“it’s cute” is NOT a good reason to keep something

My grandmother unloaded a bunch of her best friend’s possessions on me after said best friend passed away. Grandmom couldn’t bear to see the goods go to waste and I was too lazy to argue that donating goods to the Salvation Army isn’t wasteful.

Besides, the bowls she offered me were beautiful. Clean lines, glass so you could see the food you were eating, and shaped just like the bowls you see in cereal ads on TV. Nevermind that I owned a half dozen bowls already.

As cute as these bowls are, I realized today that they’re not actually that comfortable to eat out of. The shape means that I end up dumping cereal on myself far more than I do with other bowls I own. Pure asthetics were a poor reason to accept these bowls and no reason to keep them.

Items 43 and 44, two cereal bowls

And I’m not telling Grandmom. I don’t even think she remembers she gave them to me.

The Reckoning

Cost: free

Why I decided to get rid of them: I didn’t like using these bowls and I didn’t even realize it. Huh.

Fate: The “free stuff” area in our apartment building’s basement.

Money lost on junk: Again, nothing this time. Total this year: $203.


January decluttering habit: stop stockpiling

I’m not a fan of resolutions because I feel like every day, every week, and every month is an opportunity to make ourselves better human beings.

Each month this year I’m going to look a different habit clutter-related habit.  Maybe it’ll be a good habit that helps us live less cluttered lives. Maybe it’ll be a bad habit that stands in the way of getting and staying decluttered. Either way, it will help us see where we need to change and prove to us that we can make that change happen. On to our first habit, stop stockpiling!

from couponkadie.com

Stockpiling seems to be a trait that’s woven deeply into the human psyche. Stockpiling resources when they were available helped cavemen survive famine. It helped our grandparents survive the great depression.

It does almost NOTHING to help us now.

Stockpiling often wastes more money than it saves. Buying more than you can use means you run the risk of any perishables you’ve purchased going bad. My father bought twenty bottles of vitamins about ten years ago. Last time I went home I saw about half of them still there, all expired. He might as well have bought half the bottles he did at full price.

Buying excessively amounts of goods makes it harder to find the goods you do need to use. This means that you may end up running out to the store because you can’t find another product you need, and have somewhere…and wasting money.

Stockpiling ties up liquid assets in investments that depreciate. $50 in half-price shampoo means that you now have ~$47 less in your bank account than you would have had if you’d just bought the one or two bottles you need NOW. Stockpile dozens of different types of goods and you have hundreds or thousands of dollars just sitting on shelves, slowly decaying. It’s money that you can’t access if you need it.

Stockpiling in and of itself does not provide security. Maybe you’re afraid of running out of food in an emergency. That’s a reasonable fear. But do you really need a year’s supply of tomato soup, or is a week’s worth of canned goods enough? Ask yourself why you feel you need to keep long-term supplies of goods around. Can something less material provide the security you need? Perhaps better relationships with your neighbors would be more help in an emergency than that year’s supply of toilet paper.

Stockpiling adds to stress. It’s not fun to have a pile of toilet paper rolls fall on your head when you open the linen closet (though it is funny). Why deal with cramped closets and overloaded drawers when you don’t have to?

Moving stockpiled goods is a pain. You don’t want to have to pack boxes of shampoo when you find a new apartment or house.

What would happen if we only kept enough goods around to keep us going until the next convenient shopping trip?


That’s the core of this month’s challenge. Let’s try using up the items that we have stockpiled and only keeping enough around to reasonably get us until the next shopping trip.

Then tell me your experiences! Did you cut it too close with the toilet paper and have to run out to CVS in the middle of the night? Did your wife steal your chapstick and leave you hunting for the vaseline and contemplating divorce? Or did it work out well for you?

What have you stockpiled? I’ve stockpiled shampoo, toilet paper, light bulbs, hand cream, pretty notebooks, medicine, pasta, yogurt…you name it. Guess I’m going to be eating a lot of spaghetti this month. Hooray for a lower grocery bill!


four tips for moving

We close on our new condo in exactly one month! But that means that we also have to move in one month. This is my ninth move in ten years (some local moves, some between states, and once internationally). I’ve only learned three things.

