When Less is More!
Every time I teach my clutter-clearing class at Clark College I hear the same sob stories (aka excuses) about why we keep so much Stuff. Could this be yours?
- But I might need it some day
- My ___ gave it to me
- It reminds me of when I ___
- I’m storing it for my kids
- It cost $$$ back then and I’d lose money if I sell
- It’s part of my ___ collection
- I don’t even know where to begin
A wise man I know once said, “You either have the results you wanted, or you have your reasons.” Perhaps you’re now ready to get results like ones shared by my Clutter Class students:
- I can’t believe how much less stressed I feel
- With all this open space my favorite things are out where I can appreciate them
- Cleaning is so much easier
- I feel like I’ve regained control of my life
- I no longer feel guilty about all the stuff I never use
- I have time and energy to focus on what’s actually important to me
- I can breathe when I drive into our garage and see bare floor
- A downsized wardrobe makes dressing a cinch
- My kids are grateful they won’t have to wade through a lifetime of our crap
- It makes me happy to know my donated stuff will help others
- I’m saving $100 every month ($1,200/yr) by emptying our storage unit, enough for us to take a nice vacation this year.
The easiest way to regain your sanity is to simplify, simplify, simplify. The good news is I teach a two-session class at Clark College in Vancouver every quarter that will give you the motivation, tools and kick in the butt to get you going. More info here. Next class is Tuesday evenings Feb. 27 – March 6.
From former student Patsy C:
Since taking your class I have gone thru every drawer and closet in our house. We had a yard sale, I’ve sold things on Craig’s List, and donated many items. I tossed a lot of my parents’ papers and photos and distributed the rest to family members. My husband got rid of 300 record albums. We are now ready to put our house up for sale so we can move to a smaller one level. One of the things that you said that has really stuck with me is “how many things of your Grandmother’s do you need to remember her?” Turns out, just a few. I am also happy to report that as of last week I have lost 21 pounds!
This cute bungalow was in need of woodwork repair, new front steps, and fresh paint. The owners liked the original colors but thought it was time for a slightly more sophisticated version of them. The white was a little harsh in the Pacific Northwest landscape and the green a bit too pastel.
Additionally, the front steps were a danger for people exiting the house because we always expect to step out at the same level as the floor inside. A lower first step is a feng shui no-no, so they replaced them, adding that crucial step at the top.
The body is now sand-colored, the aqua has become teal, and the door is slightly less orange. Subtle changes, but so much better.
Does your home need a paint refresher or total overhaul? I’d love to help: call me at 360-903-3659
I know some of you get your kicks from decorating every nook and cranny of your homes with Christmas decorations: you have every kind of Santa; you have nativity scenes and train sets wending thru winter wonderlands; your roof is draped with icicle lights; you have bells and baubles and angels and fake snow; you may even have blow-up reindeer on your lawn. And in your garage (basement/attic) you have boxes and boxes of decorations you simply don’t have places to display.
I’m exhausted just thinking about it.
I’m a holiday minimalist. Even in the old days, when we had a big house and kids at home, our decorations consisted of The Tree, which was carefully thinned out so our ornaments could have space to breathe, the ornaments (most of which were made by us or in some other way special), and The Tree Thinnings, which were arranged on the dinner table and mantel with a few special decorations and candles among them. The stairway always had a tinsel strand winding up the banister. That was IT.
It still was a fair amount of work to assemble and dissemble, but it was very much US.
Now I live alone in a small urban condo. I have a 30″ tall twig tree with LED lights (and decorated by my grandson with tiny pompoms) that collapses to almost nothing after New Year’s. I get my tree thinnings from walking around the neighborhood after a windstorm, and from a friend’s yard. Some nandina berry clippings from another friend, lilies and clementines from the grocery store, and a handful of ornaments I have in a little box under my bed. That’s it.
But. The papier maché snowman my older son made for me in kindergarten 40 years ago has his place. He‘s fallen off the mantel to knock off his hat more than once, and yet he lives to lord it over another holiday. The two table reindeer were a gift from a dear friend at about the same time, and my children think they’re ridiculous, which makes me love them even more. All these things give me enormous pleasure and they travel with me to wherever we celebrate the holidays. Last year, they went to Oakland; this year they’re going to LA. I think next year they’re going to France.
What this means is I can focus on what’s most important to me: the people I hold dear. What about you?
It makes me very happy when my clients are very happy. Here’s what they said when they sent the “after” photos:
We did all the changes and LOVE the outcome. We couldn’t be happier with the new “feel” of our home.
– Jill W.
This young couple wanted to make their new (old) home more warm and welcoming without spending much money. Paint to the rescue! (Plus a few other minor purchases.)
