Extreme Decluttering Technique: Flooding

I’ve written quite a bit about techniques to declutter, or to stop accumulating so much stuff. Recently though, I was introduced to a new method to get rid of lots of stuff: flooding.

My little town suffered the breach of a dyke about 3 weeks ago, which I wrote about here. Writing at the time was pretty traumatic, and the whole thing still feels surreal.

I want to make it clear that all that was lost, in our case, were material possessions. My children are safe, and so are my wife and I. Thanks to herculean efforts and the help of a few dear friends, our house is almost ready to be moved back in, which is a lot more than many people can say.

There’s a lot of decluttering happening on this street.

This brings me to the decluttering angle of things. I find one of the more difficult aspects of decluttering is letting go of items that remind me of things, that elicit memories or feelings. Because so many of my precious books and belongings were damaged by the flood, and the disgusting sewer waters, I had no choice but to get rid of them. In many cases I didn’t have a chance to say goodbye.

I catch myself a hundred times a day thinking, yeah, I have something like that … oh wait. No I don’t. Not anymore. My wife was asking me how many bookshelves we had – for insurance purposes. My first thought was, that’s easy, let me go check … oh wait.

As horrible and traumatic as this experience has been – let’s call it that – the fallout has something that for me, is somewhat cathartic. I don’t have to go through thousands upon thousands of items, deciding at every step what makes the cut and what doesn’t. God has already made the choice for me, and He chose whatever was on the lower shelves, hung in the water or fell in the water, as well as the actual floor, walls and ceilings of my basement. And the washroom. And the freezer. And my grandmother’s rocking chair. And all the kid’s toys.

God has made the choice, and I had to carry everything out to the curb.

This is – hopefully – a once-in-a-lifetime decluttering experience.

In the picture above you can see a small excavator picking up 40 years of treasured possessions and dumping them unceremoniously in a truck. We initially took so much stuff out that it took that machine 2 hours and three – THREE – full trucks to haul away our stuff. We put more out afterwards, at least another truck full.

The result has been spectacular in terms of decluttering – silver lining here folks. I never thought that I would get the chance to remodel the basement to my taste, but here we are.

The result, after a week of back-breaking work.

Having lost so much possessions already, I find it easier to select what I’ll be keeping from what has survived. I thought that since so much was lost, I would be keen on keeping every shred of what was not, however I find that this is not the case.

It’s like the Band-Aid has been pulled; I am now able to throw away things that I have been keeping for years, on the odd chance that I would need them again, or because someone I cared about loved them. My dear, departed mother loved books by Larry McMurtry; I don’t. I don’t need to keep stuff someone else loved because I loved them. It doesn’t make me love my mother any more or miss her any less because I am holding on to these things – and countless others.

We are now in the process of boxing up what we have left so that we can finally move back into our house. The water is drained, everything in the basement is demolished and taken out, the decontamination is done. All we have left to do is clean up and move back in, and remember the lesson that was taught to us, at great emotional, physical and financial expense: stuff is just stuff.

Decluttering: Donating Old Clothes to Charity

Yesterday my family and I did something that had been haunting us for a long time. I’ve long been a hoarder – trying to reform myself – and doing this kind of thing is difficult, but still. I donated all of my children’s old clothes to charity. This fits nicely within my goal of decluttering our house.

My children are now 4 and 7, and growing like weeds, and we generate a lot of clothes that are barely used and we will never, ever need again, so instead of trying to sell them, we donated them.

Donating Kid's Clothes to Charity
These boxes would NOT fit in my Subaru.

I usually try to sell everything; when you’re trying to pay down a mortgage, every dollar counts. That being said, and as my wife wisely said, it could take years to get rid of that stuff on Kijiji and eBay, and we would not make much money.

Decluttering and Charity are Good for the Soul

Moreover, a lot of these clothes were donated to us, mainly by my sister, who has kids just a bit older than ours, so giving to charity would be paying it forward and good for the soul.

It’s crazy how just getting rid of 6 boxes of old clothes and 2 massive garbage bags would make a difference, but a part of the basement now seems clear after years of clutter. There is still a long ways to go, but we are going in the right direction!

Of course, getting rid of boxes of stuff that’s already been sorted and for which there is a market, so to speak, is easy. The rest of the decluttering is going to take some doing.

Clutter Removal: One Good Habit To Form

If you feel like clutter has taken over your life, you are not alone. Myself and millions of other people feel that way at every moment of their lives. It can be because you’re a hoarder, even a small-scale one, or simply because you or people you live with are messy.

And that’s okay. It’s okay to be messy, but not to let the clutter and the mess take over your life!

In my case, I would say that I’m a small-scale hoarder. I used to love having lots of stuff, and it’s certainly not because I was deprived in my youth, quite the opposite. I think it’s in my genes, but that’s a story for another day.

This is NOT the Solution!
This is NOT the Solution!

Having a wife and two little kids at home, it’s sometimes difficult to get ahead of the mess, and this can cause trouble. It can lead to minor family strife and friction, all the way to refusing to have people over because everything is all over the place and you’re embarrassed.

There is no quick fix for this; it requires a complete change of behavior on the part of everyone that occupies the place; of course, you can’t force a four-year old to use the vacuum cleaner, but you can start instilling good habits about picking up after yourself, and lead by example. If your child sees you tidying up, he or she will want to do the same!

The One Good Habit to Form if you want to eventually get rid of clutter, is to always have something in your hands. Look around you, right now: something is out of place. Pick it up and put it away, or throw it out. RIGHT NOW.

The Lively Dollar

Now do this all the time.

As you walk around the house doing chore, or anything else, just pick up one little thing and put it where it belongs. You won’t vanquish your clutter in a day, or in a week, but eventually, if you can stick to this little habit, you will.

Once your home is relatively clutter-free, it will be a lot easier to keep it that way. I know from experience that it is difficult to get your head out of the water when it comes to clutter, but consistency in action, and not adding to the clutter with additional stuff, will go a long way!

Tell me your clutter and decluttering stories in the comments below, I’d love to hear what tips and tricks you use, and put them to the test!