Freedom from Stuff: Part 1 – Decluttering

Today we begin the next segment in the Freedom series…a three-part look at “Freedom from Stuff.” Hope you enjoy!

One year into our marriage, my husband and I moved from a tiny, second-floor apartment in the city to my grandparents’ spacious farmhouse in the country, trading in our one bedroom, two closet living space for four bedrooms, multiple closets, tiers of kitchen cabinets, and a walk-in attic. And did I mention that the garage was even bigger than the house? We had SPACE, my friends.

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Fast forward four years, and we found ourselves packing up our dreams to move to God’s plan for us – an affordable (aka run-down) fixer-upper in the small town I grew up in, downsizing from our spacious country home to a two bedroom, two closet house. TWO CLOSETS. Thankfully we still had a small attic, but we now had no garage. Space was once again at a premium.

It wasn’t until we made that second, unplanned move that I realized how much stuff two people could accumulate over the course of four years. Suddenly all the stuff that was squirreled away in a back bedroom closet in our old house was now staring me in the face every day, as we had no place to go with it. As our family grew to three, and then four people, we had to take a serious look at how to keep all of our “stuff” from overtaking our house.

Thus began a system of purging that we have been refining over the past dozen years. Now, when purging a room or cleaning the attic, I ask myself the following questions:

  1. Have I used it in the past year? If I go through a whole year without thinking about or using an item, I most likely will not need it in the future. Time to donate it so someone else can use it!
  2. Do I like it? This is a really important question to ask! Do I even like this item? Am I keeping it out of obligation or guilt? Just because it was given to me, doesn’t mean I have to keep it! It took me years, but I have learned to give myself permission to let go of those items and, instead, treasure the kindness and thoughtfulness of the gift giver.
  3. Does it have sentimental value? When we first moved into our current home, I had a huge Rubbermaid container of high school memories. Within that container were shoe boxes filled with paper football-shaped notes from friends, programs from various school events, senior pictures, dried flowers, and other random items from that era of my life. Each time I have gone through that container over the years, I have been emotionally ready to let go of more of those items. Today, that huge container has been reduced to one small shoe box of the most important memories from those years.

A fourth question that I ask, but this certainly doesn’t apply to everyone, is whether or not the item is dual purpose. Living in a house with such limited storage, it has become important to me that the items I keep are not only decorative, but also useful. For instance, I love collecting vintage Pyrex, which I display on open shelves in my kitchen. These bowls also serve as my everyday mixing and serving bowls. Another example is mason jars. We inherited a plethora of mason jars with this house, both the clear and the blue glass ones. The blue glass ones line my window sills as decor, but can also be used as an impromptu vase or candle holder. The clear ones have become our drinking glasses as well as containers that can store a myriad of grains, pastas, and sauces as needed.

The beauty of decluttering is that owning less stuff means managing less stuff, which frees me up to pursue things in life that are more important to me…like drinking coffee and watching Gilmore Girls reruns. 😉

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