The Joy of De-Cluttering

posted in: Nature and Budgets

Do you find joy in being tidy and de-cluttered?

I recently had this perfect storm of events – the persistent mention of the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, a new hobby of browsing through the increasing number of weekend estate sales, plus the urge to update my Will.

De-cluttering seems to be at the heart of all of these events.

At the corner of Chaos and Order
At the corner of Chaos and Order

If you’ve ever been to an estate sale recently or read the March 23, 2015 Time Magazine article, “The Joy of Less”, by Josh Sanburn, or watched any of the “Hoarding” TV shows, it’s pretty clear we have a “too much stuff” syndrome going on.

According to the Time Magazine article, anyone with or around kids won’t be too surprised to learn that even though the children in the U.S. only make up 3.1% of the world’s children population, those U.S. families buy more than 40% of the toys purchased globally. That’s a lot of toys sprawled around the house, stuffed in closets and stuck in the garage.

Ever wonder just how much STUFF Americans have?

Here’s my favorite tidbit from the Time Magazine article. “Most household moves outside the U.S. weigh from 2,500 lb. to 7,500 lb. The average weight of a move in the U.S. is 8000 lb. (four tons!) the weight of a fully grown hippo!”

Is there an 8000 LB Hippo waiting for you on moving day?
Is there an 8000 LB Hippo waiting for you on moving day?

I mean REALLY, do we actually USE much of that stuff, not to mention even NEED much of it?

If you enjoy historical perspectives, you’ll enjoy the Time Magazine article as it goes on to discuss the fascinating history of consuming going back to 1872. That’s when Montgomery Ward printed the first general merchandise catalog. Speaking of catalogs, while I was growing up, I remember our neighbors in the country using the thin pages from the Sears Roebuck catalog in their outhouse… but then that’s another story.

Come to think of it, the idea certainly fits, rather crudely, with my ongoing interest in repurposing.

This way to the Estate Sales...Moving on to those estate sales, I’m noticing an interesting phenomenon these days.

There are 75 million baby boomers who are on the verge of retirement. When you think of it, if an average 10,000 Boomers are now turning 65 every day, that means there are legions of parents in their 80s-100s passing on or moving into assisted living centers. In fact, I understand the Albuquerque area is becoming a huge growth area for assisted senior living.

Do you realize how much STUFF is now being released from those old attics, basements and garages these days and flooding the estate sale market and the world with more stuff?

Since the law of supply and demand has not changed, that means the supply side is now turning into a mountain of excess. If you’ve been hanging on to your grandmother’s old Hummel’s or LP vinyl records looking to cash in, you might want to beat the rush.

As I talked to the estate sale organizers, it became very apparent that the value is plummeting for many of the classic relics and antiques of those early years, including those old charming Hummel’s (brought back from the war and creating a whole industry for years to come).

Maybe it’s time to let go of my three little Hummel’s from my college travel days to Germany.

 hummel-goose-girl_side_150 Hummel Brothers Hummel Traveler

For all you “creatives” out there, this is your chance for developing some fun and unique uses for all that excess estate sale clutter.

One of those old relics is the big vinyl LP record. I recently saw some very unique repurposing ideas for those old LPs. By just using an oven or stove top, there’s a way to bend those big “plates” and convert them into bowls, as well as book ends and shelves.

Some people have amazing imaginations for giving new life to old items.

Bowl Shaped from a Herb Alpert LPBowl Shaped from a Archie Bell and the Drells LP
An Albuquerque artisan’s clever LP Bowls shaped from a tortilla mold.

Back to the push for de-cluttering in our lives. I’ve noticed that there are degrees of tidiness. One couple I know does a complete tidy up and some de-cluttering whenever someone will be coming to the house for a visit or a party or a project over summer break. During the rest of the time, tidy is often on hold.

To Clean or Not to Clean...?My other friend is on the complete opposite end of that spectrum. She holds on to very little and likes her surfaces clean and uncluttered. Woe was her ex-husband if he didn’t get through that Sunday paper by late afternoon. By 4 pm that pile of papers was whisked off the kitchen island and gone.

