Wednesday, July 2, 2008

How to get rid of clutter

We only got married and moved into our little home a few short months ago, yet I can already see the clutter beginning to accumulate. It has the most sinister ways to creep in. Old newspapers and bills, empty plastic bags, a few items that were lovingly given to us, but are of little use... it takes a time to sort through it all!

In addition, I have discovered a slight difference of attitudes between my husband and myself when it comes to this matter. I see as clutter any object we don't use for practical purposes or to beautify our home, and will gladly throw or give it away. My husband will most often stick to anything he thinks we might ever use, someday, someway. In a little house with very little storage space, this usually means piles of clutter.

Here's what happened last night. My husband came from work, holding two unrecognizable metal objects in his hands.

"Aren't they nice?" - he asked enthusiastically.
"What are these?"
"Well, I don't actually know. But aren't they cool?"

Don't get me wrong - I'm not complaining. I love having a creative and resourceful husband who can take what others would label as "junk", make a few tweaks here and there, and produce excellent and useful items. If you visited me, you'd see our multi-purpose dining table - we don't have enough space to squeeze in a desk, so I also use it as a working desk for computer, writing letters, crafts and ironing. You'd never guess this lovely table was found abandoned outside, and repainted just a few days before our wedding.

I think I have mentioned previously that most of our furniture was either found and repaired, or we got it used. It saved us a good deal of money, and was very useful. However, we also have much (too much, in my opinion) stuff that gathers dust on our shelves, taking up limited storage space.

In a few months, we are supposed to move again, and I'm eagerly waiting for this opportunity to get rid of unnecessary clutter. Moving is the perfect time to do that, because you are forced to go through all your things and decide what is important enough to be wrapped, put into a box, and taken with you to your new home. Often, you will find things you even forgot you had - and ironically, even though you hadn't used them for years and didn't miss them at all, once you see it you are unable to say goodbye.

After we move, we plan to settle in our little nest for more than a few months. Which means I will have to be even more careful about letting clutter in. We'll have an outside storage shed in our new home, but I don't want it to become full to burst with unnecessary items either. So I think that once in a while, I will just pretend we are moving again, and simply let go. Let go of unnecessary items and simplify our life. It feels good.

PS: I'm happy to share some joyous news with you all, dear friends - we have a new niece! My sister-in-law gave birth to a sweet, precious baby girl. I can't wait to see them both.

PPS: I'm glad many of you enjoyed the Jewish wedding video I posted yesterday. Keep in mind that Jews have varying traditions, depending on place of origin. The wedding you saw was Ashkenazi. My husband is Sephardi so some things about our wedding were a bit different.


Beautifuly Created said...

I have two or three boxes in our garage right now from our recent move that I will be getting rid of that were clutter for us, along with several odds and ends. We have already purged a lot of other stuff too. Moving is a very good time to get down into the clutter, I also tend to go through rooms every season or so and decide if I really like or need everything in them.

deb said...

I am trying to weed out clutter, slowly from my own life. It is surprising how much junk that I have accumulated in my life.

Rosemary said...

Clutter is all around me. I have such a hard time with it. It is mainly my clutter (and a bit of my husband's, though he is much better with it). We are expecting our first grandchild in Dec., and I am determined to unclutter before babe arrives. I gues he or she will bring enough stuff of their own. LOL

Anonymous said...

Congrats on the new niece!! Okay, onto the clutter. When I find something in a box or in a closet or wherever that I havent used in 5 months or a year (if its a seasonal item) I get rid of it because obviously Ive lived without missing it. I keep a couple boxes for sentimental things and go through them occasionally, if when I go through the box I cant remember why it was important to me then I give it away. For my daughters special things like her first favorite stuffed animal I attatch a note to it, explaining to her why it was so important, the story behind it so she knows all about it when she inherits the box.

Another thing you can do when you find something, ask yourself, do I like it? Would I pay money for it if I saw it in a store? Can it be repurposed for anything else? Have I used it in the past 6 months? That helps as well.


USAincognito said...

