Decluttering Sentimental Items

Decluttering sentimental items is the most difficult and challenging aspect of minimalism. It is advanced minimalism, and should be undertaken last. Before attempting to declutter sentimental items, you should have experience in exercising your decluttering muscles. Downsizing categories such as clothing, the kitchen and the bathroom should be categories you have addressed well before sentimental items. 

Leaving sentimental items until last allows you to build your minimalist muscle. If you attempt to declutter sentimental items too early, you set yourself up for failure. Not only do you fail to declutter the items, but you experience all the feelings involved that make the items sentimental from the beginning. It can cause you a setback in your decluttering journey.

I have finally reached the stage where I am ready to declutter sentimental items. I have tried to declutter this category before and I failed. That’s okay. My initial sweep through the sentimental category, I downsized sentimental items from three storage bins to one storage bin. Sometimes you have to take baby steps.

If you are just starting with the sentimental item category, I do recommend taking it in steps. First, gather all of your sentimental items together. Second, try to curate your collection. I found that downsizing from three storage bins to one storage bin was a challenging, yet doable goal.

The other tip that was helpful for me was that once I downsized from three storage bins to one storage bin, I took the two storage bins that were going to be “leaving” and left them in a closet for a year. After that year, I was completely okay with the two storage bins leaving and just having the one bin of mementos. In fact, after the year, I had completely forgotten what was inside the other two bins. You can’t miss what you don’t remember, can you?

This was a few years ago that I undertook the three bins to one bin exercise. I am finally at a point in my decluttering journey where I am able to address the one bin that is left. Granted, the one bin is about 90% full of items from my childhood. I’m sure your sentimental bin may look different.

Here are reasons why I am now finding it easier to get rid of the remaining bin of sentimental items. 

  1. I had a horrible childhood. Why do I want to keep items that remind me of the most traumatic time period of my life? Did I enjoy playing with those toys? No, I did not. I lived in a state of abuse and perpetual fear. The toys in the bin were given to me by someone else in the family, who had absolutely no idea of my favorite toys as a child. They had just set aside toys that they liked or thought I would have wanted. I don’t want them. Now, some of these items are worth money. I have a pair of pristine Sonny and Cher Barbies as well as one of the original preemie Cabbage Patch dolls that came in a plain cardboard box from Sears before they started putting them in shiny, colorful packaging with a plastic “window” to see inside. I still don’t want them. They do not invoke any happy memories.
  2. I have no children. Some people keep a set of their most loved toys to pass down to their own children. I have no children to give these toys to. They are just sitting in a box, not being used, played with or loved. They are taking up space. Toys are intended to bring joy. I’m sure there are children out there who would find joy in playing with them.
  3. They are not benefitting my life. The toys are sitting in a box taking up space. I am decluttering my house in anticipation of an international move. I refuse to pay international shipping to take those items with me. What’s going to happen to them when I move again? They are going to sit in a box in the closet same as they are now. Why pay time, money and energy to move something from place to place that is going to sit unused.
  4. Swedish Death Cleaning. What will happen to this box of toys when I die? They will either be thrown out or donated. Why not get rid of them now so they have the opportunity to bring joy to some child. 
  5. Is this difficult? Yes, it is. While none of these items evoke happy memories, it is still difficult to get rid of them. Yet when I sit down and think about it, I cannot think of one good reason to keep them. Do they bring me joy? No, they do not. It is still difficult, emotional and sad to get rid of them. Don’t ask me how. Emotions are complicated that way. You know those times when you feel all the feelings. Even though they evoke negative emotions, I also have negative emotions about getting rid of pieces of my childhood even if it was bad.

In addition to the one bin of childhood toys, I have other sentimental items that will be leaving this year. My entire jewelry collection will be leaving. The only piece of jewelry I am keeping is my mother’s necklace that has Jude, Simon and Jolene’s names on a heart with their birth stones. Why do I need jewelry? It does not bring me joy. No one sees me. My mother’s necklace brings me joy. I am keeping that. 

Since the pandemic has started, life has become a story of survival. With no end to the pandemic in sight, why would I need items like jewelry? They are unnecessary baubles. They are not essential for survival. I am downsizing all my items to only those that are necessary or that bring me joy. The other jewelry pieces do not bring me joy. I would not want to take the other jewelry pieces with me on an international move.

I can only wear one necklace at a time. Ok, ok, I’m sure you can wear two or three necklaces at a time. However, that just makes me think of some cheesy 80s rapper concerned with their bling. I personally prefer to wear one necklace at a time. My mother’s necklace is the only one that is meaningful and brings me joy, so it stays. Every other piece of jewelry I have is not irrelevant. 

When life is reduced to survival, you really take stock of what is important in life.

There are some sentimental items that are still in the gradual reduction process. There are some items that are too difficult emotionally to leave. I have put those in a box for a year. We will see how I feel at the end of the year. Will I pull items out of the box because I want to look at them or keep them? Will I even remember what is in the box at the end of the year.

To clarify, I do not have a life devoid of meaning. I do have sentimental items I have kept such as my mother’s necklace. I have curated a photo album of my greatest hits / best memories which I take out often and look through fondly. I have some sentimental items that are either in use or on display in my home. I’m not saying to life a life without meaning or sentiment. I am saying to curate what you have. If you love it, display it. Leaving toys in a box for 30 years and shuttling them around from place to place – those are the types of items you really need to question about leaving. 

What tips do you have for decluttering sentimental items? 

American Glassware

My most favorite thing in America is our glassware. Specifically, I love Ball mason jars and Homer & Shakespeare Laughlin’s Fiesta ware. Both companies are over 100 years old and showcase the best America has to offer.

