I would consider myself a minimalist and to be honest, I find clutter stressful. I think this stems from a few things.
The house where we grew up in Canada was big, but that was typical in North America. There was a lot of living space, a lot of rooms but not a huge amount of stuff. My parents very much liked things tidy without spaces feeling bare.
Ultimately though, we were in that house from the time my sister and I were two until we were nineteen, so stuff does accumulate.
Sadly both of our parents passed away when we were teens and our family home was sold so it left my grieving sister and I to decide - with other close family members - what to do with a 3800 square foot house full of belongs.
We ended up getting a storage unit which my sister and I couldn’t really face for years. It took a period of over twenty years which we spent chipping away, putting things in keep, dump and charity piles that we eventually sorted through everything.
Another reason why clutter and “stuff” stresses me out is for the past fifteen years in my own home we have had limited space. So I would always choose space over stuff!
The stresses around dealing with dump, keep or charity piles has resurfaced again in my life recently as we are in the process of emptying out our home to prepare for a renovation.
I realised through this process that I am pretty ruthless. I would literally be happy if we only had a sweater, a bowl and one towel each! But the other two occupants of our home do not share this vision with me.
We started with packing up my daughter Joan’s room first. There were quite a number of fights between us when I dared to throw out a piece of paper that was her favourite piece of paper ever, or a piece of some McDonalds toy that the main part was long lost. It was honestly draining for both of us.
I decided it was better to just declutter and organise her room when she was also at school. It felt so good to get rid of dried bits of slime, gum wrappers, scraps of paper and broken bits of toys. I applied the keep, dump or donate method and was relieved when it was done.
That was until I collected her from school and realised I had made a grave mistake by putting the donate bag into the car. She opened the book to dump her school bag and that was that. She spotted it and all hell broke loose and most of it made its way back into the house. My heart sank.
My husband and I talked about it later and he rightly pointed out that although some of her stuff seems like junk to us she is really attached to it and we should respect that.
Joan doesn’t share my emotional triggers with having a lot of stuff and having to decide what to do with it. Also, it might be okay for me to be a minimalist and but that doesn’t suit her at this point in her life.
So we had to come to an arrangement that would make our move to a temporary home more manageable for all of us.
We went back through things in her room and divided it into things she was happy to go into storage for the next little while and things she really wanted to keep with her. Remarkably that process wasn’t so painful and we got through it pretty quickly.
After all, I have to acknowledge she is becoming more independent and making decisions and caring for her own belongings is a life-long skill she will need and me just taking control of that for her isn’t helping anyone. I will remember that the next time I go to recycle what could be the most important piece of paper in the world!