Cleaning Out Before a Move

posted in: marissa, simple living | 2

It is quite possible that I have been using Facebook as a distraction in order to avoid preparing my house for our big move…in TEN DAYS!  I have had several FB conversations lately with friends, and perfect strangers, about cleaning out, cleaning up, and preparing to pack my house out and move 1000 miles away.  It might be a sign that I need to get off the internet, and go get to cleaning, or it might be a sign that I need to write a blog post with some good tips to cleaning out your house and quite honestly, cleaning out your life.  This of course, applies whether you are moving or not!

This will be my fourth move in the last 11 years.  It will only be the first one that the military will be moving me.  I am so thankful a company will finally be coming to pack my items, load them in a truck, and undo it all at my new house.  I have far too much experience with packing boxes and loading my own truck (once literally 100% by myself except for two friends who were able to come by and help me load the heavy furniture into the truck).  The perils of moving, whether on your own or with help, are more than enough to help you keep your personal belongings at a “minimum.”  In the military, we joke that we never stay in one spot long enough to accumulate too much stuff.  Well, that is just a bold faced lie, and some of you military people I know have the HHG weight to prove it!!!

Life happens and items creep in: friends and family members give you gifts you never knew you “needed,” your kids have a collection of stuffed animals that rivals Toys ‘R Us, all those decorations from the parties that you “may” reuse again, your grandmother’s china that is absolutely hideous and you will NEVER use even the first time!  The list goes on and on, right?

So how do you decide what to keep and what to discard?  First of all, if you are reading this less than a month before moving, you better read faster and get to work, or do most of your cleaning on the back end of the move.  THIS IS A PROCESS.  Jennifer and Debbie, the other writers of Threaded Together, can also attest you are not going to clean out in a day or week or month.  It takes patience.  And every time you clean something out, it seems something else has crept back in.  Then before you know it, 6 months later you are taking another huge truckload to a donation center.  It is a learning process.  But WELL WORTH IT. 

I can almost promise you if you get your house in order, you will get several other aspects of your life in order and you will JUST BE HAPPIER. 

Lets get to those tips to cleaning out:

