or Connect
Mothering › Mothering Forums › Natural Living › The Mindful Home › Organize & Declutter › Decluttering in an Uncertain Economy
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Decluttering in an Uncertain Economy

post #1 of 41
Thread Starter 
I have been on the decluttering wagon for a long time. I admire people who lead very minimalist lives and have spartan homes, especially with kids. I definitely have to work at keeping our house decluttered, but I think I've gotten pretty good at it, all things considered. (Six people home all the time - 4 kids homeschooling and 2 adults working from home).

But I always find myself stopping short of decluttering useful things or things that I could see us needing or wanting as times get tighter. I'd like to talk about this. Sometimes I feel like I'm not a "good" declutterer, but then when I think of it in this context, my stuff makes sense.

The usual "decluttering wisdom" of "you can always replace it if you need it later" doesn't feel right to me in the current economy and environment. I want to consume less for a better planet, so I don't want to go out and re-buy something new if I already have one and think I may need or use it again in the future. I know from experience that you can't always find the thing you need secondhand when you need it. And with DH's long-term unemployment and tight finances, I just can't even guess at whether we'll be able to afford to replace the thing when we need it, or not.

So I have a garage full of stuff. I try to be careful about identifying "useful stuff" vs. "junk/clutter," but sometimes it has to hang around for a bit before I'm really sure it's clutter. There are a few things I have decluttered that I regretted because we needed them and if they had been in the garage it would have been so simple to fill that need immediately.

I do get it that you shouldn't pay for storage, or buy a bigger house than you need, to store your clutter. Downsizing is (ironically) not a financial option for us in this housing market, even though it is our wishful plan. So we have the storage space already, I keep it reasonably organized, I try not to keep anything unless I truly anticipate needing it or wanting it down the road, I keep track of what is in storage and weed it out periodically or bring out the now-useful things, etc.

I believe that the economy is going to continue its downward slide indefinitely and that most people are going to have to downsize their standards of living. I can even imagine that within our lifetime, possibly even with kids at home, there might be a time when we can't afford or reliably access utilities. So I have things in storage that aren't being used right now but that would be used under those circumstances, like an emergency water filter, oil lamps, solar battery chargers, etc. We have a woodstove that isn't currently installed but that I cannot think of getting rid of, because if we need to convert from oil to wood in a hurry, and we might at some point, we won't be able to afford to buy one. I have a trunk full of wool blankets that I inherited - if we were without heat or had to keep our house any colder than we do in winter, we would need them. I have extra gardening and canning supplies that I would need if we had to grow more of our own food. Those are just examples. I keep tubs of sorted hand-me-downs in future sizes for my kids. I hardly ever buy any clothes for them because I avail myself of things when they come along and then store them for future use. I have a tub where I put potential things to use as gifts or regifts. I have a tub for wrapping paper and bows, so we never have to buy any. We have some seasonal and sports equipment that we don't necessarily use every year or haven't used yet but probably will some year soon. I'd rather find it in my garage than be forced to go out and buy the equipment.

I think it's possible to be an avid declutterer and also a...not sure what to call it...someone who saves stuff in prudent anticipation of needing it. I think the problem comes when people save TOO much/many of something, or don't have a good storage system for keeping things tidy, or don't have the space for all they want to save, or don't have good judgment about what to keep and what to toss.

I'd like to hear from anyone who shares this perspective.
post #2 of 41
Well not sure that I have any advice, but we are right there with you.

We've decluttered stuff, to only have to turn around and buy it again at full retail price a few months later.

I've decieded that I need storage/ organizational solutions more so over decluttering solutions. Sure I've gotten rid of some stuff that was nothing more than clutter, but in the long run, we really need organizational solutions for our mindset of prepping.

No we don't have anything like 5 years of supplies, but we do keep stuff for the "what if" category.
post #3 of 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by amyamanda View Post
I have been on the decluttering wagon for a long time. I admire people who lead very minimalist lives and have spartan homes, especially with kids. I definitely have to work at keeping our house decluttered, but I think I've gotten pretty good at it, all things considered. (Six people home all the time - 4 kids homeschooling and 2 adults working from home).

