Day 363 Stick Your Toe in the Water

Cindy’s Weekly Wisdom

The Fear: What if I need it? What if I want it? What if I use it more than I think I do?

It’s real. I know it is. If you can’t jump in, at least stick your toe in the water. It’s fine. You’ll see.

My kitchen is pretty lean and mean, but one day something got cock-eyed in the measuring cup drawer, and I had to jerk with all my might. That made me take another look at what was in the drawer. I had two full sets of measuring cups, plus a couple of unmatched cups and the same with the measuring spoons. As I said, I consider my kitchen to be lean and mean, “just right” if you will, so I wasn’t sure I could part with anything in there. On the other hand, that did seem like a lot of measuring tools. I took out all the duplicates and put them on a pretty tray by the toaster oven – still in the kitchen, not looking too cluttery, and right at hand if I wanted them back. A couple of weeks passed, and I took a good look at what was on the tray. I took back one little measuring cup and put the rest in the thrift store bag. At first I was only able to stick my toe in the water, but a few weeks later, I was able to jump.

When I decluttered the pantry (which I discussed back on day 349), I moved the broom and mops to the laundry room. I planned to hang them on the back wall, so initially I just leaned them there, as I had no hooks. I quickly realized that I would rather hang them where the ironing board hangs. This is a full-size ironing board; we have a smaller one built into our bathroom wall, and my husband uses it daily. I hadn’t planned on decluttering the ironing board. It hangs neatly in an out-of-the-way location, and I use it occasionally. (Very occasionally.) I leaned the broom and mops by the ironing board and confirmed that I liked this location for them much better, but there wasn’t room for them and the ironing board. This was my moment of putting my toe in the water. I left them leaning there, and every time I went into the laundry room I wondered if I would regret getting rid of the ironing board. The fact that I didn’t consider moving the board to a different location was my first clue that I could live without it. A few more weeks passed, I got hooks for the broom and mops, and I very much like them in their new location. The ironing board, I realized, I could live without.

My give-away bag acts as a bit of a safety net too. While most of the time, it’s a one-way ticket to the thrift store, very occasionally, I’ve pulled something back out of the bag. You can give yourself permission to do this too, so long are you’re not undermining your efforts with a frequent in-then-out. If magazines and newspapers are your clutter downfalls, you can use your recycling bin as a safety net. Go ahead and “store” your problem paper items in the basket. When it’s time to empty it, well, you obviously didn’t really need those things anyway.

It’s ok to try before you purge, so come on it; the water’s fine!

Item 363 of 365 less things

I rather like these boots but they are coming apart in the from seam and repairing them isn’t an option. I will donate them though because maybe someone won’t be as fussy as me.


5 Things I am grateful for today

It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow.

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  1. Absolutely brilliant. My husband suffers terribly from ‘what if’ syndrome; I call it the poverty mentaility. Your story about sorting your kitchen drawer is the perfect example of how we really don’t need so much stuff. I took boxes of stuff from the attic back in Sept and asked DH if he could sort them (because he REALLY needs them after 10 years of being in the attic) by the beginning of December. Guess what? Yes, they are still there unsorted.

    If they were mine they would all be ditched, but I have a suspicion when I ask to reclaim the space they’ll go back up in the loft

    • This might not be of benefit to you, but you might try reassuring your husband repeatedly that you are going to help him with no judgment. Open the first box, and go through it one thing at a time, “Do you need it? Do you want it (Well, you might skip this one.) When will you use it again?” etc. If he wants it, put it back in. That’s how I help the kids with their rooms, although they’re pretty good about letting go. With my own spouse, I do tend to feel more annoyed when he can’t see the wisdom of my counsel. Nonetheless, it might be worth a try. Obviously your husband can’t be left alone with his own boxes!

      • I had another thought. Recently someone here wrote that she tended to hoard/overstock food, and her husband had reminded her that she could let the grocery store keep her food for her – it didn’t all have to be stored at her house. (Poverty mentality again.) Maybe some kind of conversation along these lines might work for you, as well.

    • Hi Mrs Green,
      every time I hear about husbands who won’t let go of things I thank my lucky stars that mine is as into this decluttering as I am. I am sure yours makes up for it in so many other ways though!

      • thanks ladies; well I have taken one step forward – DH has agreed to let me help him sort through his wardrobes (closet) – he’s been saying no to this for 10 years; but today he finally admitted he needed a little support – yehaa! (the guy has more clothes and shoes than me, but don’t tell him I said that 😉 )

        Clothes today, attic items tomorrow 😉

        • Hi Mrs Green,
          I so look forward to hearing how the great “husband stuff” declutter went. Sometimes they need a little extra encouragement and assistance. Good luck!

        • Fantastic Mrs. Green! What a big step forward for him. How did it go?

