Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Maximizing Minimalism

When I saw an episode of Hoarders at my sister's house, I was horrified and fascinated. It was like watching a car wreck: terrible and compelling. I found it impossible to stop watching, even though I felt so sorry for the people who assigned such deep emotion to their stuff, to the point that they couldn't sleep on their beds. One family had their children taken into protective services because they were unable to clear out their house! I mean, really!

I think part of what made watching Hoarders so disturbing was that it made me examine my own tendency to collect and hang on to stuff. I'm not talking about a room full of creepy porcelain dolls in their original packaging, but of the stuff that comes into my house stealthily: yard sale finds, cute dishes, toys, bags and boxes of children's clothes, crafting materials, books and magazines, video tapes, decorative items. There's the stuff I hang onto in hopes that I'll someday use them (three flat bed knitting machines?) And then there's the stuff I've carted from house to house for years in boxes out in the barn. I haven't opened those boxes in five years. I can think of a few books I'm missing, but as for the rest of it, it hasn't been needed since we moved to the homestead.

I've worked in a half-assed way over the years to sort a box here or there. Energy and time have been limited. But lately I find that my attachment to the things that used to be important to me don't seem to affect me emotionally anymore. The urge to minimize is at an all-time high right now, to the point that I'm even wondering if we need to live in such a big house. I've been drawn to blogs about tiny houses, sites that give advice on minimizing, and real estate websites. 

Instead of feeling panicked at letting go, I'm finding myself pumped with adrenaline and challenged to find MORE to get rid of. Yesterday I spent the day in our sun porch, a lovely space that was packed willy-nilly with boxes of toys, bins of clothes, bags of craft supplies, and containers of papers. My mom kept the kids fed and happy while I worked. By the end of the day, I'd packed up three large garbage bags of clothes and six boxes of stuff to donate, a recycling box of paper to burn/recycle, and a garbage bag to discard. Picture the space those things took up in my house! I am getting through the toys now, and will attack our clothes tomorrow using this guide. I have found a new ruthlessness within.

Big changes are afoot at the Knitty Gritty Homestead. We're not sure where they're taking us just yet, but one thing's for sure: at the end of the journey, I'll be freeing up time and space to grow and dream, unfettered by the stuff that has tied us down for years.


  1. I've been trying to do this since April, and I just can't get any kind of momentum going. We have so much stuff! It just needs to go :( And getting the kids to help is kind of useless (they're 12 and 14 1/2 - definitely able to help keep spaces clean). So frustrating!!!

  2. As I told you earlier on the phone, I always wonder- if we lost everything in a fire, what would I miss or need to replace the most? What am I hanging onto that I don't really need or love? Your purging bug might bite me too and I will start doing a room per weekend, or something like that. Have fun!

  3. I know how you feel! I am on a constant quest to get rid of what we don't need, of things that are just taking up space and while I think we do a good job of it I feel like there is so much more that we could stand to part with! Living in an old farmhouse where storage is at a premium I am impressed with how much we manage to hold on to. Happy decluttering, my friend!

  4. Such a provocative post. I just went through this exercise. I took a leave of absence from my job and 3 of the 5 weeks was devoted to the purge project (our home is 15ft wide!) i still have a couple more areas to work on, but it felt so good. Look forward to following where this leads!

  5. Oh Stephanie,

    It will be a hard road but such a good one. When we decided to move to france we got rid of everything but what we could fit in 4 suitcases and 12 boxes. That was the emotionally hardest thing I've ever had to do. But now that I am on the other side I'm glad I did it. I lost all attachment to material things. If I had to do it again I could and it wouldn't be a problem. I did infact have to get rid of a lot of things when we came back from France and it wasn't a big deal at all. My policy when I was getting rid of everything was if I haven't touched it in a month it goes. That was rough.

    Good luck!

  6. Bags and bags of children's clothing - HUGE bags :P I try to make a point of sorting through the hand-alongs right away now, and sending off what is not needed so that it doesn't get a chance to get sucked into the madness that is my basement. We've been getting rid of SO much stuff and there is still a long way to go. But, yeah, it feels AMAZING. Liberating.

    To minimalism!

  7. I had never heard of Hoarders (I live in France) so I had a look on Yout*be. Wow ! I understand now what you mean when you say you were horrified and fascinated at the same time… I found it terrifying but couldn't stop watching ! And just like you, I started looking around me wondering why I kept so many things I had not used since years. I think I am trapped between the desire to clean up my apartment and the idea that things should be used, re-used, repaired, recycled… but I don't have time to do so ! Anyway, thank you for this post and all the links !

  8. It is such an adrenaline rush, you are right. We are going through a similar process and journey over here and I am thrilled each time I can add another bag to the pile or give away another carload to the nearest Goodwill. I just want to get rid of more and more and more. :) It is so very freeing. I really do believe when we clear out the old we are making room for something else to grow in its place...I hope that something is really wonderful for you and your family.

  9. The first time I watched Hoarders, I said it was like a train wreck! We are also going through a purge. My husband not so much, but I feel really good saying we don't need it. If we haven't seen it, touched it or used it in a year it's in the donation box.


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