Pack one box each day in the month before you move. 

Declutter as you go.

Focus on getting rid of large items. 

Number your boxes and keep a brief list of what’s in each box.

I’m still new to the idea of minimalism and I don’t have time with my full-time job to fully de-clutter in the next month. This means that a lot of junk is still going to go with us. We have a lot of stuff to pack and move. I’d like to take a friend’s sardonic suggestion to just burn it all but I don’t think our neighbors would appreciate the bonfire!

That’s why it’s so important to pack one box a day when you move. Quite simply, it keeps you from going insane.

Moving does have one advantage: it forces you to take a look at everything you own TWICE. You have to pack everything and unpack everything so why not take the chance to rid yourself of anything that’s not worth the work of packing?

Numbering boxes and keeping a short list of the contents will make life easier when you get to your destination. But don’t waste time making a detailed list. “Kitchen stuff” or “bedsheets and towels” is enough to describe an entire box. You don’t need to or have time to list out the 35 kitchen gadgets that went in the box.

Putting a priority on getting rid of the big stuff saves you time, money and space. You may not have time to go through every tiny trinket as you pack but you can take a piece of furniture you don’t use to the thrift shop in a hurry. But your large items will be the hardest and most expensive to move. Make your furniture earn its keep!

Today we’re getting rid of four large objects. Decluttered items 39, 40, 41, and 42 are an office chair, a DVD player, a CRT television and a TV stand.

The Reckoning!

Cost: All free! I found the chair in our apartment building’s “free stuff” area in the basement a couple years back. The TV and stand once belonged to Josh’s mom. The DVD player was a second-hand gift from a friend.

Why I decided to get rid of them: We have duplicates of all of these. Plus the TV has a huge green spot, and we want to become a one-TV houeshold (we’re keeping the game consoles and DTV tuner though).

Fate: The chair went back into the “free” area in our apartment building. TV went to Best Buy for recycling and the DVD player and TV stand went to our favorite thrift shop.

Money lost on junk: Again, nothing this time. Total this year: $203.

Decluttering tip #7: Stop keeping gifts you don’t like just because they were gifts

Everyone has gotten gifts they didn’t like. Many of us have felt like we have to keep the gift simply because it was a gift, or because we’re afraid we’ll be “in trouble” if the gift-giver suddenly shows up at our home and inquires about the gift. Before you let yourself be fooled into this line of thinking like I have, ask yourself these questions:

Is the gift-giver likely to show up at your home? (and by this I mean, are they likely to show up frequently and in the near future, not 5 years from now?)

Are they likely to ask about the gift if they stop by? 

In many cases, the realistic answer is “probably not.” Don’t get caught up on the “probably.” Get rid of the gift!

For many of us it’s not that easy. We are concerned that Aunt Norma will show up and ask about that ugly, fragile cake plate she gifted you at your wedding or the florescent orange onesie she gave you for your newborn son.

A friend of mine had a great solution to this problem: take a picture of you using the object. Put junior in the hideous onesie, snap a photo and mail it off to Aunt Norma. Then give the onesie to goodwill. Aunt Norma feels loved and you don’t have something in your house you hate. And in case she goes asking, you can always say that the object met an unfortunate fate at some point in time.

There are other gifts though that just sit around simply because they were gifts. I got this very pretty perfume bottle from my ex-aunt almost 20 years ago. I’ve never used it once. But I held on to it because it was a gift and because it was pretty.

How do you know if you should keep a gift? Ask yourself, Do you use it? Do you love it? Would you have bought it for yourself if you had the money to? Is it sturdy enough to be kept easily without special care? If the answers are a resounding no, no, and no, then be rid of it and your guilt.

Today’s decluttered object is #38, a fancy perfume bottle. 

~The Reckoning~

Original Cost: Free, a gift.

What convinced me to get rid of it: I only liked it because it was purple (so no, I didn’t love it), I would never have bought it for myself, I don’t use it, and it’s so fragile I’m perpetually afraid of breaking it.

