A lot has been written about decluttering, simplifying life, focusing on what matters, being more intentional. A lot of good stuff. I hope I’ve written some of it and I plan to write more.
But I love a fresh, new idea and one thing I love about my husband is that he comes up with ways to think about things that I’ve never heard. We were just discussing how to make decisions about some of the stuff we’ve collected in our fairly good size (2,700 sq ft) suburban house. I jumped onto the decluttering train about a year ago and I’m avid fan although still an amateur. You can read what I’ve learned so far in my post The 8 Steps I took to Conquer Clutter, which I named a bit ambitiously since I was by no means done, but very enthusiastic about the progress I had already made. That post has several fun pictures of all the stuff I have since removed from our house. The “After” photos are still forthcoming. My favorite tips from that list are the first two: really believing the effort is one worth making, and starting with a trial period where you store stuff but don’t get rid of it yet. Once I proceeded to sell and donate over half the toys, clothes, accessories, etc I had enough space to easily store and access our favorite collections of toys, activity, and holiday supplies and rotate or bring them out for special projects. This was the most useful step I did to prepare for our summer week without screens or technology.
Anyway, my current realization courtesy of my husband was that moving forward, when we make purchases or accept gifts and allow new stuff to enter our home, we should do so with a window of usefulness in mind. One thing I do love about all the parapharnelia that accompanies young children is that each item tends to come with a built-in life-span, since children grow and develop so quickly. From bouncers to high chairs to car seats to baby toys, as the children grow you can sell or pass on the items that they have grown out of. What has been more difficult, and precipitated our current brainstorming session was the question of what to do with beloved items from before our current life with young children, and before the recent advancements in technology. My husband and I have school books and old sound systems that were once cherished items and carry a unique combination of a bit of nostalgia, and a heavy dose of bright possibilities for future use (at no cost) by us or one of our four boys. However, these items are currently taking up space both in our attic and in our everyday living space.
While we are still working on the drawing the line to help us determine what to lose and what to store, we realized that the hardest items are ones that we acquire without a clear expectation for their window of usefulness. I have heard popular advice on the Decluttering/Simplifying process that says to keep items that you know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.
For items that contribute beauty or qualitative value to our lives, we can choose to keep them as long as they meet that criteria and meet that (valid) emotional need. For functional items, be conscious and aware of the function for which things are acquired and the needs they are meeting, and how long you expect that function to last.
To maintain a less-cluttered existence: every time you acquire a new item, identify its window of usefulness and give yourself permission to pass it on after that window – of function or beauty – is over.
Comment and share the window of usefulness for something you bought recently!