It must be the season for de-cluttering!! I am in the process of going through my stuff, as well, and deciding what needs to go. I know some of the stuff I have still packed in boxes from 6 years ago I definitely don't need if I have not used them by now! lol!!
I also have a bunch of stuff I need to start putting into a scrapbook. Don't know the first thing about scrapbooking but I am going to need to learn how here really soon so I can empty out a couple of files in my filing cabinet!
Good luck with your own de-cluttering as you prepare to move again. And congrats on the birth of your niece! :)

Anonymous said...

Good morning, Anna. Yes, clutter can really be a monster. I don't think that's too extreme a word, either! Here, at our home, I am always decluttering. Sometimes it is children's outgrown clothing, sometimes just decorative items that no longer serve me or my family. I can appreciate your husband's ingenuity & enthusiam, though, ("Aren't they cool?"), as my own father was such a man. He could make something out of nothing! But a person does have to live within the confines of his or her dwelling, & too much stuff makes that near impossible. Good luck on your venture.

I pray you're feeling better soon. Also, many thanks for posting the Jewish wedding of it were very moving, & the rest looked like lots of fun!


Michelle Potter said...

Ah, clutter is my constant bane! I'm the type who likes to own very few things. My husband is more like yours -- holding onto things "just in case." On the one hand, when we recently found ourselves suddenly without a computer, he was able to put one together from parts laying around the house. On the other hand, we can barely *walk* in our garage, and certainly not park in there.

Julia said...

If you think you have clutter now, just wait until you're like me and have lived in the same house ten years. Yikes! We're like you two. I'm the declutterer and my husband is the one who brings stuff home. There are some things like his box of cassette tapes of his '80's music that I'm pretty sure he will never listen to, but he keeps anyway. Then there are things that I know are complete junk that he wants to keep. My little secret is that I get rid of them while he's gone because sometimes it just has to be done. It's usually broken things that he thinks he might be able to fix one day, but even if he were to fix it he would not use it and besides it's clearly too hard to fix. He works at a print shop and when he prints books he brings a copy home so I can read it, but I know I don't really want to. It's his way of thinking of me and it's sweet, but I don't really want to read it. I used to feel bad, but I've learned that if I don't clear the clutter we will end up living in a garbage heap, so I've had to let go of some of the sentimentality.

I love the way our opposite personalities in a marriage compliment each other. It may seem like a clash, but you balance each other out.

Dereschai said...

If you still have the "cool things" that your husband found, why not post some pictures on your blog? I'm quite curious to know what they are, and I'm sure that someone in your readership might know :)

earthly jane said...

I think most husbands and wives have this dilema. One is like you and I, clutter is something that at this moment does not serve a purpose and usually the other like our husbands, "we might need that someday"
If you have ample storage space, the above works well but you and I don't.
But what can ya do?
You gotta love em!
Great post!

Anonymous said...

Hi Anna,

I lurk here a lot but rarely comment, because many of my beliefs and feelings are much different that the general community here. That said, I read your blog because even when I don't agree, I always have something new to think about (which in turn, helps me to examine and refine my own beliefs and feelings - always a useful process!).

Anyway, as far as the clutter goes, you might take a look at the FlyLady website if you haven't done so already. She offeres a LOT of helpful tips and information on how to keep clutter to a minimum.

Also, regarding the things you forget about, see and then can't get rid of: I finally developed a system where I periodically pack up one or two boxes full of things I don't use, but can't bring myself to part with. I date the outside, but don't list the contents, and I put it in the garage/storage space. After a year has gone by, if I haven't opened the box, and I can't remember what's in it (that part is key, since I wouldn't want to give away things of sentimental value), I donate the whole box to charity without opening it. I've never given away anything that I missed, using that system. :)

Anonymous said...

I love your blog. I have never posted before, but read almost every day! Can you please explain the difference between the Ashkenazi and Sephardi? Also, I don't know if you posted this before or not, but how did your family come to move back to Israel?

Bethany Hudson said...

Anna, I can totally relate! My husband is a bit of a pack rat, as well, which I don't always mind since he's so good at putting his "clutter" to use...well, most of the time. Sometimes, I have to make him see reason and out it goes :)

Congratulations on your baby niece! How exciting. Do you know her name yet?


