Get rid of things with purpose, not frustration

Just over two years ago, I posted about doing a big declutter. It wasn’t the first time I’d decluttered, but it was the first time I’d been really serious about it without necessity looming over me (like when I moved across the country and couldn’t afford to move everything with me). It was hard work, but I kept at it until I thought I knew what I wanted to keep and what would have to go if I decided to move to a smaller space.

Then, my neighbour had bed bugs that weren’t taken care of quickly enough, so I got rid of more things out of the fear of the bed bugs persisting for another month. Then I moved, quite suddenly, to a space that was about half the size (my current apartment), so I got rid of even more things.

I remember sitting on my bed a couple of weeks after the move thinking, “wow, I hardly have anything left!” I knew that I would need to do a review of everything after living in the space for a few months, but I thought I’d done a pretty good job of reducing my belongings to a level that Marie Kondo would approve of – the necessities, plus the things that made me happy. I thought that I’d hit maintenance mode: a quick annual review; practicing the one in, one out rule; adjusting for changing habits; and continuing to work on that balance between minimalism (or, some variation thereof) and frugality.

But, this past December, I realized that I still had some work to do because I’d been too lenient with myself when it came to art and craft supplies.

I’d started working on an old quilting project and quickly realized that I didn’t want to finish the project. I was working on it because I felt like it needed to be completed, not because I wanted to complete it or had any interest in the finished quilt. So, I quit and pick up another project … which I wasn’t interested in either. Looking at my mass collection of art and craft supplies, I realized that I had so many projects that I’d lost interest in or that simply didn’t fit with my decor or my new space. As I started going through everything, I realized that I didn’t need or want half of what I had, that I didn’t have the time or the inclination to work on most of the projects and patterns I’d kept. Most importantly, I really hated feeling overwhelmed by the very things that were supposed to be feeding my creativity.

I got rid of half my sewing, stitching, painting, and general art supplies. I then:

  • got rid of a third of my linens (bedding, etc.) to make space so that I could make my art and craft supplies more accessible (easy to get to in drawers, instead of crammed into boxes in a hard to access part of my closet)
  • got rid of some more clothes to make room in my dresser and an embarrassing number of books to make room on my shelf.
  • (because I was on a roll) I tackled my bathroom, front hall closet, and most of my storage closet.

At that point, I ran out of steam and simply made a note of any areas that still needed to be reviewed.

I couldn’t believe the amount of stuff I got rid of or the number of things I was adding to a “review in two months” list (i.e., things that I wasn’t sure about and wanted to come back to when I wasn’t frazzled from a weekend of cleaning, sorting and decluttering).

It’s only been a month and a bit, and I’m already seeing a huge difference. It’s easier to relax when everything has a home (i.e., isn’t sitting around in little cluttered piles), it’s easier to access everything, I’m more likely to remember about and use supplies that I can now get to without much effort, and I now have a better idea of what projects I want to complete.

I’ve also started to see a pattern in what I get rid of and what I keep. Almost everything that I keep is stuff that I want to use right now and almost everything I get rid of is stuff that I thought I might need, that I bought just in case or (in the case of crafts, etc.) that I bought because I read too many articles about “sewing essentials” or “tools you need for cross stitching.” I did not need a stash of fat quarters, a dozen basic thread colours, the “essential” watercolour colours, extra cross stitch linen, a dozen instructional books, or a giant bag of polyfill (for stuffed toys, which I never make). Like with books, I did not need buy things while they were popular.

Even now, I think I can get rid of more. And, it amazes me how much stuff I acquired while being totally convinced that I was only buying what I needed. All the money and all the time I’m now taking to sort through it – wasted! What was I looking for when I bought all those things? Was I looking to fill figurative empty spaces in my life? Was I looking to find that craft/art that I would fall in love with? Did I think that I would be an expert if I just had the prettiest fabrics and the most complete collection of tools? What the hell was I thinking?!

I can see why some people take minimalism to the extreme because I’m half inclined to just toss everything and start again, accumulating things only as I need them. Recently, I decided that I could buy a new cookbook (one that I found at the library and know that I will use), if I was willing to get rid of another cookbook. So, I pulled two. Then I pulled 2 books from my unread books and a couple more books from my read books. Then I tossed half my paint brushes (finally getting rid of the crap ones), the quilt that I was holding on to just until I had a chance to finish one I’d started 2 years ago, some linens that I stopped using a couple weeks ago, and … I nearly pulled out my fabric stash with the intent of getting rid of all of it! But, I realized that I needed to stop, breath, step away and think about it.

Some of the many fabric collections I created this week. Most are options for a quilt along, but some are just happy accidents.

Getting rid of things I don’t need is a good thing. For me, it’s been really liberating and it’s helped me to see past who/what I’ve been trying to be for years and start focusing on who/what I want to be now. But, I want to be thoughtful about it. I want to be sure that I’m getting rid of things with purpose and not just out of frustration.

I did end up getting rid of some more fabric (not much, but enough to make sorting it in bins a bit easier), but I did so thoughtfully. I pulled it all out during the day and considered what I would make with the fabric and if the fabric worked for my intended project (ex: if it was the right fabric for a cushion cover and if I would actually use the cushion cover).

Taking the time to be thoughtful did mean that it took a bit longer, but I also don’t regret the decisions I made about what to keep and what to toss. And, I think that’s a big part of why my motto (slow) is a good one for me this year. I’ve reached a point of frustration where I’m at risk of making hasty decisions and I need to remind myself to slow down and breath before jumping into something.

Do you guys ever find that you get overwhelmed and want to get rid of everything out of frustration?

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2 Responses to Get rid of things with purpose, not frustration

  1. kandisebrown says:

    I feel this way about my yarn. I have so much of it, purchased on whims because it was beautiful with no end game in sight. Result: I have mountains of yarn (Zara’s closet is full of it) and never the right yarn to combine with any pattern I might actually want to knit. I also have two pairs of knit socks in progress on the needles… but I hate wearing knit socks and have no real interest in finishing. But I feel like I should finish before starting yet another thing! And for some reason this is all exhausting to even think about!

    Liked by 1 person

    • obtusata says:

      Yep. It’s definitely exhausting to think about. And, in case you decide to weed your yarn, you should know that my fabric was hard to get rid of because it was expensive, and I knew that (a) I would procrastinate when working on selling it and (b) I would keep thinking of reasons to keep a piece here, a set there, etc. for as long as it was still in my house. I have no one to keep me accountable or to help me get rid of things, so I just gave it away (thankfully, someone came within 2 days). Not buying fabrics unless I actually need them for a project I’m doing right now (as opposed to all the imaginary projects that I would never get around to) is going to be hard, but I think it’s just the way I need to make all my purchases fro now on.


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