The Importance of Honesty

Cindy’s Weekly Wisdom

On April 13, Ideealistin wrote:  You asked for the readers’ ways of decluttering without even trying. Mine is … honesty! Once I managed to admit to myself that I am not the fancy sort of cook, guess what happened: The kitchen almost decluttered itself. I am sure this will work in other areas of my home as well – as soon, as I am ready to let go of some more misconceptions about myself …

This got me to thinking, as well: if I were more honest, what could I release?

Well scrapbook materials, that’s for sure. Even at the height of my involvement with scrapbooking, I thought it was a ridiculous hobby. Other people would say, “Oh, I’ve wanted to get into scrapbooking” and I would reply, “Don’t.” Does that even make sense? I spent so much time and money per page that it seemed completely foolish. Now I do want to say that when I look back on the scrapbooks, I think they’re really terrific, but here’s a secondary confession. Not a single one of them is completely finished. Not one. I have a supply tower of scrapbook supplies that’s 9 drawers high and a large accordion file of papers in our art closet. I won’t let the girls use these supplies. I (dis)honestly think that I might scrapbook again someday. Or, more likely (but still not very likely), I will complete some of the scrapbooks, all of which are mostly done.

What else? My eldest daughter has diabetes. I used to be a great baker, and I really enjoyed it, but all baking came to an end on the day of her diagnosis. (While it’s true that diabetics can eat sweets, in general we have decided it’s not worth it.) I have a fair amount of baking equipment and certainly more pans than I need. Should I declutter some of them? Maybe. I must say, I am reluctant because I have room to store them without being at all overloaded, and someday, not all that far in the future, the girls will be setting up household elsewhere and could take a few pans with them. Perhaps this is just another layer of rationalization, but for now I’ll keep them.

I posed this question to my husband. He immediately offered that he could probably declutter half of his office bookshelf. He says that he keeps a lot of the books around for reference, but in truth, he keeps them around more because they reflect the engineer he would like to be rather than the engineer that he is. The same with his project box. (I didn’t even know about this!) He enjoys robotics and thought that our daughters would enjoy fiddling with these things as well. However, bringing honesty into the equation, neither girl is very interested in electronics or robotics, and by his own (honest) assessment, Dan could probably move 2/3 of this stuff along.

Take five minutes, maybe even look around your house, and tell me: If you were completely honest about the type of person you are and the life you really live, what could you declutter?

Today’s Declutter Item

One less time waster in the house.

Computer Game

My Gratitude List

  • Something that makes me laugh ~ When you know what mischief is going on in your loved one’s head and you beat them to the punch line. My poor husband is starting to think I can read his mind.
  • Something Awesome ~ The pretty dove or pigeon I that suns itself on the roof of my neighbours shed. I has a lovely speckled stripe around it’s neck.
  • Something to be grateful for ~ Living in a position that is so handy to a lot of things especially since I don’t have the car most days.
  • Something that makes me happy ~ Meeting people and learning about their lives.
  • Something I find fascinating ~ How little we need when it all boils down to it.

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

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  1. Cindy, this is so good and so true. If we are honest with ourselves there are many things we could do without. I have about 40 scrapbooks of various sizes. No one looks at them. I have no one to leave them to. Why did I do them? Why am I still scrapbooking? I will tell you why? Because I’m addicted to all of it and I also feel guilty. I really love to make cards though and I use them for every occasion. If I am honest then, I need to stop buying so much and start getting rid of even more of what I have. I do think I will scrapbook a page occasionally to create a memory of an event or something like that. But I don’t think I will be making more albums. I have plenty of space in the ones I already have.

    • I know from personal experience that even if you have someone to leave your albums to, that doesn’t mean they’ll look at them. 40 albums really is a lot though. If you love it, keep doing it, but you could resist buying more supplies. Challenge yourself to use 3 elements per page that you already own. If you find an embellishment that you really don’t care for any more, do a local preschool a favor and pass it on. You’ll feel less guilt, and they’ll feel grateful.

  2. I keep very simple scrapbooks after being involved in the craziness. You can see them here.

    They are just 81/2 x 8 1/2 with plain colored paper. I switched to just black paper when my kids hit their teens. One picture per event (or maybe sometimes 2)
    Easy, simple, minimalist. I love them! And the pictures are the focus….not the lovely page decorations.


    • Love your album Jana. I highly recommend everyone give this site a quick peek. My friend Holly does something similar, and one big difference between she and I is that the photos she wants to keep are actually in albums! My youngest keeps asking if we can print out picture “on shiny paper” because that seems like such a rare treat to her.

