Why decluttering makes me happy...really

I’ve got decluttering on the brain. Maybe I’ve just had it with Barbie shoes stabbing my feet when I walk down the hall.

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I’ve got decluttering on the brain. Maybe I’ve just had it with Barbie shoes stabbing my feet when I walk down the hall. Or staring down teetering towers of papers on my dining room table. Whatever it is, I find myself fantasizing, debating, mulling, wondering what should stay in the house and what should go? 

I blame the holiday rush of gifts that pushes its way into my house every December, plus the fact that all four of the birthdays in my little family fall between November and mid-January. Gifts aside, that’s also a load of balloons, party blowers and napkins and sadly, it’s what forces me to lay out Lightning McQueen napkins at our Superbowl gathering in hopes I can get rid of the things. Not my finest Martha moment.

And then Peter Walsh’s words ring in my ears every time I’m in a store now—wondering “Will this get me closer to the life I want?” as I assess another t-shirt on sale. Or I come across this personal essay in The Globe and Mail on living minimally that further fuels my decluttering fire. After all, I live in a medium-sized urban home in Toronto, which means storage space is at a premium—no attic to shove things in, no cold room, nothing. If anything, cast offs get shoved into my office where I type shoulder-to-shoulder with mountains of photo albums, a now-unused children’s art easel, a yet-to-be hung bulletin board, two booster seats that aren’t yet installed in our little Toyota and more.

So in hopes of slimming our stuff down, I’ve been a busy little decluttering bee around the house. First up was finding a place to donate our large black hutch and old TV to make space for a new flat screen TV we picked up on sale. The challenge? Finding an organization who will pick it up and is willing to take furniture—enter Habitat for Humanity. I e-mailed them pictures of the hutch to boost my it’s-worth-the-pick up case–it worked–and my father pitched in by taking the TV and donating it to the Habitat in his city.

On top of that, I’ve been rummaging through my children’s closets, sorting out  12-month-old socks that no longer fit my three-year-old boy, or shirts that my daughter can’t get over her head. Bags of clothes are sorted—some for donation, some to give to friends and family with little ones. I’m scooping up baby toys and sorting out old board books to box up for a friend who’s pregnant and welcoming hand-me-downs. Old kitchenware, shirts, books and DVDs have all been donated to the Goodwill in one of several car trips. And an old sled and broken lamp were put out in the garbage strategically the night before in hopes they’d be picked up and refurbished by passersby—success!  

And as for new things coming into the house, I’m now trying for a more minimal and consumable Valentine’s Day—that means chocolates and jellybeans for the kids over stuffies and toys, Valentines they can make for their friends (my after-school “make work” projects I call them) and baking up the leftover Christmas cookie mix to make cookies they can decorate and hand out to friends.  

So what does all this have to do with happiness? Well, my life feels a bit lighter and easier to navigate—I don’t have to hope the popcorn maker doesn’t land on my head as I reach for a bottle of red wine out of my cupboard. And for me, a life that’s easier to navigate and more space means a bit of breathing room which leaves me with a smile.