silver macbook on white table

Downsizing and Decluttering

I had started a plan to have the option to retire by the age of 55.  For the past year or so, I’ve been slowly decluttering, organizing, and becoming more of a minimalist. 

I just cringe at the thought of moving and transporting all the belongings that had to overflow from my closets, drawers, and shelves. 

It is Just Stuff

Why would someone need three pizza cutters? How many Gladware containers does one person need?  It’s kinda ridiculous how much stuff was accumulated in the 20 years living in this home. As George Carlin said, we have stuff, we keep in our house, then we need a bigger house to keep more stuff. I had three crockpots. While there are always uses for slow cookers for family gatherings and potlucks, this was ridiculous. 

There were multiple reasons I decided to begin this minimizing journey. The first thought was if I were to downsize and move to a smaller home. Now that the kids are off-starting their adult lives, I’m considering downsizing to a smaller home. I’ve even thought about a tiny home.  Yeah, were are going EXTREME!

Make It Easy On Others

Another reason to trim down is there will be a time when I do leave this earth, let’s be real. We all do die at some point.  I remember when my father passed away, I worked for weeks going through his home.  It was an emotional time, but also very stressful with figuring out what to keep, what to toss, donate or sell.  Then, years after his passing I still had bins and boxes of things I kept and put in my own garage. Now I’m challenged with going through all this stuff again.

I’d like to not leave these experiences for my children.  I’m going to do what I can to simplify my life and my belongings to ease any burden left on my kids and family when I pass away.

Stop The Expanding Madness

So, I needed to stop expanding.  I began to research, read books, and practice different methods for decluttering and organizing. My first experience was the joy of sparking tidying ways of Marie Kondo. I had read her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and then binged all the episodes of her Netflix series.  This really did kick off what would be a new way of life.  To this day, I find the tasks of laundering, folding, and storing my clothes calming. It’s part of my weekend routine, I have time set aside to finish this. But most importantly, I no longer have the stress of overflowing laundry baskets, overflowing dresser drawers, or closets. In the past, just the chore of putting clothes away, was very stressful as there was no room, and would then flow into under-bed storage containers, and even containers in the basement. 

I Had Help From These Authors

I then continued to read, learn and understand how best to make progress. The following are just some of the readings that have helped in my path of minimizing.

And, of course, there are The Minimalists.  These two guys have Netflix specials, multiple books, and continue to express how things are not important, and will not make you happy. It’s the relationships and the memories that can make you happy. 

There was also a project that I had attempted a few years now. It’s called 40 bags in 40 days. Essentially you are tossing or donating 40 bags of clutter in 40 days. However, I’ve never made it the full 40 days. But every year I do make more and more progress.

The KonMari Method from Marie Kondo breaks all your stuff into 5 main categories:

Clothing.

Books.

Paper.

Misc.

Mementos.

Break It Down Into Categories

I’ll jam through some thoughts, on how I’ve leveraged this categorization.

CLOTHES – this was and continues to be the area that I’m still working on. Mainly because I’m a total Music Fanboy and have a concert t-shirt problem.  I’ve at least slowed my growth of concert and nerd-related shirts, by establishing a rule. “I don’t need any more black concert tees!” Easy! Since I have dozens of these, I’ve told myself that only if they offered alternate colors. I’m not the angry teen that wore black shirts every day, anymore. 

Another thing I had done is thinned out the collection by taking older T-shirts (I had ones that were 30 years old) and ones there were too small and had a quilt made.  This is now used on the chilly nights the windows are open on the living room sofa 🙂

One of the biggest things, which many organization experts recommend is to go through your wardrobe, all dressers, closets, and bins and use the one full year rule. If I hadn’t worn this item within one full year through all seasons, it had to go!

BOOKS – I had many books. Bookshelves packed with books….that I’d read to my kids 10 to 15 years ago! There were so many Children’s books! I also had books that I had so many intentions of reading. Yes. I intended to read them years or even decades ago. It was time to let these go!

Finally Made It To A Paperless Office (Mostly)

PAPER – One of the easiest and best things that I’ve done is digitize my papers, statements, and other documents. One of the first things I did was get all the important documents. Like titles to vehicles, social security cards, and birth certificates, and the like, and add this to a hanging file system a small fire-proof document safe. 

The next thing was to ensure I elected to receive a digital statement wherever possible. Any utility, bill or reminder will be emailed or available online.  Then I started to “scan” folders of documents that are worth keeping.  It started with my health care, insurance documents, and folder of pet documents, such as vet visits or vaccinations.

This is super simple using the tools I already have. I’ve chosen to use iCloud Drive and my iPhone or iPad. Then, created a folder structure in iCloud Drive starting with one labeled “DOCUMENT MANAGEMENT”  then others would be nested within.

I created one labeled “INSURANCE” or “PETS” or HEALTHCARE”  Just navigate to the desired folder tap the ellipsis, and choose “Scan Document” select the mode, I typically choose black and white since this almost always text, and I want to keep the smallest file size.

For details check out the Apple Support Article here or this one from Mac Rumors. My workflow is that once I receive a healthcare clinic statement, for example, and after insurance, let’s say my balance is $23.76.  I’ll pay the clinic online, mark the physical statement as PAID and write the date on it. I then scan into the proper location.  This physical document can be shredded. I no longer keep any of these physical paper documents.  I’ll then receive an email receipt. I export this as a PDF and save it to the folder. Now I have a digital copy of the statement marked as paid, and receipt together. The only other documents I keep physical paper, and digital versions are Tax-related and Investment-related papers as redundancy.

MISCELLANEOUS – This can include so many items. Some of the biggest things were holiday decorations, camping supplies, and misc. technology. Since I work in the tech business I had a lot. It took a weekend, but I dramatically reduced and condensed the items, but most importantly they are organized. I now have clearly labeled bins for Christmas Decorations, Christmas Tree Trimming and Lights, Halloween Decorations, and one for Costumes.  USB Cables, AV Cables, etc. Camping is now down the essentials for tent camping, I’ve sold extra tents, and donated sleeping bags. I don’t know why we had eight. Yes. Eight sleeping bags. UGH!  I recycled many electronic components, extra hard drives, and cables. 

MEMENTOS – These are those sentimental items. Maybe something from childhood or a keepsake from a vacation. Perhaps an award for outstanding performance, and blowing out your sales number? Or… the little adorable knit stocking cap your 21-year-old son wore the day he came home from the hospital and it was -10º F outside.  I now have two small bins on a shelf clearly labeled Mementos.  These are the things I will keep for years and years to come. It does make me happy knowing I have these organized, safe, and at any time I can just go take a peek, maybe hold something in my hand to spark that memory.  I’ve also placed a few shelves around my home or framed items that I’ll display in my home as well. Rather than have these things just fill up storage areas. 

Keep Those Precious Reminders

While there may be things here and there that do bring me joy or are sentimental, I have found it much easier to release myself of this stuff.  I have taken photos of some stuff, and I’m condensing many things.  For example, I had a lot of stuff that I had been holding on to because it was my dad’s. I decided to take just a few things that reminded me and made a small shadowbox.  My world around me is much more calm, collected, much more enjoyable.  I find my home is more inviting and I can use my home to be productive, as I typically work at home, or I can rest, relax and recharge in my home. 

Thanks again for following along. This is a journey and a new way of living. I’ll continue to work at removing the existing clutter and prevent the expansion of new stuff. Good luck to those that attempt this and we’d like to hear any tips, tricks, or stories along the way.