On the other hand if you ever stopped over for a visit, you could always count on a few little chocolate goodies tucked away in any one of those kitchen drawers.

The “magic of tidying up” has certainly touched a nerve, so I suspect there will be a lot of Goodwill and other centers filling up. Personally, I feel like I’m one of the few who hasn’t fallen under the spell of the Kondo approach to de-cluttering. The Clutter CloudBut then with all the moving I’ve done in the last twenty years of my life, I’m already joyfully pared down, have organized drawers and closets, and have an on-going eye for any evidence of growing clutter.

Where I DO see the desire to de-clutter, however, is through finishing my Will, Healthcare Directive and that one file with all the necessary information listing contacts, accounts, passwords and user information.

This personal drive is actually where the topic of de-clutter started brewing for me.

De-cluttering relating to Wills you ask??

To me Wills and other documents are all part of the clutter issue.

Document Management Begins...I see it as mental clutter. Until those documents are finished, there is still a sense of too much “clutter” in my head, and a feeling of wasted energy continually seeping out unconsciously. It’s a bit like a nagging program running in the background constantly poking at me to get this project done.

At the bottom of all this is the desire to have a feeling of financial peace of mind where the decisions have been made, information gathered and arrangements handled. Everything is tidy.

Clear Away the Mental ClutterAs I started gathering up the information, people wondered about my health. No, I’m fine. I did wonder though, what would happen if I fell off the cliff while hiking? With all family members scattered across the country and next continent, I’m too organized and responsible a person to let anyone have to deal with that “mess” of figuring everything out – the financial papers, the legal papers, the website information, the business details, royalties and the STUFF.

What is often overlooked, however when talking about “stuff” is the virtual stuff – the “non-stuff” like that “stash” of twenty some extra domain names I’ve been holding on to (like It’s time to either use them, sell them or let them go but do something.

For others it’s the volumes of online photos, ebooks, games etc. Would someone know what you have and how to access any of it if you fell off that cliff?

Speaking of digital, let’s look at finances along with the digital side of tidying up our finances.

Did you know that according to a Consumer poll, when it comes to financial paperwork, 25% of Americans had either lost or forgotten about an important financial document? Another 16% lost money or paid a charge because of poor organization of their paperwork.

We just have “too much financial flotsam to keep track of” according to writer Kate Ashford in her Forbes column “10 Ways to De-clutter Your Finances”. I love the flotsam analogy.

Going digital could simplify a lot of de-cluttering. There are numerous apps for receipts and many services for aggregating and linking all your financial accounts. Do a search for OneReceipt, FreshBooks, PaperPhobic, ReceiptBank, Expensify, or Finovera for starters, or just do a search for something specific to your needs.

Staying touchable in a digital... worldGoing completely paperless can seem like a brilliant idea for someone who’s entire “hardwiring” from grade school on up (now birth on up) is learning how to use thumbs and gadgets and screens. Yet, digital doesn’t apply to the entire population…at this time. Some people still have the old “hardwiring deep in their DNA” for the familiar and tangible paper, books and touchable things. They want to see and handle those bills in their mailbox, as one recent client told me.

That doesn’t mean your house has to be full of paper clutter.

If you’re trying to figure out what to toss, what to keep and how long, Suze Orman has a nice printer friendly page and user-friendly summary sheet that will guide you through the process.

Up-cycle your old financial docs
Upcycle your old financial docs…

Then as you clear out and shred all that financial paperwork, you might want to consider putting that paper to use in your garden. It hardly gets any more secure than that. My dentist friend in the Midwest shreds all the office paperwork, then feeds it into their compost pile for their prolific garden. Another great example of going from one product to another.

Those vegetables seem to just love all those old financial documents and household de-cluttering.

Now what will YOU do this summer to de-clutter and tidy up your life?

3 Responses

  1. Sonya Schellhase

    Hi my friend! I wantto say that this article is awesome, greatly written and comes with approximately all the significant info that I need. I would like to see more post like this.

  2. Constance Finch

    yrdBnm2mO7zS, Love the comments Judy, what a great article!
    Love ya,

    • Judy

      Thanks Connie. In your tiny Singapore world I’m sure you have been de-cluttered a long time!