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 yours has really helped me the most with my steps towards minimalism. One thing I thought I’d share is my ‘ah ha’ moment last year when our house we had listed for sale here in Canada took a long time to sell.
It was at an overwhelming time for us as we had purchased a great house in a great location that we were renovating while we were trying to sell the house we were living in. In order to declutter our house to get it ready to sell I was moving lots of stuff from one house to the garage of our other one. It seemed like I was constantly moving things around in the garage and covering things up so they wouldn’t get covered in sawdust etc. Each time I’d move something I’d think of getting rid of it; but felt the guilt etc of reasons I shouldn’t that you have covered many times in your blog – paid too much, my college age kids may need it when they are settled on their own, a relative gave it to me, I could eventually sell it and get $___ for it, I may need it in this house. I got the house we were still in ready to sell and our realtor commented that ours was particularly clean and organized.
Well a month went by, and lots of showings – but nothing. The problem was, we had renovated and moved houses several times over the years, and it had never taken us more than a month to sell a house. My kids would cringe when I would give them the drill that we had to keep everything in it’s place; but if we did the hard work we’d sell fast. Well this time was different, the housing market wasn’t what it was, and it became frustrating. Two months went by, then we took the house off the market for a while. We would concentrate on finishing our other house in hopes of finding a better time to list.
Without the stress of worrying about showings, one day I had my ‘ah ha’ moment. I looked at my house listed for sale and realized how much less stressful it felt living in this ‘staged’ house. Living in this house with less clutter had made it much easier to keep it neat, everything had a place, and I had developed a habit of putting things away right away when I was worried about getting a call from our realtor for a showing with short notice. I also began every morning of another habit of making our bed, something I’m embarrassed to say I rarely did before. I realized living in this neat, clean, decluttered house was the way I wanted to live in our newly renovated house.
I had started the tough first steps of decluttering before; but this was the defining moment when I realized I had to get rid of the clutter. We listed our house again last fall and sold in the first couple of weeks it was listed. Since our two houses were only a few blocks apart we moved everything on our own. It was at one point that my husband said, ” Boy we have a lot of stuff!” That was all I needed to get him on board.
Your postings on how you’ve overcome issues with decluttering have really helped. One example – I had received an old trunk from my grandmother several years ago. She has since passed and it wasn’t going to find a spot in this new house. Sure I could have found a spot for it; but not in a decluttered ‘staged’ house and it didn’t suit our decor for this house. As the oldest of 5, I sent out an email to my parents and siblings that it was up for grabs (and to be kept in the family according to my dad) and I ended up doing a draw as 3 people wanted it.
We moved into our renovated house, and although we have some painting and trim that didn’t get done in time, we are concentrating on getting all the rooms decorated first ( I know, sounds backwards ) and have steadily been selling and donating items that aren’t going to work in this house. We would have been constantly moving things around if we had tried to finish absolutely everything first. When this stuff is out of the way we’ll have less to cover up and finish the touch ups.
Today’s Mini Mission
Fridge Declutter ~ Since everything is clean on the inside and out why not move the fridge out of it’s position today and clean underneath it. Perhaps if it is an old fridge it might be an idea to give the element on the back a bit of a vacuum.
What a great story. I have to agree that I have enjoyed the posts on this website and they help me stay motivated to keep things decluttered. Thanks Colleen and Cindy for all you do!
Colleen Madsen says
Hi Spendeisemom, it is entirely our pleasure.
Deb J says
I want to echo Spendwisemom in the kudos for the post and to Colleen and Cindy.
Debbie, I like your idea of decorating your new house and anything that doesn’t fit your new style goes. Thankfully, we don’t really have much in the way of passed on “treasures” so we can just declutter them freely. I took a few boxes worth to a friend’s yesterday for her garage sale.
Celebrate with me everyone. My mom says she wanted to declutter the kitchen! WooHoo!!!!
wooohooo! you are getting there!
Colleen Madsen says
Thanks Deb J,
It is a pleasure to be of help.
Good luck with the kitchen declitter Deb J. It seems every week now you mom has agreed to declitter something else. What progress soon she will be saying to you “What are you keeping that for? Do you really need it Deb?” Ha ha! And you will be complaining to us that you have created a monster. Here her!
That sounds painful Colleen 😉 (Was waiting for someone else to notice, but obviously I’m the only one with the filthy mind!)
Have a fabulous time in the US and I’m so glad you and Cindy got to meet up.
Wasn’t missed therefore I must be in your ‘mind club’ heehee!! 🙂 🙂 🙂
Colleen Madsen says
You are so cheeky Loretta. I am madly trying to answer as many comments as possible with what little spare time I have but you would think I would know how to spell declutter by now.
