Anyone else love decluttering? Alright, silly question. I’m guessing that’s not the case for most of us.
But in this house, heck yes. We love it. Because, honestly, messy house: Ugh.
It feels like, as a stay-at-home dad, I spend a good portion of my day cleaning up messes. But I know how important it is to my family.
You may not feel the same, but I’d like to convince you that it’s one of the easiest and most positive things we could do for our families on a daily basis.
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Why Decluttering Matters
On a daily basis, I see the importance of keeping a clean and neat house because I grew up in just the opposite. My family was not in the least bit concerned with such things, and our house showed that. Every corner had another pile of papers, blankets, toys, or random junk.
Looking back, I know now that this constant state of disorganization made it easy to be mentally disorganized as well. It means that every time you want to use a surface you have to first clean off that surface. And since the stuff didn’t have a place to start with, you now have simply moved a pile (or piles) to another pile.
When things are organized well, you simply don’t have to worry about whether or not you have to make a task in order to get to your original task. Things have a place, and those places are utilized effectively.
I don’t have to clean off a space to have space, and I don’t have to pile something on top of another pile before getting to what I need.
It’s just so much easier. So much easier than fighting with junk I don’t actually need.
Here are some of the biggest benefits I see in decluttering, especially with kids in your home:
1. A Cleaner Space = A Clearer Mind
Like I said above, decluttering means that you can more efficiently use the spaces you have. It means that you don’t have to worry about one, two, three, or more steps just to achieve the goal you initially set out to achieve.
My decluttering is a way to ensure that my mind is clear of distractions when I need to work on something.
2. Eliminating Junk = Assessing Value
Each time we dig out a storage bin or go through a shelf, we are looking for perceived and actual value. My wife and I are constantly asking ourselves if something we’ve been holding on to is truly valuable or if we simply have it because we think it might be important or valuable someday.
For example, last summer we got rid of almost every DVD we had if it wasn’t specifically something we wanted our kids to watch. This served a two-fold purpose: getting rid of things we simply didn’t watch and didn’t see ourselves watching in the near future (we don’t often sit and watch movies together), and we wanted to make sure we didn’t have content in our house we didn’t want our kids watching.
More recently, we eliminated a ton of our old books—books we had from college courses, novels I had read for pleasure, and some classic literature we had held onto for years. All of which we hadn’t opened for the last five years or more. And many of which we wouldn’t want our kids reading until they were in college, maybe high school.
These things didn’t hold intrinsic value for us, and they took up space that we needed to accommmodate things we have gained from having four kids in our house. For us, the value was in the utility of the space, not the things filling it. We have more space now than when we moved in nine years ago, and we haven’t added a single square foot to our floor plan.
3. Less Stuff = Less Cleaning
Dusting. Vacuuming. Rearranging. Organizing.
At my house growing up, these things took forever to do. It was a week-long project to get one room cleaned, and it often meant that piles of stuff ended up in another room for a later date. My parents never threw anything away, and it showed when we needed to clean for a big event.
Now, on a weekly basis, I can do all the cleaning necessary in my own home, and each portion only takes about an hour to complete.
If you’re decluttering regularly, you’ll find that dusting is easier (less stuff means less nooks and crannies, and fewer things to move, to clean surfaces). You’ll find that vacuuming a room may mean moving a couple pieces of large furniture instead of entire truckloads of toys, magazines, blankets, and pillows that have collected on the floor. You’ll find that you don’t need so many baskets to make this process easier, either (we had wicker baskets EVERYWHERE in my childhood home, all filled with stuff we didn’t use).
Make the weekly chores easier: declutter regularly.
4. Selling Stuff = Money in Your Pocket
One of the side benefits of decluttering is the ability to get rid of many unwanted pieces, even if they’re in good condition. We’ve pocketed hundreds of dollars from selling things we no longer needed. We especially like selling through Facebook and Letgo, but we also sell kids’ toys and clothing through Once Upon A Child, a secondhand kids clothing and toy store. If you keep things in good shape, they sell easily and quickly. And they make decent returns on investment when they’re maintained properly.
While we might have spent money on those things in the first place, we understand that part of that investment is in the use of the things we buy. We just sold a large entertainment center/fireplace unit for about 20% of its original purchase price, which seems like a hefty loss. But when we consider the fact that it functioned perfectly for us over the last eight years, we realistically invested less than $50 per year in the piece. It still looked almost brand new when we sold it.
For us, it was a good investment, and we could unload it when the time came and still make a few bucks.
On a related thread, we have also found that we spend less when we’re following a pragmatic philosophy. We don’t look at things just aesthetically: we see them as functional, valuable, and practical. If they don’t fit into those three categories, we need to be in love with the pieces we purchase before we spend that money. Even our practical purchases are tempered by those principles. It’s hard to spend money when you can’t decide exactly why you want to buy something!
5. A Pragmatic House = A House Focused on Other Things
My final benefit for the pragmatic life of decluttering is that we now focus our attention on things that are more meaningful than random junk. Instead of focusing on cleaning, spending cash, or reorganizing our future garbage, we focus on spending time together as a family and working towards our faith and our joy.
If you spend all your time making money to spend it on things you don’t really need, then what are you actually accomplishing? If you’re taking days to clean your house instead of hours, how much time are you missing out on with your family or friends?
For us, it’s not just about getting rid of everything. It’s about seeing things for their actual value instead of the price tag we put on them out of selfishness, foolishness, or bitterness. As a family of Christ followers, this adheres to what Jesus taught: don’t worry about tomorrow, because God has it covered. If he takes care of the flowers of the field, how much more does he love you and take care of you?
Our faith is a big part of this journey. If we aren’t spending money on useless treasures of this earth, we are spending it on things of the Kingdom.
Here’s my challenge to you: take one week and go through a part of your house that is overcrowded with things—knickknacks, keepsakes, papers, decorations, whatever—and assess the value held in that area. Be honest: don’t inflate the value with sentimentality, but truly look at what those things represent. Start cleaning them out and decluttering.
When you’re done, look back and see how much you actually miss. But keep in mind that you’re working towards an end goal of living a simpler, cleaner, more meaningful life.
How much will you miss that stuff that you simply move to clean up the other stuff around it? If you’re like me and my wife, you may actually feel even better once you’ve done it. If not, don’t worry. It takes time to detoxify from the world’s many distractions.
Drop me a note if you take this challenge—I’d love to hear how this changes your life, good or bad!
Much love, parent-warriors. Love hard and be awesome!