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How do you figure out what's enough?

post #1 of 24
Thread Starter 
Okay, my new year's resolution to myself is to simplify my life, my house, and my spending. When we moved into this house, we didn't have enough stuff to fill 1/3 of it (well, our former house was 1/3 the size!). Now, the house is bursting with "stuff", and I am so sick and tired of the clutter and the excess. There are currently 4 hampers full of dirty clothes that haven't been washed in I don't know how long, and we don't even miss those clothes : I went through the pantry and cupboards today and threw away 3, 13 gal bags of stuff away (old cookies, stale stuff, smushy potatoes, etc).

How do I figure out how much is enough? How do I know how many items of clothing my kids need? And how much dh and I need? When I go to the grocery store, I just buy whatever looks good, and we get a ridiculous amount of excess. With toys, I am trying to figure out what they really enjoy playing with, and weeding out the rest. But I'm having trouble with clothes and food. (I am still working on weeding through diaper bags and purses, strollers and carseats are next) For those of you who are able to control the amount of "stuff" that comes into your lives, and have an uncluttered living space, how do keep the control and not let more stuff creep in? Any strategies would be really appreciated. I'm really motivated, but seriously overwhelmed.
post #2 of 24
Subbing since I could have written this post myself, cant wait to see what ideas are out there
post #3 of 24
My parents home was in chaos, so, from a very young age, I made this my rule: Every object in the house must have a home. Based on that, that is how I would decide how much clothes to keep at first. Make it fit nicely, neatly in the drawers and closets. Then, after a couple weeks, figure out about how much of the stuff you're using and sell/get rid of the rest.

I'd do that for everything in the house. If 5 mixing bowls fit nicely on the shelf, and I feel that I can get by with that many, then that's how many I'd keep. If I felt that I needed 10, but 10 won't fit, then something else has to go to make room.

Because, if it doesn't have a home, then it's just going to be a part of the mess and you can't find it when you need it and it drives you nuts...

Good luck! I find that lively simply is sooo freeing! I go a slow cooker for Christmas, so my George Foreman Grill had to go. I got to thinking about it and realized I hadn't used it in over a year, so why not get rid of it!
post #4 of 24
if i don't use it, it's gone. if it's clutter and doesn't add anything my life, it's gone. if it has no meaning to me, it's gone. if my kids don't play with it, it's gone. if my kids don't wear it, it's gone.

i try to keep my house simple too
post #5 of 24
A organization book I am reading says for the clothes as many as you have room for and as many as it takes to get you from wash day to wash day plus a few extras.

out of season clothes pack up.

Also when putting clothes back in the closet put them in on one side after a few months the clothes on the other end will be the ones you dont like or wear.

Its hard for me because living out in the country we have work clothes, descent clothes and good clothes for church and the such :

As far as stuff I am going through getting rid of stuff that I dont like or use.
post #6 of 24
Ooooh, this is my topic! My mom will call me up and beg me to come to her house and throw stuff away. I love it. Here's what I do in anyone's home I'm decluttering:
Make piles of stuff. for example if you're doing clothes, make one huge clothes pile for each person's stuff. Then sort that one big pile into three little piles 1.keep (in season) 2. Keep (out of season) 3. donate
I'm brutal when I do the donate pile. You would be surprised at how few clothes you can survive on. Basically if there is much hesitation at all, I chuck it into that pile. And if it hasn't been worn in a month and it's in season, chuck it.
Then you pack up the keep pile.
Then you pack up the donate pile and stick it in your car immediately. Do not look through it again, just put it in the car so you'll drop it off.
Then you sort through the in season pile and find a permanant home for EVERYTHING.
Do this with all of your stuff. Be brutal. It actually gets fun after a while and you'll start looking for things to chuck. But do it one step at a time. Don't stop in the middle of sorting out your junk drawer to clean out your pantry.

