How to Declutter Homes

how to declutter homesMy friend just moved to Evergreen. Oddly, this sparked a little envy in me, which I couldn’t quite put my finger on. I love my house and neighborhood.  I didn’t want to move. So what was I wishing for? I came to realize that I needed a move of a different sort; I needed a mass exodus of complacency. I needed to declutter. Homes get old when you turn them into storage pods.   I went on a redo and renew rampage.

I started with the shelves. I have two built-in floor-to-ceiling shelves in my family room. When I moved in, I couldn’t wait to fill them with wonderful things. Over the span of eight years, my once lovingly adorned shelves became a dumping ground for ill-placed trinkets, forgotten games and ugly picture frames. So I looked up ways to make the shelves appealing. The experts recommended interesting groupings, vertical stacks of books, shiny stuff like bottles, brass and copper, and textural tidbits like baskets and wooden boxes. I had all that…in crowded cabinets and closets only penetrable with a pickax and shovel. If I wanted copper, I was gonna have to dig. The shelves were not the only things that needed attention.

I dug out things that I didn’t know why were hidden: a silver wine trivet that I purchased in the UK, wooden wine crates with intricate carvings of bucolic scenes, glassware of varying intrigue. I gave away novelties that lost their novelty, gifts that needed to be re-gifted and orphaned items of long lost families: do-it-yourself dip ‘n dots, a bracelet loom, plates in the shape of vegetables, a plastic loaf slicer, a lone brandy snifter. I threw away items that I had been saving for the unfortunate collapse of the infrastructure: one-inch tapers, expired legumes, three analog TVs, and long-ignored lotions, cosmetics and perfumes (I guess I wanted to smell nice for the apocalypse).

It didn’t stop there. I finally gave away items that somehow made the cut by the skin of their teeth eight years ago. I remember having a discussion with a purple bottle that my friend gave to me when I was a teenager. “Do I need to keep you? You’re kind of cool. I guess you could be showcased someday…” And away it went into a cabinet; then away it went in the Goodwill bin with a dose of backbone too many years later.

This—talking to inanimate objects—gave me pause. What is up with having sympathy for things that do not breathe? When I was a kid, I once felt sad for an abandoned tee-shirt.  It was lying in a muddy puddle by our four-foot above-ground pool. My brother must have flung it off in a frenzy to canon-ball. After weeks of trying to ignore it, I finally delivered it to my mother via stick. I think she smartly threw it away–white cotton, forever sullied by Illinois soil.

At the time of the purge, I did not realize at first that I was actually going through the motions of someone who was about to move. With my shelves all spiffed up, my attention was drawn to my irritating laundry room. It had shelves…very neglected shelves…and a laundry separator—which was a great name for it because it liked to separate at the joints and fall apart. This item fell into the Why Am I Putting up with This Crap category. After 12 years, I got rid of the separator. Applause. I also got rid of several plastic containers containing many forgotten items like build-it-yourself furniture dowels, washers and hex wrenches, and warranties and manuals for appliances that I no longer owned. More applause. Then I gave it a cute face lift with baskets and wine crates for storage like they do on TV shows like “Love It or List It.” I love that show. As the name suggests, homeowners need to decide to stay at a house with a ton of issues that a designer tries to tackle within a budget or they can leave after the renovation and buy their dream house. They seldom put their house on the market; they usually stay. Interesting, huh? And that’s when it dawned on me; I was “loving” my house. And I was making a move to stay.

When the renew rampage was over, in one month’s time, I accomplished the following: redid my family room shelves, organized four closets, four cabinets and four drawers, redid the laundry room, painted two pieces of lawn furniture, planted three barberry bushes and three lavender plants in my front yard and created a new space in my backyard with a rock garden and fire pit. I spent under 100 dollars.

My home feels new again. I moved out the debris, excavated the gems and enriched the bones. I got my wish; I got to move into something fresh without moving. A declutter home success story!