One major starting point as we began on our path to self-sufficiency has been simplifying our home. This step has been one of the biggest steps and most difficult. It never ends. We are constantly considering everything we own and whether it is truly necessary.
It is important to know that this process did not take place over night, it didn’t even happen in a swift weekend of spring cleaning. It has been a work in progress for over 4 months now. As I find myself packing, I continue to contribute to a pile of things we just don’t need.
We began by going through each room, one at a time. And now, we have gone through each room at least twice, maybe even three times if you count packing. To give you a better idea of how this looked, I’m going to share the process we went through in each room.
Living room– We started in the living room since it had the fewest items and was the least intimidating. The most troubling area was under the TV. It was filled with loose cords, random electronics, and outdated video games. We began by taking everything off the shelves and dumping out the baskets. Each item was placed back on the shelf after asking ourselves, “When (specifically) will we use this?” and “How long will it last?” Needless to say, less than half the things on the shelf were replaced. In the living room, we also managed to get rid of a broken guitar that we’ve been meaning to fix up, some unnecessary picture frames, a large stack of magazines, and a collection of little things that sit in a basket after pockets are emptied. The house already felt more comfortable.
Master Bedroom– This was a big project. It was so big that we completed the room at one point and our closet at another time. We began by pulling everything out from under the bed, out of table drawers, and by emptying all floor baskets. Again, we went through each item individually. We found the end table drawers were primarily filled with trash: scraps of paper no longer needed, notes, strings, buttons, etc. Under the bed, we found an excess of blankets we didn’t need. We saved one comforter for each bed and one extra. Everything else was donated. And then there was the bookshelf. To clear out our over-packed bookshelf, we asked these questions in this order, “Have we read it. If so, will we read it again, if not, do we intend to read it again?” If the answer was yes we kept it. If the answer was no, it was sent to a friend we thought might enjoy it or donated. We were very critical of what we kept here. If we said yes we would reread a book, it meant we should have already reread the book several times because it was a favorite. This allowed us to put a serious dent in our collection and share some wonderful books with someone else who will have the opportunity to enjoy them as much as we did. We also replaced shelf trinkets with a critical eye. If it wasn’t something we really valued and enjoyed looking at, it was donated.
Closet– The closet was difficult. We have seasons, work clothes are different from day to day clothes, and we are active. There was a lot to go through! We began by removing everything but our clothes. Once the clothes were the only things remaining, we had a lot more room for what comes next. We then ‘packed’ for two weeks, setting aside everything that would be suite case worthy for a 14 day trip. Of course, we considered adding a sweater where a tank top sat or adding shorts where there were pants, but we packed for a 14 day trip. After packing, we looked at what remained. Was it something important? If so, it was added to our ‘pack’ pile, if not it was donated. We approached our shoes and accessories the same way. We walked away from this exercise with more than 5 trash bags of donations! This was two months ago and I haven’t missed anything yet! Replacing the rest of the closet was easy, extra sheets, old costumes, scarves that weren’t mountain worthy, and old projects were quick to go.
Kitchen– This was another major project, one that took some serious thought. We emptied every cabinet one at a time. We considered each item asking the usual, “When (specifically) will we use this and is it a quality item?” If we could not provide specific times of use, or if it was junky, it was gone. I can proudly say, with the exception of about 10 items, I use everything in my kitchen on a weekly basis. And, I’m comfortable with those exceptions as long as it doesn’t become more. I now know each item in each cabinet. Literally, I could tell you exactly what I own in my kitchen without even looking.
Gift registries– I know this isn’t a room, but it is worth mentioning. Applying this simplified thinking to our gift registry for our wedding was difficult. We were constantly removing and adding items to be sure everything on the registry would get regular use. One approach we applied to this was by asking each other each time we registered for something, “When will you use that, how long will you want that, how long will it last?” This tactic proved successful for us. We now have a kitchen filled with things I can’t imagine living without and a house stocked with things that get daily use.
One specific example of this is knives, we could have chosen a nice knife block filled with everything we could ever imagine. Instead, we registered for four AMAZING knives. I use all of them daily. They have a small place on the wall and are essential to the kitchen.
Keeping the clutter down– I try to work under the principle that if something comes in, something goes out. We also take careful consideration in what we purchase by asking “Specifically when will this be used, is it necessary, and how long will it last?” I will say, I am usually the one who buys too much, and it is my husband that reminds me we don’t need all these things. Working as a team is helpful and I am thankful for such a wonderful partner!
We still own more than I had thought (I’m learning this through packing.) and more than we really need. However, we continue to keep our clutter down. It really does feel amazing to walk into a house that lets you breathe and relax. It has been worth all the effort!