  3. Great info & reminders! I got rid of almost all of my vintage clothing over the past several months, because while I loved the patterns, they all fit weird and were awful polyester that felt very uncomfortable. I was honest with myself that I wasn’t willing to suffer for fashion!!! I also got rid of several expensive (for me) home design books when I honestly admitted I was over those styles and didn’t even want my home to look that way!

    I think this is just about the most important thing to remember while decluttering: be honest about who you are, not who you want to be, or might someday be. You can be that person and get the accoutrements that go along with it when you are ready!

    • I have some vintage clothes that my mother made. Since she weighed less than 100 pounds for most of her adulthood, there’s no chance I could wear them, but my closet isn’t overstuffed, and I’m hanging onto them. Good for you for knowing when to let go.

  4. Good advice to enable us to free ourselves of the things we won’t use and, in many cases, no longer even WANT to use. The expectations become a burden instead of a joy, and so does the paraphernalia that goes along with them. Great post, Cindy.

  5. This is something my husband and I were talking about this past weekend and we actually ended up decluttering a large part of our bookshelf (the last one we had left, considering we used to fill up 4 of them).

    This is also something I *tell* myself I do often but maybe I’m still kidding myself in some areas. I suppose I should re-evaluate, huh?

    Thanks for this thought-provoking entry!

    (Also, did you post this in HTML or WYSIWYG editor?)

    • Interesting that you and your hubby were just discussing this. I was surprised how very quickly my husband came up with answers when I posed the question to him.

      As for the blog and its crazy spacing, I was using WYSIWYG. (Or Not G in this case.)

  6. Popping back in – I’ve been a bit quiet the last few weeks, though definitely still reading everyday. I’m going through a period of reflection at the moment as to how I want to spend my time having now created space for new things to happen having decluttered so much.

    It is realistic to expect we will be in constant state of change of who we are and how we express that, so it is good to shine the spotlight of honesty on current and past hobbies,clothes and activities every so often.

    Thanks to Jana for her post – I have never really understood what the much talked about hobby of scapbooking actually was, so am now enlightened!

    Thanks for the post Cindy – dispite your layout problems it was still very easy to read.

  7. I hear you on this one. The amount of ” fancy frocks ” I have/had. I truly thought I was Carrie Bradshaw,actually I truly ‘ wished ‘ I was Carrie Bradshaw. Now I know I am pleased with who I am, and that jeans, comfy boots and a singlet are the best thing for me. Thanks for such an insightful post 🙂

    • Great I’m glad you’ve seen your true self. Frankly, there’s no way to be Carrie Bradshaw without Jessica Parker’s salary!

  8. Great post, Cindy, about honesty. What do I need to honestly get rid of? This is a tough one to try and write into words (or even speak of)…it’s really my honesty towards letting go of maintaining a certain ‘image’ that I think I have to portray, when in fact, just honestly being more simple and minimal is what makes me happy, and honest, and healthy, and real! 🙂

  9. …and in all honesty, I’m WAY behind on this weeks mini-missions (major procrastination and lasiness have slammed me to the chair in front of the computer playing solitaire…ahummm). Today in this country it is RAINING (jab that weather report in here…), a good time now for me to mini-declutter!

    • Tell you what, Annabelle, I would run naked around the block with joy if it would rain here. Although it seems to be raining or flooding everywhere in the US, nearly every inch of Texas is in a drought, and we have not had a soaking rain in more than 6 months!

      For years I wanted to be the kind of woman, like my mother, who was always nicely made up and change handbags to match her outfit everyday. I knew I wasn’t that women, but it took me years to accept that I never would be either. Because frankly if I *really* wanted to be that, I would be, wouldn’t I?

      • The forecast says a storm later but I don’t believe it. 🙁 It was supposed to storm yesterday, too. (I’m in Houston.)

        • Raining in Austin right now Lynn for the first time in more than 6 months. 1.5 inches so far. Hurrah!!!!! Hope some comes your way too.

  10. What a fantastic post. Thank you, Ideealistin, for bringing it out to our attention and thank you Cindy for giving it more space – yes, honesty is crucial. I too have decluttered a lot of my cookbooks and I had refrained from buying more on this basis. Not that I don’t like to cook, but not as much as before and my lifestyle is different now. I simply don’t need them all.

