What have you learned about yourself while uncluttering?

You can learn a lot about yourself while uncluttering. What’s more, that lesson changes over time based on your circumstances, age, and stage of life. Pay attention as you organize and clean, and you’ll see a bit of who you are.

A thread on the Unclutterer Forums brought this to my attention. Initiated in 2010 by reader AJ, the posting has several insightful and interesting comments from Unclutterer readers like “toberead,” who writes:

Your uncluttering strategy depends a lot on your circumstances. Six months ago I moved into an apartment that has a washing machine, the first time in 18 years that I’ve had my own. And it has made me rethink my wardrobe. When I had to spend 3-4 hours in a noisy laundromat every time I wanted to wash a load of clothes, it made sense to have at least 3 weeks worth of clothes, and I made that work in the most uncluttered way possible. But now I can see much more clearly which clothes I really love, and which ones I wore just because it was better than going to the laundromat.

I had a similar experience when moving from an apartment and into my home. I was able to get rid of a lot of the stuff that I considered temporary, like kitchenware that had seen better days.

Meanwhile, reader “Sky” writes about the appeal of eliminating unwanted stuff:

Decluttering my home has made me look at ‘things’ differently. The more I get rid of, the more I want less and less. I love having space in drawers and closets. I even have some empty drawers!

I’ve realized how few things I really want beyond what’s necessary. No more collecting, storing and shopping. It is freeing beyond belief.

I love throwing stuff away. The house just feels “lighter” once I’ve eliminated a big pile of stuff that I haven’t touched in ages. It’s a mental boost, too, as a tidy, uncluttered work space can actually improve productivity.

Finally, reader “nelliesb” writes, “I am realizing how little most things mean to me.” I really got this lesson in 2012 when my dog chewed a commemorative baseball I had received while visiting Fenway Park barely 24 hours prior:

The ball itself isn’t what was important. All of the memories I relayed in this article I conjured up without it. The ball is now in the trash bin; the memories and emotions of that day are in me. When I realize the ball is chewed, or my life is short, I’m reminded every moment with it was precious.

Yes, a moment can trigger a memory. But it’s the memory we’re after, right? Not the thing. I’ve been able to part with many things because they aren’t what’s meaningful to me. It’s the event, the person or the time and place that brought me to that thing in the first place.

There’s so much more to this topic. Perhaps uncluttering teaches you about your shopping habits, your interests, your habits at large. As you’ve tidied and organized, what have you learned about yourself? Share here or over on our forum.

4 Comments for “What have you learned about yourself while uncluttering?”

  1. posted by June Lemen on

    I am currently in the process of decluttering my books, something I have never done before. I have six large bookcases in one room, and it’s surprising how mixed a process it’s been. I put “The Name of the Rose” and “Foucault’s Pendulum” in the donation box with an enormous sense of relief. I just could not get into them, no matter how many times I tried. And when I opened WP Kinsella’s “Moccasin Telegraph” a note from the author fluttered out. So far, I have donated over 80 books, and I’ve only been through one bookcase.

  2. posted by Kenneth in Virginia on

    I probably haven’t learned a thing yet.

    I grew up in a fairly big, old house in a small town. There were also a barn and two sheds on the property as well as a corrugated steel garage. The sheds were empty, the barn was empty (they used to keep a cow and chickens and some neighbors still did), the house was bare with empty shelves in the kitchen and the pantry. All my clothes hung on the back of one door. We were evidently poor, although I never thought of it like that.

    Growing up like that is supposed to make you contemptuous of material goods but it didn’t work out that way for me. I like having the things I didn’t have when I was little. I was very conscious of wearing clothes with holes in them when I was in school. I was surrounded by people, relatives and other neighbors, who had lived through the depression and the war and they were “tight.” I don’t like clutter, however, and I’d probably be described sometimes as fussy, picky, and sometimes, even a little greedy. However, I’m at the point now where I’m conscious that life won’t just go on forever but I can’t shake the experiences of my childhood long ago. I don’t like throwing things away unless it’s something that has worn out and has proved to be useless or was otherwise never used.

    And I’m only half of the household, too.

  3. posted by Zilla on

    I did an uncluttering oproject several years ago, as a result of reading this column. I got rid of a lot of stuff I didn’t need. I started the project up again the last week of march, partly as a result of my efforts to get rid of books had stalled. In the past 13 weeks, I have gotten rid of 173 items I dobn’t need and which were just taking up space. I’m stilling finding things, too. You get a feeling of spaciousness andof not being possessed by your possessions.

  4. posted by SkiptheBS on

    Digitizing all of the books, music, and files made me realize how much better I feel in a low dust, low clutter milieu. It’s so freeing to understand how much I can live without.

    I now keep my eyes open for items which reduce the size of my residential footprint. Hey printer manufacturers, this means you. If you could make monochrome dot matrix units the size of a half-used paper towel roll, why not a monochrome laser the same size?

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