Pitch 30: Cleaning the clutter

Moving from a three bedroom house into a one bedroom apartment was going to be an easy task, or so I thought. Afterall, my house was only 936 sq feet vs 700 sq feet in the new apartment. It couldn’t be that much of a difference – I’d just get rid of lots of random stuff before I left for Colorado. I didn’t even use all three bedrooms. Was I ever mistaken.

First yes, I gave a lot of stuff away as donations. But I hadn’t even scratched the surface. Add in yard furniture, tools and random items laying around and the entire moving truck was packed tetris style.  One huge moving truck full of one persons things.

Something was seriously wrong with that picture. In the past while helping me move, friends and family would say: “You have a lot of stuff!”  But it never sank in. Yes, I had accumulated items over my 37 years of living on this planet.  I felt it was natural for people to have belongings.

The psychology of belonging is another story in itself, but I sincerely believe that the items that surround us are like insulation, the womb. They make us feel comfortable, as my big comfy down comforter and pillows do when I am cold, weary and ready to rest. A nest.

I read a great quote once from one of my heroes, Pema Chodron.  It reads:


This holds true on so many different levels. When my house was broken into, that’s how I felt.  When I had gone through tough break ups, or experienced betrayal from family and friends, that is exactly how I felt. The list of life occurances go on… but it’s important to recognize, the less attached and clingy you are, the less you have to lose. Now, some may find that very pessimistic and negative to mention. I believe in the richness of relationships and in allowing ourselves to love and be vulnerable, don’t get me wrong. But it’s our thoughts and emotional attachment to people and things that really mess us up.

So when my friend and I pulled up to my “new” one bedroom apartment in Colorado Springs – driving that big moving truck that toted all my shit – you better believe I was in for some surprises worthy of tears.

Instead of digressing, I will just list some tips to decluttering your mess.

1) Pitch 30: On the first of the month, I set an alarm on my phone to go off. It says “Pitch 30.”  Pretty self explanatory. I set aside 30 things to donate to charity. If I lag on this task, then the next time my alarm goes off to Pitch 30, I make myself Pitch 60!  I usually find myself getting rid of things over the entire course of the month – I have a box at my front door to toss items in. I generally go over my 30 item goal.  I think the most difficult thing is not getting money in return for giving things up, but the space and peace of mind is worth it.  Bigger price items of course can be sold on craigslist or ebay, or sell your clothes and accessories at second hand stores. Taking a box of items to work is also a kind way of getting rid of things you don’t use – a lot of people, and even their kids, may appreciate some random items like old clothes, cds or tapes (seriously, my friends 10 year old loves his walkman).

2) Be honest with yourself: I have the biggest time getting rid of clothes and accessories. My stagnant mental attitude is “…but what if one day I want to wear those overalls I’ve had since 1995?” or “…what if I get an office job again someday… I might need those business casual skirts.”  Please. It’s ridiculous. Fashion changes! If you didn’t wear something in a season, donate it. If it’s designer, sell it. Yes, you will probably someday ask yourself “what did I ever do with those overalls from 1995?” But trust me, that temporary moment of remorse you feel is totally worth not having to haul unused crap around with you for decades.

3) Knick knacks:  Souvenirs or gifts from loved ones, or simply just something you really enjoy looking at…or not – these things usually hold memories and gather lots of dust. Knick knacks usually serve zero purpose besides hanging around taking up space. Keep a few for style and design; toss the rest. A streamlined environment with no clutter is much more pleasing to look at than that funny figurine you got in Mexico. It’s liberating to have less to clean and knock over…and it’s more Feng Shui. Maybe you will find an burst of energy in your home life.

4) CDs & Cassettes: With the popularity and convenience of itunes, amazon music and apps like Pandora and iheartradio, all my CDs and cassettes were in boxes; they weren’t even sorted or displayed. Instead of giving them all away, I decided to sell them on Amazon Trade In, which then offers you site credit.  Fifty cents for a cd is a pretty sad compensation in my opinion, but it does add up. Maybe it’s better to have some credit saved than a few boxes of stuff you don’t use taking up precious space. From browsing my old music collections, I ended up adding a few great stations to my pandora account. I also sold my DVDs and old iphone. Amazon will buy back books and just about anything that holds some resale value.

5) Photos: Memories. Sigh. Again, boxes taking up space. I recently learned of a few companies that will scan and digitize old photos.  I have yet to use one of these services, but will be doing so in the future. Click the link for a comparison of these digitizing companies.

By no means am I a minimalist…yet…but hopefully some of these ideas are helpful. The most important part of downsizing is not accumulating more. Please share your own ideas below.

“May life be as spiritually rich as it is materially simple” Aboriginal Proverb