Simple Saturday ~ Andréia’s declutter story

Andréia’s Declutter Story

I must confess I am a pack-rat. I used to keep all sorts of papers in my office and home. When I got married we rented this three bedroom house. There was the master bedroom which is ours and two other single’s bedrooms. We both moved out of our parents house, have never lived on our own. So he brought all his stuff, that was kept in a 8square meter bedroom to a 90 square meter house. I did just the same. Oh, the space to be filled!!! That was in 2003.

We filled the entire house with furniture, old computer parts, papers (lots and lots of it), and all sorts of clutter. The two spare bedrooms were our throw away stuff place: throw away and close the door! They were filled with boxes, old books, VHS tapes, two monitors in one, three old CPUs in other, and old furniture my husband brought from his parents house. The bedrooms were so crammed that sometimes there wasn’t space to walk into one. I managed, one or two times, to empty one of the bedrooms, but the other, well…let’s just say that if the clutter wasn’t going out, it had to go somewhere else.My garage was also packed, we couldn’t walk acroos it. I always thought I had too little storage space. No, I had too much clutter, but I didn’t want to throw anything away, because I might need it sometime later on. I never threw away old magazines, nor articles because sometime I would get around to read them. The time never came.

The house was a mess. I never wanted anyone to come over because cleaning involved so much work that I would spend two or three days cleaning before the house looked acceptable. And I had to hide the clutter somewhere. So the living room looked ok, the kitchen was fairly clean, but ALL the bedrooms were packed with stuff, that I had removed from “ok rooms”. It was very stressful. I wanted to get pregnant, but how I was going to have a baby living in this mess? Then, one day, in 2007, I read an article in old Reader’s Digest magazine whose title lay on the front in big capital letters: “CLUTTER? GET RID OF IT, NOW!”. Shea Dean wrote it in 2002 about her experience with a personal organizer, and how it solved her paper clutter problem. So I read the article over and over again. I had found my solution!

One night I went to my office and started sorting through the mountains and stacks of papers everywhere. I got a big garbage bag and went to work. At first I filled only one bag. A few weeks later I discovered I was pregnant. That is when my decluttering really began. To have a baby I needed to have a tidy house for him. So I had to declutter so my little baby could have the space. Clutter was taking the room that would be my baby’s room. My husband thought it was some kind of “pregnancy hormones craziness”, because I wanted to clean, throw rubbish away, get the room painted, get brand new furniture for the baby, and have clear floors so my baby could play, just like I did when I was a child. At the end of the pregnancy I had a whole room decluttered and just some old stuff in the other room. I took out of the house about 7 or 8, big (100 liters) garbage bags FULL OF PAPERS AND CLUTTER! But by no means the clutter problem had ended!

I still didn’t have any idea how the clutter got generated, so in just over 6 months, after the baby was born I had clutter problem again. The second bedroom was still there, empty, just calling my name to store clutter there and forget about it. And store stuff I did. On my son’s first birthday, I had a party at my house. No one could go into that bedroom, because I cleaned the rest of the house and threw everything there. I can’t remember what most of it was, but there it was taking up a WHOLE ROOM IN MY HOUSE! I didn’t know what to do. I read that article about clutter again. But I felt overwhelmed by the mess. One day I was at a virtual magazine and found a link to a blog about happiness (The Happiness Project), and there had a link to Unclutterer. I went to the blog and just browsed looking for inspiration.

Well, inspiration came slowly, but, as I got pregnant again decisions had to be made. So I decided that I had decluttered one bedroom for one baby, I would declutter the other for the coming one. First of all I took everything out of the room and cleared it to be painted. I decided that nothing that had been there would go back. Everything went into my bedroom. I swear I felt like I was in one of the “Hoarders” episode. The room was packed. But I had to sleep, and soon I would be heavily pregnant so I got a person to help start the cleaning and purging process.

As before I was single minded and focused. I wanted a nice house. I wanted my babies to be able to crawl, walk and run without risking injury because of clutter. I was ruthless. Everything I thought wouldn’t be used ever again, good, rusty or broken, was recycled, donated, thrown in the rubbish. I took me two weeks to get my bedroom looking normal again. But there were still clutter spots. Last year I bought a car. I cleared the garage so I could park it inside. Before I discovered 365lessthings, I found the courage to recycle all my teens magazines. It was odd, and I realized how old I was. I mean River Phoenix was still alive when I collected those magazines and he’s been dead for ages. So that’s how my house went from “for God’s sake never come here unannounced!!!(with three days to spare)” to “sure come now and let’s have some coffee!”.

I am, by no means, finished, but now I can afford baby steps, going and sorting out one cupboard, one drawer, one small space at a time, and seeing how things get better. I struggled with items that have a special meaning, but because of decluttering I can analyze and decide with care what goes and what stays.

