Overwhelm yourself

My wife and I have accumulated quite a collection of glassware over the years. It is quite ridiculous, to tell you the truth. We entertain on occasion, but we have no need for the amount of glassware currently in our possession. Even when we do have a party we only use a small fraction of the glassware.

As I have mentioned in the past, we are downsizing our living space and we must reduce the amount of stuff that we have. The kitchen was the room we tackled last. I came up with the idea of removing every last item from the cupboards to assess what we had on our hands. The end result was quite overwhelming.

You don’t really get a grasp of what you have stored away in those cupboards until you have it lying out for display. I got the same feeling when we had our yard sale. I asked myself, “Where did all this stuff come from?” The accumulation of stuff is gradual, and it tends to sneak up on you. My wife and I have been married for almost nine years now and we have just recently become more conscious of all of the things we have brought into our home.

It is much easier to prepare a plan of attack when you can see the whole of your problem. The final result was a successful paring down of our kitchen inventory. If you’re having trouble uncluttering, try overwhelming yourself. It might be the incentive you need to let things go.


This post has been updated since its original publication in 2008.

29 Comments for “Overwhelm yourself”

  1. posted by helix on

    I hear what you’re saying.

    One thing that I really regret purchasing was a set of giant expensive Riedel wine glasses- the really huge delicate ones for red wine. These are a colossal pain in the ass to clean. I dread taking them out of their container. Sometimes we just leave them on the counter, dirty, for days because we hate cleaning them.

  2. posted by Elizabeth on

    There was an excellent de-cluttering TV show on BBC TV a few years ago, called The Life Laundry, where they tackled the three worst rooms in the homes of the volunteer householders. They used this technique, taking out every single thing from those rooms and laying it all out in the open. The amount of stuff would sometimes be absolutely staggering, and it was certainly an eye opener to the hoarders, who knew they had a problem, but now could see just how huge a problem!

    I could do with getting rid of some glasswear myself. Where does it come from? I swear it breeds in the cupboards.

  3. posted by homedotmade on

    Amen to that. I tend to justify anything kitchen/food preparation/dining because I’m in culinary school and well, “it’s for class, I need that” But I don’t really. I am really trying to take a page from Alton Brown and have as few “single taskers” in the kitchen as possible.

    Good luck, wish me the same!

  4. posted by Dream Mom on

    You are so right-it’s easy to accumulate things over time. Setting everything out is a great way and one I use with my clients as well (I too am a Professional Organizer.) I think the number one issue sometimes is simply overconsumption. The down side of that is that once people get organized, unless they set limits on the space or use the one in/one out rule, they will continue to overconsume.

    I downsized a few years ago to a smaller space and really love it. There is something special about living smaller and simpler since it opens up so much more time in my life. The great thing about smaller spaces is that you can still live elegantly and beautifully, just with less space and less stuff. It’s also much more peaceful.

  5. posted by Bill on

    After twenty four years of marriage we moved to a small cabin in the mountains of North Carolina. Two yard sales and about eight trips to the Council on Aging Thrift Shop and we still haven’t missed any of the stuff. Time and lack of attention will allow stuff to accumulate.

  6. posted by J on

    A few years ago, I realized how much junk was stuffed into the back spaces of my cupboards so I removed the doors from the cupboards that store glassware and dishes. I painted the inside of the cabinets to match the rest of the decor so it looks nice. Now, I am forced to keep stuff to a minimum because everyone can see it.

  7. posted by Fuji on

    It is for this reason exactly that I so dislike closed storage space. Like J, my kitchen is all open shelving and there isn’t a single closet in my entire house and there is only one small chest of drawers. ALL our belongings are visible.

  8. posted by susi on

    I’m going to move onto a boat within a year from a 2,000 sq.ft. house. I started getting rid of things a year ago but there is still so much after 35 years of marriage. Your articles and comments are giving me hope that I really can do it!

  9. posted by Ruth on

    The problem is, if I had emptied my entire kitchen onto the dining table/floor, I would have been thoroughly overwhelmed – and as a result, I would have given up, and the stuff would be there still!

  10. posted by Katie on

    The nice thing about excess glassware is that you know it will be a great find for someone at Goodwill.

    We have those giant, delicate Reidels, too! I found peace with the situation a couple years ago after cracking one like an egg and breaking another completely off its stem. I told my husband I’d be happy to wash them, but I didn’t want to hear a word about it if I broke one.

    The owner of a nearby wine store told us he uses the stemless Reidels so he can wash them in the dishwasher.

  11. posted by Stacey on

    I love my Riedels, and have a large set of them, when they break, we have backups. We also have the large imprinted Riedels they give with the cover charge at the Holiday wine-tastings.

    We recently decluttered our glass hutch. We did the “removed and look at all of it” method. From that little hutch, our glassware and barware covered the entire dining room table, and overflowed onto the kitchen counter. Fully half of it was cheap, small and free, left over from single life (10 years ago!) and wedding gifts from people we don’t know. The stacking was really quite creative!

    Now, we still have a nice selection of wine glasses and barware, but we can see all of it at a glance, and there’s lovely space in the hutch, which we will NOT be back-filling.

    There is hope for a packrat like me.

  12. posted by Jacqueline on

    Ah, moving into a smaller space is such a great way to force yourself to declutter! Two years ago I moved to a small apartment in a city where space comes at a premium and I definitely had to cut down on the amount of stuff I had – and now I have a nicely organized, uncluttered apartment, and since it is tiny, I really can’t bring home tons of new stuff unless I start getting rid of things. It keeps my inner packrat in check!