    My honesty was about clothes too. I cleared my wardrobe of many things I could not wear for various reasons. I’m now shopping smarter and always for my body and lifestyle as it is now.

    I love your husband’s honesty too – I do believe we tend to keep far too many books or hobby materials that reflect what we want to be, which is OK in itself, but deep down we know we won’t come around to use all of them again.

    Cindy, please let your girls use your art materials. Keeping it is like saving your best jewellery for something special – and by the time that something special does happen, you can easily forget you have that piece in your collection because you love something completely different. I had recently started wearing my pearl necklace – after it had been sitting in the drawer for almost 9 years having been worn on my wedding day only. Now I feel glamorous and enjoy it whenever I want. I think having stuff that we do hold on to is about that – enjoying them.

    Great post. I’m sure if I go through each room or each area of my life, I’ll find something else to be honest about.

    • Thanks for your praise Ornela. I thought Ideealistin’s comment was a real piece of insight, as well.

      I hear what you’re saying about letting the girls use my supplies, but I’m not ready to let them go yet. I am almost done with my 365 days of decluttering, and I am tossing around the idea of taking on a similar challenge to get all my photographs into some kind of order. Why have them if I’m the only person who even knows where they are on the computer? If I do that, finishing the albums will be part of the challenge. The girls will burn through the supplies, and I absolutely do not want to have to buy anything else to complete the albums.

  11. Hi Cindy!

    I called this phenomenon Living the Life You Have

    Of course, having written about it doesn’t mean I have achieved it! This is a timely reminder, and my big honesty has to be the sewing machine + table that was my grandmother’s. I am not going to suddenly start loving sewing. While it might be handy to have a small machine that I can do repairs with and teach my kids to sew with, I should not have a permanent sewing machine table in our house.

    • A sewing table – that’s a big item. Old machines can be quite good, often better than new machines. Perhaps you could do something else with the table and keep the machine in a more out-of-the-way place.

      • Hi Cindy,

        Interesting ideas, but that sort of thinking is what keeps my house cluttered! I don’t need another little table and the top of the table would just continue to attract clutter.

        I’d much prefer somebody who loves sewing use it for its intended purpose.

    • My eldest daughter loves marbles too.

  12. Cindy, This is a great post. I’m sitting here looking around my house wondering where my dishonesty is hiding. Wool? I’m a knitter and spinner and wool is the favored fiber of most of us. The problem for me is, honestly, I live in California where wearing wool just doesn’t happen much. Another area of intention is the file cabinet. Do I really need those files of lesson plans for classes I’m sure I’ll never teach again? I worked so hard on those lessons and I don’t want to have to do that again IF I were to teach, say, US History in the future. (Huh, who am I kidding? I wouldn’t even use the same book or curriculum!) And I’m not even going to think about the boxes of photos until summer break!

    • Do you sell your woolens on Etsy or give them away, because it does seem counterintuitive to continue using wool when you live in such a temperate climate.

      As for the lesson plans: if you’re not ready to release them yet, perhaps they could be scanned and stored on the computer. That way they don’t continue to take up physical space, but you still have access to them.

      Being truly honest can be hard, can’t it?

    • When I left teaching six years ago I had no idea if it would be temporary or permanent, so I just kept everything – including class sets of worksheets that I hadn’t used. Four years later I’d had a baby, we were trying for another one, and hoped for at least one more after that. It was going to be at least TEN YEARS before I returned to teaching, and I’m not even sure I ever will. So far I’ve cut down my teaching materials from five boxes to two and a half, but one of those is a box of percussion instruments (which I occasionally use for playgroup). The remainder is in my sights to further cull, and it will have to be genuinely irreplaceable/invaluable to be allowed to stay in the box!

      • I’m starting to think that keeping teaching materials might be like keeping clothes you’ve outgrown in case you’re ever that size again. If you do lose the weight (go back to teaching), wouldn’t you want / need different clothes (materials)?

  13. Hi Cindy–wonderful, spot-on post, very much after my own heart. Honesty first creeps up when we go through the closet and sort things into keep, donate, and trash piles. Seeing what we actually need and use is a sort of wake-up call, almost like taking an honest look in the mirror. But when we consider things we’ve collected, like your scrapbooking supplies, it’s a different dialectic, because those are not the things we wear or use in our everyday lives like our clothes or our cooking utensils. It takes the honesty-and-owning relationship to a whole new level, and enables one to go from that to looking at the larger world and what makes it tick. Or at least it does for me.