Previously, I had been all rah-rah USA. I was in support of our troops, our country, and had many American flag themed items. Before the pandemic, I was very patriotic. That all ended on January 6, 2021. As some of my neighbors participated in the insurrection and are currently serving jail terms, I can now say that every single time I see an America flag, the only thing I feel is fear. (You should have seen the parades they had just before and right after the insurrection.)

I am ashamed to be an American these past four years when we are living through a genocide perpetuated by a government that wrongly declares covid to be “over.” With millions of Americans being deliberately killed by a known biohazard, I cannot wait to leave this country of such hate and murder. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think that America would let its own citizens die in a pandemic because it’s too hard to instate a mask mandate and improve ventilation.

When thinking of leaving America, I would have to say that the only thing I will miss about this country is our glassware. Yes, I’m sure that the glassware in other countries is spectacular as well. However, I will genuinely miss mason jars and fiesta ware when I leave the USA.

While most mason jars are clear, I do have some of the 100-year anniversary jars that are blue color. When Ball first started making mason jars over 100 years ago, the glass had a natural blue tint due to the weather conditions where the jars were made. I love how mason jars are standard sizes with gradations. While originally used for canning food, mason jars are versatile in their uses. Nothing works quite as hard in the American kitchen as the mason jar.

As an adult, I am also privileged to have been able to invest in a set of fiesta ware. Fiesta ware is guaranteed to be lead-free, which is a hard found luxury in the USA. They are made with different colors with whimsical names. Each year, a new color is introduced while an existing color is retired. Some people will have a color theme in their house. Others just mix and match.

Fiesta ware is delightful in its colors. The quality of the glassware is high. It is long lasting, often handed down from generations. Some families have fiesta ware passed down from grandparents. The glassware is durable and difficult to chip or break. 

Our color theme for fiesta ware in my household consists of:

Daffodil (a yellow color)

Shamrock (a green that was recently retired)

Lemongrass (a light green)

Lapis (a blue)

Peony (a pink that was recently introduced, although we have one peony item – a mug)

  • We do not consider peony to be part of our “original” color theme

All of our human dishes and all of our cat dishes are fiesta ware. I believe in giving my cats the very best. I actually upgraded all my cat food and cat water dishes to fiesta ware before my human dishes. The cats’ lives are shorter than human lives. They deserve to live the good life.  After all, the greatest gift they bring to our lives is unconditional love and joy. 

In preparing to leave the USA and move to some other country, I am downsizing my house. No, I am not getting rid of any of my mason jars or fiesta ware. My mason jars and fiesta ware are all being used and bring us joy. However, when the time comes to actually make the move out of country, the mason jars and fiesta ware will be leaving. I am not going to attempt to transport glassware with me internationally. I plan to only immigrate with the basics. 

Mason jars and fiesta ware will be the only American items I will miss when I leave this country. Everything else I can do without. The glassware I use every day brings me such joy. It is hard to think of going to another country and starting over with different glassware. 

There was a story on the news recently about people who immigrated to the USA. They were asked about the one item that they brought with them from their home country that reminded them of home. For me, it would be a mason jar and fiesta ware. 

What would you miss the most if you were to leave the USA or your home country? 

Vacation Allure

We all like vacation. At least, I haven’t met a person yet who doesn’t. Vacation is when we get to relax, unwind and have fun. We get to explore new places and experiences. Even if you stay home for a staycation, it’s nice to simply have the break from the workday. 

One of the allures of vacation is empty spaces. Who doesn’t love a hotel room /Airbnb /other accommodation not your own home? Part of the love of hotel rooms come from the fact that they are practically a blank slate. A hotel room has the essentials – a bed, a bath, maybe a coffee maker. The only belongings you have in the hotel room to personalize it are those items that you really need for the length of your stay. That may be a bag of clothing and some toiletry items.

You drop your bag off at your hotel room and go out the door. You are free to explore without being weighed down by your earthly belongings. You feel free. Vacation is very enticing.

Minimalism allows us to create that same allure of vacation at home. You can curate your surroundings and your belongings to ensure that you are only surrounded by what you need and what you love. This is not to say that your walls should be barren and your cupboards empty. I’m just saying that if you get rid of the CLUTTER at home, you can capture that vacation feeling every day.

I say this, but even as a minimalist, I am not perfect. I have my weak spots. For me personally, the area of my home most likely to become cluttered, remain cluttered, and attract clutter quickly is my kitchen counter. They say the kitchen is the heart of the home, and mine is command central. It’s always been that way for me. 

When I was working on my degrees, the kitchen was where I would do all my schoolwork. It was where I would write my 20-page papers and where I wrote both my masters’ thesis. My kitchen table is where I wrote my first novella and continue working on my second. I often put things on my kitchen counter that are in “transition.” For example, if I plan to make zucchini bread in the morning, I put all the ingredients on the kitchen counter the night before so everything is ready to go the next day. 

It seems my kitchen counter is always in use. There is always something on it. It is always cluttered.

Last week I had a plumbing emergency in my kitchen that necessitated me completely emptying my kitchen counter. The experience was mind blowing. It took emptying the kitchen counter for me to realize just how much clutter was on the counter.

Once the plumbing issue was fixed, I did not want to return to the cluttered kitchen counter that had existed before the plumbing emergency. I was much more mindful of what I put back on the kitchen counter. 

If it did not need to be on the kitchen counter, I set it aside. I have an entire basket of items that used to be on my kitchen counter that now need to be relocated. I do not want my kitchen counters to reach that level of clutter again.

They say when trying to declutter you should completely empty a space and then only put back what you absolutely need or love. It definitely works. I did not fully realize how absolutely cluttered my kitchen counters were until I completely emptied them.

If you are stuck in a rut on your minimalist journey, I highly recommend completely emptying a space. Only put things back that you need or truly love. All the things that don’t make the cut need to either leave or find a new place within your home. 

