The many, many benefits of decluttering

I can’t believe that there is still anything here to declutter. But believe it or not, I keep finding things. After one full week of ruthless decluttering, I am still finding the occasional odd or end that no longer has a home at my address.

This has been, without a doubt, one of the strangest weeks of my life. I know that I caught Decluttering Fever because of the moth problem in the basement. But the fever has had wide-ranging side effects: I started decluttering the apartment again like I did back when I did my first KonMari Method Decluttering Festival five years ago. Only this time, there was little thought of what sparked joy: there were things that sparked joy this time that still went to the trash because, well, in a word, bugs.

I decluttered I don’t know how many skeins of handspun yarn (either spun by me, or by Marinette, the sweet old lady who passed away last year, whose spinning wheel, and handspun yarn stash I inherited.) Hear ye, hear ye! This yarn brought me immense joy.

But several of the skeins, notably an entire stash of those with the wool from black sheep, had been infested with moths. I decluttered every single skein that had a tinge of the black wool, leaving me with a small nightstand drawer of about ten smallish skeins of white homespun, which had been stored separately (by some stroke of genius on my part!) from the others.

In the process of washing everything that I thought I would try to rescue from decluttering, I ran my washing machine nearly non-stop for two days. Did I mention we don’t have a dryer? Right. Cause in France, most people don’t. So I have been hanging laundry, checking on laundry, moving nearly dry laundry to a different hanging spot, checking laundry again, folding laundry and putting laundry away since for like five days.

I also made a few really really really tough decisions about some clothes in my closet: those jeans. You know the ones. The pre-baby jeans, the ones that I kept telling myself I could one day fit back into. In the thick of my ruthlessness, I opened the drawer, took them out, shoved them into a donate bag and didn’t look back.

The privilege

Not everyone would have a week in their life in which they can press the “pause” button and declutter ruthlessly for a week. I recognize that I am in a very privileged position. But here’s the cold, hard truth: I could have dealt with this clutter long before it became a problem requiring a week’s worth of laundry and a half-dozen trash bags.

There were things in the lot that I could have very, very easily donated or passed on to a friend who would have been thrilled to get them, had I been regularly, every single day doing a small piece of this work. I would have thrown less out. I could have recycled more.

Even better: there were a lot of things I could have prevented from ever entering our home had I been willing to just say no. That would not have required a week of work. There is no privilege required to say no.

The Benefits

The benefit of throwing out all that yarn was that as I looked at the yarn that was remaining, I became determined that it would not meet the same fate as the rest. But if I wanted to keep it and not have to ditch it, I would have to make something out of it, and quickly. Something that I could wear often and thereby wash regularly, so that those stupid bugs wouldn’t make their home in it.

The idea and the excitement came to me immediately: a gorgeous Nora Gaughan pattern for a cabled bolero made up of pentagon-shaped pieces. It is way easier than it looks, and this yarn is absolutely perfect for it. It won’t be exactly like the pattern, but loosely inspired by it.

The benefit of doing all that laundry was that I had to learn how to clean my washing machine filter. (I shamefully admit that I didn’t know how to do that on our machine.) On about load 3, the machine stopped working (you can imagine the swearing that went on under my breath on that one.) My heart quit working just as fast.

The machine wouldn’t drain. The drum was full of sudsy water and staunchly refused to empty. After swearing for a few minutes, I started praying. “We can’t afford a new washer right now. Please save this washing machine.” (Sounds self-serving a little, I know. But I don’t think God minded.) Then, a little flash of genius sparked in my heart: “Check the filter.”

The filter was filled, I mean, filled with gravel. I then remembered vaguely once when my littlest scalawag had filled his pockets with rocks at one of his favorite parks. It was a muddy day, so we had washed his jacket right away. And we washed all the rocks, too, apparently.

After having to drain the washer (which provided endless entertainment to my scalawags who watched the buckets of water get emptied out of a hose at the bottom of the machine), and empty the filter (which was equally entertaining to them), the machine started back up again like a champ.

And you know what? I made a commitment that every time I am on my Ideal Life Exercise theme of “A Clean House,” I am going to empty that filter. That’s a benefit of all this mess I’ve been dealing with.

The benefit of getting rid of those jeans was two-fold: 1. there was more space in my drawer and so I could rearrange things in it so the things weren’t shoved in so tightly and 2. when a friend offered me a bag of hand-me-downs on Friday and I saw that nothing in it was of interest to me, I was able to say no thank you. I didn’t want to feel guilty about eventually having to declutter something that I never wore, just because I didn’t know how to say no in the moment.

In sum…

My week of decluttering gave me the impetus and determination to use up things that truly do bring me joy, which could go bad if I don’t use them soon, by turning them into something that will be useful and beautiful.

My week of decluttering forced me to learn how to do a very simple maneuver to protect the longevity of a household appliance; also, I learned that God actually cares about my relationship with my washing machine and even listens when I pray about something so insignificant.

Lastly, I learned that not bringing something into the home in the first place is the most effective way deal with clutter.

Getting into a decluttering as a way of life mindset has many different facets, each one of them with their own benefits. But for sure, the only way to discover them is to get started!

Published by Lily Fields

I am passionate about contentment. This is a challenge, because I am equally passionate about progress. I get up at 4:00AM to chip away at a solution to this monolithic problem: how to make progress on my contentment. Born and raised in the USA, I married a French philosophy teacher in 1999. We have lived in France since 2007. We stayed young and carefree until life threw us two curveballs in the form of little humans one after another in 2015 and 2017 respectively. Now I am a slightly older, slightly more exhausted version of myself, but with mystery stains on my walls and a never-ending pile of laundry.

3 thoughts on “The many, many benefits of decluttering

  1. That is so cool that you have home spun wool!! So sorry about all the trials, tho. I have never cleaned a machine filter either! So PROUD of you for decluttering those jeans!! AND saying No thx to that bag full. Yes, God DOES care about every tiny detail in our lives!! I’ve prayed little prayers like that before, that others might think were silly. But, God heard, and answered. Oh yeah, since you’re in an apt. where do you hang laundry to dry?

    Like

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