Cleaning House and Saying Goodbye to the Junk

Cleaning House and Saying Goodbye to the Junk

Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.
— William Morris

For the past four years, every January we have done a full deep clean and purge of our home.  With each year, I've gotten more efficient at the process and more productive.  Also, each year it gets easier because there is less 'junk' to deal with than the year before.  Starting the year off on the right foot by tackling a few of those projects that have been haunting me for a while feels awesome.  As the holidays winddown, I find myself actually getting excited for the new year to come so I can get to work on my household projects. 

Many of you might be familiar with the popular residential design website, Apartment Therapy.  If not, I recommend checking it out.  It's a great resource for inspiration and advice on all things home related.  Every year Apartment Therapy hosts a sort of self-help program called the January Cure.  Throughout the month of January, the website sends you emails with homework assignments.  Most of the assignments involve cleaning (but not all) and the big projects that require some time are reserved for over the weekends.  They have a pdf calendar showing the daily assignments that you can download.  I usually print this out so I can mark off assignments as I've completed them.  I can also plan accordingly if my schedule is going to require me to do some catchup work.  To sign up, all you do is go to this link and enter your email address.  Then on January 2nd you will receive your first assignment email.  Apartment Therapy encourages you to share your progress and stories on their site.  Usually about halfway through the month I start to feel overwhelmed and discouraged.  The online community support (and commiserating) can be the extra push you need to succeed.  If any of you decide to give the January Cure a try, I would love to hear from you as well.  I will be sharing updates here on my own progress throughout this month.  Even if you only tackle one assignment on the schedule, you will be starting your new year with one less weight on your shoulder and be that much more satisfied with yourself and your home.  These small victories are so important.

My biggest take away from participating in the Cure are some of the concepts they utilized that I have personally found very useful and continue to implement in our home year-round.  My favorite being the idea of the Outbox.  The Outbox is a spot in your home that is out of the way that you designate as the place where you can pile up some stuff for a temporary period of time.  Any items in your house that you think you could even possibly part with are to be placed in this designated Outbox.  The items are to stay in the Outbox for a while until you have determined if you actually need/want them or if you can let them go.  You can always take an item back out, but... if the item has sat in the outbox for a few weeks and you haven't missed it at all, it's time to say goodbye.  Your Outbox doesn't necessarily need to be a box but mine usually is (or multiple boxes).  Of course, some items don't fit in a box so they just sit on the floor next to the box.  I have gotten in the habit of having an ongoing Outbox located in the corner of our extra bedroom that acts as an office.  When the pile has gotten big enough to annoy me, I separate out piles for Goodwill drop-off, for Buy Nothing gifting or for recycling.  Then I get it all out of my house promptly.  I've never once missed or regretting letting go of anything using this method.   I'm constantly adding more items to my Outbox pile.  Very rarely do I decide to pull something back out to keep.  The Outbox is a great way to start the effort towards clearing out the unnecessary “junk” from our homes because you don’t have to commit right away.  It allows us the time to discover whether our attachment to an item is justified and ease into the purge.

At the beginning of 2016, I took my purging efforts to the next level.  You know that bestselling book everyone has been talking about, The Life-Changing Magic of Tiding Up by Marie Kondo?  If you don't, you've probably been living under a rock the last couple years (just kidding...).  Well, combine reading that book with postpartum crazy-brain and you have the great purge of 2016.  Ok, that sounds really negative but seriously, I recommend checking this book out if you haven't already.  The book is a quick read and quite humorous.  Kondo’s message is basic and obvious yet so necessary today.  Simply put, she says that if an object does not provide joy in your life, then you should not have it in the spaces you live.  End of story.  This book was eye-opening for me.  The reality is that our culture is suffering from an epidemic of junk.  We are drowning in our junk.  As a result, we are inflicting on ourselves discontent, we are creating toxic living environments and we are destroying our planet for future generations.  Following Kondo’s “tiding” program has been life-changing for a lot of people.  It was quite the undertaking but I was glad that I powered through her program step-by-step.  My husband and I live in a small home and no one would ever describe us as hoarders or un-tidy people.  Yet I still removed giant garbage bag after garbage bag and box after box of “junk” from our home.  It was exhausting and thrilling and even horrifying at times.  After it was all said and done (I must admit - in March…) I felt accomplished and lighter.  I felt like my house was finally clean and that I could actually breathe better.  Kondo’s book sparked a new interest in me – an interest in owning less, spending less, wasting less and gaining more time, more money and more freedom.

If you are looking for additional information on the concept of living a simpler life or you just need some extra motivation to clean house, I would highly, highly recommend watching the documentary Minimalism: A Documentary about the Important Things on Netflix.  The documentary follows Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, two authors and leaders in the minimalists movement, while they are on their book tour.  The documentary touches on many aspects of and explanations for this growing movement of owning less.  The film is well-done and fascinating.  My husband and I found it really motivating, especially at a time in our lives where we need to be responsible with our spending so we can set ourselves up for success in pursuing our dreams for the future.  

To kick off the New Year, we tackled two small tasks today that you might want to try out as well.  1) I recycled all the holiday cards.  I held each one in my hand individually.  I spent a few moments enjoying the photos of my friends and family members and carefully reading the notes.  Then I thanked each card for serving its purpose and wished it farewell as it went in to the recycle bin.  2) As a family, we sat down on the floor in my son’s room and dumped all his toys and books on the floor.  We went through and removed any that were broken or no longer age appropriate.  We removed the toys he has zero interest in.  We removed the ones that we are just tired of tripping over. And we put all these items in the Outbox.  The goal was to get rid of the same amount or more toys then we were bringing in as new Christmas gifts.  

If you have any of your own New Year’s house cleaning rituals, please share.  Wishing you all the best of luck on your New Year’s resolutions.  Cheers!

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