Simple Life: What the Experts Get Wrong

by Elizabeth on August 28, 2012

Didja find fifty things?

I petered out at about 46, myself.  Got hijacked by a powernap and then by processing about four billion pounds of peppers and tomatoes.  (Which is awesome, but also created something of a typhoon of Mess for a day or so.)

Still, even if there were only five things leaving your care, it’s five less things than you had to deal with before.

If you didn’t get to the weekend challenge, stop reading and take a look around your desk.  I bet you can find five things within an arm’s length, even.

I know, especially if you have a slight acquisition issue (ahem), that it seems a little daunting to get through.  Like you’d never be able to get to an actual decluttered space.  (Or you’ve got no interest in ever being a minimalist anyway.)

You kind of have to look at the whole process as just that…a process.  You’ll find what works for you — because despite what all the self-help books and websites and experts like to say, your tolerance for crap is going to be a lot different than anyone else’s.  Maybe you like having stacks of things sitting around (within reason).  Or maybe it drives you batshit insane when there’s three pieces of paper on the desk.

There’s nothing wrong with either way…provided that it’s reasonable for you, your finances, your health, and your comfort level.

See, that’s what the experts get wrong.

That whole one-size-fits-most thing is based on their own ideas of what’s reasonable.  Just because I’m needing to have fewer “treasures” to care for (and dust, and insure, and play with) doesn’t mean that you do, too.

“Sane” is one of those concepts that’s way too subjective.  A sane amount of paper for me would be way too much for someone who doesn’t bind books or keep art journals.  (Though, I admit, a basket full of Moleskines may be going a bit overboard.)  A sane number of jars for someone who makes jellies or whatever might be a full shelf’s worth, whereas my mom’s cabinet full of them is way excessive.  (She’s never canned a thing in her life.)  A semi-truck’s worth of yarn might seem crazypants to most people…unless the person has an online store, or teaches kids to crochet blankets.

The thing is:  It’s excessive only if it’s not being used.

Unused Stuff is just clutter.  Even if it’s still good.  Even if you got it from your mom.  Even if you meant to use it someday and never did get around to it.

So my personal insanity may be the stack of fabric I still keep, despite the fact that I can injure innocent bystanders with a needle and thread.  (No, really.  There has been at least one Sewing Machine Incident involving someone else’s eye.  I’m largely untalented in that arena.)  Is it pretty?  Yes.  But if it’s just sitting there, it’s holding potential energy.  And that’s expensive, when  you think about the mental cost of sighing every time you see it.

So today, figure out what’s actually sane, and what’s actually used.

It might take you a few days, especially since, once unused things are in your house for a while, they get a wee bit invisible.  They’re using up a brain cell somewhere, most likely, where you’re pretty sure you’ll take that stuff and do something amazing with it, but it’s become unconscious and rote.

You have to get a little bit honest, here.  What do you really use?  What do you have time to use, even though you want to do everything?  What have you been saying you’re going to use forever, but still haven’t?

No expert can give you the answers to those questions.

And while it’s work, for sure, with a capital W…it’s worth it in the end.

Just be ready for the process.

And go throw out five obvious things right now to prime the well, while you’re at it.


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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Theresa (Miss Charlotte) August 28, 2012 at 12:42 pm

That stack of fabric that makes you sigh, yeah…I know where to put it….ahem.


Sandie August 28, 2012 at 3:13 pm

I woke up one day last year and realized that my organizing obsession wasn’t getting me where I wanted to go. It turns out “room for everything” didn’t mean I had to actually keep everything. As in, I do not need 12 low-melt mini glue guns 15 years after being a girl scout leader, even if they ARE neatly stored in yet another IKEA cabinet.

The solution for me? Get rid of the storage and the stuff follows. It’s scary as hell, but I have much better things to do than organize really awesome crap.


Boursin August 28, 2012 at 7:02 pm

I realized a while back that if I did not have a certain amount of crafting things where I could see them that I would become compelled to go buy new stuff. But thankfully, that quantity has become smaller nowadays.

Also, I understand the concept of “potential” and am trying my best to get over the fear of wasting the potential of fabric/yarn/whatnot by actually USING it.


Elizabeth August 28, 2012 at 7:06 pm

I’m totally visual, too — I COMPLETELY get that. When I was still in the throes of the Yarn Addiction, I had to have *all of it* where I could see it (open shelves, etc.) or I’d pretty much forget it was there. Not really, but it was much easier to justify buying just one more skein of sock yarn when I couldn’t see the couple *hundred* on the shelf.

Like I’m *ever* going to have the time in the forseeable future to knit a couple *hundred* pairs of socks…?

(It’s kind of like the invisible food in the fridge — if I can’t see it, I forget it. My poor brain.)

Having less has really made me *use* everything I have. I love that. I *could* go out and start collecting All The Things again, but when I don’t…the stuff doesn’t dictate what I do…*I* do. And that’s worth more than SABLE for me, y’know?

(non-knitters: SABLE = Stash Acquisition Beyond Life Expectancy. Or, the amount of yarn you could reasonably use before you die. Many knitters have reached a SABLE state.)


Margaret August 28, 2012 at 9:22 pm

I agree with you sentiment 100% except when the person who has all this “stuff” is trying to sell their house. I have recently seen a good number of homes recently, when the homeowner has an exceptional tolerance for “clutter”. There is a time and a place for everything, but when you are trying to appeal to the masses….please store your things properly, so others can see the house….


Laurie August 29, 2012 at 4:19 pm

“Potential” is my nemesis…I love potential. How do I get past it? I believe it is my biggest struggle. And struggle I do.


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