The allure of vacation is that we get to stay in an uncluttered hotel room. You can capture the vacation feeling at home by reducing your clutter. It does not mean nothing. It means curating your space mindfully. 

10 Chairs

After years of minimalism, I have decluttered many items. I have highlighted the great coffee cup purge, downsized my wardrobe, and decluttered my entertainment media. So how in the world did I end up with 10 chairs for one person?

Talk about a fantasy self. I will admit that 4 of the 10 chairs were acquired since buying the house. Why 10 chairs? Well, here they are:

2 wooden kitchen chairs that match my kitchen table

2 green plastic upright chairs that were on the porch at the apartment 

2 folding camping chairs – 1 small easy to throw in the trunk of the car for impromptu outdoor outings, one is my luxury wine glass holding relaxation chair for Adirondack camping

4 blue plastic Adirondack chairs – It has always been my dream to own an Adirondack chair. Of course, the wooden real ones are too expensive. I compromised and purchased plastic Adirondack chairs when I bought the house. I had been relaxing on the front porch with the people who helped me move, and there was not enough seating. Some of us sat on the porch ledge. I thought that getting 4 outside chairs would be used. My train of thought was the fall time camp fires we would have using the outside fire pit. Of course, that was a fantasy self. Covid hit, and almost all of the people who helped me move into the house have died. I don’t have anyone over because we are still in a pandemic. Not that hardly anyone I know is still alive anymore.

That’s how I ended up with 10 chairs. It’s ridiculous. One person does not need 10 chairs, especially when almost everyone I know is dead.

I will be decluttering my chairs. 

First off, two of the blue plastic Adirondack chairs will be leaving. I have always wanted Adirondack chairs. Now that I have them, I will keep two. I am using two of them. I use one upstairs in the bathroom to sit in when changing my clothes. I also use the two of them to help drape sheets for air drying after going through the washing machine.

My luxury camp chair is staying. The arm rests are specially designed to hold a wine glass. The chair also reclines. It is the blue chair I take to the Adirondacks with me.

The small folding camp chair is questionable. Right now, it is hanging in the garage. I do use it in the fall when I want to sit at the outside fire pit. However, I could also use my luxury camp chair for that. I have not yet made a decision about the small folding camp chair.

The 2 green plastic upright chairs are being used. One is my desk chair for work. The other, the cats enjoy using to sleep in at the end of the bed. It has a blanket on it for them. For the time being, both green chairs will stay.

The two wooden chairs with my kitchen table are staying. I use them. I use my kitchen table. Sure, I am one person with two kitchen chairs. One of the kitchen chairs is used by the cats. 

Realistically, I should probably declutter down to 5 chairs. I am thinking: luxury camp chair, 2 kitchen chairs, and the two green upright chairs. 

We will see. I will not officially declutter the chairs until spring 2023. It just amazes me how I have overlooked CHAIRS in my whole decluttering process. 

One person with dead friends does not need 10 chairs.

How many chairs do you have per person? 

Minimalism – How It Started

There are hints that I have always been a minimalist from a young age. It’s possible it comes from a childhood and youth of homelessness or from living with a mother who is a hoarder or both. Research is evolving that says that responses to homelessness can be either extreme of hoarding or minimalism. Many people tend towards hoarding. I tend towards minimalism.

My childhood was rough, and there were many times when I had to move someplace or flee with only what I could fit in a single backpack. You learn fast how to make decisions and what is important or not important to take with you when you are given 20 minutes to pack a single backpack.

As an example, we will flash back to the year 1994. I had been tossed around homes and foster home situations due to abuse. I had a law guardian. The “child welfare system” worked a lot differently in the 80s and early 90s than it does now. To make a long story short, I was in abusive home in 1994 and was reporting the abuse to my law guardian. The school I was attending was reporting it too.

In the mornings, I was left home alone for roughly 30 minutes. The abusers I was living with went to work. I was left standing in the driveway waiting to be picked up for school. On one April morning about 10 minutes after the abusers left, the phone rang three times and then stopped ringing. I was never allowed to answer the phone. However, I knew that three rings that stopped was my signal that someone was coming for me and it was time to flee.

I quickly dumped all the books out of my school backpack and ran around cramming everything in it that I thought it was important to have to leave. I walked out the door, same as any other morning and stood in the driveway to be picked up. However, instead of being picked up to go to school, I was going to be picked up to be taken to a safe place – and it all had to be done before the person arrived to pick me up for school so nothing would seem amiss. The person picking me up for school would simply notice I was not outside and assume I was home sick for the day.

The car tore into the driveway. I jumped in the back seat and laid down on the floor behind the front seats with my single backpack. I was covered with a blanket to hide me. We tore out of the city. I had to stay hidden in the backseat with my backpack covered with a blanket until we were a safe distance away for me to be able to sit up and move around in the backseat properly. 

This is a true story and it is how I escaped one of many abusive situations in my lifetime. 

That one backpack held a few changes of clothes and some keepsakes. When I arrived at my safe destination, they took me shopping for more clothes so I would have more than two or three outfits. I did not pick out many clothes. I didn’t think I needed that many. I don’t like being responsible for lots of things in case I need to leave quickly due to an emergency situation.

Many months after my exodus from that abusive situation, all of my belongings that I had left behind were brought to me on a small tow-behind trailer. My books, the rest of my clothes, the music I had left behind, was all returned. At that time, I didn’t feel like I needed any of it. I had left it all behind and lived without it for many months. It was all creature comforts. None of it was needed to survive. What I needed was to be in a safe place, free from abuse.

At times in my life when I have been in safe places, free from abuse, I have accumulated things. I have accumulated LOTS of things. Most of this accumulation of things has been the result of convenience. When I was working 80 hours a week at three jobs, it was easier to have duplicates of items because I couldn’t find something or was too tired to wash or clean an item for reuse. In a nutshell, it was laziness.

