Cleaning out the clutter

person using mop on floor

Photo by on

A new year means a brand-new beginning and in my mind that means not only a fresh start in life but a fresh start in my home as well.

There’s just something about putting away the clutter of Christmas decorations that makes me want to go through my house, room by room, and start massive cleaning and major purging. I don’t think I’m alone in my quest.

Recently I found this passage from something written in 1898: “Do other people, I wonder, find the same keen pleasure that I do in periodically undertaking a pilgrimage all over the house to wage a war of extermination upon its accumulations of rubbish? “~Chiffon, “The Woman of To‑Day,” To‑Day, 1898 January 15th

I keep hearing and seeing on social media that the new “thing” is to be minimalist and even have some family members who are attempting to adhere to this way of life. Living simply isn’t new, that’s for certain. It’s just that we Americans don’t always embrace a simplistic way of life in anything and we own far too many material goods and possessions as well as waste too much money on those.

I fall into that-way-too-much-stuff trap, partly because Papa and I have lived in this house longer than we have ever lived in one residence during our married life. Back when we moved often, we decluttered every time, had garage sales to rid ourselves of belongings we didn’t need or didn’t want to move. And we’ve always donated our gently used goods to charities for their thrift shops, believing that someone out there could use what we wanted to discard.

A good idea even back in the early 1900’s when this was written: “Most of us are inclined to keep too many old and useless things in our houses and in our minds as well. Good housekeepers have an excellent custom of going from attic to cellar, at least once a year, and clearing out every closet and drawer. Some shake out and dust each article packed away in box or trunk, only to replace it and repeat the process year after year. How much better to give away the discarded clothing, the bric-a-brac or picture for which we no longer care. The Salvation Army always stands ready to relieve us of superfluous effects.” ~Emily Tolman, “Seasonable Suggestions”1907.

After 20 years of living in this same house, our stuff is taking over….well, it’s not just our stuff because part of that stuff belongs to our grown-up children who use our basement as their personal storage unit. Some can’t be helped as in the case of our oldest and her husband who live in a third-floor apartment and truly don’t have room for some of her belongings nor do they want to haul a piano up three flights of steps. Understandable.

When our son and daughter-in-law settled into their home a few years ago, Papa and I hauled two carloads of son’s belongings to him.  That freed up some space in the basement.

But for the last couple of years, middle daughter’s furniture and packed away household goods have been stored there causing it to be full to capacity. I’m not totally obsessive about having things in perfect order and organizing but I do adhere to the old saying – “a place for everything and everything in its place.”

It just seems like everything’s place landed in our basement. And honestly, when I ventured down there to obtain some item I needed, the sheer amount of clutter overwhelmed me. I often retorted that just going down the stairs and seeing all that my basement held made my blood pressure rise!

We still regularly give clothing and other usable household items to charity and even donated several boxes of unwanted belongings to our church rummage sale, but an accumulation of items from our past, our parents’ homes, and just plain ‘stuff’ lurks in our basement.

So now, middle daughter is moving into her own home leaving this nest truly empty once more. There is an empty bedroom again and there is space in the basement. She still has more boxes and junk to go through and like her mama, she wants to purge some of it.

So it seems a springtime mammoth garage sale is in our future. That means this empty nest Mama is going room by room cleaning and eliminating the unusable and/or labeling potential garage sale items as such. 

It’s a work in progress and I haven’t even made it to the basement yet. But I will succeed. I am determined.

By clearing away the excess clutter in my home and specifically the basement, it won’t just free up space physically, but also give me some peace of mind in this brand new year.

And that is priceless.

“Clearing clutter—be it physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual—brings about ease and inspires a sense of peace, calm, and tranquility.” ~ Laurie Buchanan, PhD