De-cluttering — Thoughts on not cluttering in the first place

Let’s start with a confession. I own over 100 table napkins and four complete sets of dishes (plus myriad other pretty, individual, irresistible dishes). I put that out there lest you think I’m getting preachy about de-cluttering. 

When it comes to most of the items in our home, though, I’m not a hoarder, by any stretch. In fact, my kids often remark that I give things away too easily. If you’re in my home and tell me you love a throw pillow, you might just carry it home with you.  

But I do like to organize what I’m keeping. I love tidy storage, including cute labels and coordinating folders. I arrange bookshelves by topic and towels by color. Our home is usually pretty tidy because I prioritize that part of housekeeping.

What I’m most interested in, though, is the de-cluttering of things and—even more importantly—the avoidance of cluttering in the first place. As far as paring down the items we already own, I appreciate the Konmari approach: be grateful for the service of an item and then, unless it continues to bring you joy, pass it on. 

When it comes to slowing the accumulation, here are a few of the approaches that are working for me:

Pause before purchasing.

If I stop and think (a day or more, if possible) before buying something, I can often find a way of doing without it.

Out of necessity, my mother was a very resourceful woman when my brother and I were little. One year, when I was in grade school, I needed a blue dress for a church procession. With no money for a new dress, Mom hand sewed a blue lining (from a curtain) under the translucent skirt of my Confirmation dress. It was beautiful! I often try to channel her resourcefulness. And I always think of her when I succeed—while sewing a table runner from leftover fabric or cutting hosta leaves from the backyard instead of buying flowers for a centerpiece, for example. 


I can get carried away. It’s just so easy to go overboard, especially when it comes to gift giving and celebrations. Whenever I can, I try to rely on creativity and restraint and remember that it’s the spirit of giving that’s important. It’s true that handmade or otherwise thoughtful gifts (especially when they’re given unexpectedly) usually mean as much or more as expensive ones to the people receiving them. 

Each birthday, our grandkids decide what theme they’d like for their party at Nana and Papa’s. Once they pick a theme, an internet search provides endless inspiration for food, decorations, and party games. In no time at all, I have pages of ideas—with corresponding lists of things to buy to pull it all off. Instead of forging ahead, I try to use all those Pinterest-perfect parties as brainstorming for what I might do more simply, keeping in mind that even the simplest things delight young ones. Kids don’t care if the cake is worthy of a photo shoot, for example, as long as there are candles! They want to have fun, but it needn’t be complicated. In fact, our grands look forward to and request some of the simplest activities repeatedly. Hula hooping anyone? 

I also try to avoid expensive custom decorations for parties. For example, after noting my tub full of various colored streamers and other colorful leftover decorations, I suggested to our granddaughter that we have a rainbow party. She loved the idea, and I used up all kinds of on-hand supplies while de-cluttering that party tub! 

Value quality.

Until I invested in a good can opener, I had three less expensive, less effective ones in our kitchen drawer. When I purchase something, I now try to buy things that are well made and that will last. I try to avoid plastics and throw-away items. Sometimes—especially for big-ticket items—this means an investment up front (and often saving up!). But it’s always economical in the long run—not to mention that it’s a better ecological choice and so much more satisfying. Of course, once you own a quality item, you’ll want to take good care of it to make it last. (That’s where Care to Keep comes in!)

How do you approach de-cluttering? Do you have tricks to keep yourself from accumulating too much?

You might also enjoy: Making do, Regifting, and Resolutions for a more sustainable lifestyle

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