Radical Decluttering

peaceful picture of sky and lake with a rocky shore

A funny thing happened as I cleared my house of excess stuff: The invisibility cloak lifted off my furniture. I’d taken it for granted, it was part of the scenery. I hadn’t considered living without my lovely living room wall unit, for example, until there was almost nothing left in it and the starkness of the empty shelves was jarring. Away it went. When we held a yard sale, people asked about buying the shelf units and tables we used for displays, so off those went too. The small rooms of my house opened up and don’t feel small anymore (except for the one with the big piano … which my son plays every day, so, it stays – the music more wonderful than open space).

Lifting the Invisibility Cloak

I wondered, what else? What else is invisible to me when I’m decluttering? What assumptions am I making about what I need?

What else am I keeping just because everyone has one of those?

Most importantly, what am I keeping that I don’t want to keep?

Here’s a list of things that are no longer part of my life. I’m not telling you that you should live without these things – it’s about personal preferences, not comparison. If you think your life would be simpler, freer, without something on the list but feel you can’t possibly let it go, here’s your permission – ta da! – and practical tips on how to make it work. And please leave comments telling me what other things you live without to open up space and time in your life. 

Things I Happily Live Without

  • Iron and ironing board. I kept shifting these around to new places in the house as I decluttered, until I caught myself sighing with frustration. Oh yeah. I don’t like ironing. I wonder if … I could get by on clothes that aren’t too wrinkly from the line or dryer (wool dryer balls are the best). Well, yes I could! There were only two pieces – a summer top and a dress – that really didn’t work without being ironed, so I said good bye to them, and haven’t sighed in frustration (about ironing) since 🙂
  • Coffee table. When my kids were small, the coffee table was a never-ending stress of bumps and climbing/falls, as well as great protection from the floor of lava. We moved it to the side when we started having regular “dance parties”, yoga sessions, and playing wii sports. Once it was to the side … we didn’t use it at all. Once we gave it away … we didn’t miss it ever. We do have a couch with wide arms for resting things on, and a windowsill behind the couch for drinks. If we’re sharing a bowl of popcorn, it simply sits on the couch between us.
  • Cleaning products. Vinegar and baking soda do a great job. We have soap and laundry detergent too.
  • Shoes with heels. They’re so lovely, but it turns out that minor back pain isn’t inevitable with age. No heels, happy back, easy decision.
  • Hairdryer. One hot summer I stopped using it because it made me sweat more than it dried anything. When the weather cooled, I was loathe to pick it back up – I found it tedious and noisy and bad for my hair. Now I brush my hair after the shower and go.
  • Organizing boxes. I had so very many of these. I loved organizing and re-organizing things into just the right type of boxes. I had ones with drawers, wheels, ventilation holes, and extra compartments. Almost all of the contents though, were things we rarely used. The only ones remaining are for seasonal decorations and equipment. I miss the lovely boxes more than the contents.
  • “Beauty” products. I’m angry about the expectation that women need to change their appearance to be acceptable to society, and also delighted at the ways people use makeup and hair products to express themselves. If you wish you could ditch the products, I am here to tell you that you can. I work in a professional environment with nothing but clean (and moisturized, wow it’s dry in our building) skin and hair, and have for decades. For a few weeks, people said I looked tired, then they adapted, and rather than be chastised for not meeting standards, it turned out I changed the standards. One woman told me she was relieved to be allowed (!?) to stop wearing makeup because it irritated her eyes so much – yikes! Celebrate your beauty your own way, giving your looks as much or as little attention as you want.
  • Television, stereo. If these are an enjoyable part of your life, of course, just skip this bit. To me, they were background items that one simply has, unquestioned. When I did question, I found my own space much more open and calmer without them. The music from my phone is fine for me, and we only used the tv to play on the wii … which we stopped using over the years and recently sold. So the little tv will go off with a kid to university, as a bigger monitor for a laptop computer probably.
  • Clock in the bedroom. Before we all had phones, we had those glowing digital nags in our rooms, making it all too easy to turn a brief disruption in sleep into a night of insomnia, filled with calculations about how much time there was left to fall asleep before the jolting alarm. I was sleeping with my daughter who breastfed through the night and unplugged the clock on advice from an online forum. What a transformation! Our nights were relaxed and peaceful, our waking in the morning gentle and natural, not alarming. The first thing I do in a hotel room is unplug the clock. Occasionally I set an alarm – with pretty music – on my phone, if I need to get up particularly early. Mostly, though, I go to bed early, and let my body (and cats) tell me when it’s time to wake.

What else? What have you let go (or never used) that we all take for granted?


6 thoughts on “Radical Decluttering

  1. I feel the same way about my iron!
    I recently made a small declutter in our home, and found my iron sitting in a closet being in the way.
    Removed it to put it with our ironing board, and only then found out; we do not even own a ironing board…

  2. Wow, Karen, you weren’t joking with your use of the word “radical”! I was impressed, but also slightly alarmed, reading this – even though you made a point of saying this wasn’t a list of instructions for us all to follow, something in me said “you should do this too”. But I know I don’t want to live without the items you mention and that’s OK. With my own (considerably less radical) decluttering earlier this year, I couldn’t tell you what I got rid of because they were obviously things I really didn’t need. I know I got rid of 50% of my wardrobe and stacks of my books but I couldn’t tell you now exactly what because they were clearly surplus to requirements. I have a feeling I’ll be returning to this post as I consider what other stuff I can lose from my life in 2020. Thank you!

    1. Oh, I know it’s radical! And it feels so right for me, I just want anyone else who wants to go radical to know they can.

      I love your ‘surplus to requirements’ line – isn’t that a funny feeling? I still unload a trunk full of donations from time to time and when I get home, nothing is different.

      I’m glad you said you don’t want the same list as me – how boring would life be if we all had the same list?! I enjoy hearing about other people’s lifestyles, not so that I can emulate them, but because it shows me possibilities that help me question aspects my own.

      Thanks for your thoughtful (as always) comment and enjoy your Sunday! 😊

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