Now that we are a couple of months into our big decluttering journey, I am beginning to notice some side effects, mostly good. There is always talk about this process having life changing potential, but to be honest, I was still a bit skeptic. So much is sold as “life changing” these days without delivering on the promise.
Let me catch you up on where we are at this point. Our nice big basement was nearly unusable because it had become the out-of-sight-out-of-mind dumping ground at our house. And that made me sad, sad enough to keep me from spending time in it. We made reclaiming this space our priority and getting several big loads out of the house has made a huge difference. There is still much to do, but the added room is like a breath of fresh air. It is really in desperate need of some updates, which didn’t even seem possible before. But the basement is really just the beginning of a whole house purge.
In the spirit of honesty I want to give you a peek into how things are going, what is working and what is not going so well. While we have definitely made considerable strides, we have also hit a couple of road blocks. If you are on the same journey, you might identify with them.
What has changed for the better?
Cleaning up is easier
As more and more stuff goes on its journey to a new life, we suddenly find ourselves with room to put away all those things that used to just float around. After finding so many duplicate items, scissors, band aids etc. that used to be in several different places, it’s so nice to finally have a central spot for each of those. There is much more of a sense of mindfulness as far as leaving things sitting out is concerned.
Now sweeping and giving a room a quick dust job is a breeze without having to move a bunch of knick knacks. Just looking at a less cluttered space makes me want to make sure it stays that way.
Even our youngest, who has nonverbal autism, is picking up some of the slack and doing a much better job putting his own toys away – mostly. More on that later.
Better Sleep/More Energy
An insomniac most of my adult life, I began sleeping much more soundly than I had in a long time! This just reaffirmed how profoundly all of this excess stuff affected me without even realizing. Carrying so much mental baggage weighs you down more than you might be willing to admit.
With better rest at night came more energy during the day. I used to hit a slump every afternoon right around three. Almost immediately I found my energy remaining steady throughout the day, without the need for an afternoon cup of coffee. Big win! That is until I slacked off in my decluttering efforts.
How do I know better sleep was a direct result of decluttering? When progress slowed and stopped, sleep suddenly became much harder to come by. That is enough motivation to keep me going! It is definitely proof that clutter affects us more deeply than we might realize! After having gone through a string of bad nights, I am more motivated than ever to continue clearing out the excess!
The more you declutter, the easier it gets, sort of
To be honest, when I first decided to really get cracking on this project, I wasn’t sure how long I would last. But it appeared that the first few steps were truly the hardest – for a while. Once things began to exit the house and progress could actually be seen, it became much easier. I was so touched the other day when my husband saw I had tossed the baby sleeping bag both our boys had used and became a little upset. There was a time I could not have done that. But I knew it was badly frayed in spots and had been sitting in a box for years. No one will ever be able to use it. It is gone, but I will always see my boys wearing it as babies.
My advice: Definitely start by tossing things that are relatively easy to get rid off. This helps build up some momentum and gives you more strength for those times when you find it hard to part with a particular item. More on that below.
If you do find yourself stuck, don’t despair. It is a normal part of the process. Take a step back and do some soul searching. Reboot by identifying the next area you can tackle, then the next and so on. Don’t give up and you will get back on track.
Less desire to spend money
There is nothing quite like the realization how much money was wasted on needless clutter to curb the desire to spend. We have also had a couple of “I was just going to buy one of those” moments. Proof yet again that clutter is an expensive habit! I have not found it at all difficult not to go out and buy. As a matter of fact, I am having these moments of empowerment when I feel like I am “sticking it to the man” when I don’t want to go out and spend!
I used to live for all the lovely ads in the Sunday morning paper. Couldn’t wait to see what was on sale that I had to have! Those days are over my friends. Now, the ads, with exception of the grocery ones, go straight to the recycling bin. I don’t miss them, not one bit. I mean, there is always Pinterest to look at fun stuff, right?
Less stuff = fewer places needed to put it
Pick up any home or decorating magazine and you will often see ways to add or maximize storage. I used to be all for that! But honestly, the more places you have to store stuff, the more stuff you are going to want to store! I am finding myself removing shelves and even cabinets at an amazing pace! Suddenly our house feels so much bigger! And I am still in the early stages of stuff pruning:)
Ditching places that might serve as holding places definitely fights the temptation to fill them back up again later. I had never considered that before. Removing shelves has opened up some formerly cramped areas of the house and I’m loving all the newfound breathing space!
