A Simple Approach to Living With Less

Ask the Readers: What are the Hardest Things to Get Rid Of?

In your pursuit of simple living, what has been the hardest thing to get rid of?

Do you struggle with emotional attachments to sentimental items?

Is it more challenging to pare down your children’s toys?

Perhaps it’s deciding what hobbies and pastimes you should keep and which to give up.

Is it the everyday clutter that has accumulated over time that is the hardest to deal with?

Satisfying the Urge to Purge

Making the decision to simplify our lives feels like a big step . . . because it absolutely is.

However, when we actually face the challenge of what to attack first and then what follows next, it’s easy to get overwhelmed.

For a long time, having two storage units full of miscellaneous stuff was a HUGE obstacle that stood in our path. It is true that is was physically a lot to deal with, but it was even more mentally overwhelming. I put it off for so long because I was the most afraid of the all the decisions required to deal with every item inside.

Not Everything Must Go

Sometimes when we’re struggling with letting go, it means it’s not the best things to do. If you just can’t make yourself give up a treasured item from your childhood, then don’t. If it’s a priority to you, then don’t feel the need to conform to some ideal minimalist existence you hold in your head.

Hobbies and favorite pastimes are one of the areas that deserve careful attention. Don’t be too anxious to eliminate something that makes you who you are. On the other hand, if you’re holding onto something that is no longer a priority, it may be time to let it go and hold onto the memories instead.

My friend, Robert from Untitled Minimalism, has written a very helpful, and practical book called “Harmonizing Hobbies.” It will walk you through the evaluation of your hobbies to help you decide if it’s something you should still hold onto. It’s free to download and read. Donations are requested only after the reader has the opportunity to find value in the book.

Share Your Struggles

Everyone meets challenges in a different way and everyone sees obstacles differently. I’m curious what areas are the most overwhelming for you. I’d love to tackle each one of those with you and in the process we can help others as well.

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Article originally published on 07/12/2011

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Comments

  1. I have had opportunity to do some serious decluttering the week or so, and haven’t done anywhere near as much as I had hoped. The thing that has got in my way has been my fabric. I have bought so many pieces of fabric thinking I would make them into something, and then either not got around to it mostly because I’ve overestimated how often I sew!
    I had a whole heap of fabric spilling out of boxes in my sewing room/office and we couldn’t actually use the room. So we pulled everything out of the room (it had become a bit of a catch-all room) and everything else was really easy to deal with, but not the fabric.
    I do love to sew, but I have two young boys who aren’t so keen on me sewing too often, and I have more clothes than I need so I haven’t need to make myself anymore clothes for a long time. I would like to sew most of my kids clothes, and most of my clothes, and make pretty little dresses to sell online with the scraps.
    Getting rid of all my fabric means two things to me 1) a kick in the guts to my creativity 2) a waste of money because I still want to make a lot of the clothes I bought the fabric for, and one day I will need new clothes and the fabric is there ready to go.
    It all proved too much, so I pulled out a couple of things that I knew I didn’t want to use and listed online to sell, took out a couple of things to sew when I next get the chance, and boxed the rest up neatly and put it out in the garage. But because we’ve cleaned out that room I feel like it’s a burden lifted that I can keep cleaning out other rooms and start sewing again.

  2. The hardest things for me to deal with are little piles of paper that accumulate and have to be gone thru piece by piece. Also, random loose pictures. ugh! I have pared down everything to almost the absolute minimum. I have tried many, many times to get rid of my wedding dress, but i can’t! It’s not a traditional wedding dress, so it doesn’t take up much space, so i’m allowing myself to keep it!

    • Faith Janes says:

      The piles of paper are the worst! I don’t have a desk or office area of my own so I often have notepads or random pieces of paper I collect when I’m working on a project. The only good thing about not having my own desk is that I’m forced to deal with those papers more often. Being overlooked as the piles grow and grow are part of the problem. My husband keeps a basket of receipts or other papers that need scanned but he’s pretty good about regularly dealing with the papers. Just figure out a system that works for you that encourages you to deal with the piles before they get out of hand.