My first big foray into the minimalism journey I am now on started about in 2010. I wanted to move. I had been wanting to move for a decade. You see, I moved from Massachusetts to New York in the late 90s. I had said I regretted the move and wanted to go back to Massachusetts. I knew that to go back I would have to downsize from a 2-bedroom apartment to a single room. Rent in Massachusetts is about 9 times higher than rent in New York.

My initial declutter into minimalism was with the goal of a move in mind. That, and I had been in a safe place free of abuse for a few years and had accumulated a lot of stuff. Honestly, it was making me anxious to be surrounded by so much stuff. What if I needed to leave? Yes, I know what I would grab to take with me. What about all the crap left behind? Besides, now that I am an adult, there is more responsibility than when you are a child.

I started downsizing with an inter-state move in mind. The move never happened, as I was not financially able to find a job that would pay me enough to even rent one room in Massachusetts. I’m still in New York. While I do not want to be in New York, I have no regrets about my failed attempt to return to Massachusetts.

I digress.

I have been on this minimalist journey for about a decade. Each burst of minimalism or decluttering has basically been a response to some traumatic life event. I decluttered A LOT when I moved from the apartment to the house. We were literally 3 hours away from being homeless when I bought the house. I knew we had to leave the apartment. I knew we were moving. I just didn’t know where we were moving to. I was prepared to live in the car with the cats until the house actually came through. That is how close we were to homelessness at the time.

In the pandemic, I am staring down the real possibility of death. Everyone around me has died. I will die eventually too. No one is going to want to go through my crap when I’m dead. I’m going through it now. On a more positive note, I would like to move internationally. I like to think I am now downsizing with an international move in mind. We will see if my wish to move internationally becomes a reality or a pipe dream. For now, that is what I am planning to do.

Combine my wish for an international move with the reality that I do not feel safe in this house due to the neighbors, and I am in the perfect situation to declutter. I am not in a safe space. I need as few items as possible. I need to know exactly what needs to go with me if we need to flee from here for safety. I don’t want to be responsible for a bunch of crap left behind.

To be honest, being surrounded by fewer things reduces me anxiety. I have enough to worry about taking care of the cats and keeping all of us together. I don’t want to have to worry about or be responsible for an entire house full of stuff too. So, I am getting rid of the stuff. I am only keeping what I use or what truly makes me happy. I am trying to reduce my things to only what is necessary so that I can focus on what is truly important in life.

I don’t want to spend hours cleaning this house or all of the stuff in it. I want to spend my time enjoying my life with the cats, as my life and their lives are so very short. 

I’m pretty sure I have always been a minimalist since I was a child, but I did not have the vocabulary to express it at the time. When you grow up poor, you only have a few items because you can’t afford to buy things. However, the longer you are alive, the more stuff you accumulate. If you are in a safe place, you tend to accumulate stuff as well. 

If you have lived through multiple emergency life situations such as I have, then you realize that you just can’t be responsible for a boatload of stuff. You need the necessities and that is all. 

Before I started minimalism, I had a lot of clothes. Taking after my hoarder mother, I had 3 closets and 5 dressers full of clothes. Now that I am a minimalist, I have one dresser and 10 hangers of clothes. That’s it. I have everything I need for 4 season of weather conditions. 

Some people marvel at how much I am able to pare down, however, this did not happen overnight. It has been a journey of stops and starts well over a decade. It all depends on where I am in life. 

Right now, in the pandemic, I am acutely aware of how short and precarious life is. I am more ruthless at this point in my minimalist journey than I have been in the past. Whether I die or actually achieve my dream of moving internationally, I am going to go someplace. I know that there is no one on this Earth who is willing or able to go through my crap after I’m gone, so I’m going through it now. You can’t take it with you, whether that’s in death or to some other country.

That is how my minimalist journey started. I started this blog to keep myself accountable along the way. I don’t want to go in the opposite direction of my hoarder mother who literally has her house packed full wall-to-wall and ceiling to floor of just STUFF. Her house is so full, you can hardly breathe in there. 

I want more time to spend with the cats and enjoy my life. I do not want to spend the little precious time I have here on Earth cleaning my house or taking care of my stuff.

What was your prompt to start minimalism and what does it mean to you?

Minimalism – Entertainment Media Part 2

Back in February 2022, I had written this post about my minimalism goals for my entertainment media this year.  To be honest, I have surprised myself with the progress I have made in this area, as CDs and DVDs are some of the most challenging areas for me to minimize.

This is an update on my progress.

I have been ruthless with decluttering my media. With all of my items, I am considering if each CD, book or DVD is something I would want to pay to have shipped if I move out of the country. In the first round of my decluttering, I would say I was able to get rid of about half of my items. I got rid of the low hanging fruit. Items I weeded out were those that do not bring me happiness. They are items I do not want to pack up and move with me again.

Then, when the bad neighbors across the street drove into the front of the house again and I have been forced to empty my living room, I got more ruthless with my media decluttering. I now have an entire room in my house I am unable to use. It was the room that held all my entertainment media. I am now stuck trying to find other places for these items in my house. 

Books

Surprisingly, books have been the easiest category for me to declutter. I am perfectly fine with using audiobooks and libraries. I do not want to ever have to haul a box of books when moving again. It’s not worth it. 

I have been able to declutter myself down to three books. I have three books that I am willing to keep and pack up and move with me next time I move. 

There are some books that I have in the donation box that I was keeping only because they were signed by the author. I took photos of the book cover and the signed inscription. They are honestly not bringing me joy. It is time for them to move on and be enjoyed by someone else. These are books that were just taking up space on my bookshelves. They are not books that I pick up and read. I have read them once, and once was enough.

