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Small Steps: Living Lightly

October 24, 2011

A friend mentioned the other day that in the slogan, “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle,” the only one of the three that gets any attention is recycling, while reducing is really the verb that can make the most difference.  I got to thinking about reducing in general; reducing what I buy, what I eat, how much junk I keep around.  I’m a little bit of a clutter magnet: I like pretty little things, hate to get rid of anything that reminds me of a favorite person, place, or time, and often really feel that eventually, that little bit of junk could come in handy.  Plus, I always thought I kind of liked the clutter, in a cozy-English-cottage kind of way.  Because minimalism isn’t friendly, right?

Turns out, reducing is awesome.  I started decluttering about a year ago, because I thought at the time that we’d have to move sometime this year, and the idea of moving the massive amount of stuff spilling out of my closets and gathering dust on my shelves was really overwhelming.  And so a little bit at a time, with long breaks in between, my house has been slimming down.  Turns out, I don’t actually like the clutter, after all.  The stupidly shocking thing (to me, anyway) about having less stuff is that (are you ready for this?), there’s now less stuff to clean.  There’s less stuff to organize.  When I tidy, things stay tidy longer, because it’s lots easier to put stuff away when there’s actually room for the stuff on the closet shelf.  And my home feels so much more peaceful.  In fact, a less cluttered home has made a bigger difference in my day-to-day stress and anxiety than any other change I’ve made.  Not a bad endorsement, right?

I’ve still got plenty of reducing to do (the kitchen, in particular, is full of containers without lids and stemware I’ve never used – but hey, it was free!), but the amazing thing is that the less stuff I keep in the house, the less stuff I want to bring home.  I’ve never been a big shopper, but I do have a soft spot for craft sales and the kitchen gadget aisle.  But I love how much simpler things are at home so much that I don’t have to talk myself out of silly little purchases anymore; I’m usually just not tempted in the first place.  And that feels awesome.

A recent flurry of decluttering: one week, 30 minutes at a time, all from my bedroom closet. Some of which gave me a pang to let go. But I now have a crafting stash I can see and empty shelf space. That's better.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. October 24, 2011 9:18 am

    I love it. I am also on a declutter kick. Once we added a kid to the mix, not only did the “stuff” increase, now that she walks, she loves to pick up all of our clutter and scatter it around the house. Last week, during a single baby nap, I filled 4 bags from my closet for the thift store. It felt excellent, and it is only just the beginning. I have the hardest time parting with my books.

    • Ashley permalink*
      October 26, 2011 2:31 pm

      Whitney, I can’t even imagine how much having a baby multiplies the clutter problem! We got a little taste of it with our puppy, who (a) liked to taste whatever was laying around and (b) has a wicked tail wag that will knock stuff right off of any nearby horizontal surface. Yikes! I agree on parting with books – even after lots of trips to Goodwill, I have so many that I haven’t read for years and years, and can’t bear to get rid of. They’re like old friends!

  2. Diane Farr permalink
    October 24, 2011 10:57 am

    Bawk. Just don’t get rid of the Waterford stemware from your great-grandmother. (If that’s what it is.)

    • Ashley permalink*
      October 26, 2011 2:32 pm

      Dude, if I had that, I would NEVER get rid of it. And I would use it all the time, because I firmly believe that things like that should see the light of day. But alas, I think it’s gathering dust in one of Dad and Sonya’s kitchen cupboards.

  3. October 24, 2011 6:57 pm

    I’ve recently been having some stress and anxiety issues. I was also amazed at what a difference sec uttering and physically cleaning our space made. I’m still struggling to create the routines to keep up easily, but we are so much closer and it feels great!

    • Ashley permalink*
      October 26, 2011 2:38 pm

      Danielle, I read a little about your anxiety on your blog – I’m very glad to hear things are feeling better! I struggle with chronic low-level anxiety, and creating some basic routines is one of the other things that has really helped me. I really thrive on predictability. I’m still working on my routines, too, and am learning that one of the good things about routines is that if something doesn’t happen this time for whatever reason, I’ll get to it next time. That’s a tough lesson for me. Do you plan to write a bit about your routines? I’d be interested to hear how it’s going!

  4. October 25, 2011 1:55 pm

    That’s awesome!
    I just recently moved to a new apartment with my hunnie, and I found a ton of stuff that I honestly don’t need .
    However, I have a bad habit of whenever I find something that I’m currently not using, the words, “You never know when I might need this” flashes and I’m tempted to keep whatever object it was (candle holder, glass container, shoes, Christmas lights, etc).
    I did manage to donate some clothes that I haven’t worn in a year or more to Goodwill, but the cost of what I spent on them is always an issue and I’m tempted to keep them :/

    • Ashley permalink*
      October 26, 2011 2:44 pm

      I so do that! I’m learning little by little that I almost never actually need that thing I held on to – but I do keep Christmas lights. 🙂 I try to get my decluttered stuff into the trunk of my car as soon as possible, but with one thing and another I usually wind up driving around with it for weeks on end. A bonus side effect of that, though, is that I get a bit of a trial period – I haven’t actually gotten rid of the thing yet, so I can always retrieve it, but I have always found that I don’t even notice it’s missing. That’s really very soothing for this pack rat! I also get the thing about not wanting to donate stuff I spent good money on, but I find that the less stuff I buy, the less I have this problem. I will say this is relatively easy for me, though, because I don’t much enjoy shopping. I’d usually rather hang out on the couch with a book in a T-shirt with holes than go buy something decent to wear. 🙂

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