The Drive to Declutter: On Clearing My House of Towels, Toys, and Trash

Inspired by Ruth Soukup’s Living Well, Spending Less (or, as I have come to refer to it, my lifestyle bible for 2015), I have been on a tear to collect everything that does not bring my family joy or has not been used consistently in the last six months. My husband is clearly concerned with the bags of items I have been taking to The Salvation Army on a daily basis, but he hasn’t said much other than jokingly answering my daughter’s question of where her mountain of stuffed animals were with, “This is Sparta.” I’m assuming his limited comments come from the fact that the house has never looked better and I am clearly much, much happier.

It was easy to go through and bag the ridiculous stack of towels (way more than we would ever need and probably beyond use by anyone who values the top layer of her skin), the clothes that I never intend on wearing again (this body is resolutely that of a 30 year old, and I am (starting to) accept that), and the dishes that haven’t been used since our college days (yes, we kept our undergrad dishes. Why we did so? I have no idea).

The hard part was bagging and taking my daughter’s toys because it felt like I was not only depriving her of an abundant childhood but also insulting her loving family and friends who bought her so many thoughtful, generous gifts.

The problem was that she is an only child and could literally fill the basement’s spare room with her toys and still have some left over for the living room, library, her father’s office, and her bedroom. She also clearly “had everything and played with nothing,” moving from toy to toy without seeming to really engage with any one thing or activity for more than a few minutes. Moreover, as I began to clear out toys she didn’t even notice they were gone (the exception was the insane number of stuffed animals on her bed, which, when cleared off, I’m sure was startling to her. Still, after that initial question she hasn’t looked for said creatures again).

It turns out that the peaceful effect of having less is felt not only by my husband and me but also by our three-year-old. She can now really see what she has and it is wonderful to watch her engage in imaginative play, make interesting art projects, and snuggle with her baby doll that she actually has an attachment to. I’m still not quite done clearing out the three years worth of her toy collection (there still remains pockets of them in several areas of the house), but as I get closer to decluttering our house (and our lives) I feel freer and we al seem happier. As the saying goes, “Less is more,” and there is certainly more joy in a life filled with only what matters.

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