Dejunking: The Book that Motivated Me

I’ve been dejunking my house.  It is all due to the book For Packrats Only: How to Clean Up, Clear Out, and Dejunk Your Life Forever (1998) by Don Aslett.  I heard about it from a high-school friend’s blog post, which you can see here.  She is a craft blogger and gave herself the challenge to dejunk her house in 30 days after reading Aslett’s book.  I decided to follow suit, especially since my housework has suffered since being in school for the last year.

packrat cover

Now that I’m on a break, I have plenty of time to clean and declutter.  However, finding energy to do so is another thing completely.  That is where Aslett’s book helped.  Yes, he had tips and tricks, but mostly it motivated me.  After reading a section or chapter, I would think, “I can do that!” and then I would jump up and do it.  Here are some of the motivating ideas that stuck out to me.

First, clutter is expensive.  Often, we think about holding onto our stuff because we paid good money for it, but he talks about how much it costs to store and maintain, especially if you have so much stuff that you need to rent a storage unit.  There is also a psychological cost.  We can become so connected to stuff, that people don’t matter or that we must give up time with family in order to move or rearrange our stuff.

Secondly, moving clutter around is what prevents us from cleaning our homes.  He has a professional cleaning business, and he found that homes with more stuff took longer to clean because of the amount of time it took to move the stuff before being able to get to the carpet or the windows.  This resonated with me because of the toy clutter we have.  I find that all of my cleaning energy is sapped after picking up the toys that get strewn about the house during the day.  I have no desire to then dust or vacuum.  The carpet looks pretty good once the toys are gone, even if there are bits of string or cereal still there!  As to decluttering these toys, I may have to wait a few more years.  Not all of it can be easily dispensed of with the children running around.  (Aslett suggests dejunking children’s things carefully, in deference to feelings, and perhaps when they aren’t at home.)

Third, don’t make excuses.  Aslett knows every excuse in the book.  Some of them include the claim that we are working on that project or that we will fix that someday.  He says that if “someday” hasn’t come and those scraps or broken appliances are still hanging around, just toss them.  He says it is actually less expensive to go out and buy that item, should you need it, since he knows that the excuse would be that you might need it someday.

There is much more motivation in this book.  He has techniques, such as using boxes rather than bags, and maybe storing a box full of stuff you think you can’t live without for six months and then revisiting the possibility of letting it go.  This technique works.  When we replaced the floors in our home several years ago, we boxed up a lot of stuff and put it in the shed.  When we were settled again, it was a year before I remembered that stuff was out there, and I hadn’t missed it at all!

He also talks about gifts, and how we feel like we must keep items that somebody gives to us.  He says this isn’t so.  We can thank them and then quietly give it away.  In this case, and in others, getting rid of the stuff can be easier if we know it is going to a good home.  He suggests holding a yard sale or giving to a thrift store or charity.  I find that this works well for me in getting over the psychological hurdle of giving away “important” items.

I recently did this with baby clothing and accessories.  I went through all of it, selling some at consignment stores, giving some to a neighbor, and donating the rest to a thrift store.  I felt good about it, rather than torn and conflicted that I was giving away memories of my children.

So my house is slowly becoming less cluttered and more comfortable (and clean-able).  I’ve gone through cupboards and drawers, just one day at a time.  I’ve given away games we haven’t played but once, thrown away old toiletries and perfumes, emended our DVD collection, trashed the millions of plastic children’s hangers that were stored in the backs of the closets, and parted with books that I will never read.

The best project has been getting rid of all of my old magazines, Martha Stewart Living and Real Simple.  I had marked pages in them that I planned to revisit, but I never had.  It has been years since I’ve looked at some of the issues, and I no longer subscribe to either one.  So I ripped out those pages, mostly recipes, put them in page protectors in a binder, and threw away the rest.  Now I have a beautiful cookbook that has led to renewed cooking efforts on my part and some delicious meals.  Here’s how that cookbook turned out.

packrat cookbook 1

packrat cookbook 2packrat cookbook 3

Nice, right?

I’ve also cleared some shelf space, both on my bookshelves and in my kitchen and laundry-room cupboards.  Aslett recommends getting rid of shelves and chests, as they are just clutter gatherers.  I’m not completely convinced of that, but I am convinced that my home will be happier, easier to clean, and more inviting for getting rid of things that I don’t need, use, or really even want.  It has been fun and liberating.  That freedom is the biggest promise of Aslett’s admonitions to declutter.  Free yourself of stuff and start living for people.