Two, four, six, eight…who do we…I chant in my head as I stare, half amused, half with nostalgia at a collection of pants sitting on the shelf in my closet. It’s perfectly reasonable to keep a few pair of pants in just about every size I have ever been, right? I very well may be that size again one day so obviously I need to keep these pants for when that happens. All size two, four, six, eight of them. It is clearly the only logical decision so logic wins and the pants stay.
Truth is even if I woke up tomorrow a new size I wouldn’t wear these pants! These things are old, not on trend and possible musty smelling from sitting around for so long. So why do I keep the pants? Why do I make up stories to rationalize keeping things that just collect dust and take up space? Why? Because we are conditioned to bring new items into our homes guilt free but not conditioned to give things away in the same easy fashion. For example #homegoodshappy is definitely a thing. #Donationdayhappy not so much. When was the last time you saw an ad campaign celebrating giving things away?
As the imbalance of feeling happy about new things but feeling guilty about getting rid of items we worked hard for or we paid too much for but never use (i.e. those designer shoes we never wore…) sets in we eventually get to a place where the actual things that we need and make us happy get lost in the chaos of all of the other things we are keep around because we feel guilty getting rid of them.
Even worse the result is more stress and more work to organize, clean and put away all of these things. So what do we do? We do what every magazine and home shows tells us to do. We go buy more things like baskets and bins to hold and organize it all. I have totally been guilty of buying into the false belief that somehow organizing all of the excess stuff will make it less work to clean up and less stressful. Bins and baskets are helpful but not the final answer. So what works? Creating a habit of giving more thought to what is coming in and why and then also routinely giving away and selling items. This works. These small changes make a world of difference in reducing not only the amount of things in your home but also the amount of stress that comes along with taking care of too many things.
Less Stuff, Less Stress
Everyone Plays a Part
Do not go it alone! Unless you live alone you cannot be the only one responsible for making sure that items that are no longer needed are given away or sold. Everyone needs to be equally responsible for keeping what needs to be kept and giving or throwing away what needs to go. For most families, mine included, this can be a HUGE change and will take time to become the norm. Ease into it by creating the habit of giving small amounts of things away more regularly and together. Create a space somewhere in your home in a closet or the laundry room where everyone can drop give away items as they come across them. Couldn’t wear that shirt because is too small? Don’t put it back in the closet put it directly in the give away spot.
Flip Your Hangers
I love this free trick! When you switch your clothes for the season hang all of your clothes with the hanger facing backwards. After you wear and wash the item re-hang it the correct way. Very quickly you will see which clothes you actually wear and which you can sell or give away. This also makes the process of letting go much easier because you can visually see what you didn’t wear.
Replace or In Addition To?
Don’t get me wrong I love to shop. I love beautiful clothes, shoes, jewelry, things for my home. I love it all. I do not love the stress that comes with a bunch of excess stuff. Now when I am shopping I think about my potential purchases in terms of am I replacing something or adding something new in addition to what I already have. This actually is really helpful in identifying both what I want to buy and what can be given away. For example I just bought new boots. Before I left the store I decided they would replace my old ones. When adding the new ones to the closet I took the old ones out and put them in the give away spot. Guilt free.
Let the Kids Enjoy the Return
If you decide to sell or consign kids clothes or toys consider working out a deal with them to receive some of the profits if they help. If you are giving away the items talk with them about how meaningful these items may be to another girl or boy who needs them and ask them how that makes them feel. Invite them to become engaged in the process and understand how good it can feel to donate.
Reward Yourself By Tracking Your Progress
Not only should you keep track of your donations for tax purposes but it is also extremely rewarding to see how much progress you have made towards keeping the balance of the things in your home in check. Wherever is most convenient for you keep a list of all of your donations and at the end of each month, season or year celebrate your success. If you really want to have fun consider weighing your give away or sellable items before they leave the house. It is shocking! One day the kids and I weighed 40 lbs of clothing items we had ready to give away. Not only was it a fun game for them to guess the weight but it also felt like a huge weight was being lifted knowing we were taking 40 lbs of items out.
I know first hand how hard it is to change habits, to change routines especially when maybe not everyone in your home may be interested in participating. I also know that our homes are our refuge, our place to restore and renew after a long day at work or school and anything we can do to create less stress in our homes is a great thing for all.