Oh now I see, the iPad did a predictive text on me and changed the word to declitter. I had better pay more attention I future. I also might look up declitter in the dictionary to see what it means 😆 It does sound painful.
Yahoo Deb J!!!
This is a great story! I have always kept my house in the kind of condtion she speaks of for the house for sale. People always assume it is a lot of work–when actually it is exactly as Debbie describes—much simpler, stress-free living. So many people asked that I now offer a service to help people acheive this style of living (here in Minnesota.) But your blog has helped me purge even further. I have a few areas that I “over-do-it” in….clothing, entertaining ware, decor etc. Now I have purged even more. Thank you.
Deb J says
That’s the way we keep ours too. the only problem is that behind the closed doors Mom still has more than we need. At least it is organized and put away. We had a couple come that we wanted to hire to do our cleaning since we can’t do it very well physically. They wouldn’t take it on because they said that our house was so clean they wouldn’t feel they were earning their money. Dusting, mopping, and running the vacuum weren’t enough. Even though we needed them to also clean the shower they said it just wasn’t dirty enough. People think we clean all the time and we don’t. We just have a place for everything and everything in it’s place. We also clean as we go. It’s much easier to keep the bathroom or kitchen clean if you quickly wipe up behind yourself. I HATE housework so will do anything I can to know have to do much of it.
Colleen Madsen says
You ar setting a great example for other Connie. Good for you!
your Mom’s kitchen—Woo-hoo Deb J!
Jennifer L. says
To Deb J. I think you are an amazing daughter! I hope your mother really appreciates you. I’m sure she does. Also, congratulations on the kitchen. I know how excited you are. I also do like you and your mom do. I clean as I go and never have to do any deep-cleaning and everyone who comes into my home thinks that I must be cleaning all the time. Not true! It just looks like it because there is no clutter. Not on the surface or anywhere else. Yet thanks to this blog and Colleen and Cindy and the readers, I am still inspired to find more to get rid of. I love this blog!
Deb J says
I love this blog too. It keeps me motivated and I so enjoy what everyone has to say.
Colleen Madsen says
Thanks Jennifer and we love all our wonderful readers who continue to inspire us to keep on writing.
I love Debbie’s story. I’ve always wanted to move into a new house and have everything boxed but accessible in the garage and not take it into the house until I needed it. It would be very fun to see what never left the garage.
I do however, resist the whole idea of decorating. While there may be the odd piece of furniture that doesn’t fit into a new floor plan, the things I treasure and love don’t change with my setting. I don’t get different art or different towels or dishes. I have what I like. There isn’t a theme to my house, like southwest or Mediterranean. My house probably doesn’t look as pulled together as it might, but it’s comfortable and I’m happy having friends over whenever.
I know people who will change their color schemes and buy new linens and dishes, vases and art, and change it all up as styles and designs are introduced. But it seems like a waste when the things I have are okay and not needing to be replaced anyway.
This isn’t really a comment on Debbie’s post, just something else that has been on my mind when people talk about “decorating”.
I agree with you on that. However, I like to think that as all the items I own match my taste, they also match each other in a way. 😀
That’s also, why “streamlined” houses for sale don’t look appealing to me. They look like hotels and I don’t feel comfortable in hotels.
Sanna, it’s interesting you don’t like hotels. I think many people model decluttered on the blissful minimalism of hotel rooms.
I’ve come to realise though, hotel rooms, don’t have pantries, or medicine cabinets, or reference books (other than the ubiquitous bible…). So I suppose, for bedrooms, maybe hotels are translatable, but not so easy for other areas.
Maybe that’s a reason, why I don’t really like them. They’re impersonal and they feature impersonal “decoration” (throw pillows on chairs noone really needs, art prints etc.).
I’m much more inspired by completely bare rooms or by simple homes or museums showing how people lived a few centuries earlier. It’s seeing that people actually made/make with one wall mounted shelf for all their dishes and taking in the beauty of these “just enough”-items that makes me feel calm. Also, I love how these simple homes make you look out of the window and take in the wider view of the surrounding nature and landscape. Hotel rooms with their over-abundant curtains, solely decorative mirrors or side-tables, manuals on how to use which gadget, plastic-wrapped mini-soaps etc. don’t seem “true” to me. I feel as if I was on stage in there. I feel slighty caged.
