Decluttering – A Personal Experience

June 22nd, 2015

For variety of reasons, my wife and I decided to sell our house last winter. When you are downsizing like we were, selling, it turns out, is a lot tougher than buying because of the effort needed for decluttering.

We had been living in the same house for the last 32 years, which provided a long time for stuff to accumulate, exacerbated by the fact that our house had lots and lots of cupboards where we could squirrel stuff away without realizing how much there really was.

Decluttering, it turned out, was a lot of hard work. In general, it was hard to get rid of stuff. The best example is books. The thought of sending boxes of books to the landfill site was very upsetting. The same for boxes of long playing records too damaged to be of any interest to a collector, and sets of dishes.

What saved us for this kind of stuff was Value Village (www.valuevillage.com). We made many, many trips with the car jammed with boxes and bags of clothing. The good thing about Value Village is that they will take just about anything. Another good thing is that they support non-profit organizations. Ironically, they give you discount cards in return for donations. It was unlikely in the extreme that we were going to buy any of the things that we were giving away in massive amounts. We solved this problem by giving the cards to our local Community Centre.

What really blind-sided me was how emotional the process turned out to be. A good example occurred early on, when we were cleaning out a linen closet. We came across a quilt that had been sewn by my wife’s father’s mother. We had used it for many years and it had become too worn to use any more. We had another she had made, but it was very sad to see it disappear into Value Village.

De-cluttering forces you to divest yourself of things that were important at some point in your life. In the early 80’s I spent 2 years learning how to do celestial navigation. This involves hundreds of star sights, sun sights and so on. In a remote corner of the library, there was a foot high stack of nautical almanacs, and binders full of pages covered with calculations and diagrams that I used to determine my latitude and longitude. I felt genuine pain as I dumped hours of (enjoyable) effort into the recycling bin.

A prospect that I am trying hard to ignore is that there is another round of decluttering somewhere in our future. Despite our best efforts at decluttering, we ended up putting 132 boxes of “stuff” into storage.