The three books I kept are one reference book, and two books that I have read repeatedly. If I had to pack a backpack and go someplace, these would be the books I would grab to take with me. I am fine with re-reading the three I am keeping.

DVDs

Since I have been forced to completely empty my living room due to the neighbors trying to murder me by driving into the living room in the front of the house, I have realized what a huge pain it is to move the TV, DVD player and all of the DVDs.

I can tell you right now that when this TV set dies, I will not buy a new one. I will live without it. I have never paid for cable in my life. My bunny ears do not get any channels here. The TV set is only used to watch DVDs. There were many years of my life when I did not have a TV set or DVD player. When this set dies, I will go without once again.

I estimate that I have now decluttered about two-thirds of my DVDs. I am keeping only the ones that truly bring me joy that I watch repeatedly. Between the three TV series I have kept, my baseball games and movies, I think I can watch something different every Friday for “movie night” every week of the year. 

As I declutter DVDs, I am keeping in mind that at some point, I will no longer have the TV set and DVD player. I am only keeping those I really enjoy watching and would want to move with me if I ever move again.

Again, DVDs are also something that I can borrow from the library. Most of the DVDs I am keeping are ones that are not available at the library or beloved treasures that I watch repeatedly. 

Records and CDs

My records and record player are now in the closet. Putting on a record is a major pain in the ass. I hardly ever use the record player or listen to records. I put them in the closet for the next year to see if I can live without them. If they are still in the closet next spring, I will look to sell my record player and records. Right now, I think they are just collecting dust. I don’t really use them. Honestly, my record player was one of the most challenging things to move when I moved into the house to be sure it did not get damaged.

The first pass through my CD collection, I listened to all of my CDs. Every. Single. One. I boxed the ones I did not love enough to keep. That was about half of my collection. I will admit that there were some albums I gave a “free pass” because I did not feel like listening to them. That was a mistake. If I don’t feel like listening to it, then it needs to leave.

Since the neighbors drove into the front of the house and I have been forced to empty my living room, I have gotten more ruthless with my CD decluttering. I have decided to declutter from three pieces of furniture holding my CD collection down to one piece of furniture holding my CD collection. This means I only have space to house about one-third of my original collection.

I am not in Round 2 of my CD decluttering spree. This time, I am paying attention to CDs I reach for and play. Obviously, if It is one I listen to a lot, I am keeping it. 

I am also doing a second round of “listen to every single CD.” This time, as I listen to every single CD, I am doing it with this thought: “Is this a CD I would pack up and pay to ship to a different country?” If the answer is no, it is leaving. I want to curate my collection so I am only keeping music I absolutely love. I still have radio. I only need to keep music where I absolutely love listening to the entire album and albums that do not get much radio play. My CD collection is the most challenging for me to downsize.

Conclusion

All of the media I am currently decluttering is being boxed to be donated spring 2023.  Given the ruthlessness with which I am decluttering right now, I want to allow some time in case I change my mind about certain items.

I have never had any regrets about any item I have ever decluttered and I don’t want to start now. I figure that if the books, CDs and DVDs stay in the boxes for a year, then I am ready to part with them and they can leave. 

However, if I find myself pulling a certain movie or CD out of one of the boxes in the next year, then that is an item that should probably stay. 

The typical advice is to box things for three months and if you have not opened the box in 3 months to donate it. With my books, CDs and DVDs, I am going to box the items for about 10 months and then declutter them. I am going with a longer time frame because I am more attached to music and movies and they are harder for me to declutter. I want to be absolutely sure I am ready to part with them before I donate them. 

What is your most challenging decluttering category? Have you moved to a different country, and how much did you take with you? 

Journals and Memoir

The bulk of my decluttering is done over the winter months. I put everything into a spare room upstairs. In the spring, I go about donating everything in the spare room. I emptied the spare room early this spring, as I had a week off from work in March. This year I also had that one-time junk truck come to get rid of all the items that had been left in this house when I bought it that were not able to be donated.

Anything that goes into the spare room now will be leaving and donated in the spring of 2023. It is possible that some things may be donated this fall. We will see how life goes. 

I am trying to get as ruthless as possible with my decluttering as my ultimate goal is to leave the country. Of course, when you are planning a major move, you want to travel as lightly as possible. 

The most difficult items to declutter are always sentimental items. I have one box from childhood I am hanging onto. I am going to put a note on it that says it can be donated or junked after my death. I’m trying to make things as easy for whomever has to clean this house out after I die as possible. If I do manage to live long enough to leave the country, then I will personally take the entire box of childhood items to be donated or junked, as appropriate.

I have a small box of all of my running logs spanning well over a decade of my running career. I also have a small box of journals and scrapbooks from well over a decade. I’m quite sure that when I’m dead, no one will care to read either the running logs or the journals. I also know that if I leave the country, running logs and old journals are not going to be going with me. I’m not paying for a box of that dead weight to be shipped overseas.

The running logs have been useful to me in planning my training for races. I will look at training for prior races to see what I did or how I adjusted for certain situations. I am currently in the process of gleaning as much information as I can from these running logs and consolidating everything into one three-ring binder. My goal is to recycle all the running logs next spring. I will have one three-ring binder that contains training plans and tips.

My journals and scrapbooks are a little harder.  I do revisit my journals alongside my running logs to read about certain races. I like to read how I was feeling for the race and what I was thinking. Was I feeling well for that race? What adjustments did I make? Did anything unexpected happen? I also enjoy revisiting some of my camping memories that are in my journals. Now that I have lost so many people to COVID, they are nice to re-read to remember memories with loved ones. Sometimes I worry that I will forget those I love because they have died.

I am currently using both my running logs and my journals to work on my memoir. Once my memoir is complete, my goal is to recycle/shred all of my journals and scrapbooks. My goal is to complete my memoir by the end of this calendar year. I want to be able to shred all of my journals next spring.

