For generations, our generational farmhouse collected generational stuff, until little paths wound through it. My grandma dropped by shortly after my husband and I moved in. I was mortified, but all she reported to my mother was how nice the brown cloth looked on our table, the one spot I’d managed to carve from the clutter.
My fight to downsize had just begun. At first the stuff wasn’t only ours to ditch. Then we were so broke, we saved any stuff we might be able to use. Later we started acquiring our own stuff, usually at sales, often in bulk.
Homesteading required stuff. So did homeschooling. Finally, I reached my breaking point. But now I had children to contend with who naturally possessed the pack-rat ways of their forbears. Finances were still tight. When I did manage to pry something away from someone, somehow it usually reappeared.
Last year, everyone except our youngest got on board the declutter train. This year she’s also aboard. We even had our own sale. Though we still have too much stuff, we’ve tossed or given away boxes and boxes of what didn’t sell. Most hasn’t come back.
Sure, sometimes we miss something that’s gone. But each thing I get rid of is one thing less I have to clean or store. Ever. Daily we enjoy the extra time, money and space from having and shopping less. We’re also better stewards of our remaining belongings.
Huge amounts of stuff can cause clutter, wax old or become obsolete. We still use a wide variety of products, but we’re simplifying when possible and consuming without replacing. When we do stock up on our favorites, we try to purchase only as much as we can use before the next sale or shopping trip. We prepare a list and generally stick to it because we’ve learned that a bargain isn’t always a bargain. If we don’t love it or need it, we don’t buy it.
When appropriate, we keep just pictures of projects, mementos and so on, preserving memories without mass. If gifted with stuff we don’t want, we attempt to find someone who does or donate it to the secondhand store. We present our youngest with choices: Put away your favorite stuffed animals/toys/books, etc., and those your room can’t fit we’ll give to a child who might really need them. (This works beautifully when her room is messy. I come armed with a bag or two, and soon it’s clean again.)
I still hang on to stuff I shouldn’t, especially when it’s connected with people I love who are no longer here. But we’re all realizing that things aren’t people. As Luke 12:15 teaches, life doesn’t consist of possessions. And sometimes, too much stuff stops us from spending time with those we love who are here. Even God.
Now our house takes less time to clean and is cleaner overall–which also contributes to my peace of mind, because not every unexpected visitor is as gracious as Grandma.