For the last two and a half years, my family and I have been living somewhat in limbo. The reason for this is that in 2008, my dear husband, Professor Green, got a three year teaching appointment at Luther College in wonderful Decorah, IA. As I wanted to keep my job, my daughter and I moved to the Milwaukee, WI area where my company has an office. At least this way, we would be within driving distance of each other (we were living in Nashville, TN).
However, we all knew that this was likely not going to be our final home. So we rented apartments in both locations and put a bunch of our stuff in storage. And then we waited. Waited for the day when Professor Green would have a permanent position and we could settle down. (Btw, this is not a knock against Professor Green… We very much support his vocation and were happy to live in limbo for a while so he could follow his dream.)
Well, Professor Green has found a permanent position. At Luther College! Which means… We’re moving home. Finally.
(More to come on the move, new house, Decorah, embracing small town life, etc…)
As I mentioned, we have an offsite storage unit. Mostly to store our dining room table, chairs, and display cabinet, but there are also more boxes than I realized. Two and a half years ago, I must have thought that we wanted to keep all this stuff. Two and a half years later, I’m wondering what I was thinking…
Because I love decluttering and because I know doing things in small chunks is easier than doing everything at once, I decided to start tackling the storage boxes last weekend, even though our move is still a couple of months away. As such, I had to remind myself about my decluttering process.
The Simply Enough Decluttering Process
- Tackle one box (or drawer/shelf/counter) at a time
- Empty the content on the floor
- Sort into four piles: 1) Things I love; 2) Things others might love; 3) Things that can be recycled; 4) Trash (I avoid this at all cost)
- Put the “Things I love” back in the box
- Record the “Things others might love” in ItsDeductible and take it to Goodwill
- Recycle/toss the remaining items as appropriate
Defining “Things I Love”
That seems pretty straight-forward, but step #3 is the tricky part. How do you decide what should stay?? In this case, the stuff’s been in storage for over two years, so I clearly don’t *need* it. However, perhaps it brings me great joy, but I just didn’t think we could fit it into our apartment (think chocolate fondue set).
I recently read a good article over at RowdyKittens about the “Fragile and Flawed Nature of a Minimalist’s Life.” The point of the article is that being a minimalist just to be a minimalist and throwing out your life in the process is not living. We have “stuff” that is meaningful and even though it may be considered “clutter,” it is special and connects us to someone or someplace in our lives.
With this article in my back pocket, I gingerly worked through each box with a mindfulness about how each item makes me feel and if I’d miss it 10, 20, 30 years down the road.
Based on this, most of my papers, notes, tests, programming assignments from my college days went in the paper recycling. But I kept a test or program from each class to be scanned and saved. To remember and smile.
The fondue set stayed, but some random cups and saucers went.
One box contained children’s books and I held up each one for the family to see and vote on the “sentimental value” of the book. Most of them became “things others might love,” but we kept a few of the precious ones like I Don’t Want to Go to Bed!, which was the first book Rebecka read all by herself, and Everyone Poops (classic!).
I try to bring the spirit of generosity and the understanding that many people don’t have enough into my decision process when weeding through stuff. Perhaps I *like* an item, but it doesn’t necessarily carry sentimental value. In this case, if I don’t need it and somebody else might get a lot of joy out of it, it goes.
If an item feels heavy and wears me down, it goes.
An item that I can envision myself living without goes.
Things that will likely still be in storage when we’re in the new house are not worth keeping (or moving!) unless it’s seasonal or carries extreme sentimental value.
The Greeting Card Dilemma
I save greeting cards… Not all, but many. The first round of boxes included two boxes stuffed with old greeting cards, postcards, and letters (remember letters!?!).
I have a really hard time throwing out the hand-written word. Especially if it was written by someone dear to me. However, the only time I look at those cards, postcards, and letters is when we move. And I’m hoping this is our last move (at least for a really, really long time).
So I started going through each card to see which should stay and which should go. I realized after the first couple of bundles that it was going to take way longer than I had time for prior to the move. So I put them back. I’ll deal with them later.
But my plan is to keep the really special ones and put them in a scrapbook so I can look at them from time to time and see my grandmother’s sweet handwriting, smile at one of the many postcards from my mom, or peruse a letter from my best friend in high school.
Because I don’t want to throw my life out. Even if I do love decluttering.
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