Un-boxing Day

There is something about this time of year that renews my desire to simplify and just get rid of junk.

It is a feeling that starts before Christmas. The mutterings start when all the kids toys have to be shuffled from the various corners to make room for the festive paraphernalia. It grows while bruising and bashing myself searching an attic full of boxes and bags  to find the decorations. On Christmas Day itself there is the clutter of boxes, and new aquisitions sitting in random piles  and in the days after Christmas each new item has to be found a home.

Money is tight, as is space in the house. Over the past couple of years de-cluttering has become a way of life. Any new item has to pass an “assimilate or die” test before being welcomed into our home. 

  1. Is this something that will be used and used frequently?
  2. Does this reflect something that is true for us? A difficult rule to express properly – the more sparingly used the more effective it is. There are some things that are not “useful” but they are a strong part of who you are. Something of beauty, something of strong emotional value, something worth keeping and standing by.
  3. Does this item have a clear space to live. Often this is a good way of sanity checking rule 2. Would I be willing to get rid of two other things to keep this one?  

 Out of necessity we’ve developed the following strategy:

  • A batch of children’s stuff will make its way to the next local NCT sale.
  • Anything of value which we can’t use will end up on ebay 
  • Books which are not going to be read go onto GreenMetropolis, our bookswap site of choice.
  • Anything not of sufficent value will get offered on freecycle
  • Anything too much hassle to sell will go to charity – for personal reasons usually one of the cancer charities.
  • Anything else we try to recycle as greenly as we can.

Christmas in the past has been hard because of the frustration of wasted effort. People dear to us have spent their money and emotional effort on well meant gifts that would be difficult for us to appreciate or enjoy.

This year we felt the balance was better, and as a result we all enjoyed Christmas more. It made a differerence that  set up Amazon wish lists for ourselves and the two girls and publicised them well in advance to avoid friends and family. It  also helped that we had worked with the girls go through their toys and games before Christmas, storing away or getting rid the things that were no longer being used. 

Now post-christmas, as a household its time to start the clearout again. Looking round there is still so much around that doesn’t belong and won’t get used.

My own personal bugbear is book and notes. I love information. The fantastic thing about reading is that every book you read encourages you to discover new books, articles authors and ideas.  I would happily surround myself with books that I would like to read despite knowing in my heart of hearts that I never will.  

I had been going to write more about my search for a balance,  however I’ve just noticed ythat Merlin Mann has restarted a thread running on 43folders.com which links both books and decluttering that I’d like to track. Both the original articles and comments on both threads are well worth a read.

Knowing others are thinking the same way at the same time helps tighten my own resolve to keep moving forward. I just hope the binmen are working on Monday.


East Lothian dad. Likes bad jokes and comic songs. Mostly tired, tries to stay cheerful. Thinks space is awesome. Would like to write more code and better docs.

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