  1. This is truly the NUMBER ONE RULE: Cherish the Memory, Not the Shit (you can say “stuff” if you want, but my way helps me get rid of the shit even easier!)
    • There are so many things we keep because we feel like we “have” to – trophies, cards, knick knacks, stuffed animals, toys.  We think if we get rid of it, we are killing the memory attached to it: say, the trophy from your daughter’s first dance recital.  The guilt that sets in when you throw something like that away can be almost debilitating at first.  It’s okay.  Take a picture of it.  Your daughter will enjoy seeing the picture of it when she is 30 years old and it will be a sweet walk down memory lane.  She will NOT enjoy the boxes of trophies SHE has to store in HER garage when she’s 30 years old cuz you kept all that crap!
    • Great Grandma’s spoon collection?  What in the world are you going to do with it?  Would YOU collect spoons if given the choice?  No?  Then take a picture and sell or donate them or find someone else in your family who DOES want them.  It’s okay.  No one will hate you for it.
    • Remind me to ask my mom if she still has her ponytail from when she had her hair cut 40 years ago…
  2. Get rid of your FANTASY SELF or SELVES
    • This is just as important as rule number one.  Holy Cow.  My fantasy selves?  The Classy Hostess with the Mostest, Super Knitter, Cake Boss Part II, Greeting Card Guru, Designer Diva, Runway Model.  You name it.  I wanted to be it and I wanted to be perfect at it.  Which meant buying ALL the crap to go along with it.  Sometimes you just have to realize that it is time to let some of these ideas go.  Especially if you have multiple fantasy selves.  The more you have, the less time you are able to spend doing them.
    • I had an entire room full of yarn.  I gave almost all of it to my friend.  That was a lot of money worth of yarn (see #3).  It was all just one or two skeins, not enough to do a real project.  But having all that yarn stopped me from buying enough of one type of yarn to actually do a project I WANTED to do.  So in fact, having TONS of yarn was inhibiting my hobby.  Go figure!
    • Miss Minimalist says it much more eloquently than I am able.
  3. “I want to get rid of it, but I just paid good money for that last (month/week/year)!” 
    • This one is hard too!  The best solution is to try to sell it.  The big money items I sold on eBay, but that process really does annoy me.  I made about $500 that way.  I also had a couple of garage sales and made a few hundred that way.  I also donated THOUSANDS and THOUSANDS of dollars worth of items to Goodwill, Salvation Army, Veterans of America, Samaritan House and more.  I drove items to the facilities myself and I had huge bulk pickups at my house.  Every time I thought to myself, how do I still have this much crap!?!?! 
    • Understand that the money is gone whether you keep the stuff or not.  You’ve spent it.  You can’t get it back (unless you are able to return or sell the item).  Keeping the item will not make you feel any better about that.  It will just be a burdensome reminder that you wasted your money on it in the first place.
  4. “My kids just have too many toys and it is always such a mess, but that is just not fair to force this on them”
    • Your kids, no matter what age, will thank you for getting rid of all their junk.  They won’t say the words “thank you,” but they will KEEP THEIR ROOMS CLEAN, APPRECIATE THE ITEMS THEY DO HAVE, BE MORE CREATIVE, and BE HAPPY TO SPEND FAMILY TIME.  They will BE BETTER PEOPLE.
    • The best way I found was to get my kids (now 12, 9 and 2) involved in the cleaning process.  They made their own trash and donation piles.  We had family cleaning days.  And then I would go in and clean more.
    • Explain what it means to donate and why.  My kids were shocked to learn that other kids in this country had few or no toys because they couldn’t afford them.  My children were more than happy to pass theirs on.  Also passing things down to neighbors helps.  The kids loved knowing they could still go visit their toys on occasion at someone else’s house.
    • Before you let NEW items IN the house, require the kids to get RID of OLD ones.  There was a time period when my daughter had a billion Barbies (in part because my mom saved all of mine and gave them to me as an adult).  If my daughter wanted to use her money to buy a new Barbie, she had to first donate a few of her old ones.  One new Barbie was worth at least 4 old ones.  Eventually, my daughter had less than 10 NICE, NEW dolls that she cherished because she spent her own money on them and took care of them, and had a much smaller mess to clean up after playing. 
    • When your kids AREN’T watching, get rid of the crap you know they don’t play with but also aren’t willing to get rid of.  You just gotta do it.
  5. You might be worried that you’ll clean out an item and then decide you NEED it again.
    • First of all, lets talk want versus need.  We teach this to our kids all the time buy very rarely follow it ourselves.  You NEED food, water, shelter and probably transportation.  Everything else is a want.
    • I had ONE item like this.  It was a big one though.  I had a really expensive food processor that I literally never used.  When it was practically brand spanking new I sold it on eBay for half its value.  Less than six months later I totally changed the way I eat and I needed a food processor like, every other day to prepare my own foods from scratch.  DOH!  Yep, I bought a new one.  I bought a much less expensive, smaller one that works GREAT for what I need it to.  And I cherish it. :)  It happens.
    • If you need to buy a replacement item for something you donated…check out your local thrift store…maybe you’ll find your same item! :)
  6. Don’t fall into the Myth of Multiples
  7. Still having a hard time getting rid of things?
    • Take all the items you KNOW you should clean out, but just CAN’T bring yourself to do it.  Put them in boxes and tape them up.  Hide them away in your garage, attic, storage somewhere.  If you don’t NEED any of these items in the next three or six months, take the boxes straight to the donation center or throw them in the trash. Do NOT open the boxes.  Do NOT tempt yourself again because you WILL find a way to justify keeping them. 
  8. Be INTENTIONAL and GENUINE with all of your purchases.  And…Stop buying things!!!
    • Stay away from sale and clearance signs.  None of the rules above will help you de-clutter your house and life if you keep buying things to bring back into your home.
    • Make a list of things you REALLY want, then WAIT.  That’s right.  Do NOT go straight out and buy it.  Wait a week or two and see if you still want or “need” it.  I was AMAZED at how many things I ended up NOT buying.  Most of them, actually.
    • I’m not saying don’t buy things on sale.  Combine the first two parts above.  Make a list, wait, THEN buy it when it finally goes on sale.
    • Take your list to the store.  If it is not on the list, don’t buy it!
    • If you don’t intend to use it, or do the project, or build it, or eat it, IMMEDIATELY, don’t buy it.
    • See the theme here???  Don’t buy it!
  9. Last, but not least, and possibly the hardest one of all…get your extended family involved.
    • Much like #8, if the junk is still finding its way in, you’re never going to clean out
    • Christmas celebrations in my family used to be a massively gluttonous festivity of over indulgence.  Sorry family, but it was.  I wish I could find a picture of the living room COVERED in presents and wrapping paper and too many things we never knew we needed.  To be frank, at the time I was poor and did not have the money to reciprocate and constantly told the family they always did too much.  But that was what made them happy. 
    • Several years later, and no longer poor, but a changed life, explaining this lifestyle of less stuff to my family was REALLY hard at first.  My mother actually said to me, “It feels like you are minimizing all of your family right out of your life.”
    • There does become a point where you have expressed your wishes, your desires are clear and you just have to hope they are going to listen and respect your decision.  Sometimes they will, sometimes they won’t.  That is when you graciously accept their gifts, say thank you, and put it in the next donation pile. 
    • I am not sure what/when the change happened with my family.  Maybe because they secretly knew that their items were being donated.  Maybe they saw how much my life was changing for the better.  I was cleaning out, paying down education debt, being more active.  Whatever it was, things changed.
    • My mother has since moved from a three bedroom house in Suburbia to a 2 bedroom cottage downtown.  She got rid of her HUGE storage space.  She has more time to DO the things she wants to do and I think it is because she is free of a lot of those physical burdens.  But that is her story to tell one day. Thanks for letting me beat up on you a little today mom.  Now YOU are an inspiration to ME on how to clean out!

These are the three main blogs that helped me minimalize my life.  There are several forms of minimalism, but you have to choose the type that works best for you and your life.  Some people follow rules like only owning 100 items.  I personally, think that’s crazy.  Some people have cleaned out, sold their houses, and moved their family of 8 into an RV permanently.  Go them.  That’s not for me.  I just want to not be burdened with having too much stuff to know what to do with.  Whether you are a single person, a family of 10, or there are just two of you, these blogs have tips to help you clean out the things that aren’t necessary in your life.  It is incredibly liberating and I can promise you won’t be sorry.  It will change your life forever, for the better.

2 Responses

  1. Kathy Balcom
    | Reply

    where are you moving to?

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