the possibility of moving again (and then having a different space, storage etc) is a reality.

I have come to see that I have lugged stuff from house to house and although I get it all out at the other end, it's the same things that sit on shelves and are never used. I do have nick naks and sentimental items that I would never part with, but these 'things' are somewhere between useful and sentimental.

For example:
A set of hand painted glassware that was a gift from my mum. Probably never used and can't think of a time I would use them. I prefer the plain glasses I have.
A set of decorative wine glasses from my late husband, again, I go for the plain ones.
A waffle maker I never use, a second food processor, items that are useful and working that never see the light of day.

I really feel like I need to cull some things and simplify my life. My home is not cluttered and I'm no hoarder, but I still have the worry that I will miss these things when they are gone.

What are some tips for making peace with letting these things go? How do I go about de-cluttering and getting rid of things I feel an attachment to? (my attachment is more practical than sentimental). Help me make space in my home and head!
posted by Youremyworld to Home & Garden (22 answers total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
I haven't done it myself, but several friends aggressively decluttered earlier this year and swear by Marie Kondo's book.
posted by robcorr at 6:48 PM on June 2, 2015 [11 favorites]

For the practical, do you know any young couples or people who might actually want or use these things? You might feel better if you can give your waffle maker to a family member or friend who will actually make use of it.

For the decorative items, I'd suggest putting them away in a box for a few months. Put the box somewhere you don't have to stare at it every day, and after six months or so, re-evaluate. Did you think of the thing while you had it in storage? Did you miss it at all? If not, maybe it's okay to get rid of it, whether that's by giving it to friends/family or donating it.
posted by possibilityleft at 6:51 PM on June 2, 2015

One way to test whether you will miss them is to hide them away in a box for 6 months or so. If you don't miss them, off they go.
posted by ktkt at 6:52 PM on June 2, 2015 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: I'm not threadsitting I promise, just wanted to clarify that absolutely, by getting rid of these things, I mean donating it to people who need/want it.
posted by Youremyworld at 6:55 PM on June 2, 2015

Nthing the Marie Kondo book. It's a little cutesy in tone, but the advice is pretty damn solid.
posted by Caravantea at 6:56 PM on June 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

A tip from some previous that I like: for each thing, ask yourself "if I saw this on the free table at the swap meet or my friend's garage sale, would I take it home?"
posted by moonmilk at 6:58 PM on June 2, 2015 [7 favorites]

I think about how happy they will make people who are not me, which makes me feel warm and fuzzy for both the people who get the items and the for the items themselves, because I'm a huge anthropomorphizer. They are lonely and neglected at my place! They will be happy and useful in their new families!
posted by jaguar at 7:09 PM on June 2, 2015 [11 favorites]

Host a housewares swap party and have friends bring over their unwanted stuff too. You'd know your stuff would be taken by someone who will use it and probably think of you fondly every time the do so. Then donate all unclaimed stuff to an organization that helps people set up new homes.
posted by travertina at 7:16 PM on June 2, 2015 [3 favorites]

ktkt's advice worked pretty well for us in our little house in the LBC. We kept the clutter to a minimum for years by shuffling it to the garage before deciding to ditch it forever, or justify storing it.

Then this past March we moved and our minimum got a lot minimum-er.

So that's another strategy: Move.
posted by notyou at 7:19 PM on June 2, 2015

On the items from your mother or late husband, do you have other objects from them that also remind you of them, that you value more? I try to keep just the things that I really love that remind me of that person really vividly instead of keeping everything from them just because it's from someone I loved. (Also, with the sets of wine glasses, could you keep one or two? I couldn't bear to part with ALL of my grandmother's dishware because just glimpsing the pattern is like being in her home again, so I picked a couple of coffee cups & saucers in the pattern that I can display in my china cabinet or that I sometimes use to hold odds and ends; one day I may plant succulents in them or something, I dunno.)

Small appliances I don't use go RIGHT to my friend who runs a women's shelter (for both impoverished women and victims of domestic violence), who gives them to women setting up new households and trying to build a kitchen from scratch. Do you know how much guilt I feel about taking the beautiful food processor that was a wedding gift from my aunt, which I never ever ended up using, and giving it to the women's shelter where it went to help a mother with three small children who left an abusive husband to start a new home? ZERO, I FELT ZERO GUILT. That food processor has literally gone to appliance heaven: it is in a better place.