What makes looking at all the clutter so depressing is:
a) you allowed all the stuff to take over your living space/life
b) you are too lazy, unmotivated, indifferent, paralyzed (insert your own insult) to do anything about it
c) all this crap cost money.
My habit to pick up supplies for a little project here and a craft there really added up. Not only financially, but in a”I’m a total loser, because I never did any of those things” way. Now the guilt of never having completed many of them is no longer dead in my face everyday! Wohoo! Oh the relief, I tell ya!
Once the stuff finds new homes you will find yourself with a lightness and a sense of control you may not even be aware you were lacking! I can suddenly look in the mirror and actually like what I see!
With warm weather right around the corner, I now know that, yes, I can go and take that walk without feeling guilty about what is not getting done at home! Who knows, I might even read a book just for fun or hang out in our hammock to marvel at the clouds! A girl can dream, right?
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I actually lost weight!
Ha! This is probably my favorite decluttering side effect. When I read about the possibility of this happening in “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying up”, by Marie Kondo, I definitely thought that was an overblown pipe dream. And then it actually happened! Well, color me wrong!
My over-analyzing self has done a tremendous amount of thinking of why that happened. For one thing less stress has definitely resulted in me not wanting to stuff my face. Getting more rest at night allows me to exercise more. And I no longer feel claustrophobic when walking on the treadmill, because there is now space around it! Yeah!
But it hasn’t all been positive all the time. Here are a few of the issues we have encountered that definitely have to be addressed to make this decluttering mission a success and the meaningful lifestyle change we hoped it would be.
But, as with all good things there are some caveats.
Not everyone in the family might be on board
Thankfully my hubby is fully supportive with this process. Watching me prune my wardrobe gave him the motivation to do the same with his. Seeing how much space has opened up in the furnace room made him giddy with joy and got him rolling on purging files in his office. The sense of pride when he showed me how condensed his paperwork was makes it all worth while. There was no need to purchase plastic bins to corral the leftover paperwork. Purging had emptied out a matching set that could now be put to much better use!
After seeing just how many empty containers we have wound up with so far, he now agrees with my less-stuff-not-more-containers mentality.
More boxes definitely don’t make for a more organized household! At this point I am inclined to argue that they have the opposite effect.
Having said that, there has been a noticeable uptick in our autistic son’s hoarding behaviors. His room suddenly began to take on a landfill-y vibe. At first I had assumed he was bored and shuffling things to keep himself busy. But upon closer examination it became obvious he is more deeply impacted by things disappearing and leaving the house, even if they are not his, than I had considered possible. He was circling the wagons in a way by “rescuing” stuff and stashing it in his room.
As result of his behaviors I have become much more mindful about involving him in the process and showing him that I am not getting rid of any of his things without his permission.
If you are facing a similar situation, keep in mind that involving everyone is part of the process. Other family member’s belongings should be off limits unless and until they are ready to participate.
Catch up with some of the impact autistic behaviors have had on our house here.
Parting with sentimental items is hard
Even though I thought I had this process under control, and was making great strides, I hit a brick wall when it came to some of the more sentimental items.
Pretty much every book focused on this subject will warn you of that. And to be honest, I am not entirely surprised by this. But I assumed the early progress would give me enough momentum to power right past my feelings of attachment to the sentimental stuff. Not quite. The big mistake lies in not getting rid of those items fast enough. Why didn’t I? I felt that I could sell a few of them to take at least the financial sting out of just giving things away. Selling involves extra work and effort and may not pay off as much as I had hoped.
I know what needs to be done. Those items have to leave the house – quickly. The band aid has to be pulled in order for me to move on so that meaningful progress can continue.
As painful as it may be for me to admit this mini failure, I believe it is necessary to confess to it, if only to show you that you are not alone should you be experiencing similar emotions. But as Maureen from Adebtfreestressfreelife.com puts it, the money you have spent on these items is already gone. Do yourself a favor and check out this informative post about the subject on her blog here.
Catch up with our decluttering journey here:
Now it’s your turn. Have you begun/completed your decluttering journey? Any side effects you noticed? Do share if you have! And as always…
Keep it simple!
Don’t forget to pin for later!