To Declutter or Not


I love my old Victorian house, but, unfortunately, its nooks and crannies provide wonderful homes for all sorts of clutter.  Of course, to me, it isn’t clutter — it is a compilation of pieces of my life.  The other day, I saw an article called the “40-day Challenge”, a method of painlessly cleaning out the unnecessary items in your home.  Each day for forty days, you take a bag and fill it with items you no longer use or need, and throw it out.  In forty days, you have thrown out forty bags filled with those things that clutter your home.  And I innocently thought, “Wow, I can do that!”  

And I have intended to begin, but as I look through my home, I realize that part of the reason I have so much clutter is because I have so many interests that require storage space.  I can’t bear to throw out any of my beloved books; the many vases and floral tools I have collected are called into service periodically.  I have a trunk filled with genealogical research, totes of sewing material and necessities, family heirlooms to pass down to my children and grandchildren, baby items I am thankful I saved as we await the birth of my daughter’s twins, children’s books and craft materials that my grandchildren still play with, kitchen cabinets overflowing with soup pots, cake pans, pie plates, casseroles, and recipe books, a trunk of journals….

Obviously, there are things I can throw out as I tackle this “40-day Challenge”, but it will not be as simple a project as I had hoped.  As I go through my nooks and crannies, I pause to recapture the memories that accompany these items I am about to throw away.  How do you throw out pictures drawn by your children and grandchildren, cards from relatives no longer with us, and the photos that abound.  Most of the items I have saved have either sentimental value for me, or possibly material value for my heirs.  A bookcase is filled with the teddy bears lovingly collected by my deceased mother and sister, and I have quite a collection of my own bears.  Through the years I entertained often, and I have beautiful china and serving pieces that I still use — no longer for huge family dinners, but for smaller, more intimate meals with friends and relatives.  

And I can’t forget the garden shed, which holds my gardening tools, my old wicker, and my lawn ornaments.  How could I possibly throw out that little garden angel with the broken nose, or the pots that may be just the perfect size for a new plant this year or next?  And I’m sure I can find some use for that old wicker chair whose seat is falling out.

I have made a promise to myself, though, that I will do the challenge, and, perhaps, extend it past forty days.  I will begin to declutter, and a bag a day should be a possibility.  I will begin with clothes, because you can fill a bag quickly with clothes, and I must admit, I have many old clothes in the closet which I will NEVER wear.  From there, I will sort through the paperwork in my little office — file cabinets filled to the brim — and throw away anything that is no longer necessary to keep.  I will sort through boxes of old papers and manuals for appliances I no longer have — that should be easy.  

I will linger, though, over all of the rest — all of the pieces of my life that have held so much pleasure and meaning for me through the years, the pieces that bring memories of my grandparents, parents, children and grandchildren, and the pieces that remind me of my deepest secrets and longings — I’m sure there is a nook or cranny for each of them somewhere. 

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