Fate: Left it in the “free for the taking” area in the basement of our apartment building.

Total $ wasted on junk so far this year: $203.

Moving out of a hoarder’s home: what does and doesn’t work

I’m 28. I still haven’t moved out of my parents’ house.

In a way it didn’t make sense before because I’ve moved eight times since 2001. And now that we’re buying a condo I’m moving again! Yay! Argh.

Since we’re staying put for a while it’s time to grow up and empty out my old room. But my parents are hoarders, so this is easier said than done.

Exhibit A: their basement (there’s a bar under there somewhere)

Exhibit B: Their offices

Alright, the living room isn’t so bad:

But my own room needs help.

About half of that is my sister’s and my mother’s stuff. But that means the other half is mine. I was a hoarder too. Oh I want to cry.

How do you move out of a hoarder’s home?

These strategies DON’T work:

Trying to throw things out.Your trash will be edited and you will find it right back where it started. Hoarders can’t bear to see anything go to waste, particularly if it has meaning to the person it belonged to, even if it has no meaning to them. When I went home last spring I tried to purge a 55-gallon trash can’s worth of primary school projects and souvenirs. I found about half of the items back in my bedroom the next time I returned. 

Removing everything all at once. The sudden substantial loss will be easily noticed by the hoarder. It will also add to their stress and make them more defensive. They’ll work harder to keep the stuff around and this will make life harder for you.

Trying to tackle the clutter while the hoarder is around. They will notice what you’re doing, and they will panic.

These strategies do work for me:

Pack up anything and everything and take it off the premises. Then dispose of it where the hoarders can’t see you and where they won’t find the items.

Get your friends and neighbors to help you. Quietly explain the problem to a few neighbors or friends that you trust. Ask them for a little space in their trash cans so you can discard the items you need to be rid of. They will likely be more than happy to help. The holidays are not a good time to try this though, as most of our neighbors weren’t around and I didn’t want to interrupt those who were.

Just keep swimming, just keep swimming!

What makes this all so frustrating is the amount of energy it takes. There’s only so much we can fit into our car.  There are only so many times we drive up to Philly from DC each year. It’s exhausting to have to do all of this just to throw things in the trash in another state. But as you’ll see in the coming posts, I did get rid of some stuff and it’s better than nothing!

Just remember — you’re moving OUT not in with a hoarder. It’s hard to get the stuff out and keep your sanity. But leaving will keep you more sane than staying.

Just what I needed, 300 square feet more to fill with junk! (minus one book)

We don’t need this book on homebuying anymore because we BOUGHT A CONDO!! Squee!

Item 37, one book on how to buy a home.

Unfortunately we now have 300 more square feet to potentially fill with junk. The 1200 square foot place was 2/3 the cost of the 900 square foot places we looked at. Strange.

The Reckoning!

Cost: free. It was a semi-permanent loan from our realtor last year.

Fate: We gave it back to her!

Amount of money spent on junk so far this year: I’m not even going to talk about the idea that I could be wasting money as I go off to sign papers for a mortgage that will bind me to bank for the next 15 years…


It’s been a hard week for our drinkware (items 35 and 36)

I usually don’t ruin this much drinkware in a week!

We found that this mug has a nice crack (too small for the camera to see unfortunately) but definitely not safe for drinking anymore.

This sport bottle has a little problem.

That would be mold. Growing IN the plastic in spite of the dishwasher. Yich.

The Reckoning!

Cost: free! Bike bottle came with the bike, mugs came with my husband’s dishware purchase.

Why I decided to get rid of them: Really, would you drink out of either of these? It’s broken and I’m not replacing it!

Fate: Trash for the mug (I already have a pencil cup at work) and recycling bin for the bike bottle.

Money lost on junk: Phew, nothing this time. Total this year: $203.

Challenge for you: go through all of your dishware. Find the broken or unsuable stuff and trash it! (and then send me pictures of the piles of stuff to post so my junk doesn’t feel lonely in a landfill! Pretty please?)