My family sold our house earlier this month, and packing has been a nightmare. Despite giving away and selling most of our books, DVDs, and clothes, it still felt like we had way too much stuff for the size of our family. Part of it was that we had lived in the house for several years so things naturally accumulated. Part of it was having a six-month old baby. (Babies come thousands of items, most of them on the floor.) Part of it was that a lot of well-meaning older couples just handed off things they didn’t want to us – we didn’t even know what some of the donated appliances in our kitchen did!
In short, moving showed us that we had way more stuff than we needed. I was so stressed out by the move that I used my local library’s eBook feature and downloaded 5 Days to a Clutter-Free House. Truthfully, it was a huge help in both packing, figuring out what to trash, and in deciding what our new home will look like and how we’ll maintain order.
I am a composite of many types of people that accumulate things – artist, nerd, and professor – so my natural inclination is to keep things as little treasures and mementos. Any musician knows about GAS (gear acquisition syndrome), and I definitely have struggled with GAS for about fifteen years. In short, I create the cluttler problem. I attach a lot of emotional sentiment or unwarranted gravity to items that in reality aren’t important to me in my daily life.
5 Days explains that a lot of artistic types and beauty lovers collect beautiful things and want to be surrounded by them, but that sometimes a lot of little beautiful things add up to a messy house:
“Real, long-term change will come only when the heart and mind passionately embrace the dream of an organized way of life, which fills our lives with what we really love—beauty. Many disorganized people actually have a keen love of beauty. That love spurs them to take home the charming figurine from the garage sale or to collect shiny marbles or coins. Sitting in their disordered homes, they proudly point out their lovely collections. Their shortsighted vision allows them to see the beauty in individual items, but their farsighted vision keeps them from noticing the wider view that illuminates the condition of the house as a whole.”
The book has a lot of practical advice about dealing with clutter overload, and the back half of the book is about maintenance. A lot of it is kind of technical and unsexy to read, but if you struggle with clutter I would recommend at least skimming this book. I have been able to get rid of bags and bags of unnecessary items, and by cleaning those items out of our house I was able to locate items I didn’t even know we had, like my father’s war medals. I also don’t feel guilty about anything that I got rid of, and now I buy fewer items that I don’t want to keep in the long run. In sum, 5 Days a relatively short read but it has been a huge help to my family.