    I agree with Ornela–let your daughters use the scrapbooking supplies. In their unbridled and fresh enthusiasm they might well create things you will truly treasure the rest of your days!

    • Thanks Meg. If you’ll read my response to Ornela, you’ll see I’m still resisting letting the girls at the supplies.

      I should probably add too that they go to a wonderful school with a fantastic art teacher, so I have absolutely no lack of creative and beautiful artwork from them.

  14. OK, Cindy, what about the person you _want_ to be, or are _growing_ to be? What if you just want to have something around to inspire you to be a better you? Just a question that I thought of when I read that your husband had books for the engineer he wanted to be rather than the one he was. Why limit oneself? But your point–to be honest about holding on to stuff–is well put.
    I really laughed when you “confessed” about scrapbooking…telling people “Don’t” when they said they wanted to get into it. I never got into it, but I always WANTED to. I just never had enough room to spread the stuff out. I had too much other junk. Now, beads, those are my downfall. I rarely buy them anymore, but I can’t seem to let them go…

    • Well JanetW, let me first start off by repeating “Don’t get into scrapbooking!”

      That said, what you’re taking about is what we call Aspirational Clutter – clutter that in some way defines what you would like to be. I’d say, if you aspire to be that and start using the clutter as tools to become that thing – great. Otherwise, it’s just stuff you bought and now have to clean, maintain, and store while it taunts you about not doing or being what you aspire to be or do.

      My husband is a fantastic engineer and well known outside of his own company for his expertise in audio (sound) engineering. He’s well into his career, and there’s just no chance he’s suddenly going to become a visual-processing engineer or a software designer. He’s well down this particular career path and changing isn’t realistic or desireable, because it’s not that he doesn’t want to be the engineer he is, it’s just that he wants ot be several other kinds as well. There’s a phrase I recently learned that applies to his situation: You can be anything you want, but you can’t be everything you want.

      • Cindy, I love that sentence: “You can be anything you want, but you can’t be everything you want.” I am fighting that all the time. There are so many things that interest me yet I can’t do them all and give any of them justice. Drives me nuts.

        What I am doing is looking at each “want” on the list and asking myself several questions: 1. If I take up this particular thing what does it do for me/for others? 2. Is doing this worth giving up something else (because I don’t have time to do another thing)? 3. Do I need to buy a lot of supplies in order to do this (cost in time and space)? 4. Have I tried this and made sure that I would even like doing it long term?

        After asking these questions about scrapbooking I have realized that I no longer want to scrapbook just to make pretty things. I want the scrapbooks to showcase my life which is simple and quiet and cozy. I don’t need a room full of supplies and lots of time to do that. Thus the decluttering. It’s freeing.

      • “You can be anything you want, but you can’t be everything you want.”

        That is such a great saying! I need to put that in big print and stick it in multiple places in my house. It’s a constant battle for me.

  15. Hi. Been away, am back. I had a load of plaster figures to paint. I talked about them in one of my first posts here. It stayed in my house because I “hoped” that I would paint again. Painting never came and the tools and plaster figures became clutter. So I gave myself permission to let it all go. I realised that I would never be an “artistic” person again. That time had gone. So I let the stuff go with it.

  16. I have a box of virtually unread gardening books that I’ve listed online to sell: I thought I wanted to be a gardener, when really I just like gardens, and to have just a little plot of vegies.
    I also have a bagful of wool because I wanted to knit, even though I live in the tropics.
    My kitchen has been decluttering itself since I worked out that I don’t want to be a gourmet cook and baker, I just want to cook healthy fresh food that tastes nice.
    And your scrapbooking story sounds an awful lot like mine.

    My honesty with myself is giving me more time and motivation to do the things I want to do – writing words and writing music. With two little kids I don’t have enough time to do those things, let alone the things that I’m just doing out of obligation.

  17. Oh great – now I trigger a post and get to read it when it is “over”. However: Loved it, Cindy! It is always interesting to see different takes on the same subject. I guess that is why so many like to return. Me included.

    • Thanks for the compliment, and look out! You inspired tomorrow’s post as well.

      • I am glad Ideealistin came along because if I remember she had inspired a couple of my posts as well. Keep those comments coming in Ideealistin.

  18. My guitar and my electronic keyboard…I don’t play them anymore because I don’t have time nor the will to do it, but I keep them “just in case” and because it’s boring to sell stuff….
    Thank you Ideealistin and Cindy: I’m definitely going to think seriously about it, I’m going to try to be HONEST….