But I always find myself stopping short of decluttering useful things or things that I could see us needing or wanting as times get tighter. I'd like to talk about this. Sometimes I feel like I'm not a "good" declutterer, but then when I think of it in this context, my stuff makes sense.

The usual "decluttering wisdom" of "you can always replace it if you need it later" doesn't feel right to me in the current economy and environment. I want to consume less for a better planet, so I don't want to go out and re-buy something new if I already have one and think I may need or use it again in the future. I know from experience that you can't always find the thing you need secondhand when you need it. And with DH's long-term unemployment and tight finances, I just can't even guess at whether we'll be able to afford to replace the thing when we need it, or not.

So I have a garage full of stuff. I try to be careful about identifying "useful stuff" vs. "junk/clutter," but sometimes it has to hang around for a bit before I'm really sure it's clutter. There are a few things I have decluttered that I regretted because we needed them and if they had been in the garage it would have been so simple to fill that need immediately.

I do get it that you shouldn't pay for storage, or buy a bigger house than you need, to store your clutter. Downsizing is (ironically) not a financial option for us in this housing market, even though it is our wishful plan. So we have the storage space already, I keep it reasonably organized, I try not to keep anything unless I truly anticipate needing it or wanting it down the road, I keep track of what is in storage and weed it out periodically or bring out the now-useful things, etc.

I believe that the economy is going to continue its downward slide indefinitely and that most people are going to have to downsize their standards of living. I can even imagine that within our lifetime, possibly even with kids at home, there might be a time when we can't afford or reliably access utilities. So I have things in storage that aren't being used right now but that would be used under those circumstances, like an emergency water filter, oil lamps, solar battery chargers, etc. We have a woodstove that isn't currently installed but that I cannot think of getting rid of, because if we need to convert from oil to wood in a hurry, and we might at some point, we won't be able to afford to buy one. I have a trunk full of wool blankets that I inherited - if we were without heat or had to keep our house any colder than we do in winter, we would need them. I have extra gardening and canning supplies that I would need if we had to grow more of our own food. Those are just examples. I keep tubs of sorted hand-me-downs in future sizes for my kids. I hardly ever buy any clothes for them because I avail myself of things when they come along and then store them for future use. I have a tub where I put potential things to use as gifts or regifts. I have a tub for wrapping paper and bows, so we never have to buy any. We have some seasonal and sports equipment that we don't necessarily use every year or haven't used yet but probably will some year soon. I'd rather find it in my garage than be forced to go out and buy the equipment.

I think it's possible to be an avid declutterer and also a...not sure what to call it...someone who saves stuff in prudent anticipation of needing it. I think the problem comes when people save TOO much/many of something, or don't have a good storage system for keeping things tidy, or don't have the space for all they want to save, or don't have good judgment about what to keep and what to toss.

I'd like to hear from anyone who shares this perspective.
I think you are a very wise woman.
post #4 of 41
I'm right there with all of you. I have a third room in my house that I could use as an office (I'm earning a degree from home.) I also have no real storage in my home. So I would rather have a clean, decluttered home with my office space in my bedroom than a seperate office, but random "stuff" all over the house.

The important thing, to me, is that if I've made a conscious decision to keep something I don't need right now - I remove it from our living space. I don't want to see it every day. I don't mind going to the spare room to get an item I've deemed needed, and I've organized it well so that I can find what I need.

I keep similar things to you - bigger clothes for ds, wrapping supplies, Xmas decorations, etc.

Every decluttered home I've ever seen online has had some sort of seperate, organized storage area. I can't remember who it was - Maybe the Chez Larsson blog? - that had built-in shelves in their basement that fit someething like 20 rubbermaid bins, and they had an inventory list to find what they needed.
post #5 of 41
We have never been so lucky as to acquire useful junk. All of ours is totally useless- crappy toys, old textbooks, etc.