As far as the food things go, you need a meal suggestion sheet thinggy. I can't ever stick to a meal plan, if you can good, you need one. I never can though. I think of three to five meals I can make that week and depending on their spoilability I buy ingrediants for as many as will keep. I also have sets of easy to make lunch type stuff that I buy as needed. That's it. We also have a "if you can't eat it or wipe your butt with it" rule in the grocery store. We don't get anything but food or toilet paper at the grocery. It really cuts down on impulse buying. (we don't buy candy either... plus side is that my kid never asks for this cause she knows we won't buy it there). But do try to stick to a tenative meal plan cause it really cuts down on waste and such.

Oh, and you need to find someone to keep asking you about it. You'll feel great if you have someone to brag to about how much you've chucked. Just make sure that person understands or you might be committed.

Can't think of anything else right now, but I'll check this thread later. Hope that helps.
post #7 of 24
I need some help in the "stuff" area since we've been living in a much smaller house for a year and a half now and have too much clutter. Esp with all the toys! Eesh!

The food, though, I can help with. The thing that helps me is make a menu! I used to just buy whatever looked good. I would end up with a ton of food and nothing to eat. That inevitable "What do you want for dinner?" "I dunno, what do you want?"

So now a couple days before grocery shopping day -- I go on a big trip every two weeks when DH gets paid, and one in between for fresh produce and milk if needed. I sit down in front of the computer and do a two-week menu. I keep a file on my comp with all the meals we eat (probably 60 or so at this point), divided into categories (we're omnivores so chicken, beef, fish, veg, etc). I list the meal and all the ingredients in it, so that when I make my shopping list I can look there to see what all I need to buy.

I try to alternate so we're eating a good variety, then put those onto the menu. I use my little "database" of meals to list all the things I need to buy. Oh, and I separate my grocery list to make shopping more efficent -- nonfood, produce, organic section, dry foods, meat, cold foods, frozen. I put all the things for the dinners, add things for breakfasts and lunches and anything special that I'm going to need.

When I go to the store, it's so much easier! I know I'm buying 13, 14 dinners and nothing extra. I save a TON of money, and I don't waste food. There's no piles of things in the pantry anymore (just dry goods like rice and pasta that I buy in pretty big amounts). It's seriously made my kitchen a much more livable space.

Good luck. I'm hoping someday soon that DH will take DS for a whole day and let me attack our whole house. I hate clutter!!
post #8 of 24
hi- go check out mindful home management- Simplifying , organizing forum! It is GREAT! Very motivational!
post #9 of 24
Thread Starter 
Oooh, you guys have fantastic ideas! I need to write out "Everything has to have it's own home!" and put it several places in my house. That might help me stop buying, too, if I stop and ask myself just where I'm going to put xyz when I get it home The clothes thing is really throwing me for a loop-my kids have so much more than what they need, but last week I went to the mall and shopped the sales at Old Navy and Gymboree. My 2yo has leggings coming out of her ears, and I bought another couple of pairs because they were so cheap. I'll try the what fits neatly in the dresser/closet and enough to make it to wash day and a couple extras. That's a good idea. My stuff, too.

MotherWhimsy, your clothes pile system sounds like something I could really do! I'm going to get all these things washed and make piles in the living room and start chucking! I hope to save stuff in bags for next year's Holiday Helper, as well as drop off at Goodwill.

I"ve never been able to stick to a menu, but I bet I can make a list of 7 meals for a week and stick to it. We eat out probably 4 times a week and I'm hoping to cut it down to 2-3 times a month. Not sure if that's feasible, but I want to try.

So, how do you convince yourself that you don't "need" 4 strollers, or 6 carseats for 3 kids? I am hoping to save about $1500 in the next year (from saving on making better food buying choices, not blowing money on clothes the kids don't need, etc) for a purchase, and I guess I can remind myself that every useless purchase I make will subtract from that amount, right? And I was planning on "paying" myself $25/week, if I manage not to eat out, waste money at the mall, etc. I guess I could pull $ out of that if I screw up, too.

Keep the suggestions coming- I'm going to check out Mindful Home Management for the home stuff, too!
post #10 of 24
I'm a list fiend. Make shopping lists, and also make inventory lists when you the time - if you see on paper that your child has 13 pairs of jeans and 21 tee shirts, it may stop you from buying more, kwim?

Have a garage sale or sell stuff you no longer need on ebay - the money is sure to come in handy. Baby/kid stuff is especially popular and donate what you can't sell.

