Monday, February 29, 2016

Decluttering ~ my column from Sunday's paper

It seemed like our home was closing in around us. A few weeks ago while reaching for something on the top shelf, an avalanche of books, papers, and a box of pencils comically pinged my head like a bell. “It’s time to get rid of some stuff,” I said to myself.

Serendipity kicked in, as it often does, by serving up a story about a book on The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo.  After reading a brief summary, I ordered the book from 

 A few days later, the UPS man silently delivered it to the side porch one afternoon while we were napping. 

Jilda was under the weather with the flu that week, but she felt strong enough to sit on the couch and read the book while sipping a few cups of steaming green tea.

I was happy she read it because it would do no good for me to get on a decluttering kick if
she wasn’t invested in the idea too.

When she finished, I started reading. It's an excellent book, and the author has a great approach to decluttering. But her situation is different from ours because she looks to be in her twenties. I have shoes that are older.

Jilda and I will celebrate our 42 wedding anniversary in May. The number of years we’ve been together is a major factor in the amount of stuff we’ve accumulated. An added issue is we both had mothers who survived the Great Depression and rarely discarded ANYTHING that might remotely be useful later on. “These apples didn’t fall far from the tree,” as the old saying goes.

When I started evaluating my closet and under our bed, it was a little scary. As it turns out, I needed to do a little decluttering before I could even start the process described by Kondo.

That first day, I took a truckload of things to Goodwill that still had a lot of use in them, but were no longer things we needed. 

Kondo recommends a particular order and suggests doing it all at one time. I get that, but the sheer volume of things in our house made it difficult doing it all at once.  

Over the following days, I went through my closet and pulled out all the jeans and tried them on. Any that didn’t fit right got tossed in the bag. Some of them looked brand new but there was one pair of bell bottoms I wore after we married. My legs fit into the jeans, but the zipper wouldn’t budge past halfway. Who would have guessed 40 pounds would do that to your rear end?

After getting my closet in order, I’ve found that it takes me a fraction of the time to get dressed.

We’re saving the hardest part of the decluttering chore until the end. Going through the books, photographs, and knick-knacks will be the most difficult because there’s a lot of history to sort through. The criteria Kondo uses in the book is a good one I think. If something doesn’t “give us joy,” we need to pass it on to someone else.

Spring cleaning is refreshing, but we’re hiding the problem. We often move the things we no longer need to get them out of sight. The only issue is that our shed and closet have been full for years.
Real change only happens when we rid ourselves of things we’re keeping, “just in case.”  Our mothers would have had a conniption at the thought of tossing something we might need later, but our little home seems to be breathing a sigh of relief.


  1. I need to declutter, I call it addition by subtraction, but Mrs. C has issues...that book would just become more clutter in out house.

  2. That fact about the depression and its effect on a family, is definitely with us. Both our parents lived thru the depression. I honestly used much I horded and still do here in the MH, but of course it is limited, and that is Good. We both downsized to move into this MH full time. I tend to still hold onto too much.
    but we definitely decluttered going from 2700 sqft to 320 sqft. hahaha.
    Most folks know they should declutter, but do not know where or how to start. a book like Marie Kondo has written would probably do millions good to read. ;-)

  3. I need to get this book Rick but both Valentina and I would have to read it... because honestly I've come to a place in my life that I would like to get rid of 80% of my stuff, so I could enjoy what I want to keep. . Kudos to you and Jilda xox

  4. Good for you for being able to de-clutter. I know what you mean with moms and dads. My mom lived through the war(German)and my dad lived through the Great Depression and the war so they saved everything! My mom was the worst and would save things like peach pits, for something crafty but never could figure out what. I want to de clutter but not sure even how to start..mainly because my hubby will want to keep it.

  5. You getting rid of your jeans that don't fit is funny. Any female in the world can tell you where extra weight goes...hips. But you reminded me that I have a couple of bags full of old jeans stored under my bed. Donating them is a good idea.

  6. Good column Rick. Inspirational, you might say.
    Maybe it has prompted some of your readers to de-clutter too. Have you had any feedback on the article???

    Ms Soup

  7. Ill do my spring cleaning / decluttering soon. I feel like I have more when I get rid of things. Its nice when there is only a few items of clothes in the closet but everyone of them is wearable.


  8. I'm glad you are getting such a good start on your decluttering there. I have lots of that to do, but the thoughts of all that sorting out seems more than I can handle, so it sits here.

  9. Congratulations on your upcoming anniversary. Mrs. Chatterbox and I will celebrate our 42nd in June, so we've roughly been married the same length of time.

  10. My book shelf had an avalanche as well. The closet is begging to be cleaned out. Maybe tomorrow.

  11. Good article and I'm sure you're inspiring many folks to declutter. I wonder if it's that 42yr mark because Jack and I have started getting cleared out and our 42nd anniversary is in August. Hope we're done by then! One bedroom done and now it's the basement we've tackled....funny how big a mess is created by cleaning out stuff! We not only have our junk but my in-laws who passed away 16yrs ago..throw in some kid junk and it's a pile! So good luck to you and Jilda in your quest to keep only the things that bring you joy!

  12. Good for you! I have been doing a major decluttering for about 2 years now and it feels great! Happy 42 years!

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