I definitely keep the stuff we have that is/might be useful (like a selection of outgrown and/or too big kids clothes) but stuff like the pants that have been too small for DH for the entire 10 years I have known him, that he is supposedly going to lose weight to fit in again.... yah those had to go. If we are ever desperate I can sew him pants that fit properly from fabric I already have. But I can't see a point in time where I can't scrape together 4$ to buy him a pair of pants at the thrift store.
post #6 of 41
I lived with a "decluttering" mother, who was really just a throw anything away she didn't personally care about mother and then rebuy it a month later when she was forced (by the congregation or school) to see that her children really needed it.

As a result, I am not a fan of "declutter xxxx items in August!!!" types of things.

I very much agree with your outlook, and don't think it is anything you need to change. Ceasing to spend money on acquiring unecessary things is a good thing, as is keeping a neat house free of heaps of crap; beyond that, I will not be throwing out anything of any intrinsic value for which I have storage space.
post #7 of 41
The only problem I see with this is that it is often difficult to properly care for stored items. For me, I only store items that may be useful later if I can do so in an organized way, without taking up daily living space, and in a way that is easily accessed.
post #8 of 41
Amy Dacyczyn wrote a chapter about this in one of the TG books. Basically she said it's about finding the right balance between the cost of housing and the cost of goods, plus being super-organized about it. So when she lived in Boston, she kept stuff down to a minimum in order to stay neat in a small expensive urban apartment; now that she lives in a rural fixer-upper in Maine, she stores a lot in an organized fashion. Plus rural living requires owning more tools as you describe (if you have a yard, you need a mower, for example).

One thing in the current economy is that goods are disproportionately cheap and housing is disproportionately expensive, so it is much easier than it used to be to overbuy goods in relation to your available space. Something you might consider with getting rid of things that you think you might need but aren't sure, would be to sell them rather than throw them away. Does that make sense?
post #9 of 41
My husband has a great deal of things stored neatly in a small space, even though we both consider ourselves very anti-clutter. They are things that we use and could use in the future if we had to "make-do" in assorted ways. He's forever pulling out some useful scrap he's saved in order to make or fix something, or a useful tool. To me, that's not clutter. That's being thrifty and resourceful. The key is to keep it neat and to keep the piles from growing for no reason.
post #10 of 41
If you have space for it- and can find it when you need it- then I think thoughtful saving is fine

I always took the "buy a replacement" advice for inexpensive, easily replaceable things; like items under $10 or $20

I do agree with you, but I also think there are people who take this concept too far and bury themselves and their families in things they *may* use and never do or just plain have no room for it etc~

this does not seem to be the case with you though
post #11 of 41
I definitely think there is a fine line you can walk between having too much "just in case" and having barely anything just to be "simple". I strive to keep myself in a place where I balance my need for simplicity without having to re-buy things. I've found in my area that the thrift/consignment shops seem to have a VERY high turnover rate now and it is rarely hard to find things I want second hand. It makes me have to be much more aware when I'm decluttering that I might not be able to find a suitable replacement without buying new.

I am trying to focus on keeping my house decluttered of "stuff" but yet keep things we love and use or may possibly (realistically!) need. For example, I recently donated and sold a bunch of my extra craft supplies (fabric, notions, yarn, scrapbooking stuff). I only got rid of what I knew I wouldn't realistically use - I sold the things that were worth selling, put that $ in savings and donated the rest. I purposely did KEEP the things that I thought it would be important to "stash" away in case I wasn't able to easily buy them in the future. I only kept the ones that I thought I would be annoyed with myself later if I might have to rebuy them. Part of me wanted to just get rid of it ALL at that moment when I was decluttering and just buy items as I need them in the future. That just seems so wasteful and I admit I've done that in the past when I've decluttered too much. I decided to purposely not declutter to that point, because for some reason it just felt wrong to me with today's economy.

