About a year and a half ago I decided that I had to put our house on a diet. Things here had gotten a bit out of hand and I made up my mind to tackle this somewhat overwhelming task of getting our house in shape. It needed to go on a diet, complete with exercise and a plan to maintain a healthy weight.
Before I go any further I should tell you that I am not, and never will be, a minimalist. I like my stuff. I'm a collector (with maybe just a touch of hoarder). The idea of purging just wasn’t for me. After all, a crash diet really isn’t very good. It’s a lot healthier to lose the weight gradually and it’s easier to keep it off that way. Right?
Our house is pretty small (900 something square feet) and storage space is limited but even larger houses may need to go on a diet. Reducing the bulk of the contents of our house is an ongoing project and here is my strategy:
Throw it away—this is both the easiest, because I can just toss it into the trash can and it magically disappears, and at the same time the hardest, because I might be throwing away something that I will need or I’m thinking about how much money is being wasted.
Donate it—this is my favorite option. I just can’t stand to throw away something that can be of use to someone else. The nice thing about this is that I can often support a worthy cause by donating my discards to a fundraising yard sale or charity thrift shop.
Recycle it—I try to be responsible and make sure to repurpose and recycle whenever possible. Our aluminum cans regularly go to raise money for the local animal shelter and 2 large donations of obsolete electronics have supported fundraising efforts as well. Almost anything with metal can be recycled and in our neighborhood anything that we put out in the back alley will be picked up by recyclers looking to make a bit of extra money.
Dispose of it properly—expired medications, paint, cleaning supplies, motor oil, chemicals can pose a hazard to people and the environment. Every once in a while our county sponsors a tox-away day where potentially hazardous substances are collected and old paint is collected on a regular basis. Of course, this will be different in other places, so check around and find out how it is done in your community.
Use it up—this one is my favorite. I always get a great deal of satisfaction of using up craft supplies, cards, wrapping paper or things that have been shoved to the back of the cabinet and forgotten. Where do all those little bottles of lotion come from anyway?
Finish it up—I am the queen of the unfinished projects and there is no doubt that the finished projects take up less room than the supplies and the objects with potential. This is an area that I am really trying to focus on at present.
Gift it—I’m not talking about re-gifting, although, I am not opposed to re-gifting if it is done carefully. If you have something that you no longer want or need and someone else can use or will treasure, by all means give it to them. And, you don’t have to wait for a gift-giving occasion. Last Christmas my niece got a sewing machine but she didn’t have any sewing supplies. I was very happy to go through my supplies and give her some of my duplicates.
Return it—I sometimes borrow things from family or friends and those items can occupy a lot of space if they aren’t returned promptly. I have found that sometimes if I don’t return the item right away the person I borrowed it from decides they don’t need it and don’t want it back. Does that ever happen to you? Right now I have a sewing machine that I borrowed from my mother sitting in the dining room and she refuses to take it back. And, that is not the first time that has happened to me. Last time it was a monster folding table that I borrowed from a friend.
Don’t bring it in—this one is really important for me. I have been putting more thought into purchases making sure that when I buy something it is what we actually need/want and will really use. I also try to avoid swag—free t-shirts I am talking to you. And, I don’t let myself go to many yard sales, rummage sales, flea markets, or thrift shops because I almost always find something irresistible in places like that.
Organize it—the strategies listed above are in no particular order but this one does belong at the end. Having a well-ordered house is part of the process but it doesn’t make sense to me to organize until I know what I am keeping and what I am getting rid of.
I’ll be talking about my house diet strategies in more detail and I will be sharing the progress in future posts? Our house probably won’t be featured on The Biggest Loser: Home Edition anytime soon, but here’s hoping there is some progress to share.