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closet_clutter_monsterDe-cluttering needs to be an ongoing task.  It is part of living well and is as important as brushing your teeth and having a colonoscopy.  I am not kidding here at all.  It is life giving work that needs to be done.

My neighbor’s house just had a for sale sign put up front.  The occupants and lovely friends just moved at the beginning of the year to an assisted living apartment and they were ready to be done with houses and yard work and the black hole of repairs.

The neighbor’s two hours away daughter has been coming here nearly every weekend to divide up the leftovers, moving van the chosen “stuff” to her sister clear across the country and give to charity. Two large dumpsters have been filled with paperwork and those things that are just “stuff” and not good enough for an estate sale. The past several weeks have found the house full of carpenters, landscapers, painters, and home decorators to prepare for the photographs and staging for the online tour.

More furniture was put into the garage and new furniture, flowers, pillows and art were brought into the house.   We loved watching the owner’s upstairs couch being lifted out of the windows and down the roof by professionals and then a bedroom set moved into the room.

The duct work has been cleaned and the gutters and corners have been power washed to perfection. Garden plants were trimmed, pots removed and strange flower arrangements were rearranged.  The raccoon family under the deck was evicted and the deer fencing taken down; so that buyers might not see that the critters of the woods live here too.  De-clutter going on like crazy and then order and visual perfection interloping.

Now they just need a buyer and already the folks are coming.  Yes! Already!  This particular house will be purchased by someone in the 1% as the view of the water, Puget Sound, Mt. Rainier, the Capital Building and the entire city on the eastside hill is a magnificent one.

I watched all the work being done by the daughter and her family – some by the long distance daughter- and all the things that were thrown away and I was so thankful that my parents did not leave it to the children.  My parents moved 22 times during their marriage.  Each move they de-cluttered and let go.

When my mom was alone we assisted her in letting go of my Father’s things and stuff.  When we moved her into our house for her last years, we packed up a small box of treasures to be mailed to each grandchild and each child upon her death.  There was a plan for each item she brought here and it took us only one weekend to take care of the letting go.  All her files were in order and for the details I could put my hand on every essential item after her death.

We de-cluttered my in laws house a number of years before she moved into assisted living although there were 3 rooms full of things upon death that were a significant amount of work to let go.

We are not our stuff.  It is our responsibility to take care of our stuff and not just leave it for the kids.  Have a plan.  Let go of something every time you bring something new into your life.  Let go of some things often to open up space for new things and experiences.  It is extremely expensive and time consuming to pay to have these services done for you.

Or in the words of my neighbor, “Do not wait forty years to de-clutter and let go. We never thought about it and it was a monumental task.”   You will also be healthier if you regularly de-clutter.

Do you have plans for de-cluttering at your house?  Do you have tricks for letting go?  Will your family fight over the stuff and have hurt feelings?

If you purchase anything from Amazon or Powell’s from this site, I will receive a few beans in my bucket. Thank you.

Related Reading:
The Courage to Be Free
Transitions II
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
So Far Away

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  1. Davina Haisell Says:

    Decluttering just FEELS good, Patricia. Every year, I let go of more “stuff.” When I moved the last time, I had to get rid of more than I usually would because my newer place was much smaller.

    I realized that I had a lot of items that didn’t really mean anything to me anymore and they were just sitting around collecting dust. Time to pass them on to someone else. I buy much less than I used to, too. More out of necessity now, than out of want. And, I’m much more selective… don’t buy things as quickly as I used to.

    Patricia Reply:

    It is so good to let go of so many things. The estate sale folks next door are going to let us put 6 pieces of furniture in the sale in two weeks. We just feel free letting these things go and downsizing – even at 50% of the sale price so that the homeowner will get some too!

    The kids and hubs are going backpacking this week, so I am getting rid of the car camping gear…Whew!

    And we know we will go smaller sooner rather than later so we are not replacing anything.