      Also, I still have my wedding dress too. I don’t even know why really. Hmm, I might have to think about that some more soon.

  3. I agree with Coco…those little pieces of paper kill me right now. What is most difficult for me changes from time to time. Used to be clothing with the “I can use that” thoughts. Then for a while it was kitchen items. LOL I have managed to break thru all of that but I do find a continuing struggle with TOYS. We have just stopped bringing so many in to the house.

    Right now I have boxes of stuff waiting in my garage that I need to get rid of…finding the time to get to the donation stations is what I have to work on!

    • Faith Janes says:

      It sounds like you’re in pretty good shape right now. We all go through cycles of feeling on top of the clutter and then look around and BOOM! Where does it all come from?! Maybe if you stick some of those boxes in your car you’ll feel more motivated to stop by a donation center next time you’re running errands.

  4. Books and papers: books for emotional reasons; papers because there are so many of them.

    • Faith Janes says:

      Books can be tough. My parents are book hoarders although it’s mainly my dad more than my mom. When we moved in, they literally had about 20,000 books. I’m not exaggerating. My dad calculated how many there were.

      When I first jumped into minimalism with both feet, our bookshelves were the first place I started. With growing up under the concept of “once you read a book you keep it forever in case you EVER need it again to read or loan out” I had a large collection of my own books. What helped me was evaluating my books asking the questions: (1) Will I go back to this book often? (2) Can I replace this book if I needed to either by buying new or in digital form) and (3) Will I miss it if it’s gone? With those few questions, my library was drastically cut. In the process we also made some good money on those books we got rid of. http://www.minimalistathome.com/how-to-go-from-books-to-bucks/

      My best tip on dealing with papers: Don’t put it off and just do a little bit at a time until it’s done.

  5. Problem items for me are books, *papers*, especially paper including memento type papers but my main problem is the question, Where does all this stuff keep coming from (not just the above items but everything). I have been decluttering for *years*. I average one truck load of items to Goodwill every week. And yet, there is still more!! Will it ever end? (or at least slow down to a more reasonable amount!?)

    • Faith Janes says:

      When we moved from our house into moving in with my parents, between both of our families we filled up FOUR giant construction sized dumpsters. That doesn’t even include the countless trips to every Goodwill and charity bin in the area. We hold onto to SO many things under the excuse of “maybe someday”. The sad thing is that a lot of what was thrown away was because we had kept things in a storage unit that got bugs, rats and mold in it. If we had just donated it in the first place instead of thinking we might come back to it someday, someone else could have used it. I’m threw with over thinking things and waiting around for somedays. And yep, as you’ve discovered…you’re never “done” with decluttering. There’s always something else that finds its way into your house that you have to deal with.

      For memento type papers, invest in a scanner. We now scan all the drawings that our kids do. Digital frames are a great way to rotate out images of their past artwork. A refrigerator can only hold so many pictures. 🙂

      • Funny you should mention the digital picture frame. I was just talking to my son this morning about needing one of those. I’d like one with a larger screen, most that I have found have only a 5×7 screen, that holds a lot (thousands) of pictures. Any suggestions?

        • Faith Janes says:

          We have a large one upstairs hanging on the wall. I’m not sure the exact measurements for it but it’s great because you can see it across the room. I know Amazon has several that are 15 inches and some even larger than that.

  6. Top 5 things that are hard for me to get rid of:
    1.) Clothes- I keep thinking they could come back in fashion and I don’t want to buy the same trend twice.
    2.) Shoes- Flip Flops specifically
    3.) Old Memories- Cards, photos, mementos, ticket stubs
    4.) Books- What if I want to go back for a quote or need it for research
    5.) E-Mails- I have a hard time going through my inbox and deleting!

