AT On: My Real Life Battle With Clutter

AT On: My Real Life Battle With Clutter

Sarah Rae Smith
Nov 24, 2008

It wasn't until I had moved 8 times, married my husband, and moved into a loft that I came face to face with my clutter obsession. This post is all about me and my personal struggle with letting go and learning to live with less (which sounds all happy when you read about it online, but confronting your own daily habits can be a bit more shocking and hard to do than one might think.). I'm midwestern born and raised, we have basements, attics and garages to fill with treasures we find, don't need and should have thrown away. If any of this sounds familiar, click through to read true words from a real life experience.... Sarahrae Exposed.

It's easy to sit down and tell everyone how to reduce the clutter found in their homes. We can show you pictures, tell you stories and even give you real life examples of shining houses that have accomplished these things. But what we can't do is empty your house from top to bottom, pack it all up and make you see exactly the things that your house is hiding. But that's just exactly what happened to me and it's what I plan on sharing with all of you today.

After college I moved around a great deal. Because I could... I mean why not? It was a time in my life that I could roam without fear of mortgages, kids or many if any responsibilities. I moved from to Alaska (which if you haven't been you should go!), back to Missouri, to Minnesota, down to Milwaukee and then back to the Kansas City area into the town of Independence, Missouri (where Harry Truman lived!).
It was in Independence that my packrat nature really started to explode. My husband and I had planned on staying around this part of the country for awhile and the nesting began. We lived in a great location for dragging home auction finds, rehabbing furniture, taking on project after project and letting the creative side of our interests truly shine.
That is until we signed the papers to move into a loft apartment in downtown Kansas City. A space that didn't have a garage to stash your mass amount of tools and lawn care equipment. A space that didn't have an attic to hide away failed projects to work on later, clothes you want to "get back into" and a large amount of Christmas decorations. A space that brought you face to face with the reality of the amount of "stuff and things" a house really holds.

Now before you all judge me and consider me to be like the crazy guy who jams his car full of papers, trash and clothes and only has room for him to sit, think about your own home. And I'm not talking about outlandish things, but normal things like extra linens that you might not use on the bed anymore, or a magazine collection that sure is great to have, but you really haven't dug into it in the last 6 months, so why do you have them around?
I was like many a midwestern (any anywhere around the country for that matter) family who because you have the space, means it has to be filled with something. A bowl of rocks, a vase of sticks, a chair, a table... or maybe it's something that can actually be useful, like a craft room that because you have a whole room means you can outfit it wall to wall with bits and bobbins. It's easy to fill a house, harder to fill an apartment because it's obvious what will fit in your space and what won't. But in a house... the gloves are off and the stuff just comes pouring in.

Before moving into our loft we rented a dumpster (which was filled), had a garage sale (which was a huge success) and made close to 10 trips to the thrift store to donate box after box - and bag after bag of stuff and clothes that we liked but didn't love. Stuff that we even loved, but were tired of having around us.
Technically the loft is larger in square footage than our house was, but once we started packing, we knew it was time to start letting go.

The job wasn't easy by any stretch of the imagination. There were old photos that we had, but didn't really need to keep around (or had scanned them in digitally), Birthday cards, Christmas cards, clothes that we had spent a great deal of money on but couldn't wear any longer.... it's easy to acquire things but difficult to let them go. The dumpster helped with that. I would be lying if I said there wasn't a shed tear here and there... because there was, but there was also a large weight that was lifted when every box, bag, and piece of furniture was packed, moved and unloaded into our new space.

It's easier now to only bring in what has a home. We have caught ourselves in the stores while we are out for new essential things (wireless network antennas, extension cords, trash cans... ) asking the question out loud (because that makes it real), where is this going to go? Would we be ok waiting and getting something of better quality later? Could it serve more than one purpose if we decide to change things later on (like a tv stand becoming an side table or a door becoming a computer desk)?

It's easy to see that our closet area is only so big and thus only holds so many clothes. Our kitchen only has so many doors and drawers and thus we only need 2 sets of mixing bowls instead of 4.

This was a difficult road that The Midwestern Fall Cure talks a great deal about. Hoping to repair your home before it comes to the point of packing everything up and unpacking it room by room like we did. I wish someone would have told me sooner that the key to happiness was a well decorated house AND clean closets as well as partially empty ones.

It's fantastic to know that the stuff and things that have been donated, Craigslisted, and garage saled have all moved on to have new life in new homes where they are hopefully making someone else happy. It's a great feeling to know that although I liked certain pieces, that I can always find new ones and that the search and hunt for great pieces of home decor is the best part of the game.

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