When we wanted our life to change from Daniel’s 9-5 and our urban homeowner life to an agricultural internship on a farm halfway across the country, we knew that part of the deal would be moving into a two bedroom 650 sq ft apartment significantly smaller than our little starter home.
So we started decluttering. Big time. And ended up getting rid of half of our stuff.
How many things have I regretted selling, donating, or tossing? ZERO. And the thing is….we didn’t have that much stuff to begin with and yet so much was unnecessary. By the time we moved out of our house, we could fit all our possessions in one POD that was shipped to TX for us. That felt good.
The Method That Worked for Me
Thoroughly declutter a small space in your home each day. One room at a time was really too much for me while homeschooling three little ones and working from home. I did one wall of our home at a time that way I could look afterwards and see a big difference and felt encourage and motivated by how much better it looked.
When making decisions about what would stay or go, I thought about how much space it would take up in a moving box and if it was really worth that space. I’d start on one end of the wall I was tackling and first remove anything from the walls that wasn’t worth taking with us. Is there old artwork from the kids that it’s time to toss? Do I really love that poster?
Then I’d tackle drawers and cabinets if there were any. Is this broken flashlight in the desk drawer really going to get fixed or is that just wishful thinking? How many cheese knives does one family need? You get the idea.
Once I was done with that wall of our space, it felt great to see a cleaner, tidier area with less unnecessary stuff cluttering it up.
I just did a few cabinets and drawers at a time asking: “Have I used this in the past year?” I love a pretty Christmas platter or tea cup. That’s worth it to me to keep if I know I’ll use it even just for one season a year. But a lemon juicer that we used that one time we made lemonade? Eh. Not worth the space. Into the garage sale box it went.
I also asked: “Do I have too many of this sort of thing?” It’s great to have a few pretty serving dishes and platters for company but when you realize you have far too many to use even at Thanksgiving, it’s time to get rid of the ones that weren’t wedding gifts or family heirlooms.
During our six week road trip this summer we did a lot of our own cooking because of health issues and food allergies. And obviously we had very limited kitchen supplies because we were using what could fit in our van. But….it was fine. When we got to our apartment and unpacked our kitchen boxes from our POD I couldn’t believe how many kitchen things there were! When would we possibly use 30 glasses?!
Our new little kitchen.
Since we don’t have a dishwasher we aren’t running into our old problem of all the bowls being held hostage in a wash cycle on the one night we were planning to have soup. Everything is either in the sink, the cabinets, or the drying rack. We just wash one and use it. Easy peasy.
If you’re moving, this one is easier because you don’t think twice about tossing all those half-empty bottles of stuff because who moves half empty lotion bottles? But for some reason before we knew we were moving, things like fancy lotion or pumice stones that I had never ever used seemed like something I might use and we should keep around. Mistake! Just toss and move on. I felt so much better once I did. If you haven’t used that fancy lotion in a year….it’s just cluttering up your bathroom cabinet.
I also got rid of some old towels that had seen better days. We had enough for each person in our family to have a designated towel with a couple of extras just in case. Plenty.
The Kids Rooms
When moving three little ones from a three bedroom house to a two bedroom house, we knew we needed to seriously purge from the bedrooms. I’ve already covered how to declutter toys in this post about how to stop fighting with your kids over their messy room. The secret is get rid of all the stuff they never play with when they’re not around and they will never notice the difference. Or at least mine didn’t. They did, however, tell me how much they loved their room now that it was “organized.” Win.
I only saved Lucy’s clothes that will fit Gwen in a year or so. I didn’t save Gwen or Benjamin’s old clothes, and not because we don’t plan to have more kids, just because they were hand-me-downs to begin with and hand-me-downs are constantly being passed down from friends and family.
I did save a little box of baby things that I simply can’t live without like what I brought each kid home from the hospital in and sweet little baby booties crocheted by friends.
The thing about kids clothes is that say we have a baby next year and it’s a boy (not pregnant, this is hypothetical, folks). Benjamin’s clothes would be 7.5 years old by the time that baby gets to them! So elastic would be shot and those weird stains that only show up years later would be all over them. Bleh. Not worth carting around. And I don’t spend a lot of money of my kids clothes so it’s not hard to say goodbye to whatever gets stained or too small. Things like Bumbos and exersaucers I lent to or just gave to friends. I’m sure friends will share their hand-me-down items with us next time we need them.
I went through it all and saved only stuff we’ll need for taxes or are important official documents and they’re in a filing bin at my in-laws house because I felt weird about shipping them in the POD just in case it wasn’t completely waterproof and we’ll pick that box up when we visit.
I’ve never been a collector of seasonal decor so this category wasn’t much of an issue for us. We have a box of Christmas lights, a box of Christmas ornaments, and a box for liturigcal year items that are on a shelf in our “pantry” AKA storage shelves.
What We Didn’t Really Try to Purge
Books and LEGOs. Those are the essentials. That’s about it. I did look through our books to weed through them but there were only 20-30 that I didn’t keep. Our book are mostly classics and I’m allergic to getting rid of classics. I did donate a few of the books we had doubles of if the margin notes didn’t merit a spot on our bookshelves. And our in-laws allowed us to leave several boxes of books in their closet. So some of the books I couldn’t say goodbye to but knew we wouldn’t need this year are stored. How are we fitting all the boxes of books we brought to TX into our apartment? Well, the short version is that we desperately need more bookshelves.
What to Do with the Stuff
For very valuable items in good condition I did try to sell or consign. However, for most things this was more trouble than it was worth. Maybe if you’re an organized sort then this would be more lucrative for you than it was for me. Mostly I gave friends first dibs on what we were getting rid of then filled up the back of the van with stuff to donate, and recycled or trashed the rest.
We did try a garage sale and made about $150-200 bucks. It was NOT worth the time we spent on it, however, it did give us a deadline to work toward. So maybe it wasn’t a total loss.
As for my clothes I just gave them away at a clothing exchange for friends. I’ve never had a big wardrobe but it’s nice and manageable now that I’ve culled the stuff I don’t really wear. I’m planning a whole post on wardrobe items so stay tuned.
What I Learned
Before our move, our house became so much easier to keep clean.
The MENTAL space that extra junk was taking up was now free.
It was more enjoyable to be in our home because it was so calming.
We’re still getting organized in our new place but there is plenty of room for everything with two bedrooms, one bathroom, one living room, a kitchen/dining room, and a laundry room. Plenty of space to house our stuff. Because the truth is….you don’t need much. And holding on to all the unnecessaries can keep you from enjoying what you do have.
Our new dining room.
I hope this posts helps anybody who’s ready to really tackle decluttering in their home! Do you live in a small space? Have any decluttering tips? Share in the comments!