I’m not going to lie. Decluttering sentimental items is hard. They should be left to the last thing, once you have had time to flex your decluttering muscles. 

I will say that to this day, I do not have any regrets over anything I have decluttered. I do not miss a single item. I can’t even begin to tell you all of the items I have decluttered over the years. As soon as they are gone, I forget about them. Not once have I thought, “now where is …” and have it become something I miss because I decluttered it. Typically, I can’t find something. It is in the house, not decluttered, and I find it later. All is well.

Sentimental items are hard to declutter and nothing is more personal than your own thoughts and memories. Well, I like to think I will keep the memories. I certainly have photos. Last year, I created my “greatest hits” photo album with my favorite memories and highlights of my life.

While the idea of shredding my journals and scrapbooks is hard, it is a necessary step for 3 reasons.

First, my journals and scrapbooks are reminiscent of my past. I’m not going there. I live in the here and now. I am moving forward. They say that living in the past causes depression, living in the future causes anxiety, and to live in the now, that’s why it is called the present. 

Second, I don’t want people reading my innermost thoughts from my journals after I’m dead. I’m pretty sure no one wants to read them anyways. Who cares what I thought on June 28, 2008? I’m pretty sure if someone were to pick up, say 2011, to read after I’m dead, they would think I was crazy. 

Third, if I leave the country, they are not coming with me. I’m trying to think positive here. When I leave the country, I will have to get rid of a lot of large items like furniture and my house. Why make my life more difficult by trying to clean out an entire house? I can get rid of the journals now. I may as well declutter as much as I can before I move internationally. 

I am currently about halfway through the writing of my memoir. Shredding all of my journals will be contingent upon completing my memoir. Once my memoir is complete, then I will shred my journals. The goal is to complete my memoir this year and shred the journals in spring 2023.

How are you with decluttering sentimental items? Do you keep journals or immediately get rid of them once you have filled the book? 

I am currently putting everything in the spare bedroom upstairs that will be leaving spring 2023. Every year, I declutter just a little bit more. I am hoping to make my international move as easy as possible when the time comes. If I do not make it to an international move, then at least this house will be easy for someone to empty after my death. 

The Great Clean Out

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When I bought this house 3.5 years ago, the gentleman who owned it had passed away after living here for 60 years. His family cleaned out his personal effects, but there was a lot left in this house when I bought it and moved in. 

Over the years, I have been gradually going through what was left in this house in addition to my own minimizing and downsizing. I have recycled and donated as much as I can. Some of the items were quite interesting. For example, I donated a 1940s era fire alarm to the Historic Society. There were a few other historic items donated also.

I finally came down to the point where everything that could be donated, recycled, or reused had been. All that was left was junk. There were old tools that were rusted and that no one would want or use because we now have power tools to replace the old hand tools. There were old tools from the days when Americans would travel by horse and buggy before there were cars. This house was built in 1911. There was just a lot of stuff.

Winter is typically the time I declutter and work on all my indoor house projects. In the spring and summer, I donated everything. I took a week off for my birthday to complete my house projects.

This week I hired someone to come get all the junk. I was looking at renting a dumpster, but did not want all of this stuff to end up in a landfill. Instead, I hired a small family business who came and picked up everything. They will try to recycle things as much as possible in ways I simply could not recycle them. For example, they have a way to recycle all the metal that I simply don’t have access to. I’m not sure exactly what recycling metal is all about, but I know that they are going to try to recycle the items as much as possible to keep them out of the landfill. That makes me feel so much better than if I had simply put everything in a dumpster.

This week, all the junk left as part of the great cleanout. Everything else that is left in this house, I can either donate, recycle, or dispose of one by one if needed. All the junk is currently gone unless something happens to break beyond repair.

I am getting ruthless on cleaning out this house for a few reasons. First, someone is going to have to clean out the house when I die. I don’t wish that chore on anyone. I am trying to make the house as easy to clean out as possible when I die. 

Second, on a more positive note, if I am able to survive the pandemic and outlive the cats, I want to leave the country. It is going to be easier for me to leave the country with less items. I am downsizing with the idea that I am going to leave the country. 

Third, this house is difficult for me to handle. The more stuff I can get rid of, the easier it will be for me to take care of the house. My true goal is to get everything onto the first floor of the house, but with the bathroom and my office on the second floor, I don’t really see that happening. I’m doing what I can to decrease my possessions as much as possible.

All that stuff that we keep “for an emergency?” The emergency is now. We are living it. If a global pandemic and what looks to be World War Three is not an emergency, I don’t know what is. If you haven’t used something over the past 3 years, you aren’t going to need it. We are living the emergency now. Get rid of it. Only keep what you need and what truly makes you happy. 

As spring approaches, I am winding down on my decluttering project for this season. With the exception of some ongoing projects (like my CDs), I tend to take a break of several months once the weather cooperates to be outside. Life is meant to be lived and enjoyed. I have things to do other than declutter and maintain my home.

I feel so much lighter now that the great clean out has occurred. All of the items in my garage and basement are items I use and need for the house. All of the rusted metal and weird horse and buggy items are gone. I am still on my minimalist journey, but with this clean out have made significant progress. 

Minimalism – Entertainment Media

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When it comes to downsizing or decluttering, they say to always leave the most difficult items until last. For many, the most difficult items are sentimental items. For me personally, the most difficult items are CDs and DVDs. I love music. I love CDs. 

Artists create albums as a work of art. It’s not just the music, it’s the cover art and the insert that goes with the disc. In this way, CDs are similar to records for me, only CDs are smaller. The exerience is almost the same. The one key difference is that the sound of a record is vastly different than a CD, but I digress. Everything else is essentially the same.