I am a proud re-gifter. If my dd gets an outfit that she already has many of, I will either get a store credit with a gift receipt, or if that is not possible, I will regift. I sent a box of brand new clothes to my MIN two weeks ago, because my dd only needs so many pajamas, sweaters, etc.

Check out the simple living boards for way more great tips.
post #11 of 24
I think it also helps not to use shopping as recreation or entertainment. You rack up a lot of junk you don't need that way (esp if you are my HUSBAND).

As for having four strollers and six carseats for three kids - how could you POSSIBLY need them? It may help to find a local freecycle site and see how many people need the junk that's just taking up space in your house.

My husband is a shopper and would be a hoarder if I didn't step in. I can't THINK when there's so much junk in the house. Shop from a list, don't shop to entertain yourself, and realize you don't NEED things you don't USE and you'll feel better for it. Really!
post #12 of 24
Originally Posted by NiteNicole
I think it also helps not to use shopping as recreation or entertainment. You rack up a lot of junk you don't need that way (esp if you are my HUSBAND).

As for having four strollers and six carseats for three kids - how could you POSSIBLY need them? It may help to find a local freecycle site and see how many people need the junk that's just taking up space in your house.

My husband is a shopper and would be a hoarder if I didn't step in. I can't THINK when there's so much junk in the house. Shop from a list, don't shop to entertain yourself, and realize you don't NEED things you don't USE and you'll feel better for it. Really!
craigslist is another option if you can't do freecycle (the rules on the one here border on ridiculous, so i haven't bothered to join). you can also make a little money that way-- or offer for free if you can. i've gotten rid of a lot of stuff through craigslist.
post #13 of 24
I am a recovering pack rat so i have been through this. Luckily I am veru organizes so it was not too hard to transform.

First, we live in a small house. That really helps limit how much stuff we have.

Menus. On grocery day I sit down with my cookbooks and pick about 5-6 dinner meals per week. This is enough for every night including leftovers. Many of the leftovers are used for lunches too. I do not pick the nights when we will eat them, I play it by ear as the week goes on based on what we feel like and how much cooking time I have that day. Then in addition I only buy the staples like oatmeal, oils, spices, grains, etc......

Clothing. The rule here is every time we get something, an equal amount needs to go. We keep a Goodwill box in our basement at all times so we can add items any time. We do not put out of season clothing up as that just encourages us to have too many. It is all out. Item in means item out.

The clothing policy spills over to everything else. Everything has a place so if I get a new thing, an old thing needs to go to make room. Dd's toys are the exception. I do not weed her stuff without her permission.

As soon as dd outgrows something I put it in a box in her closet. When it is full I sort in into boxes in the attic. I sort by age, but most importantly I sort by thinks i want to keep for sentimental reasons and things I am OK to pass on if I do not have any more kids. This is great because I can just donate those boxes when I am sure we will not have more without having an emotional sortfest.
post #14 of 24
Thread Starter 
Clothing. The rule here is every time we get something, an equal amount needs to go.
Wow- this is a great idea. Along with having an inventory of what each kid has (so that I don't buy any more freaking leggings for the 2yo, even if they are on sale, because she has so many!), the "item in, item out" theory is fantastic. That would really cut down on impulse buying, I bet, if I had to think of something that I wanted to get rid of in order to buy it.

Dh thinks I'm crazy and that I won't be able to accomplish this : I know I'm a packrat by nature and that there's a LOT of work to do in order to get it done, but I'm really feeling like a) it NEEDS to be done, for my sanity and to simplify things and b) I really want to pare down and keep it that way.

I've tried to get rid of stuff we're not using before, but have always bought more to replace it : This time, no more buying!
post #15 of 24
My 2 cents which I learned from Flylady: Only keep what you love. If it doesn't bring you happiness, let it bless someone else.

That mantra has helped me part with umpteen nicknacks that I've collected from my mother, grannies, and other sources.