    I have a friend from college who downsized to a backpack and a suitcase and moved to Sweden – where he added a computer….He does not miss a thing of the things…and it gave him 12 more years of a good life. ( He had cystic fibrous)

    I am not even writing right now as it is so fun to clear it all out :)
    Thanks for you good comments always a pleasure to find you here

  2. Hilary Says:

    Hi Patricia .. I’m slowly working through my mother’s and my own books – so I keep those I want, and read and then pass on those that are reading type books .. everything else has gone thankfully.

    I’ve recently downsized and will declutter some more .. keeping my own memorabila .. but little loved things can remain…

    Sounds like you might get some good neighbours .. the house sounds gorgeous .. cheers Hilary

    Patricia Reply:

    It sounds like you are caring for things step by step and I personally think that is a good way to go about it. Yes it is important to keep the just love stuff.

    The house is a stunner but it needs lots of upkeep work, it was bare bones maintained.

    Actually the house sold 4 hours after the sign went up!…Inspection tomorrow, Estate Sale the 30th and move in the 4th of July…a young couple with a toddler from NY…

    I am going to put 5 of my mum’s things into the sale because the grand children have not come to take them in 5 years.

  3. Laurie Buchanan Says:

    Patricia –

    …and while a true minimalist has 100 or fewer items (I’m darn close), I have the heart and spirit of a minimalist. Hence, I adored this post! Great job, thank you.

    Patricia Reply:

    Thank you for coming by – so nice to hear your news about your
    agent and your book – Yahoo!

    I am getting very close to minimalism…I still have too many of my mum’s dishes – 4 sets for use at each meal per day for a Brit. I think I am still too much of a children’s storage unit. None are ready for their own houses and thus I am storing lots of things for them. IF we downsize the housing situation, well then they will need a storage unit – they could probably share one.
    thank you for your good words

  4. Terrill Welch Says:

    Patricia this is a great post! I am way over Laurie’s 100 items for a minimalist but I do strive for simplicity. I also have tricks for getting me to declutter. It is at least once a year opening my home up to the public. It could be to host a workshop, an afternoon gathering or a dinner. In my case it often an open studio event. This year however we got invited to be part of the local home and garden show. We have been engaged to a lesser degree in some of the activities you describe.

    I have another area that comes to mind which also needs a firm declutter hand – our online living space. I have made a point of having a plan for these as well should anything happen to me. I also try and go around deleting profiles I am no longer using.

    Excellent post Patricia and what a transformation to witness!
    Terrill Welch recently posted..Mayne Island Early Evening At Georgina PointMy Profile

    Patricia Reply:

    Thank you for your wonderful comments. I have been thinking about you lately and about my birthday ferry ride – what can I truly achieve?

    Yes! one major trick is to invite company and like last year, our company from Denmark needed our camping gear for their trip across Canada. By hauling out all the things we needed when children were little and that we were saving for their families, we could see that we were traveling lighter and not needing to hang on to these things.

    the tandem bike is a little harder as it was early on part of our lives (I got a bike instead of an engagement ring – I can no longer ride) and we got a tandem and a bike seat when our oldest was just a year. The kids have all done the Seattle to Portland bike ride with their Dad as a rights of passage. I think we need to sell it…and not save it for our children…they will purchase their own tandem if need be.

    I am glad you enjoyed the post and thanks for your kind words. It is quite a transformational time

  5. susan Says:

    Hi Patricia,
    De-cluttering. Wow. Full time job here, haha! We have two purges a year for non-clothing decluttering and the load does get lighter each time, but hubs groans the whole time. And fights me. The box of his college accounting books I found hidden in the garage. Like he couldn’t DO IT. My motto is use it or lose it. His is “Keep everything cuz ya just never know.” Grrrrrr. We need to MOVE. That would do it. So I tell him to pretend we are. He doesn’t pretend well.
    susan recently posted..Green Tea – Energy AND Fat Loss?My Profile

    Patricia Reply:

    I feel like motivating my partner is always uphill battle. I am motivating him by the prospect of him building a NET Zero house for us that is smaller and with the house next door selling in 1 day he was quite motivated for nearly a whole weekend.

    Now he is focused on backpacking with the girls, and having the estate company sell 6 pieces of furniture left from my mum’s estate that no one wants….and so that he can purchase a new bike with the proceeds and go on his bike tour in September.