Living room before and after
Before: rug too small, corner light distracting, wall color dull, art behind chairs is lost and on other wall it fights with the cabinet which crowds the armoire.
After: gray taupe wall color brings out the color in the handsome chairs, rug brings together colors in living and dining room, art scale and placement much improved, mirrored table widens room and plays well with the armoire, folks on couch now have a coffee table.
Portland Craftsman dining room before and after
Before: Wall color is blah and cold, draperies way too short and busy, chairs too light-weight and “country” for a Craftsman.
After: All those things are fixed. So warm and welcoming!
Not shown well in either photo – kitchen color is now a warm tan to work better with the linoleum floor color.
How do you make disposing of your treasures easy and fun, while also benefiting a favorite charity?
When I was preparing to downsize to a smaller home, I sold what I could on Craigslist, but still had way too much stuff that I didn’t want to take with me. I also did not want the distressing hassle of doing a yard sale — been there and done that! Pricing every little item, haggling with strangers, hearing their snarky remarks about my dear possessions — no thanks! Nor did I want to haul it all off to Goodwill.
The stuff had to go: was there a better way?
YES! I decided to throw a “name-your-price” downsizing party. I invited friends via email and Facebook, and suggested they invite their friends as well. I also requested they bring food or drink to share as well, since I had packed my kitchenware.
My cleverest idea was to let everyone know that half of the proceeds from the moving sale would go to a local educational foundation we all believed in, “I Have a Dream”. Guests were asked to donate into a basket what they thought was a reasonable price for their take-home treasures.
On several tables I arranged all the stuff I wanted to free myself from, and set up another table for food and drink (wine always helps boost sales!).
Everyone had a great time, especially me. My treasures ended up in friendly homes, and because a good cause was involved my guests probably paid twice as much as they otherwise would have. “I Have a Dream” got $220, I got $220, and my tables were cleared.
Or at least it was a few years ago when I wrote this post for my blog, Getting to Less, to consider some philosophical questions about ownership.
We speak so possessively of our homes and our things. “This is my house.” “This is my couch.” “Fritz is my cat.” As if the house, couch or cat were really ours to own.
Even if you built the house yourself stick by stick, if you built it well it will live long after you’ve moved on. Someone else will call it “my house.” It was also built on land that was here millions of years before you were born, and belonged to ??? The couch belonged to someone else before you bought it and you hope will be useful to a new owner after you’re done with it. And think about it: is your cat really yours? He may feel attached to you, but he’s certainly his own self.
As I try to loosen my attachment to “my” house and “my” things, it seems helpful to step back from the whole possessive pronoun description of it all. Many languages describe our relationship to stuff quite differently – “the house of me” – which is more like “the house I’m in relationship with” than something that I have dominion over and is part of me.
Before I came to live in the house of me, which was built in 1972, three other families lived here. After I move out, other families will consider it theirs. And I hope they treat it with the reverence I feel for it.
Thinking of myself as just one in a line of people who live here for awhile, (slightly) eases the pain I feel knowing I must relinquish the house sooner than later. And I can even rejoice that the “books of me” will soon be the books of new readers.
After all, in the grand scheme of the universe and over an infinite period of time, me, my house and my stuff are barely specks.
My French friend Christine is a color lover, like me. When she remodeled the upper flat of her home in southwest France, she went all out with color. The kitchen is at the far end of what will be the living-dining area.
Here is the blah “before”:
And the “after”…
A friend brought us an enormous flat of tomatoes and peppers from his garden. I had to style a photo before I turned them into a big kettle of sauce.
It’s much more fun cooking in a colorful kitchen! Here’s the sauce:
A friend of mine and her husband are in the process of getting rid of a lot of Stuff in preparation for a move to a much smaller home. Down-sizing necessitates a great deal of reflection about what is and isn’t important, and about what our Stuff means in the grand scheme of things. Even if you’re not trying to get to less, such reflection is always good for us.
This is what she wrote:
Blessed are they for whom downsizing has no meaning;
For they have been downsized since they were born.
Blessed are they who carry all their worldly possessions
on their backs;
For they are denigrating Mother Earth far less than we.
Blessed are they who suffer transitions they do not choose;
For surrendering to whatever is change is in their DNA.
Blessed are they who cultivate whatever soil is available;
For they must grow what they eat.
Blessed are they who travel dangerous roads and seas;
For they are desperate for freedom and safety from violence.
May we live in profound gratitude for the abundance
in which we live.
May we cherish and sustain our freedoms.
May we preserve and heal our Mother Earth.
– Gretchen Meyer © 2015