So yes I understand where you are coming from OP. I am *very* into simplicity and decluttering...but I do keep things that are useful or important for the future. My home is probably pretty sparse compared to the typical American family. I think the keys are to maintain organization, think about how hard it would be to replace something and to differentiate between "clutter" and useful items.

I've finally decided its okay to have SOME stuff and to quit trying to get rid of everything except what I need today, which has been the philosophy that seems to run wild on forums like this. I have a family of 6 (we are homeschoolers as well) and we will never be one of those families that literally has an almost bare home like I've heard of some people having through MDC. Stuff is okay, just be choosey
post #12 of 41
OP, I'm pretty much of the same mindset. I've been decluttering a lot lately, but I do try to keep those practical things that I think will be used someday. I am doing my best to make a distinction between things that hold up well and things that will deteriorate- those kind of things I make myself give away.

Right now, we have a spare bedroom in the house that these things are kept in. It will eventually be a kid room, but by that time, I hope to have enough of the truly unnecessary stuff gone from our house to free up storage space in other areas. There's a LOT of unnecessary stuff that needs to go (including big things like my treadmill that hasn't been used since I had little ones), so I don't think space will be such an issue once I've decluttered the entire house.
post #13 of 41
I think if your mindset works for you and your family, you should go with it!

For us, because we rent, we stay fairly minimalistic. I have two shelves in my linen closet that store 'extra' this or that. I dedicated those for that purpose, and am happy with that. We also have two rubbermaids in our walk-in closet which contain camping/hurricane supplies since we live in a very hurricane prone area and camp anyway.

We feel that if the economy got so bad that things couldn't be found at thrift stores, traded, borrowed, bartered, or worked for; or in a situation where we couldn't afford to buy things, we would most likely become nomadic since we do rent and do not own our home. In that case, having minimal things would be more of an asset.

I don't declutter to the point where I have had to rebuy things, that has happened maybe once or twice. However, I don't store clothing for dd years ahead or anything, unless it is a special circumstance like seeing a brand new coat at 90% off clearance that will fit her next winter for example. I may do that.

I think acquiring skills, knowledge, and positive community connections will be of more value to us in extremely dire economic circumstances, personally.

I certainly don't condemn your mindset at all! It seems like it works and helps you feel at ease which is always a good thing It's just in our situation (renters without a lot of space to begin with) minimalism with an eye toward the skills mentioned above works better for us.
post #14 of 41
Along these lines (hopefully this isn't off-topic), has anyone read _Depletion and Abundance: Life on the new home front_ by Sharon Astyk? This book touches on a lot of these topics, including emergency preparedness but also things like building community as Tumble Bumbles mentioned. I highly recommend it.
post #15 of 41
I've never gotten rid of anything I've later regretted, and I get rid of a LOT of stuff.

I'm certainly not arguing with you though. I completely agree. I think it just takes deciding very carefully about what you are about to declutter. With clothes, I never throw out anything that I wear regularly. If I find that it is sitting in my closet for ages, and I can't reuse the fabric for making something, then out it goes. Same with just about everything else I declutter.

If I am having a hard time deciding what to keep and what to toss, I wait a week. It either gets easier to throw out, or I think of a use for it.

I saved a bag of fabric scraps for months. Most of them were teeny tiny scraps (ie, under 6 inches square) and although I could think of a few uses for them, I didn't need an entire bag full of them, so I tossed them. All of them. If I need a 2 inch square scrap of fabric, I can cut it off of something else.

But some people take this too far. I read (on another forum) of a guy tearing the sharp strips off of the aluminum foil box "just in case" he needed them later. What on earth for? I can't think of a time when I would need a strip from an empty foil box, because 1) I'm probably going to have access to my knives/saws/tools/scissors in any scenario that involves me also having access to my supply of sharp strips, and 2) should such a scenario arise where the only tool that would suffice is a sharp strip from a foil box, I can rip it off a foil box that still has foil in it.