I also try to do her weekly purges and try to collect 27 items during my Boogie Challenges. http://www.flylady.net/pages/FLYingL..._Declutter.asp

I don't follow her to the T but I have subscribed to her system for over 3 years now and have made it mine. Simple baby steps and the constant reminders that YOU ARE NEVER BEHIND really help me feel the flylady love
post #16 of 24
Originally Posted by KayleeZoo
Oooh, you guys have fantastic ideas! I need to write out "Everything has to have it's own home!" and put it several places in my house. That might help me stop buying, too, if I stop and ask myself just where I'm going to put xyz when I get it home
Yeah, my mom found this life-size Santa decoration for $15 and was going to buy it. I said, "Mom, where are you going to store that thing 11 months of the year?" The thought hadn't crossed her mind, but she did put the Santa back. It's okay to pass on good deals simply because you don't need it or don't have room for it.
post #17 of 24
I just went thru my DDs clothes this past week. They share 1 closet and 1 dresser, and it all has to fit! I got rid of all but 2 dresses for my 2 year old, and got rid of 90% of the hand-me-downs. Instead of boxing stuff up and saving it for next year, offer it up on the Gifting forum! MIN look there for stuff they could use Maybe that will help motivate you? I"ve been looking over the girls' clothes, and I really think for next summer I am going to gymboree and buying 5-7 shorts for my 2 (will be 3) year old, w/ coordinating tops that all mix and match. This is all I'm allowing in her drawers for everyday wear. Nice stuff will be hung up in the closet (probably only about 5-7 outfits again) w/ shorts/top and accessories in the closet as well. I recently got one of those hanging organizers, w/ shelves for their closet, and I'm putting on it all of the stuff I use when going out of the house: wet bags, bibs, accessories to good outfits, extra blankets, ect. This way it stays out of the drawers, which I find to get too hard to find stuff in. Our dresser has 5 drawers, and here is the breakdown for it:

top: Socks for both girls (just the 2 year old's good socks, everyday ones are in one of her drawers) and lots of extra room!
second: tops and bottoms for baby
thrid: one pieces (3 or 4) for baby, and jammies (pared down to 5! 3 hannas and 2 carters fleece
fourth: tops and bottoms for toddler (yes! all in ONE drawer!!!)
fifth: jammies (4 pairs of tops and bottoms, one nightgown), panties (bunches, maybe 15?), and everyday socks (about 7 pair, not worn out, but not the good ones either) for toddler. If any clothes don't fit in the 4th drawer, they can go here, but I'm not planning on it!

For the closet, I kept good outfits for the toddler, including good jeans w/ the outfits they match. It goes: dresses (2~one ls, one ss), skirt outfits (3, but I couldn't get rid of any! They are all gymbo,and just SO cute!), jeans outfits (2 full outfits) misc. shirts that match jeans, good shirts to wear to town or such (I think 4ish? Some have matching cardigans/jackets). This is then end of the toddler clothes, and it's way too many, but I couldnl't part w/ anymore right now. As a "divider" I put all of the winter coats/jackets for both girls, and then came the baby's clothes, which are way too numerous to mention! I think I have about the full Jardin Francias line, and want to get the 2 pieces I'm missing 2 zebra outfits, new outfit from Christmas, and I'm sure many others, I"d say at least 15, and that's WAY too many, but I"m waiting until she outgrows them.

I'm also watching what I'm saving from now on! I kept most of the baby stuff to pass down, but I find we don't use much of it at all, b/c the new baby gets new stuff too (not much from me, though!). I"m only keeping stuff that is stain-free, trendy, and that I LOVE!

For the kitchen, mine is WAY too small, but I"m working on it! This morning I culled out lots of plastic bowls that we just don't use. I buy my stuff from a healthfood co-op once a month (just got it on Wendesday!) so I have to buy in bulk, and store. I have some cabinets in teh basement to store extra stuff in. I find that sitting down to order, I buy less b/c I can go look right then and see how low I am on certain items. I go the the local grocery store for produce 1 time per week, and I have a list.
post #18 of 24
There are great suggestions here. Another thing I'm trying with clothing is to shop for a whole season at once. For this fall/winter, I came up with a list of what my kids and I needed. Then, I gave myself a certain amount of time to get all that stuff (I am trying to buy mostly used items for my 2 y.o. dd, so it can take awhile to get everything). Then, I accept that I am done shopping for the season (except for a very specific item or 2 that may come up, or if a kid has a growth spurt, etc.) I have only done this once but so far I love the system. It puts me in a mindset where I don't do the impulse buys of a pair shoes for myself, a cute dress for dd, whatever. I tell myself "those are cute shoes but I have all my winter shoes; I'll have to put that on my list for next year." I was even able to walk through the mall the other day and not buy any clothes!