I was cleaning in a hotel when I was in school for years. In this there were 6 huge “hotel rooms” that were owned by people and they lived there permanently (we had to clean when they were gone for holidays sometimes). Those rooms were more like flats. One had 2 bathrooms and 3 rooms, huge balcony, etc… In two of the 6 you could still find the old hotel furniture, and the beds were still the same, but most of those rooms were turned into a individual home, with individual furniture, decoration, flowers, etc. as soon as you live in a place, you have your own style/deco immediately. usually people dont bring their decoration with them for a 2 weeks hotel stay (we had one lady who came with 4 moving boxes twice a year – she gave amazing tip ;-))
I never felt comfortable in a hotel room too. But thats probably because I have cleaned there and know in what state people are leaving a room sometimes. But still: I am aiming at my bathroom to look more like a freshly cleaned hotel bathroom. because I do have the space to place other things in the medicine cabinet, so I have the surface free.
Thank you for the inspiring post!
Wendy B says
Nice to find another Albertan on here (I live south of Camrose). We were in much the same position 5 years ago except we were building a new house while selling the old one. Our solution was a few months’ rental of a storage unit. Interestingly, we just received the internet listing of the old house and it is gratifying to see that it is much as we left it – not all junked up. Obviously the new owners liked it tidy and open and kept it that way (or they also rented a storage locker!)
I’m guessing that your reference to ‘decorating’ means painting and finishing, not filling the house with new stuff. My only concession to ‘decorating’ the new house was a few scatter rugs in kitchen and bathrooms, a few new towels and a shower curtain.
Wish you many good times in the new home. W
Debbie in Alberta says
Thanks for all the kind words on the article. I am still going through the process of listing items for sale and making trips to the thrift store; but as each room gets more finished it feels better and better.
I should clarify my idea of staging and decorating. I subscribe to a few blogs on minimalism; but many more on interior design which I enjoy reading (sort of like window shopping rather than actual shopping!) However, I’m not one that believes or has a need to have the latest and greatest. My husband and I have renovated several houses over the years and I have developed my own style which I would describe as classic. I’ve also been described as thrifty :)- and I like to mix garage sale items, antiques, and family items with quality new items. Most items whether it be pictures, furniture, or vases, etc. we’ve had for many years and they’ve worked in different rooms in different houses. I do very little shopping anymore because I like everything I have. I am fortunate that my mom sews and she has made me draperies and cushion covers which I have taken with us and used in several houses. The wall colour I have I’ve used in three houses now, so everything works and I like it. ( and I usually paint the whole house the same neutral colour ) I discovered a long time ago with renovating houses that if you keep the house true to it’s style and keep permanent items like cabinets neutral, not trendy, you can fill it with your furniture and other items and it will work. I agree with Dolores that trying to keep up with the trends is a waste and it’s also expensive.
Since having my ‘ah ha’ moment I realized that a lot of things we moved from house to house were extra pieces that we would always try to fit in. Things like an iron side chair that wasn’t comfortable; but was cool to look at and I had asked my husband to buy it for me several years ago at a flea market as my birthday was coming up. It’s moved many times; but I decided it was time to let it go. This blog has helped me really question why we have what we have and decide what stays and what goes. Less of the ‘extra’ stuff is what I found so peaceful in the staged house. So out it goes – and it feels good. Just wish there wasn’t so much of it!
Thanks again everyone.
Colleen Madsen says
Thank you again Debbie in Alberta for your great post. I enjoyed reading it again this evening. I appreciate you sharing it with the readers if my blog.
Another great post,
Thanks Debbie in Alberta, I am at the moment in the middle of selling our home and our realtor has told me after each viewing how nice the potential buyers found our home. Easy to navigate, was commented a few times, low maintenance, beautifully finished and so spacious! No negatives at all so just awaiting someone to have the finance ready
Everytime I walk in my door I try to look at it through someone else’s eyes and everytime I do that I want to buy my house! Our home is a small 3×2 (110sqm). The market is a little slow at the moment so it’s a bit of a pain, but I can have it tip top in under half an hour.
I’m half tempted to build again but then I really want to find ‘the one’. I’m hopeful 🙂 🙂 🙂
I do know that when the time comes to move, we’ll actually have a fraction of what we had to pack. Thank goodness 🙂 🙂 🙂
Thanks for sharing your story. I had a very similar experience when we put stuff in storage to get our old place ready to sell. When we moved to our new bigger place a lot of things have found alternate homes or been thrown out. I really appreciate the advice on this website with dealing with clutter as I enjoy the space in our new home and want to keep it that way. Made me smile about making the bed. I found our house looked so much better with beds made when it was on the market and had great intentions at this new place but 12 months later I’d have to say I’ve lapsed into my old not making the bed habits. Kept the more important decluttering ones though. LOL
I love this post. Great job!