Decluttering after Relocating, Twice


My journey into decluttering began after our last move six years ago. Decluttering should have begun 10 years earlier, before my family moved from Atlanta to Cincinnati. Instead we began the process after we moved for the 2nd time from Cincinnati to Charlotte. My husband, Dan, and I met and lived in Atlanta for 11 years, moving around locally. We rented an apartment and then a loft, bought a condo and then our first house when our son, Ethan, was born. Despite starting in small spaces, we began to accumulate more as the size of our homes grew. And although we moved previously, we weren’t entirely prepared for relocating our household across state lines.

I began decluttering because I was fearful of the unknown and needed help settling in. Nesting inside our new home felt comfortable while I worked through my grief. We left good friends behind again and I wasn’t ready to start the process of putting myself out there to make new ones. What if we had to move again? What if moving every few years was our new norm? I was doing my best to stay upbeat for the sake of my family and this kept me distracted from my loneliness and fear.

In both relocations, Dan moved 7 – 8 weeks early to start his new job. Ethan and I came to look at houses and explore the area a few weeks later. Dan handled what I call the front end of the move, all of the logistics related to the new house. I handled all of the logistics related to the back end. Finding the movers, organizing, packing, purging, cleaning, prepping the house to sell, getting the house cleaned when we are moved out, etc. There are pieces of this process that brought me down memory lane allowing me to grieve and say good bye a bit longer.

Baby and child gear, toys and clothes that Ethan outgrew were items that have consistently been easy for me to donate and pass along to friends. I also occasionally participated in garage sales with neighbors. I really thought that I was doing a good job all along of letting things go. However, I was still shopping on my lunch break and weekends regularly.

In the time between Dan accepting the job and moving, we didn’t go through all of our stuff thoroughly. I quickly donated what I considered at the time to be a large amount prior to both moves. However, the unopened boxes stored in the attic were harder to go through on my own, and we moved them, twice. Most hadn’t been opened since before our son was born. These boxes held things we thought we’d use again or weren’t really sure what to do with. The items I recall are camping equipment we swore we would use again, electronics, laptops, VCRs and big, heavy art history books from college.

When the moving truck arrived in Charlotte, Dan was at work. I made a spontaneous decision when those boxes that have moved 2 too many times were being unloaded. I guided the movers towards the garage. My husband wanted to park in the garage, so sorting through them properly would become a priority. It was a bit spiteful, yes. At the same time, I understood why my husband didn’t want to spend his hours away from work going through them. It took 6 months to get his car into the garage, and another 3 to get mine in.

As we sorted through those boxes in the garage, I began following The Minimalists and decluttered inside the house, too. Unpacking the kitchen, we realized that we had a shit ton (pardon my expression of truth) of utensils and started a pile to be donated. I had the same realization as I was unpacking a lot of décor, including pottery, mirrors, wall art, photos, etcetera. As I continued to go from room to room removing the excess, I also discovered that minimalism wasn’t for us.

Living in a warm and inviting home that expresses our personality feeds my soul and welcomes me when I walk through the door.

I thankfully found and started following Courtney Carver and Joshua Becker.

Courtney Carver is best known for Project 333. For each 3 month season, you have a max of 33 items to wear including accessories, jewelry, outerwear and shoes. Since I’m a rebel and enjoy warmer winters living in NC, I altered the rules and created my own version, Project 250. I successfully reduced the items hanging in my closet to below 100, including scarves.

Twice a year, in fall and spring, I flip my clothes around so that I’m choosing from less than 50 items. I have held steady at 40 to 50 for a few years now. All items of clothing hung in my closet are included in this count: tank tops that I layer under shirts year round, nicer tees, blue jeans, shorts and scarves.

Project 333 does not include workout clothes, sleep wear or basically any items placed in my dresser so neither do I. I still have a lot of t shirts in my dresser because we are sports fans and travel, and now buy less.  Since my jewelry and shoes are fairly minimal, I don’t include those in the count. I don’t include outerwear either. I wear coats out of necessity, primarily on the soccer field in weather conditions of all kinds. And I don’t love any of them.

Through Joshua Becker, I was able to easily let go of what we weren’t using. The idea of having less to clean and less stress is very appealing. Since I wasn’t working for a few years, this was a good project that kept me focused. We had a lot of things that hadn’t been used in a while. Some were wedding gifts. Unlike the Beckers, we have kitchen appliances back on our counter tops because my husband uses them regularly and it also feels comfortable and welcoming. I later read and recommend Joshua’s latest book, The More of Less.

Our decorating style began to take on an uncluttered, airy vibe as I learned to love what we already have.

As I decluttered bookshelves, the dining room hutch and other flat surfaces, our house started looking spacious. I also felt lighter and energized when walking in the door. Our downstairs has an open floor plan and quite a bit of wall space that’s blank. I was tempted to buy some big pieces of art and immediately changed my mind. That would be more to move later, and I didn’t want more.

Although our house may not look like we’ve been decluttering, it contains only the things we love, our closets are only partially filled, the attic almost empty and the garage holds both cars with room to move around.

The last book I read most of (68% according to my Kindle app) was Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Removing what doesn’t spark joy is a simple concept that resonated with me. The rebel in me, however, didn’t touch each item, per her recommendation.

Books remain a really tough category for us. We moved a lot of books from our small house in Atlanta to Cincinnati. When we moved again, we sold and donated over half of them. We love to read and our closest library is 15 minutes away. Instead, we buy from Amazon, go to used bookstores and support 2 local bookstores here and at the beach. As I finish reading, my books go into 3 categories: books to keep that I love enough to reread, books to share and books to donate or sell. They just don’t move beyond our house very quickly.

This isn’t a story about turning into a minimalist.

The truth is our current house is big; 3500 sq feet big. The size of our house has grown with each relocation as we’ve moved further into the suburbs. Living close to where Dan’s job is important. With a shorter commute, we have more time together as a family. Over time, we figured out how to best use the extra space. Dan has a man cave with sports memorabilia; the workout room now doubles as a space for our teen to play video games and I am grateful to have my own office.

Decluttering with the goal of downsizing in the future is an ongoing soulful project, a work in progress. Dan and I aren’t in the same place in this process and that’s very okay. For a number of reasons, we aren’t ready to downsize and are leaving our timeframe wide open. When we decide to downsize, I strongly believe that we’ll work through the items in our home and easily make decisions together. I’ve grown to love his sports memorabilia, too.

I also still shop. The difference this time is that I don’t have the desire to buy, simply because I just don’t want more. I am intentional about how I spend my time and what I bring home. At the same time, it’s important to us to support local businesses and vendors. When we explore a new area or go to a festival, I usually have an idea of what I want to buy ahead of time.

This piece isn’t about minimalism because as a family we’re a team. My guys aren’t quite onboard. For me, it’s about peace in knowing that the things we own bring me joy. We won’t be moving an excessive amount of stuff next time, either. I’ve gained patience and recognize that we are all on our own journey. If we don’t downsize and instead stay in this house, I can live well with that too. I’m learning that it’s possible to live large with less and make our own rules, guidelines that work best for my family.

A home filled with happiness, that provides room to grow and thrive as individuals and together, is what have right here. That’s all I want. As well as a lot of love and laughter, and Dan’s cooking around our big table.

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