We’d barely finished unwrapping our holiday gifts when it happened. My kids were effervescent with holiday joy and had that new loot glazed look in their eyes. My husband was serenely basking in the success of another holiday (quarterbacked by yours truly, of course).
I, on the other hand, was thinking something along the lines of: Holy shit, that’s a lot of stuff! Where the fuck did all this stuff come from? And what the hell are we going to do with it all?! I immediately regretted every holiday purchase and basically every purchase we’d ever made in our entire lives. I wanted it all to be gone. I was feeling claustrophobic in my own home.
We did the pre-holiday toy purge, boxing up toys and books we no longer used, but it wasn’t enough. Where the fuck were we going to put all this new shit? We don’t even have room for our old crap! Must purge more…now!
We are affirmatively middle-of-the-road — not just when it comes to the holidays, but with our lifestyle in general. Not too big, not too small. We live in a modest, no-frills house. My husband and I share one family car. My younger son wears mostly hand-me-downs, and we read through books until they are falling apart at the spines.
I might not be an actual minimalist, but I’m definitely a wannabe minimalist. I fantasize about clean drawers. I have idealized visions of sparse, clean surfaces and countertops and open rooms with no clutter. I dream of having a place for everything, and everything will be in its place.
Yet despite my B+ minimalist goals, somehow we accumulate all this stuff, which over time seems to breed into more stuff until our home starts to look like the aftermath of a Toys”R”Us clearance sale. Eventually I realize we have too much stuff, and I basically want to set it all on fire.
The MO of a wannabe minimalist is pretty typical. Basically, I’ll ignore the influx of stuff until I lose my shit. On a rampage, I’ll decide I’m throwing it all in the garbage. No, that’s wasteful; I’m donating it all. I’ll stomp around the house barking at the kids to do something with the 11,259 baseball cards that are breeding on their bedroom floor and the kitchen counter and bathroom cabinet.
I’ll passive-aggressively “remind” my husband about all the mismatched socks and unworn sweaters taking up space in his dresser (and on our bedroom floor). I’ll tear open closet drawers, ready to get rid of all this stuff we don’t want or need, certain that after a few trips to Goodwill our house will be clutter-free and we’ll be living a wholesome minimalist lifestyle that would make the KonMari woman weep with joy.
About a half hour into The Great Purge, after filling a box or two with old toys to donate and throwing away a couple pairs of decades-old underwear with holes in them, I’ll decide that the only true solution is to move.
Then comes the constant second-guessing. What about that sparkly dress I wore to my husband’s office party five years ago and never again since? I should probably donate it — but what if we get an unexpected party invite and I have nothing to wear and no time to shop and Amazon Prime shuts down? Then what will I do? I’ll need a backup dress even if I hate it and it doesn’t fit right anymore, right?
And I couldn’t possibly toss that bin of toys in the corner filled with Lego Duplos my kids have long since outgrown — what if a group of rogue toddlers stops by and needs something to play with? And all those board games with missing pieces — what if there’s a snowstorm and we’re stuck inside for three days? They just might save us from killing each other.
I’ve tried all the decluttering and organizational techniques, and they work for a hot minute. But then we fall back into our typical bad habits, and before I know it, I’m swimming in a sea of old Happy Meal toys, Pokémon cards, and decapitated action figures my kids haven’t played with in three years. The struggle is real.
In fact, my home decluttering philosophy looks something like this: Try a new organizational technique. Get lazy. Let stuff accumulate. Lose my shit and purge like a motherfucker. Rinse and repeat.
Come to think of it, maybe my problem isn’t all the stuff we have. Maybe the problem is just that I don’t have it organized properly. Yeah, that’s it! I just need to get better at organizing. That’s the answer!
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to make an emergency trip to the Container Store to spend a shit ton of money on more stuff so that I can finally be a real minimalist.