    What ever works. And he will not go on the internet and figure out hiking trails…he just goes by the seat of his pants.

    Ain’t it fun?

  6. Chris Edgar Says:

    Hi Patricia — it’s funny, I’ve always had a very spartan existence, with nothing more than the necessary amount of furniture and essentially no decorations in my place. Recently, just as an exercise, I’ve been experimenting with getting a few more “non-essentials,” just to see how I might express my personality through the way I set up my living space.
    Chris Edgar recently posted..On Leadership and Pleasing All the People All the TimeMy Profile

    Patricia Reply:

    I like to have things I truly like and no more – I hate to dust!
    The place that I am indulgent is the kitchen – tools that I use, even just once a year, that are useful I can not throw away, but if they are not really functional out they go.

    I have lots of SHAKER and Danish modern pieces of furniture – very plain. The splash of our lives is the art work done by my children and partner and gracing the walls.

    I personally feel spartan is better for me too :)

  7. Jannie Funster Says:

    Sounds like they spiffed the place up beautifully!

    22 moves in a marriage. And me now not having moved for 22 years!

    I love letting thongs go. Oh gosh. I’ll have to leave that iPhone typo stay.

    Things that is, love letting things go. I love to have less. Undergoing some decluttering these days. Smart to keep on top of all the stuff. My plan is to get rid of 2 things for each new acquistion. Eventually, I’ll be down to nothing and all the happier.

    Hope your new neighbors are as nice as you!

    Jannie Funster recently posted..Do Not Fret — a poemMy Profile

  8. Patricia Says:

    Hello and I too hope that the new neighbors are nice…our old neighbors were lovely people and introduced my hubs to me…were part of our wedding!

    Yes we must keep the thongs typo That just made me laugh out loud!!!

  9. Molly Groman Says:

    My husband has this habit of collecting things, He s emotionally attached to everything he uses, and once it is worn out, he doesn’t like to throw it away!

    In my 7 years of my marriage, I feel the most part I have spent in managing his stuff & then doing the de-cluttering. I really feel good dispose the old stuff and when the house looks pretty spacious it really feels great!
    Molly Groman recently posted..Having kidsMy Profile

    patricia Reply:

    Welcome and thank you for commenting.
    35 years and I manage all of the decluttering, but I insist that he participate at least 2 times a year. This week we just took out the box of his father’s sports shirts and gave them to charity. About 30 shirts went out and his father has been dead for 22 years!

    I think it is a learned skill.

  10. J.D. Meier Says:

    > De-cluttering needs to be an ongoing task.
    So true.

    It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes about motivation:

    “People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.” – Zig Ziglar

    Patricia Reply:

    What a great quote thank you so much for sharing it!

    I am so liking this letting go experience. My kiddos were here backpacking at Mt Rainier for several days and then came home and each one cleaned out another part of their rooms – we have 7 items for an estate sale and 6 huge bags for charity. We also found a huge box of my mother’s teaching art supplies and we are sharing them with the neighbor kids…very freeing experience

  11. Liara Covert Says:

    I love the idea of putting a small box of items together for each grandchild to be mailed after death. That is a precious kind of gift.

    If you move at least once in your life, (or more than once) these are golden opportunities to discover what you forgot you have and pass on items to local second hand shops or friends once you no longer need them. Of course, even if you do not move house, you can routinely sort through things and give some away that you are not using. One friend I know has a policy. If she has not used something in a year, then it goes. Some people sort more often. It can be a game and viewed as a fun exercise rather than a chore.

    Patricia Reply:

    Yes it turned out to be a fun idea – except for the Grand son who received her huge collection of bone china tea cups. I think she thought he could sell them on line as he was good at that sort of thing?

    I loved watching my youngest discover some baby pictures of herself this last session – she wanted to know why her face was so messing and I was feeding her with a special syringe. I think she gained some appreciation for the efforts made on her behalf and let go of some of the anger about being adopted.

    I like the sensation of discovery and cleaning that makes things feel fresh and new
    Patricia recently posted..Ladybugs – a retake as I renewMy Profile