I am at that point in my minimalist journey where I feel comfortable tackling the hard stuff. I do think that part of this is pandemic related. Part of it just happens to be where I am in my journey not related to the pandemic. I also have goals in life that are causing me to be more ruthless in my decluttering strategy so that I am prepared to meet my future goals with less stuff.

Here is my strategy and how it is going with my some of my most challenging decluttering categories.

Books

Originally, I thought books would be a hard category to downsize. However, when you look at CDs, DVDs and books, I found it very easy to downsize books in comparison to music. I started with close to 1,000 books. I would spend hours cataloging them by various methods – author, title, genre, ISBN. 

I can borrow books from the library and frequently do. In fact, I was borrowing so many books from the library that I was not reading the books in my house. There is no point in keeping all those books if I am not going to read them. It is time to pass them on so they can be read and enjoyed by other people.

Decluttering my books has been a very gradual process over the past decade. When I declutter books, I donate them either to the library book sale or to the Little Free Library cabinets that I tend to find in parks. 

If I enjoy a book so much that I have checked it out of the library at least twice to read it (two different distinct times, not simply renewing a book I did not have enough time to read), then that is a book I need to own. My goal is to only own books I enjoy enough that I read them several times. If I only read a book once and do not have the urge to read it a second time, then it is time for that book to move on to be enjoyed by someone else.

After a decade of going through this process with these perameters, here is my current status. 

There are 8 books on my book shelf that I have identified as books I have read multiple times, intend to read again in the future, or simply cannot part with (books that have special autographed messages from the autthor). 

In addition to the 8 books on my bookshelf, I currently have one reusable shopping bag full of books that I intend to read. As I make my way through this bag of books, I am deciding if I will keep the book or if the book will be donated and move on to be enjoyed by someone else. So it is entirely possible that I will end up with more than 8 books on my bookshelf as I make my way through the bag of books I have.

My goal is to make it through this bag of books this calendar year in 2021.

 DVDs

My goal for DVDs is only to have as many as I can fit in the DVD cabinet. Right now, not only is my DVD cabinet full, but I have DVDs that have invaded by bookcase. DVDs have been an escape for me in the pandemic, and I do not have cable to watch TV, so I have more DVDs than space allows.

I have decided that I am definitely keeping all of my TV series and my baseball World Series. I am currently watching all of my movies to decide what is staying and what is going. This has been a challenging exercise. 

I will admit that there are some DVDs where I am on the fence. If I am on the fence, those DVDs are going in a special box. They will not be donated to the library book sale this year. I labelled the box 2023 and am going to put it in a closet. If I don’t feel like watching any of those movies in the next year to the point where I pull them out of the closet, then they will be donated in 2023.

There are some movies where I watch them, and right away, I know that I am done with that movie. Either it has served its purpose – I enjoyed it, but it is not one I reach for on a regular basis, or I have “outgrown” the movie. I am no longer at a point in my life where I feel like I will watch that movie again. I have enjoyed it and it is time to move on.

I am currently working my way through watching my movie DVDs to help everything fit in the space provided. The goal is that the DVDs will all fit in the DVD cabinet and that there will no longer be DVDs invading the bookcase.

Records and CDs

This is probably going to be a shocker for those who know me well, but I have decided my records and the record player will be leaving. I had a record player and records long ago that were lost in a flood. Then, for graduation for one of my four degrees, I was gifted a record player. Over the years, I acquired a milk crate full of records all second hand from either the library book sale or from the used record store in town.

In looking through my records, almost 100% of my record collection is a duplicate of an album I own on CD. I rarely listen to the records. To be frank, it is a pain in the ass to connect the record player, place the vinyl on the turnstyle and line up the needle to play. Sure, I love records. I love the feel, smell, and sound of them. However, I am getting much more enjoyment out of my CDs and they are easier to use. The records and record player are just weighing me down at this point. I have future goals that require me to be as light and nimble as possible.

When it comes to CDs, this is my most challenging category to downsize ever. I love music. I love CDs and my collection. A few years ago, I got rid of a shoebox full of CDs. At the time, it was hard. I was all emotional donating a shoebox of CDs. You know what? I don’t even remember what CDs were in that shoebox. I don’t miss them at all. 

Looking at my CD collection today, I have 700+ CDs. I don’t listen to them a lot. CDs are similar to the 80/20 rule for clothes. I listen to about 20% of my CDs 80% of the time. 

The CDs are also way out of their space. All of the CD cabinets are full. CDs have invaded the bookcase. They have overflowed even the bookcase and are just laying around in boxes on the floor. I have way too many CDs. While CDs are my most favorite form of music, I’m not listening to them as much as I used to.

A few months ago, I stopped listening to radio. I just can’t take news anymore in the pandemic. I had to stop listening to news in order to keep my sanity. I still get news. I do not bury my head in the sand about anything that goes on. Now I go to a few different news source’s websites a few times a day to get my news instead of listening to it on the radio. This way, when I have had enough news, I can stop looking.

I also splurged and put Sirius radio on my phone a few months ago. I now listen to music without commercials and without news. I am thoroughly enjoying a bevy of my favorite music stations. I enjoy satellite radio so much, I am not listening to my CDs as much.

This does not mean I can live without my CDs. I still love them. I still have times when I listen to CDs because I want to hear a certain album or a certain song whenever I want. Although I am enjoying radio on my phone, digital music is my least favorite form of music for listening. My CDs still hold a tremendous amount of value for me.

In 2022 this year, I have embarked on a project to downsize my CDs. I am listening to every single CD.

Yup, that’s right. Every. Single. One. 

As I listen to them, I am deciding which ones I am keeping and which ones I am donating. Sometimes, I am pleasantly surprised. I will pick up a CD and think “this one should be donated,” then I listen to the CD and fall in love with it all over again. It stays. There are other CDs I pick up and think “this one should have a free pass to stay,” but I force myself to go through the listening exercise anyway. Then Ilisten to the CD and think “why was I going to give this one a free pass? I never listen to it and it’s horrible.” 