Karen said...

My situation is about the same. Except we have a large living space right now, so more room for clutter! I've begged, bribed and cried for him to get rid of some of this stuff. It's hard but most of the time I just put up with it! It's just I see a space and I think "Oh, possibilities! A playroom, a couch, a dresser!" and he sees the same space and says "Good, I can get my 23 boxes of comics out of the closet!" LOL

Kelly said...

Congratulations on the new neice.
My hubby is the same way.

wendybirde said...

Hi Anna,

Congratualions on your niece : ) And with clutter, oh boy can i relate, my fiance and i have about the same dynamic as you two there.

Ive come to realize that deep down he's a rescuer...not only with people but things. And i love that about him so much. Yet, at the same time, i just ~cannot~ live with clutter, i cant even string two thoughts together when things get cluttery.

The only thing i think might work is the out of the house storage space idea, so at least the clutter is out of the house and out of sight. Traditionally thats what garages were for, and they also served as the guys workspace...its likely what we'll need.

Well, i hope alls well with you Anna...

Peaceful Week : ) Wendy

Anonymous said...

It's so inherently human to have one spouse the clutterer, and the other the declutterer. It would be more interesting, and a good exercise in mutual (in)compatibility to somehow work together in the task of ridding the household of clutter, with a set goal in mind.

In my household, my husband could very well do with the same trousseau he brought with him on his wedding day (30 yrs ago) and leave it forever to that supply scanty (to describe it at best).

On the other hand, I could very well save up all manner of collected items to use handily for redesigning items of childrens' clothing, treasures of the past for the next generation, etc., if only there was enough time to refurbish, recreate, and redesign!

Sometimes, I sigh that it might have been best not to start collecting at all, only to use what was necessary, and not take any more? But, how was I to say 'no, thank you' to my mother's offering of her handworked table linens.

Well, at least we live in an area of terrific recycling turnover, and no steel or aluminum cans, plastics, paper products, etc. has to be retained in the house, to save from merely filling a landfill.

Blessedmama said...

Clutter - wait til you have children! I am constantly trying to get rid of clutter. It seems to have a life of it's own - I think it multiplies over night while we are all sleeping!!! I find that the best time to de-clutter is when my hubby and kiddos arent there to say, "why are you getting rid of that?" I prefer to pass things along to friends if they want them, or I give to the Salvation Army/Goodwill. I once read a quote that said, "clutter is like noise to the eyes". I totally agree with that. Clutter gives me a headache, and makes me feel anxious.
Congratulations on the new member of your family!

Mrs. Anna T said...


Ashkenazi Jews are historically from Western European communities, while Sephardi ("from Spain") are Jews who lived prior to expulsions in Spain and Portugal, and later emigrated to different countries, many of them to North Africa. It sometimes can be ambivalent, though - for example my grandmother's family lived in Transylvania and followed Ashkenazi traditions, but historically was thought to came from Spain.

My grandmother happened to emigrate to the USSR, got married and had her children there. We came to Israel with the big aliyah from USSR in 1991.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much! I love your blog and find it so interesting. I am really interested in the Jewish culture and long to learn more about it!

Andrea said...

Anna, I love this post. Your husband's mindset sounds an awful lot like my own, lol! I love to look at things and think "hmm, this could be used for x, y or z if ever the need came up" and am only slowly working on asking myself about the the LIKELIHOOD of x, y or z ever really presenting themselves. My sister and I live in a small apartment with minimal storage, too, so that helps force me to keep the "extra stuff" to a minimum, but it can still be tricky! Maybe you and your husband could work out a sort of "volume control" system? Possibly you might set aside one or two storage compartments for fun oddities, with the understanding that in this stage of your lives, more than one or two binsful of oddities will be more than you can handle.

Last but far from least, congratulations on your new niece! We have babies being born/on the way in my family, too, and there's nothing quite like it, is there? That was actually the only bright spot about my sister's recent stay in the hospital- she was quartered in the maternity ward, so we got to see many beautiful new babies getting to know their mums and dads and other family members :)