    Ok…there is my confession. Baby steps. Just got rid of three more bags of clothes. 🙂

    • Faith Janes says:

      I love flip-flops and summer sandals! Last year when we moved, we boxed up all our summer clothes and shoes since we didn’t have enough room for everything. Since then I’ve minimized my shoes and closets and when I went looking for that box of my summer stuff I couldn’t find it! It must have gotten mixed up with Goodwill boxes and gotten thrown out. Initially I was so sad! When I decided to replace my shoes I bought better quality shoes and now I only have 3 pairs of summer shoes. For me, that is drastically reduced. I bought two pair of Croc sandals and one pair of gel soled flip flops. So far I haven’t needed anything else.

      For tips on dealing with clothes, check out Courtney’s Project 333. http://www.theproject333.com/

      Memories: get a scanner or limit yourself to one small box of treasures. If you limit yourself ahead of time, you’ll be able to evaluate what “makes the cut” better.

      Email: http://www.minimalistathome.com/11-steps-to-banish-email-clutter/

      Books: see my reply to Mich above.

      Keep up the great work! You can do this!! 🙂

  7. Garland says:

    I have had opportunity to do some serious decluttering the week or so, and haven’t done anywhere near as much as I had hoped. The thing that has got in my way has been my fabric. I have bought so many pieces of fabric thinking I would make them into something, and then either not got around to it mostly because I’ve overestimated how often I sew!I had a whole heap of fabric spilling out of boxes in my sewing room/office and we couldn’t actually use the room. So we pulled everything out of the room (it had become a bit of a catch-all room) and everything else was really easy to deal with, but not the fabric.I do love to sew, but I have two young boys who aren’t so keen on me sewing too often, and I have more clothes than I need so I haven’t need to make myself anymore clothes for a long time. I would like to sew most of my kids clothes, and most of my clothes, and make pretty little dresses to sell online with the scraps.Getting rid of all my fabric means two things to me 1) a kick in the guts to my creativity 2) a waste of money because I still want to make a lot of the clothes I bought the fabric for, and one day I will need new clothes and the fabric is there ready to go.It all proved too much, so I pulled out a couple of things that I knew I didn’t want to use and listed online to sell, took out a couple of things to sew when I next get the chance, and boxed the rest up neatly and put it out in the garage. But because we’ve cleaned out that room I feel like it’s a burden lifted that I can keep cleaning out other rooms and start sewing again.
    +1

  8. Oooh, I’ve been wanting to do a post on stupid things I can’t make myself purge yet, but am not sure why. I’m having a hard time with:

    1. Books – I’m hanging on to ones I haven’t read so I can read them first, problem is, I’m not that excited about reading them (which is why they’ve sat there forever and still not been read). If my library had a copy it would be easier, but…

    2. Journals – I don’t need to keep hardcopies anymore, but scanning or retyping these is gonna take a lot of time for a little space payoff, so I keep putting it off. Still, I have a whole box of just journals. Eek!

    3. Toys – The embarrassing part is that I don’t have kids, nor am I a kid. Some of these things I’d even forgotten about, but when my mom gave them back to me I was like, “How can I ever get rid of this!!”

  9. It’s my sentimental hoard. I posted about it in the New Year and it’s still not sorted. It’s probably linked to all sorts of issues, struggling to get on top of it. Fortunately I’ve stopped collecting new bits and pieces, but working my way through the backload is daunting.

  10. Angela Brouwer says:

    My problem is my book collection- it’s large and all my books, read and unread are my friends. I have a strong emotional attatchment to the books!! I know I have too many ( probably not enough time in my lifetime to read them) but I can’t seem to part with them. I don’t even like lending my books out. But…I don’t like having books that could be read by other people and have them just sit in my basement. Any ideas to help me pare down my beloved book collection?

  11. The hardest thing to throw away is an unfinished project. It feels as though I am tossing out my own potential. In reality, getting rid of a task that no longer holds my interest or sparks my passion is an opportunity to let go of guilt and inadequacy.

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