Thanks for continually supporting my journey, because no matter how far I have come there’s always space to go a little further.


Continue reading with these posts:

  • Simple Saturday ~ One readers story A decluttering story from Debbie from Alberta Canada I came across your website last year and proceeded to read backwards through the archives. I follow several blogs on minimalism; but […]
  • Guest Post ~ An exercise in truth telling A Guest Post by Cecily Paterson 365 Less things has inspired Cecily to begin her own decluttering journey. She lives in a small town of 1500 people and last month started a column in her […]
  • Simple Saturday ~ School Paper Clutter I received an email from Monica this week in regards to my opinion on what to save of kids school papers.  Here is her query... Your post about your daughter returning home prompted me […]
About Colleen Madsen

Colleen is the founder of 365 Less Things and lives in Newcastle, Australia.

Comments

  1. Andreia, thank you for being so honest and putting your story out here. My mess started much the same way – large house, two households not even close to filling it up, years of accumulating things. You did an amazing job under time pressure and from your post it sounds like you did the bulk of it without help. Good for you! You are an inspiration.

    • Hi Jo! I think I work best under pressure :-). And you are right I went about it alone, because my husband is more of a pack-rat than me. He was supportive when I said I was going to do it, but didn´t sort trhough anything, just put the garbage bags outside, when I told him to do it :-D. I just wanted to share my story so everyone would feel encouraged to let go of sttuf and live their lives. Glad to have inspired you.

  2. Baby steps are steps too. Every clutter that gets out of the house is one!

  3. Wow! Amazing story Andreia. Thanks for taking the time to write and for sharing.

    • Hi Cindy! I was actually inspired by the blog to write. I looked around my house and I noticed things now have a place to be put back, and how easy it is to clean the house now, and then I remembered what it used to be like. And I thought: “Wow, I DID declutter!”, and felt so happy with the thought that I had to tell everyone, and maybe someone with the same issues that I had can get their house sorted out.

  4. Great story Andreia and a very enjoyable read. And I can certainly relate to the issue of 2 adults combining their lives in a small space.
    And you demonstrate so well the preocess of decluttering is one of phases and stages, each building on the last, and that changing your habits underpins it all.
    =

    • Hi Katharine. I had to review the way I dealt with stuff, and so had my husband (he said he did because I “forced” him 😉 )In the end we had just to stop and consider what was important and what was expendable and we could do without. About the phases, I believe that only TV shows manage to have a “before” and “after” in less than 7 days. For the rest of us there’s also life going on, and it can’t stop, especially because of clutter.

      • Hi Andréia,
        yes I don’t believe that normal folks have a “before and after” that is like movies with “happily ever after” when the boy gets the girl. That is the easy part, maintaining the “relationship” whether that be with someone or something (our Stuff) is the tricky part.

        • Hi Colleen. Stuff in our lives is very relative. For me, and note the “for me” part, I have, now, an uncluttered and very functional home. For a minimalist I would have a “crowded” home with so much stuff that it made him sick (it’s a joke :-)), for a hoarder, I would have “nothing”. And we never manage to have our houses perfect because we live in those houses. So I agree with you, it’s the “keeping it decluttered” part that is difficult, and that’s why, even though I did make progress, I come by everyday, to keep me going.

          • Hi Andréia,
            I understand exactly what your are saying here and my home is the same. For me it is uncluttered (not completely to my liking yet) but to a true minimalist it would be quite cluttered but as you say to a hoarder my possession would seem sparse. I don’t care what either of them would think, I am happy to do it and have it my way.

  5. thanks for sharing your story! I think it helps to have that vision of a safe and clear place for the kids to play. It’s a great motivator

    • Hi Jessiejack! For me, the babies were the ONLY motivators that made me move! :-D. Before I always let the house be a big mess, because I simply did not care. Why clean? Why trhow stuff away? My husband and me just ignored it. But children don’t ignore out of place stuff, they make it messier, and they might hurt themselves. Now THAT motivated me. Still working in a few trouble areas, or “black holes” for clutter.:-)

  6. Hi Andréia,
    thank you again for sharing your story with us. It is always inspiring for people who think the task is too great to tackle to hear the success story of someone who took on the challenge and achieved the peace and serenity that living with less can provide.

    The need to provide a safe and loving environment for your two beautiful boys was a great motivator to get you started. There presence now is enough encouragement to keep you on track. And I hope our little community here at 365 less things will also continue to inspire you to greater success.

    Have a great day Andréia and sit back and enjoy the wonderful home and family you have created.

