When the pandemic turned our world upside-down last year, some moms took advantage of the time at home to do some much-needed decluttering and spring cleaning. I said “some.” Not all. No worries and no judgment if reorganizing was not part of your COVID plan! It certainly wasn’t in the cards for me … until my family decided to rent out our house for the school year and hit the road.
To list our house as a vacation rental, we had to empty closets and cabinets of 16+ years of clothes, toys, games, and other accumulated possessions. I assumed that getting rid of our personal things would be emotionally difficult for this sappy mom, but decluttering actually got easier as we went along.
That’s because I realized the secret: It’s just stuff.
That message has been reiterated time and again as my family has traveled across 14 states these past six months. As we get ready to leave Texas and fly back to Florida, I’m dutifully putting all our belongings into suitcases. But honestly? I would happily leave everything here—just fly away and start again. It’s just stuff, after all, and none of it is irreplaceable.
Possessions are not people:
My sister is getting ready to move to South America this summer after nearly 10 years of living in Thailand. She’s understandably having a challenging time balancing the desire to bring her items with her versus the cost of shipping them overseas—mainly because many of her personal pieces carry with them emotional attachments to the people she’s leaving behind.
What I wish she could take from my “It’s just stuff” mentality is that she’s not getting rid of the person who gave her the lovely glass bowl or the friend who banged her shin on that coffee table. Those memories are irreplaceable and will travel with her always. The items, however, are not and probably should not.
Oftentimes we get bogged down in “stuff” that was given to us by loved ones—especially those who are no longer with us. A photo of an item from a loved one will spark the memory and keep that person close at heart just as much as the item would…and take up much less room in your attic.
“Stuff” carries weight:
How many times have you closed the door on a cluttered kid’s room, saying: “I’m too tired to deal with this right now.” That sinking feeling in your gut? It’s from the clutter, which actually takes an emotional toll on your mental health and well-being. This leads to feeling even less motivated to do spring cleaning, which perpetuates the process. I’m not saying it’s easy, but the sooner you start, the better and lighter you will feel.
The top reason people put off decluttering is that they don’t know where to start. Or they think they have to organize the entire house from top to bottom, Marie Kondo-style, and get rid of anything that doesn’t spark joy.
That’s great if that method works for you, but it didn’t for me. My advice? Think big but start small with spring cleaning.
Even if you organize just one drawer per day for seven days, you are further ahead than where you were a week ago. Keep a “To Donate” bag in your front closet or mudroom at all times, and put in items as you go.
Honestly, you won’t miss it:
I thought it would be hard to leave my home and all our belongings in Wisconsin. But with the exception of my good cooking knives and favorite yoga mat, there isn’t one thing from that house that I miss—not even my pillow! We’ve learned to get by with much less, and I hope to keep this minimalistic trend going even after we return home.
We donate books once we’ve read them, for example, and we leave behind extraneous sports equipment. Traveling lighter through this world, I’ve found, is so much easier than dragging around everything plus the kitchen sink. I bet if you try it, you’ll think so, too.