I've been very interested in paring down lately. After hearing an interview with Jessie Sholl, author of Dirty Secret: A Daughter Comes Clean About Her Mother's Compulsive Hoarding, I decided to take stock of all that is in my home, and get rid of things I haven't used in a while (or at all), and things that I no longer need. I'm not a hoarder, far from it, but in the past I had a tendency to live in clutter. It's been a few years since I've really gotten to a place where my home is always neat, but I figure it can't hurt to gather up the things in my house that I no longer need, and donate them to someone who can use them.
When I see something that doesn't have a home, whether it be a book, a pair of scissors, a ribbon, and I don't put it away, it quietly nags me from in a hidden spot in my mind. Every time I pass the item, I feel like I am failing both myself and my home. Taking five minutes to either find it a home or put it in the bag of things to be donated relieves the stress.
Letting go of things that we think we need isn't easy. I've gotten rid of wine glasses that I had saved for years, just in case I had a party of 40 people who needed formal stemware. That was years ago, and I still haven't had that party. I also minimized my extensive mug collection, only keeping mugs that were from special places that I visited, and two mugs from my son (with a "T" and a "W" on each). I put a couple of extra ones in storage (that are going to be donated soon). Since I've sorted through the mugs, I try very hard not to buy new ones. When I do, I know that they will replace an old mug (and that mug gets donated). I did this with my plates, bowls, and bake ware. More isn't better. It's just more.
The key to maintaining this order, is to be sure not to buy new stuff to replace the old. It may be tempting to buy decorative plates for each holiday, but those things take storage and don't really get a lot of playtime. I use the same plates and cups all year long, but alternate tablecloths and napkins. These are easy to store, as they lay flat and don't take up much space. White plates always look great atop any tablecloth, so if you are starting from scratch, give white plates a try.
We can't get rid of our grandmother's favorite sweater, or our child's first pair of shoes, and keeping them in a special place does them justice. If, however, they are being stored in a box in the basement collecting dust, then you should think about giving them away. I have some art and old mirrors in my basement, mostly because I rotate my art and mirrors on a fairly regular basis. Still, I try not to keep stuff I don't use.
Children's art and clothing are sometimes tough to part with. W had a great idea for our kids' art. He photographs it, then makes the photos into art books, so that they can always see and enjoy their past projects. This limits having piles of paper around the house, and the art won't get torn (because it's photographed and gone). For their clothing, we've made our kids t-shirt quilts through Willow Creek Studio (717) 903-1060. They call them Memory Blankets. You send them the t-shirts you'd like included in the blanket, and you choose the color backing you'd like (it's chenille, and it's beautiful). We've had ours for a few years, and it's our favorite blanket. For my son's, I included a couple favorite pairs of pants. I asked them to have the pockets of the pants show on a couple squares of the quilt, and now we use them for remotes, tissues, whatever. I also had a memorable hat sewn on. Prices range, based on blanket size. It's the best way to keep your children's old clothes, because you can snuggle up to them.
After you've read your magazines, either share them with friends, or take them to the gym or the coffee house for other's to enjoy. Share read books, donate them to your library, sell them to a used book store, trade them at www.paperbackswap.com, www.bookmooch.com, or send them to Books for Soldiers.
I recently read an article online called 18 Things You Can Get Rid of Today by Diana Reese. This article was so good that it prompted me to post this blog, and to clean out my linen closets. Though today (before I read the article), I cleaned and organized the girls' bedroom, and it motivated me to keep going. Seeing it cleaned and organized gave me such a sense of accomplishment. And the girls loved it, too. My son's room is next, and then those darn linen closets.