Let it go — and tame the clutter

So, you’ve received or you’re expecting PCS orders.

As you look around your home, the realization hits: you’ve got too much stuff.

Being in one place for a while can mean accumulating clutter you don’t even know you have until you contemplate moving it all.

When you know your weight allowance, you may have to force yourself to part with the outgrown sports equipment, clothes, accessories, books, games, gadgets you just “had to have” from Amazon, as well as other COVID-cabin fever inspired purchases.

“De-cluttering” is in vogue these days, mostly because of Marie Kondo, author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, even among people who don’t have to move their household across the country.

But if holding possessions in your hand one-by-one and asking yourself if it “sparks joy” in you sounds too metaphysical for you, there are other ways to make that weight limit.

Kondo has a point: American homes are filled with items we don’t need but are loathe to part with. One in 10 U.S. households pay for storage space and 25 percent of people with two car garages can’t fit even one car inside, according to BecomingMinimalist.com.

You don’t have to be a hoarder or a Great Depression survivor to have difficulty letting go of physical possessions. In a TEDEd video, Christian Jarrett explains Why are we so attached to our things? It turns out that the “endowment effect” — the idea that we value things more highly when we own them — runs deep in the human race and starts early. Like, when we are babies.

The “sunk cost fallacy” is another stumbling block to de-cluttering — the idea that since we paid good money for something, we shouldn’t get rid of it because we might need it.

Perhaps the hardest are “family heirlooms,” items of little intrinsic value that belonged to people we love who are no longer with us, and we cling to these things because of the memories tangled up with them. But keeping the items won’t bring our loved ones back.

Truly paring down our “stuff” begins in our heads. Know that the problem is not just yours, and that understanding these psychological quirks can help us overcome them.

The often-used phrase “If you haven’t worn or used it in a year, get rid of it,” is a good place to start.

Most organizational experts suggest going through your possessions room-by-room with three boxes marked: “keep,” “give away,” and “seasonal/put in storage.”

Keep is obvious. These are things you use frequently or every day. Tell yourself that to keep it, it must have a home. You will have to find a place to put it away, and then do it. Consistently.

Put like things together.

Get rid of can mean several things: throw away, give away, or sell. If it’s broken and you want to keep it, repair it right away. If you can’t repair it, or repairs would be inordinately expensive, throw it away. Don’t say, “I’ll get around to fixing it.” Search your heart and realize that you probably won’t fix it.

Make room in your life for new things. If you keep saying you’ll fix it, you’ll never replace it, because you already have one.

Be ruthless with yourself.

If it works and has lots of life left in it, but you want a new one or don’t use it, give it away. Often you can get a better version of whatever it is when you get where you’re going.

On-base Airman’s Attics and thrift stores provide items at low or no-cost to families who need them and can always use donations and volunteers.

If you have time, selling on Amazon Marketplace, Facebook or eBay has never been easier. And who couldn’t use a little extra cash?

Clothes: The average woman in the United States has enough clothes to wear a new outfit daily for a month, but we never do; do we ladies? The 80/20 rule has so many applications, and here it says we wear 20 percent of our wardrobe 80 percent of the time. If we tend to change body size, it’s even worse. We may have wardrobes at three different sizes, but would we honestly want to wear those Size-10 styles if we ever got back there again? Probably not.

And gentleman: how many T-shirts commemorating 10-K runs, auto races, concerts by now-defunct rock bands, microbreweries, and Triple-A baseball teams does one man need?

Outgrown kids’ clothes can be sold in consignment shops. Look around for a clothes-swap or organize one yourself if you have enough lead time.

Kitchen equipment: Look for items that can do double duty, and see what you can do without. If you have an Insta-Pot, do you really need a slow-cooker? Not really. Ask yourself if you really entertain enough to warrant packing fancy china, chafing dishes, and separate serving dishes? If you do, great. If not, consider that there are stories all over the internet that Millennials aren’t buying fine china and don’t want to inherit it, either.

Sporting equipment: If your family is still involved in the sport but have outgrown some of the equipment, see if someone else on the team has items they can swap, or maybe someone just starting up can use yours. There are consignment shops, or you can just give it away. If the interest in baseball has waned, and the kids are interested in some other sport or interest, don’t keep equipment hoping they will pick it up again. If they do, the cost of restarting is on them; they can save their allowance.

The same goes for art supplies, knitting, crochet, jewelry making, and whatever toys, games or interests your children have. They are notorious for being fickle. If they haven’t used it in six months, find it a new home. (Same goes for you, Mom and Dad).

Sentimental: This is the really difficult one. Often, we still have eyeglasses, books, special articles of clothing, musical instruments, bric-a-brac, and other keepsakes from old loves, friends, or deceased relatives. Sometimes it’s kids’ trophies or uniforms that we can’t bear to part with. Try taking pictures of them and dispose of the actual item.

If we are afraid that without the item, we will forget the memories, paste the photo in an album and jot down the attendant reminiscence with some details. Then you can browse it at your leisure and show it to your kids. That way, even when you’re gone, they can remember what you said about great-grandma and Aunt June.

Eyeglasses can be donated to Lion’s Clubs, WalMarts, and some optometrist offices to help others see.

Letting go

Often, people who lose all their material possessions find that after grieving their loss, they find a new relationship with the “things” in their life. If you are interested in exploring this issue more, you can start with this article from the Minimalism Made Simple website, “The Truth About Material Posssesions.

After all, paring down your lifestyle now would make your next PCS much simpler.

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