So yeah. I think it's a fine line to walk.
post #16 of 41
We, too, keep a lot on hand that we don't currently need, and maybe have not needed in the past six months, but anticipate needing sometime in, say, the next five years. And we, too, are actively working on decluttering. For me, there is a big difference between being decluttered and being a minimalist. I am in no way a minimalist.

But I do think it's even more important to be decluttered and organized when you are holding onto things that you might find yourself needing in the future. That way, when the time comes that you do need a specific item you have kept around for months or years, you a) know you have it and b) know where you've kept it.

Personally, though, I've also been trying to be a little harder on myself and parting with more than I used to. I have Freecycled and donated so much recently, some things that I might very well end up needing at some point in the future. Call me optimistic, but I am relying on karma. I have passed items on to be used by someone else who needs them at this point in time, rather than keeping them idle and in storage for an indefinite amount of time. My hope is that when I find myself in need of these items or similar items in the future, I will find myself on the receiving end of someone else's generosity.
post #17 of 41
I think it is a good idea to keep things that you can see yourself use in the future. Do you do an inventory to see what you have and what condition it is in? Things can rust, rot, get moth eaten, and engines can seize.
post #18 of 41
I'm of two minds about this. On one hand, I see the merit in keeping things that you may need/use down the road. For one, it's just less wasteful. You already own it, now you don't need another later be it used or new. And often it's just much easier on the psyche, just like simplicity and decluttering is about. I know that I feel/breathe easier knowing that my dd always has clothes a size or two up because those growth spurts happen in an instant. I feel much more at ease about possibly getting pregnant knowing we've held onto much of our baby items.

However, I don't think that you should hold onto things out of fear. I'm not saying that you are, but I think that a lot of people do. People that aren't even necessarily hoarders do this. If you think about your stuff excessively, ask yourself why. If you're questioning whether or not you should own what you do, question it. I know from personal experience that people can have a huge emotional investment in the material possesions they have (and not in a greedy way either). When I was very poor I had a lot of seconds of items, a lot of things I probably didn't use but kept just in case, etc. (I was a dumpsterdiver, so it wasn't like I was spending the money on it.) Later on, looking back, I kept those things as security blankets. I didn't NEED a hundred vhs's though just because we didn't have tv access and I wanted/needed occasional entertainment!
post #19 of 41
I think decluttering can be taken to extremes like everything else. Also it seems to be such a popular and 'in' movement nowadays, probably just a reaction from all the consumerism of past years.

There is and should be a balance in decluttering. Also it's not for everybody. Just because some people are getting rid of 237372944932 bags of clutter doesn't mean that everybody else has the same need and should get rid of things in a wasteful manner.

I have taken decluttering too far in the past and needed to rebuy stuff I got rid of. It didn't break the bank but I hated the feeling. Now I am more careful and try to plan better for eventual future use. Like a PP said, I wouldn't need the sharp thingy from the foil box, but I might need the extra knife in the junk drawer at a later time, if only to give it to someone else in need of a sharp knife .

In the end it's a very personal matter and choice. You need to keep what makes and will make your life easier/comfortable and you need to get rid of the stuff that stays in the way of you living a good life.
post #20 of 41
I agree that you can't be keeping things out of fear- that is when it becomes unhealthy. Also, I look at it this way- if I have a house full of things I "might" need and due to circumstances ( say the whole economy collapses and my neighborhood becomes violent- you can go wherever you want with "circumstances") am not able to stay in said house, how useful will all those things be? I feel that if I am keeping unused things and there are people who truly need them now, that is being selfish. I do not want to live n fear. Prudent is one thing, fear another. Penelope June, if you have fabric scraps, there are often quilting groups that are happy to have them if they are cotton.
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Organize & Declutter
Mothering › Mothering Forums › Natural Living › The Mindful Home › Organize & Declutter › Decluttering in an Uncertain Economy