Theoretically I won't always be able to find these things on sale but I end up buying less stuff so I save money anyway. And the way stores carry seasonal clothing, it seems like they are on sale by the time the season actually arrives- for example, Target will start carrying bathing suits in maybe March or April, but by June or July when we actually have swim lessons and vacations, the swim suits are on sale.

I think how much clothing you "need" depends on how often you are willing to do laundry. You can get by with very little as long as you can launder things every few days.
post #19 of 24
Love this thread!
post #20 of 24
For decluttering, my personal rule is that if it hasn't been used in a year (and there's not a really good reason why) then it gets given away/thrown away.

I just went through our cabinets and bathrooms and consolidated all our cleaning supplies--i had so much excess that i had bought along the way and wasn't even using anymore (especially since i've switched to using non-toxic cleansers for the most part--no more 409). I know have a box of old cleaning supplies that i'm going to get rid of, and my cleaning areas are much more streamlined. The 'if i haven't used it in a few months, toss it' works really well in this regard.

For storage containers, some people go overboard in having too many. Most people don't ever use more than about 10 plastic/glass storage containers for food--get rid of the rest. We often buy storage containers to hold old clothes and things that we don't want to get rid of (but don't need anymore)--you can get rid of both!

I've started observing at people's houses that the larger their kitchen and pantry, the more food they fill it up with. It's not necessary! Keep some food on reserve--enough to make a few meals in a rush. Otherwise just buy what you need for the week (or two weeks--however often you go to the grocery store).

Never, ever, ever go to the grocery store without a list and meal-plan in hand. Sit down once every week or two and plan out what you'll make for your family (you don't have to assign the meals a day unless you want to, but just have a list of choices--and make sure you include at least two 'quick and easy' choice to make so when you're crunched for time you still have options.

example meal plan: Tacos, "Breakfast for dinner" (pancakes or french toast and eggs), Spaghetti, etc...

Include a few side options as well, and maybe one dessert.

Then go through your recipes and write down the ingreadients you need to make each one *that you don't have in the house already*. That is the substance of your grocery list. Add on to that food for breakfasts, lunches, and snacks.

This is your map for the store--do not deviate from it! Since you're struggling with having too much, even if you see things on sale or "2 for $3" keep walking--if you don't need it right now, it's not saving you $$ to buy it. Just say no to impulse buys (or another option is to give yourself the choice of 1 "impulse" buy per trip--like ice cream or something).

In terms of clothes, for me personally i've found that i am fine without a lot. I own one pair of jeans, one pair khakis, one pair black pants, and a pair of grey pants (so 3 work pants and one casual pants). Once i have kids i'll need some more casual pants, probably enough to have 3-4 pairs casual and then 2-3 nice pairs. You do not need more than that--and can even get by with a lot less depending on how often you do laundry. And especially with pants, you can wear them multiple times before they need to be washed anyway!

With shirts i tend to accumulate more b/c they get dirty and wear out faster--but i would say limit yourself to 15 shirts for spring/summer and 15 for fall/winter. If you buy something and find you haven't worn it for a year--get rid of it (you can give it away to thrift stores and such). 99% of the time we hold onto things thinking we'll 'need' them in the future, and we don't.

Another place to cut down is with bras. For regular, non-nursing bras you don't need more than 3 for every day wear and then a strapless one for special occasion clothes. I get by with 1 right now (and have since i got pregnant b/c my size keeps changing and i refuse to buy more). They don't require washing that often b/c they don't get dirty or smelly (at least mine don't).

I hope these suggestions are helpful to you! It can be very very liberating to get rid of clutter and pare down to the essentials.
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