Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Keep it Spare

Anyone who’s spent time around me knows I am nuts about preventing clutter. I work constantly to keep the level of “stuff” in my house and life very low.

I’ve told this story before, but for those of you who missed it: About 13 years ago, long before I moved to New York, I lived in a two-bedroom apartment in Florida. I’d spent years collecting mid-century furniture, china and other stuff at flea markets, and I had a huge collection of books, music and general junk. I’d just returned from two years in the Peace Corps, living very modestly, and that’s when I realized how crazy it was to own all this stuff.

Slowly but surely, I began getting rid of things. I donated a lot of it to charity and consigned some through a shop in the town where I lived. I sold a lot of stuff on eBay. I gave some things to friends. I didn’t earn a profit, but considering the use I received from everything I’d say I got my value out of it all.

By the time I moved to New York, I was down to a small apartment, with some stuff in storage at my Mom’s house. Now I live in a studio, and all that stuff in storage is gone. I have less stuff now than ever, since moving to college 23 years ago. I don't miss anything I got rid of.

It’s so freeing. Less to insure, less to worry about, less to store and clean and maintain. I always tell people that if anyone broke into my apartment, they’d be sorely disappointed!

Yesterday, however, I read about someone who’s taking this even further than I have. He’s reducing all his possessions to 100 items. I don’t think I’m quite THAT extreme.

My hints for preventing clutter?

-- Buy less! And if you buy one thing, get rid of another.
-- Throw out or file all paper as quickly as possible. Keep files to a minimum and clean them out often.
-- Buy a good shredder.
-- Only keep clothes you wear regularly (aside from a few seasonal items).
-- Indulge in sports that require little or no equipment. (running, the gym)
-- Always keep a bag designated for items going to charity. Put stuff in it and donate often.
-- Use the Library. Use Netflix.
-- Discard periodicals if you don’t read them by the time the next one comes. Don’t let them stack up. (This also eliminates “magazine guilt.”)
-- Give gifts that can be consumed, like food, gourmet coffee or wine, and urge people to give you similar gifts. Or make donations to charity in the names of your friends and family members.

(Photo: Chelsea morning, Sept. 2007)


  1. I bet I live with more clutter than you do, though still lots less than most folks. Lots of stuff makes me claustrophobic, which is why I keep my possessions down to a minimum.

    My "rules" include keeping only those things that matter, that TRULY matter, to me. That might include an old painting that's too big for where I currently live, but it was a gift from a dear friend, so I'll hang on to it, thank you.

    I never have enough clothes. At the end of every season, I have an almost irresistable urge to burn everything in my closet. Usually I just take it to the thrift store, instead.

    Happy Halloween!!

  2. I with you on the clutter business. At our house there is a tug-of-war over stuff. Mrs. Sneed keeps everything and I throw or give stuff away.

  3. I totally agree with you. I'm about to move again (this time to a small studio) and I'm eyeing my clothes and books yet again. I don't have much to begin with, but I love paring down what I do have and starting fresh. Things are so annoying and not really worth it!

  4. I knew you were nuts about preventing forest fires, and I knew you were nuts about preventing teen drug use, but the clutter thing is something I did not know about you. Very educatonal post. Thank You.

    ps Hope to see you sometime in Dec for a Christmassy type of lunch or something.