My year of Declutter

Declutter was my 2021 word of the year. How did I do? I actually did pretty well surprisingly. I’ve experienced quite a bit of challenges such as having a baby and differences in lifestyle with roommates (read: BILs). I could have given up and let entropy do the job, but I am not the type of person who sits there and does nothing. Here’s how it went over the past year:

  1. Decluttered my closet. I inventoried my clothes where I should have no more than 3 of each item (3 short sleeve shirts for work, 3 long sleeve shirts for work, 3 athletic pants, etc). The only exception was underwear and socks. I’ve been keeping fewer and fewer clothes each year. Whatever was in excess was donated.
  2. Made my office/storage room into Lana’s room which mean lots of decluttering. I moved my office into my room.
  3. I minimized the amount of pots and pans. I only have stainless steel pan, sauce pan, a dutch oven, a cast iron skillet, one large, pizza stone, pie pan, muffin pan, aebleskiver pan, 9×12 deep dish pan, 8×8 deep dish pan, and bread loaf pan.
  4. Minimized my kid’s inventory of clothes and toys. I’ve been working on keeping it low. As she outgrows her clothes, I put them in storage for our new future kid or offer them as a no-buy to the no-buy community. Throughout her first year we received clothes and toys as gifts. But as a toddler, maybe I’m thinking her having no more than three of each clothing article just me and my husband. Regarding toys, I have only bought one toy (a lot of the toys we have are gifts). I mean her favorite toys are non-toys like my dog’s food and water bowl or Christmas ornaments.
  5. I’m in the process of organizing the coat closet in the living area and buy one of those closet systems. I’ve always wanted to buy a closet system but knowing these are very expensive, I did not want to buy it and find out it serves more of an inconvenience (i.e. the drawers don’t fit our stuff).
  6. Declutter my planner. To me decluttering was not just about space, but also how I manage my time. My personal planner and work planner would not have more than three things per day. It’s enough to keep my busy, but it’s attainable. Before that, there was a time when I would list ALL things I needed to do in a day — sometimes I would list upwards of 8 things in a day. I did accomplish all the things I set out to do on most days. On days when I did not, I would be hard on myself and after a while I would stop writing on my planner for several weeks.
  7. Putting my foot down. In the first few months of BIL #1 living with us, he bought a huge pack of toilet paper and paper towels EVERY week. I had to tell him to stop because there was no space to store the stuff. It did not stop the first time I brought it up. I had to bring it up almost every week for several weeks.

Overall did decluttering make me happy?

I was trying to define what it means to be happy. “Happy” is defined as 1) feeling or showing pleasure or contentment and 2) being fortunate and convenient. I felt more the latter. With fewer (better) clothes in the closet, it was more convenient. I did not have to look through my entire inventory and coordinate outfits. For pans and pans, each piece had shelf space in the cabinet and it’s easier to find stuff.

The nuanced part was that I do share the space with my BILs. I had to give up space for their stuff. It is very cluttered in some areas so I struggle to say that overall decluttering has been a success. The open space where I always wanted to put a Christmas Tree is occupied by BIL’s desk and computer and his coffee table. The hardest part for me is putting home projects on hold. I want to envision my living space fully, but I can’t right now.

But also living with my BILs has been a clash of between two lifestyles. The other day BIL #1 and BIL #2 grieved to me that my husband and I like things done “right” (their words not mine). I asked them, “what do you mean by ‘right?'” I don’t think they mean “clean” because our place is anything but clean. They grieved that we don’t like to spend money; if my husband and I make this much money, why don’t we have a bigger screen TV or a TV in every room or a bigger fridge or more cars. Every year I get a lecture reminding me how difficult their childhood was because they never had nice things. They previously lived with their sister who provided all those things: there get new TVs every year, new phone every year, a new car every 2-3 years, and a newer fridge — but of course it meant being in a lot of debt. In contrast to their previous living situation with their sister, my house is an oppressive environment. There was more to this conversation, but I want to center it around stuff. I understand where they are coming from, I sympathize what they had to go through growing up poor but under my house I don’t want too much stuff.

Anyways that was one of many conversations I’ve had around stuff and space. I did learn over my year of decluttering that decluttering is a luxury. I’m not trying to go minimalism with the white wall and no art, I just want more intention with my stuff and where it goes. But again, I am aware for some people having a lot of things gives that feeling of security and that illusion of feeling rich.

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