Two years after moving and clearing 25 plus years of clutter before down-sizing and selling our ‘too big’ house, I’m noticing clutter creep. It’s subtle but the signs are undeniable.
‘Stuff’ is coming back.
Closets, drawers, and shelves that were uncluttered after unpacking and settling into our new house are filling up. Is it the birthday gifts, mother’s day gifts, father’s day gifts, and Christmas gifts that have been placed somewhere without a useful purpose or a ‘home’ where they can be found? Is it memorabilia from trips and outings that are scattered among possessions? What about those magazines that are piling up or the theatre programs that haven’t been put into the recycling bin? And, didn’t we resolve to stop buying books and use only the library?
Another sign of clutter creep is that clothing purchases are causing overflow issues in closets. When I recently bought additional hangers, I realized that clothes were accumulating — again! And who walked all those shoes into the hall closet?
Too often I waste time searching for things. It’s embarrassing to admit that sometimes purchasing a replacement (if it’s a small and inexpensive item) is easier than finding a lost item.
I’ve also noticed that cleaning some areas is more difficult. I spend precious time putting things away before I can clean. When floors and surfaces are clear, it’s easy to do a quick dust and vacuum job. Houseplants, photos of grandchildren, books, hobby projects — even excess cleaning supplies — are adding clutter!
The clutter creep needs attention before a backlog builds up. Most of the ‘new’ accumulation doesn’t have the feelings, emotions and memories of the previous de-cluttering. However, it’s leaving me feeling crowded in our new home.
Dealing with Clutter Creep
Here’s my plan for dealing with clutter creep so that I can face fall and winter with a clean slate.
Focusing on one area at a time. While at the cottage for the summer I focused on the cookbook collection. For years I had great fun searching out old cookbooks published by local churches, legion halls, 4H clubs, and women’s institutes. These cookbooks focused primarily on food produced in South Western Ontario. Gradually the collection expanded to other types of cookbooks. Bookshelves at the cottage were crammed to overfull. In truth, these cookbooks provided reading material as most of my cooking happens without referencing a book! An internet search is easier than trying to find a recipe in over 300 books. I haven’t pitched the whole collection but the shelves have been culled. Next, I’ll do the same with cookbooks at home!
Doing a ‘Marie Kondo’ and letting go of wardrobe items. Marie Kondo’s books were an inspiration in the massive de-cluttering before the 2016 move. In her book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying, Kondo suggests evaluating items by category.
Her suggestions work well when culling excess clothing. Taking all items of clothing out of closets and drawers for evaluation is a big task. The process is time-consuming but it forces an evaluation of which clothing truly makes one feel good. If something no longer brings joy, or if it is one of many similar items, it is ready for disposal.
Kondo suggests thanking the item for being in your life and then freeing it up to go to Goodwill and find another home. The act of saying ‘thank you’ to an inanimate object such as a sweater makes me smile; yet, somehow, it makes disposal easier!
Planning another basement Bootcamp. When we moved, someone suggested that we buy a house without a basement as basement storage rooms have a way of becoming disaster areas. I think of this person as profoundly wise! Nonetheless, our house has a basement with a couple of storage rooms!
I won’t call our basement storage a disaster, but it is becoming the catch-all area for ‘stuff’. As well as things we’ve accumulated since moving, there are items that moved with us in 2016 that should have been eliminated before we paid a mover to haul it. I’m sure it will take a full day to clear up these areas but this is a high priority for next rainy day.
Dealing with paper as it arrives. Clearing the ‘in’ baskets on two desks means making time to file important documents. We keep paper back up of investment statements and those quarterly reports can pile up. I keep notes with blogging ideas –sometimes in a notebook, but more often on various sized pieces of paper that I grab when an idea hits. A long afternoon of filing and purging should take care of stray papers. And, I’ll ask myself again, why do I need two desks? Using only one desk would increase efficiency!
Digital de-cluttering. Digital accumulation is as overwhelming as physical clutter. When I worked, I cleared my email inbox every weekend. I chastised my husband for letting his email pile up but now I find my inbox filled with messages that I don’t read. I won’t even mention the lack of organization of digital photos!
While I deal with the clutter creep, I’ll think about what these various items mean in my life. Do I need a theatre program to remember a wonderful performance or should it be left in the recycling box at the theatre exit? Does a collection of drawings done by my grand-daughter enhance my relationship with her? Does the hodge-podge of digital photos from trips and outings mean more than the good memories?
I’m determined to take action on the subtle clutter creep of the past two years. As well, I’ll become more vigilant about allowing excess stuff to sneak my house and my life.
Thanks for reading my post. I know many readers have successfully down-sized and de-cluttered. I’m interested in your comments about experiences with managing clutter creep and dealing with the daily decisions to avoid new accumulation of stuff.