Say to your waffle maker, "Waffle maker, I am sending you to appliance heaven. You are going to go make waffles for someone who LOVES WAFFLES and wants to make them all the time and reads Buzzfeed listicles about how to make grilled cheese in your waffle maker. Bon voyage, waffle maker."
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:39 PM on June 2, 2015 [37 favorites]

Also, photograph any sentimental things before shipping them off to their new homes. It's most likely the warm fuzzy memories you cherish, not the physical objects.
posted by ktkt at 7:46 PM on June 2, 2015 [8 favorites]

I think it helps if you know your things are going to a good home. Freecycle, Craigslist, and yard sales are all good ways to know that your item is going to someone who actually wants it, because they are taking the trouble to come pick it up. If you have freecycle or something similar in your area, you could also look out for posts from people requesting the specific items you have. Local mailing lists or newspapers will also sometimes ask for donations of household items to a family who lost their possessions in a fire or disaster and would be grateful for the items you don't need.
posted by chickenmagazine at 7:48 PM on June 2, 2015

I am an aggressive de-clutterer, but I wouldn't throw away things like your mom and late husband's gift tchotchkes, unless you have lots of other gift tchotchkes from them and those are the ones you like the least. (I say that as someone who has gone overboard with throwing away sentimental things in the past, come to really regret it, and now am cautious about it.)

Appliances, though, yeah. Those aren't sentimental and there is no chance you will come to miss them. Think about them getting a new lease on life with someone new. It's like being reincarnated!
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:50 PM on June 2, 2015 [7 favorites]

Get a friend to help.
posted by radioamy at 8:00 PM on June 2, 2015

For things like the waffle maker: you can easily buy it again if you later discover that you do need a waffle maker. Tell yourself you are loaning it to the world and if you ever want it back, eBay will send it to you.

As for the glassware -- is there anybody who was close to your mum or husband who would put their gifts to use?
posted by kmennie at 8:15 PM on June 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

Apartment Therapy was hugely helpful to me when I've had to come to terms with letting go of lots of things that were cluttering up my space. Very sound, practical advice for detaching personal memories from 'things'. It's the memories you are attached to -- the stuff is just a marker for that.
posted by ananci at 8:18 PM on June 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

The thing that has been working for me in our ongoing-the-last-couple-months-pre-moving-Kondo-inspired purge has been to talk about how much more greatly this thing will be appreciated by its new owner. Eyebrows' waffle maker comment above is a great example. My husband has totally gotten into the same attitude and we reinforce each other's resolve by waxing rhapsodic to each other about the grand future life of our moved-on possessions.
posted by matildaben at 8:35 PM on June 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

When my parents moved several years ago there was a huge purge of most of the accumulated childhood crap from me and my siblings; it was basically "you can take this stuff you haven't seen in 30 years and put it in your attic for another 30, or it goes in the dumpster." I kept some things but got rid of the majority of them, and what really helped was taking photos of things before letting them go; like ktkt said, it's more about the memory associations than the actual objects. That was about 5 years ago, and I've had no pangs of regret since. I don't think I've even looked at the photos I took of all that stuff.
posted by usonian at 9:22 PM on June 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

Marie Kondo is right up your alley. Her approach respects the emotional relationship we often have with our things; you're saying goodbye and releasing your possessions from their current duty, not just callously dumping them.

Anecdotally, a lot of objects have come and gone in my life, and I'm considering a mini-Kondoing in the near future. The things I miss are always the things I use often and break or wear out, never the things that hang out unused in the cupboard for months.
posted by Metroid Baby at 3:56 AM on June 3, 2015

I had been like this for years. This past January I did a purge. It was a bit of a game that lasted a month.
Day 1, get rid of 1 thing.
Day 2= 2 things
Day 3= 3 things...
You get the idea. It is super easy in the beginning because that one thing could be a piece of junk mail that you just keep moving. By the end you may feel the momentum and be inspired to get rid of some of the things you are mentioning here, maybe more. For me, I started to become way less attached to the things that weren't actively useful. Another rule was that if it could be easily replaced within 20 miles and hadn't been used in 1 year, it got the ax.
posted by MayNicholas at 6:41 AM on June 3, 2015

My standard practice here is to put the things in a box/bag out of sight (i.e. under the bed/tucked away in a closet/in storage), and then set a reminder in my calendar for 6 months or whatever. If planning to give to a specific person, label with their name on it; otherwise, label with the contact info/address of the appropriate charity that could use the items. When that 6 months is up, if you haven't gone into the box/bag to seek out the items, then pass them on WITHOUT OPENING THE BAG/BOX (for me, this step is important for sentimental reasons!).
posted by rainbowbrite at 7:32 AM on June 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

The cost (both psychological and financial) of keeping a lot of stuff is often greater than the cost of replacing the small amount of stuff you end up actually needing later.

Just think of Amazon and Walmart as storing "your" stuff offsite, and if/when you need one of your items you pay them a fee to retrieve it.
posted by Jacqueline at 2:47 PM on June 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

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