I have come to realize that just because I enjoy a specific band or musician does not mean I need to own or like every single piece of music they make. There are some bands where I have all of their albums just to have all of their albums because I love the band. But you know what? I may love the band, but some of their records really sucked. And that’s okay.

This year I am enjoying a muscial journey through every single CD I own. Again, the goal of this exercise is for all of the CDs to fit in the CD cabinet. CDs should not be invading the book case and overflowing into boxes of CDs sitting on the floor because there are so many of them. 

I only want to keep what I truly love and enjoy. That is the entire purpose of life. Just because I love a band does not mean I need to keep their one album that sucked. No artist is able to produce albums where every single one is stellar. Some are less than stellar. That’s okay. 

Conclusion

My biggest goal as a minimalist is to only be surrounded by things that are useful and things that I love. Just because a band brings me joy does not mean I need to keep an album that I did not love as much as the others. 

I also now have future plans that are going to require me to be nimble and easy to move. The more I am able to downsize, the easier it will be for me to realize my future goals. Even if I do not realize my future goals, my goal for right now is to only be surrounded by what I love. If I don’t love something, then it needs to leave. 

Yes, I love CDs. I love music. CDs are my favorite form of music. I’m sure I will be just as happy with 300 CDs as I am with 700 CDs. As long as they are all albums I love, that’s the point. I do not have a set number of CDs I want to declutter down to. I just want them all to fit in the CD cabinet and not overflowing and invading other spaces. 

What is your most challenging decluttering category?  

Minimalism: Shoes

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Shoes are hard to minimize for some people. There is a stereotype out there about how women love shoes and have entire closet fulls of them. You hear tales of people having 30, 70, even over 100 pairs of shoes! If that is what makes you happy, go with it.

As a minimalist, I try to have only what I need. For me, shoes are a necessity. As a runner, I would rather pay more money to have a few pairs of high quality shoes that are going to preserve and protect my feet than be fashionable.

I have roughly 6 pairs of shoes right now (pictured above). Each pair serves a purpose.

Starting at top left, there are my rain boots. Those are obviously for rain. I started wearing rain boots back when we started to measure rain in inches, and the field at Fenway Park was underwater. You needed rain boots to be able to walk without wet feet. As someone who has previously experienced homelessness, dry feet are a must. You must keep your feet dry to stay healthy. I always have a good pair of rain boots. This black-speckled pair is the third pair of rainboots I have owned, after pairs one and two became cracked and started leaking water.

Next to my rain boots, are my sloggers with blue paw prints on them. I also like to refer to my sloggers as “shit kickers.” These are water proof, similar to my rain boots, however, they are shoes. Sloggers are great just to have by the door to slip on when I need to go to the mailbox, the garage, or just out in the yard. Not only are they good for small amounts of water when it is raining, but they are also good in mud.

On the top right, are my snow boots. I live in the northeast USA, so we definitely need those. For all of my shoes, the priority is traction. I need all of my shoes to have good traction so I do not fall. I am already a fall hazard with my MS, so any extra traction I get is most welcome.

On the bottom left are my everyday shoes. These sneakers are actually trail running shoes. I choose trail running shoes for my everyday shoes specifically for traction. Trail running shoes are designed to help you grip on uneven terrain and help you to stay steady even in mud. I have been using trail running shoes for my everyday shoes for a few years now, and the traction is great. The only way the traction on these things would be any better would be if I was wearing cleats.

Next to my everyday shoes are my slippers. Everyone needs to be comfortable around the house. Again, I chose slippers that have hard soles with good traction. These ones do. They are not your typicaly slipper soles that are either simply flat or just have lines of ridges. These slippers have bottoms that provide traction. So if I do end up running outside in my slippers (typically due to some issue with the outside feral cats), I do have traction both outside as well as inside. Traction is essential even in slippers, as I have to do the stairs to get to the washing machine, and I am walking on non-carpeted floors.

On the bottom right are my running shoes. I run in Mizuno wave riders and have been my entire running career. I’ve been running in Mizunos for about 15 years now. I typically have two pairs to rotate in and out to preserve the support. However, I just rotated a pair out that had reached it’s mileage limit and are out of support. I only have the one pair right now. I have not yet obtained a second pair to be able to rotate in with these ones.

All of my shoes serve a purpose. I have everyday shoes and slippers. I have running shoes. Then I have my seasonal items of rain boots and snow boots. Sloggers are a luxury. I could probably live without them. However, I just like having them by the door. I can slip out of my slippers and into my sloggers if I need to go outside quick and I know I have great traction in my sloggers.

I am definitely not the type of person that has a closetful of shoes. Each pair serves a purpose. When they become worn, lose traction, or no longer support my feet, I replace them. Being a runner, my goal is to be as kind to my feet as possible so that I can continue to run as long as possible.

While I do not have a set number of pairs for shoes, every pair serves a purpose. I am not a stickler for numbers as a minimalist. For me, as long as my items are useful, beautiful, and fit in the space I have to store them, I am fine. 

I do not need extraneous pairs of shoes. More shoes would just be more things to store and take care of. I do not want to have to take care of more things than I need. The less things I have, the less things I need to clean. However, I do have enough shoes to be able to function in my everyday life. 

By having fewer pairs of shoes, I am able to purchase high quality items. They last a long time and are kind to my feet. I replace things that need to be replaced. This year, I will be looking to purchase a second pair of Mizuno wave riders to be able to rotate in with my current pair.

Minimalism is not always a numbers game or how few things you have. For me, minimalism is only having things that are useful and things that I need so that I am free to focus on the things that are most important in life. What’s most important are my cats, people, and experiences. I have enough shoes to meet all of my life needs.