    • Hi Colleen. I don’t know where I read it, but I read once that if you wanted to see if a house was cluttered you should let a toddler go through it. It panicked me! 😯 . I thought: “Oh my God! My mess wil hurt my babies!” And they weren’t even born. Now I can work on my computer, go to laundry room, and leave them a few minutes unnatended, knowing that, apart from their toys, there’s nothing anywhere out of place that might hurt them. I can have a nice house like I always wanted and it is happening now. But now and again I will write to you all, wnating to get rid of stuff, because I think it’s clutter, so, as I said, the work is never finished.

  7. How can I post my picture beside the post?

    • Hi Andréia,
      If you mean how can you have your picture in today’s post featuring your delcutter story you would need to email me a photo of yourself and I can replace the flower photo that is there now. I would be more than happy to do that for you.

      If you mean how can you have your photo (avatar) next to your comments you need to go the gravitar.com and follow the instructions. The link I just added will take you straight to the page where you can sign up for your avatar.

      Good luck I am looking forward to seeing you, it is always nice to have a face to go with the name.

  8. Hi Colleen! Just want to check if it worked.

  9. Hi Colleen! I was just browsing and found a picture that shows everyone my inspirations. 🙂

  10. Hi Colleen (and hi Andreia)!

    I think you are so right about the “before” and „after“. It really doesn’t work like this in real life. But I sometimes like to pretend it does. That mainly means chosing one room or one area in a room and transform it to the decluttered place I dream of when I have some time at my hand to do it. Of course I end up with boxes of things or even furniture that now is homeless and the harder part – the decluttering, selling, donating,deciding, sorting, filing etc. – is only postponed. But the relaxing vibe of an accomplished room or corner or cupboard makes me happy and gives me energy. When I am frustrated or overwhelmed with the whole task I can turn to this room, sip on some tea and just admire, what I am apparently capable of. The boxed things then usually are approached (too) slowly but eventually dissappear with the slow and steady routine. I find it magical how sometimes items, I thought I could not let go of but did not want in place they were anymore either, seem to have lost all their appeal to me once they ended up in boxes that cluttered up my bedroom for weeks (or, hmm, months …). The detachment of things works too if you put it in a basement or an attic or a garage – I just find myself procrastinating even longer then. As someone who stumbled into decluttering by seeking a beautiful home in the first place (then noticed: no beauty without organization, no organization without decluttering first – unless you want to make it a hobby, which I don’t …) I find it helpful to hurt my eyes now and then. This really may not work for everyone. But I find myself shaken by beauty and by desaster while a medium level of mess or clutter often remains “unseen” – though the longer I declutter the better I get at detecting clutter 🙂

    • Hi Ideealistin,
      I think your process of decluttering one area whether it be big or small so you can go back and admire your handy work is a good way to motivate yourself to continue on with the task. I would surely recommend this approach especially if a person finds it easy to get discouraged.
      I was going to add more to this response but as I was writing it I decided I could make it the subject for tomorrows post so stay tuned.

    • Hi Ideealistin. When I didn’t have kids I used this approach once or twice (I did empty one of the bedrooms :-D), it made me feel good, but the trouble, for me, was just lurking…And eventually would spread all over the house again! Your approach works for you because once you declutterer one area (that’s what I understood, but correct me if I am wrong) it remains decluttered. My space never did, it got cluttered again, :-). I understand very well the procrastination bit. We put it of until tomorrow, but tomorrow never comes…Good luck with your decluttering, and hope you reach your ideal home!;-)

  11. “no matter how far I have come there’s always space to go a little further” I love this statement Andreia, I will make it mine to think over it again and again. 🙂
    Thank you for sharing your experience with us and happy decluttering!

    • Hi Paola! Glad to have been helpful to you. I sent my story to Colleen to inspire as many people as I could because it’s worth it. Happy decluttering to you too!:-)

  12. Hi Andreia, It’s 11 April 2012 & I’m reading your story… thank you so much for sharing. YOU are inspirational and I am going to try to follow your example. My hubby is my total opposite; he does not hoard stuff, and is generally neat & tidy (I so hate that). I’ve been a hoarder all my life (am now 71.5) and must now declutter the past 32 years in the one house so we can move to a retirement village. I did once try a personal organizer (!!), but she was the worst $70 (for consultation only) I’d ever spent. Wanted me to write her a reference when she had not done anything (for a project for a small business course she was doing… I guess I was meant to tackle the job myself. Wish me luck… Kit

    • Hi Kit! Colleen called my attention to your comment! Thanks for your comment. As for inspitration I am glad my path to a decluttered home set a good example for you. If you truly think you are a hoarder, don’t try to declutter all on your own. Get someone to help you. But ask help from someone who respects your wishes, your likes and dislikes. I was very ruthless when I decluttered MY stuff, but I had doubts. I wanted to hang on to many things and had to give a lot of thought to what I wanted to do with the things I kept. What I have been doing (because I still deal with clutter) is looking for places for everything. Think about what space you will really have in your new home and what stuff you really want there. Good luck!