Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Declutter – Or Simply Move Away and Start Over? (#4 of 11)

I grew up in a household devoted to never throwing anything away that we might need someday – including an old-fashioned toaster that didn’t pop the toast up, but depended on you to stand by and watch toast happening. 
Which may explain why decluttering comes so hard for me.

One tip for decluttering recommends imagining that your home and everything in it was consumed by fire, and asking yourself:
  1. Would I miss this? 
  2. Could I live without it? 
  3. Could I replace it?” 
When I imagine coming home to everything burned to ashes, I am relieved at the thought of having all that decision-making taken out of my hands.

Moving out of the busy center of my life, into a thoughtfully furnished home devoid of accumulated clutter, is a beguiling alternative.

My husband and I have rented a charming villa in which to vacation in the South. It is smaller than our home up North, but feels more spacious because it is totally clutter free. The furniture fits the space and supports the light and airy feeling of beach living. The cupboards, drawers, and dresser-tops are completely bare except for exactly enough sets of matching towels and sheets, dishes and cups, pots and pans, all tucked out of sight. Our landlords generously left us not only a warm welcoming note and a small, decorative centerpiece, but also a bottle of wine in the fridge, a bag of Cape Cod potato chips in the cupboard, and two prepared dinners in the freezer.

It was everything we needed in order to feel happy, comfortable, and at home.

But after we ate the dinner and chips and drank the wine, we needed to shop for groceries. On the way to the market we stopped in at the hardware store, where I made friends with Irene, who manages the housewares department. We arrived back at the villa later that day with a double boiler, a new grille, and a tub mat. The following day, at the farmers’ market, I bought an apron, place mats and matching napkins.

Every day, we brought a few more things into the house that we needed . . . a jug of bath gel, a shower caddy, a portable file cabinet. 

I failed to mention that we had brought along a complete set of drums (my husband is a professional jazz percussionist). On our second trip to the villa, we brought my folk harp, plus music stands, sheet music, an electronic tuner and a metronome.

I’m closely watching the handwriting on the wall. Life is giving me another chance to be a minimalist, to keep clutter from encroaching on this lovely place where we come to relax, and housework is as easy as swiping a sponge across a counter.

I’m seriously considering selling our cluttered house in exchange for a neat one. 

Maybe that's what it will take to do it for me.

(To be continued next week.)  


  1. The handwriting is on the wall ... nature abhors a vacuum.

  2. I had forgotten that particular law of nature, Sharon . . . . shoot! So am I working against the natural order? Carole (aka Anonymous) commented on my previous post that she believes orderliness is contrived, unnatural, artificiality imposed on human living. Could that be true? I may be doomed, and better off simply accepting clutter . . . as my husband does. He's happy and relaxed, the mess doesn't bother him, it bothers only me. Am I carrying the remains of my mother's OCD? Maybe I need to forget about simplicity austerity, and neatness, and just relax into messiness. But . . . as I go through the clutter up North, in the home I've inhabited for over a decade, I must admit a lot of this stuff doesn't deserve the space it occupies. . . . .