          With my husband, who has a much, much larger wardrobe than me, we tried passive decluttering. I turned all the hangers around about 4 months ago. When the cold weather ends, we’ll see what is still hanging on a wrong-way-round hanger.

          • Love the turning the hangers around idea. I read somewhere that whenever you put your clothes back in the wardrobe, you should put them down one end. That way the clothes you don’t wear with drift down to the other end and you will know what to get rid of. Problem is, once you start putting the clothes you regularly wear down one end, it becomes the easy option end and you don’t make the most of your wardrobe. Turning the hangers around, however, gets rid of this problem.

          • Isabella, I guess it’s not surprsing, but the clothes that are on the hangers backwards have migrated to the ends on the racks.

  2. This is an excellent post! I do the same thing when I declutter sometimes, only my “staging area” tends to be on top of the freezer we have in the kitchen.

    I start making a pile on the freezer of things that I’m planning to send out the door. Once in awhile I end up taking something out of the pile to keep, but it doesn’t happen often.

    I use our recycling bins the way you do though, putting in paper, magazines, and books that I plan to send out the door. That always allows a few days to see whether or not something will be needed from there.

    For those of you who are just starting to declutter, I think it really does get easier to let things go. After awhile, it’s so nice to have that light, airy space that you won’t want it to be cluttered, and you’ll actually find yourself looking around for things that you can pass along. 🙂

    • Great ideas Becky. You’re sure right about the “light airy space.” The girls and I have been doing an intensive decluttering over the holidays, and none of us can believe how much more open and clean their rooms look. It’s absolutely wonderful.

      So that no one gets overwhelmed, we took a small section at a time. Literally, the nightstand, and done for the day. Then the bedding, animals on the bed, and anything lurking under the bed. Next day, everything on the walls, etc. It’s been fabulous to have little bites to work on.

  3. Cindy, another great detailed example of how this process works! I like the details because it shows exactly how to work through an issue and then I can apply it to my own area that I’m struggling with.

    I agree with Becky’s comment to new declutterers, that it gets easier to let things go. I would never have thought a year ago that I could get rid of anything in my house; I was overwhelmed by “I might need it” and “I might use it” and didn’t even know where to start. I decided to start with the worst part of our house – our bedroom closet, so bad that our kids nicknamed it the Bermuda Triangle, because once something went in, it was never seen again. I had to WRITE DOWN everything that was in it and take the time to THINK about what I wanted to do with it. The first thing to go was a foam mattress pad that was stretched and unusable but I was keeping “just in case” I could use parts of it. I put it in a garbage bag for the landfill. It sounds crazy, but that was a hard thing for me to do, because I constantly feel guilty about contributing to environmental problems. But I was desperate, so I did it. The next thing to go from the closet was clothing. I donated several bags, then more and more (my daughter and I had gone through several sizes in the past decade). I’ve now moved on to books – donated some and have several boxes ready to take to the used book store for credit.

    Like Cindy and Becky mentioned, having an area where the stuff leaving the house can stay for a bit does truly help me. It’s kind of a safety net for my decisions. I have only once pulled an article back out of a bag, and I have not regretted anything I got rid of. It’s nice to hear that other people are using and enjoying some of the things that I gave away, and it’s so nice to have some space back in my house. I ‘m still working on the first sweep through the house, but I’m far ahead of where I was just a year ago. I consider myself lucky to have stumbled on Colleen’s blog, because it was really the first I had considered that it’s okay to do it a little at a time, and that has made so much difference.

    Looking forward to continuing the process in 2011. Happy decluttering, everyone!

    • Hi Jo,
      nice comment and an inspiration to others. It is real life stories like this and the ones that Cindy writes about each week that really speak to those who are just starting out or are frustrated with their progress. Thank you for sharing. I am glad the go slow approach is working for you. It sure has worked for me.

  4. All words of wisdom Jo. The only thing I have to add is how nice it is to know that other people are using our former things. At first it was very, very hard for me to give our hand-me-downs to the neighbors. I had all kinds of stingy thoughts that I am not too proud of(“They can afford their own clothes. Why am I outfitting them?” etc.). Then I saw one of the girls wearing an outfit that I had just loved. It gave me such happiness to see neighbors girls whom I adore romping around in clothes that I had loved so much on my own children. That was a reward in itself!

  5. I have ‘what if need it or want it?’ thoughts about a lot of my things so I have a box in the hall for all items I’m either considering getting rid of or definitely. I leave them there a while to get used to thinking of them as being on their way out. I’ve taken a few things out of it and even sometimes taken the same things out and in again! I sometimes put something in it to see what it feels like because I know that I’m not ready to give up but need to. But I have found myself getting rid of some of these same items and not regretting it. Sticking our toes in the water is a great idea.