  13. posted by amy on

    My parents have, oo, if I said 300 glasses that would be a conservative estimate…

    They do entertain a bit but still! 300! Ye gads…

  14. posted by Michele on

    I love the idea of taking everything out to see it all. They seem to do that consistently on organizing shows and it works well for me at home too. One added benefit for me is that seeing everything together once I’ve purged it is that it helps me figure out what, if any, storage aids I need.

  15. posted by [email protected] on

    I used to live in a 679 square foot house with no closets. One of the things I liked about it was that I couldn’t bring anything in without getting rid of something.

    Last summer, I got married and moved into my husband’s 1650 sq. ft. house with TONS of closets. We had a huge rummage sale and got rid of a lot of “doubles”, but I still feel like I have too much room to accumulate stuff.

    How do you get the ambition to declutter when your house is more than big enough for your stuff? We have empty drawers and shelves as it is! We don’t want to downsize because we’re hoping to have kids in a couple of years. Any advice?

  16. posted by Adrienne on

    I have wine glasses coming out my ears and I’m an alcoholic and so obviously don’t drink. What’s up with that!!

    My favorites (I use for water or fruit drinks)?? My dollar store glasses.

  17. posted by Liane on

    All I can say is have you been in my house? We have lived here for 25 years. And glassware is a big problem. Many years ago I found this kitschy book Catch Up In The Kitchen, by a couple home organization pioneers, Pam Young and Peggy Jones. With their blessing I created a Yahoo group to discuss the book and the methodology. The first time I dragged out all the stuff in my lower cabinets, I put it on the floor behind me, only to discover that I trapped my self in the corner. Using this book helped me decide what to put where and also how to figure out if I wanted to keep it or not. Some of the stuff in the book is endearingly corny, but I have been using their method for 30 years with a fair amount of success.

  18. posted by Dee on

    So I have a question for you professional organizers and anyone else who has experienced this – I’ve tried the pull it all out and sort it BUT I run out of time, life happens and I end up stuffing the remainder of my piles into laundry baskets or closets.. . then I’m stuck with a disaster. What to do if you just don’t have the time or space to pull it all out? Even a few drawers of stuff could potentially turn into chaos if not done during the right time for me.


  19. posted by Anon on

    We like to entertain, so we have TONS of wine glasses. But after breaking too many of the good ones, we bought 40 identical wine glasses (Vina) from Target for a big party. Now we keep all but 8 of them boxed up out of the way to pull out for our next party. Of the original 8, I believe about 6 of them have survived so far.

    We have accumulated a number of freebies though – and I’m going to gather them up this weekend to give away. I prefer using nice stemmed water glasses (that match our Vina goblets) vs. glasses with logos on them or orphans from other sets.

  20. posted by tazistanjen on

    I have some beautiful crystal wine glasses too, but the ones I *use* are fairly thick blue glass, because they go in the dishwasher. The crystal ones sit in the cupboard so long that when I finally do bring them out I have to wash out the dust.

    I think I know what I need to do, but I’m not sure I am ready yet. 🙂

  21. posted by Narelle on

    I use the ugliest glasses, plates and mugs for day to day use, in the hope that I’ll break them and then can start using my nice stuff. I can’t bear to throw/give things away that are still functional, and there seems to be some universal law that says if something is ugly, it will never break.

  22. posted by Katie on

    I think all of you who are preserving your good stuff should go ahead and use it! You can’t take it with you, as they say.

  23. posted by Jen on

    I bought a dozen cobalt blue wine glasses at an auction because they were cobalt blue (a weakness of mine)–and I don’t drink wine at all. They’ve sat in my china cabinet for three years now, unused. When I can *get* to my china cabinet (there’s a bike blocking it at the moment–long story) they might be the first things to go, because I also have a nice set of cut glass wine glasses that are much nicer. They aren’t cobalt blue, but I can’t have everything.

    Earlier, I did go through the glass cabinet, and I did get rid of some of the glasses I’ve collected from Goodwill over the years. My biggest problem is mugs! I got rid of a dozen mugs at Christmastime (I put sample tins of loose tea inside a variety of mugs for my coworkers’ Christmas presents) and I still have too many. It doesn’t help that when I do go to Goodwill, I see pretty handmade mugs and feel I have to ‘rescue’ them. *sigh*

  24. posted by verena on

    Yep, I could have written this… We have been married almost 9 years too…. Had our first yard sale last summer, made $950. Obviously, the stuff we sold was worth far more than that…. I am do my best to stifle the demon inside me that wants to keep filling the spaces.

  25. posted by Lori on

    I’m with anon. We do entertain, so it makes sense for us to have a couple dozen wine glasses and other barware, but the majority live in a storage box, come out for parties, and go right back in the storage box after the cleanup.

    We purged the coffee mugs when we last moved, but we still have too many. Problem is, I went through a 10+ year pottery phase…

  26. posted by Lori on

    @Dee: Can you try it one cabinet — or even one shelf — at a time, rather than doing the whole kitchen at once? If you’re like I used to be, that can be enough to overwhelm you. 😉

  27. posted by Ryan on

    FYI on the stemless Reidel wine glasses…we just has one break in the dishwasher!

  28. posted by Lina on

    We have Reidel wine glasses (with stems) and love them. We use them at least 3 times per week and always put them in the dishwasher. We got the glasses more than a year ago and haven’t broken a single one.
    Great glasses add to the pleasure of drinking wine.

  29. posted by Happy on

    Such a relevant subject and no posts since 2008??? I have been working on decluttering for three years and when I look around can hardly tell a difference. What am I doing wrong? First of all spending entirely too much time finding a place for items passed down by family and accumulated in 62 years of marriage. Second, coming to the realization that the younger generations could care less about my “old stuff”. End of story.

Leave a Comment