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Rated: 13+ · Essay · Home/Garden · #2299828
A personal essay about decluttering.

Every year, my wife and I spend the summer undertaking household projects that we’ve put off during the school year. This year, we’re committed to doing a serious decluttering. We live in a townhouse (i.e., a place where all of our belongings basically have to be contained within our home and garage), and we’re at the point where there’s precious little remaining free space for anything new to come in. Cabinets and drawers haven’t started overflowing yet, but we definitely have more than one storage bin in the garage with “miscellaneous” stuff, and are having a hard time finding a place for the new things that we need to purchase.

When we moved to our current place, we did a major purge. One thing that my wife and I have always agreed on is that we refuse to rent a storage space just to permanently warehouse stuff that we’re not willing to go through and deal with, and we’re hitting that point again where we either need to actually get a storage space, or start saying goodbye to some things. And while there’s definitely some low-hanging fruit in terms of things that are easy to give away (clothes that the kids have grown out of, toys that aren’t played with anymore, books that we’ve read and don’t plan on re-reading, etc.), there are definitely some things that are going to be hard to part with, like which school projects and crafts to keep, which board games we still play, which kitchen appliances or supplies we still use, etc. It can be incredibly difficult to make those decisions, especially when there’s a sentimental attachment.

One of the things that I’ve found really inspires me to want to get rid of stuff is to watch episodes of Hoarders before I start cleaning. It’s super disturbing to see how bad some people’s clutter and messes can get and, while the stuff in our house isn’t even five percent of the stuff in an average episode, it’s not hard to see how it can escalate. In the two years we’ve lived at our current place, we went from a moderately full house to a cluttered one ... and it’s not a huge leap to imagine how, if left unchecked, the accumulation of things would just continue to fill in every square inch of available space. While we’re not all that worried about being featured on an upcoming episode of Hoarders anytime soon, the process undergone by the people who are featured on the show is really enlightening.

Decluttering experts will often have the hoarder sort through their voluminous possessions and ask them questions like, “What would happen if you threw this away right now?” And, “Is this something that you’ve used in the past year?” And, “If you’re going to keep this, what purpose will you use it for?” All questions that are really helpful for anyone who is going through the process of determining what to keep and what to get rid of. After sprinkling in a little Marie Kondo (“Does this item spark joy?”) and other advice from decluttering experts we’ve gathered over the years (For generic items: “What’s the replacement cost if you get rid of it and one day decide you want it back again?” For unique items: “Do you need to keep the object itself, or can you just take a picture to remember it after it’s gone?”), we’ve managed to put together a pretty useful set of guidelines to use when we’re going through old storage boxes, or looking at our overstuffed bookshelves, or wondering if we should keep those craft supplies we’ve been meaning to use.

Watching Hoarders before cleaning out your own house is kind of like those old “scared straight” anti-drug programs. The idea is to witness the absolute worst case scenario of what could happen if you continue down the path you’re on. In the case of clutter, it’s a helpful reminder that a whole lot of stuff - even for those who are diligent about organization or curation - is really just junk once you see past the emotional attachment or belief that it’ll be useful at some undetermined point in the future.

If your space is in need of decluttering, consider watching a couple episodes of Hoarders. Nothing will inspire you to get rid of stuff like watching people who have junk stacked to the ceiling in every room of their house!



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748 words

Written For: "Personal Essay Contest
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