How to Clean: or Why Chucking Stuff Out Is Related to your Bank Balance

I cleaned up.

No, I mean really cleaned up. I know a lot of you do this all the time and it’s no big deal, and I’ve had this discussion with people before, but it’s strange, because this time I REALLY cleaned up.

Are you lost yet?

Sorry. I got ruthless. I got rid of stuff. I got rid of overly sentimental things I’ve been holding onto for years. I got rid of clothes that didn’t fit my kids, or didn’t look great on them, or just didn’t look great. I got rid of old toys, broken toys that have waited a while to be fixed, cheap rubbishy toys that never get played with, and some great, expensive toys that never get played with either.

See? I knew it. You do this all the time, right? Well, true confessions here: I don’t. Sure, I clean up. Sure I get rid of clothes that are too small, and toys that are broken or they’ve outgrown. Just not as much as I should, apparently. Or so I’ve learned now that I’ve done it.

Have you been to my house? It’s a lovely place, but “small” is  good word for it. So is “cluttered”. “Old” is also appropriate (although “antique” is a better word for it). How about a phrase for it: “Lacking In Storage”. Yes. Yes, even with all that, it STILL took me this long to learn the value of the good old ruthless chuck-out.

So what changed? Well, me.

Actually, what changed was our financial situation. Here’s the paradox: the more money I have, the less things I feel I need to keep. Weird, huh? I thought so. It made me analyse why it was I was keeping things in the first place.

  1. I keep things because I might need them. So this is valid, right? I might. Although, generally speaking, if I haven’t needed it in the last twelve months then I may not need it at all. Poor me thinks “but it could be useful”. Me with enough money thinks “If by any chance I ever need another one then I’ll buy it”. 
  2. I keep things because of sentimental value. I think this is fine, to an extent. Although I kept stuff because it reminded me that when my kids were tiny they DID actually have some nice things. Poor me remembers all we didn’t have, and couldn’t afford to buy them. Poor me is somehow trying to doctor my memories of the past so it only includes the good bits. Me with enough is able to let go, to grieve for the times I couldn’t give my children the things I wanted them to have, and remember that THEY are no worse off because of it. THEY are fine. 
  3. I keep things because I’m blessed to have them. Well, yes. I am blessed to have some very beautiful things, and of course I’ll keep things that are precious to me or that make me happy. D’uh. But the flipside of “appreciating what you’ve got” is that you appreciate EVERYTHING. I appreciate the eleven pairs of shoes that my boys have been given, even if they never want to wear them. I appreciate the pile of colouring books my kids have accumulated over the years. I appreciate the huge amount of pyjamas they have, too. That’d cost a bunch, to have to go out and buy all them, and a lot of the time it was money we simply didn’t have. Poor me appreciates everything, and sees value in everything, and therefore keeps everything. Me with enough is free to say “Actually I don’t like it”, and to say “no thank you”. 
  4. I keep things because once upon a time I bought them. I bought them, often, because they were on sale, and I saw that as my one opportunity to own something that was almost exactly what I wanted–when what I wanted was truly out of my budget. Poor me says “I’ll work my way up to the thing I really want by getting something almost-good-enough”. Me with enough says “if it’s not what you want, don’t buy it!”

So my ability to keep a clean house is all in my head. And it started with my bank. Sure, all of these thought changes could have happened without an increase in finance. Some people (most people?) grow up knowing these things already. I didn’t. A lot I learned from my mother, who possibly learned it from her mother, and she, my grandma, was a young woman during the Great Depression. 

I don’t need to let 1930s-thinking affect the way I live my life today. The world has changed. And now I have changed. Heck, I might go chuck something out, just to celebrate. 

Care to join me?

My husband emailed me an awesome article he found on the subject too, after my Great Revelation and subsequent Great Purge. If you relate to what I’m saying here, this is well worth a read. 


8 thoughts on “How to Clean: or Why Chucking Stuff Out Is Related to your Bank Balance

  1. I have conducted three major purges of STUFF in the past few years and have never looked back. I know I will be getting rid of more unused/unwanted/unneeded stuff this spring. You have struck a chord – we don’t need all that stuff, we really don’t.

    • I know, but isn’t it funny how we think that we do? I’ve tried the “what if there was a house fire and it was all lost, what would I want to keep?” trick before, but it wasn’t that effective. I think it’s just practice – doing it again and again, and keeping on chucking. Crazy!

    • Good luck Amanda! It helped me to imagine I was moving house–thinking “would I really want to take THAT?” Usually the answer became a quick and obvious “no!”

  2. Hi Megan – wow I am impressed! Well done on making the decision to do this or did it ‘just happen’. I can relate to the reasoning behind your previous logic however I thankfully have always had ‘enough’ so why is my house so cluttered too. The area we used to eat for formal occasions is now totally covered with Scouting resources and endless print outs and we have our office desk for our business in our bedroom. The bookwork has now spread to the kitchen bench(because it is frightfully cold here in Dromedary, and further – like it has a life all of it’s own – it just grows. We have three filing cabinets all full of neatly arranged manila folders – so at least I try. The amount of paperwork from all the childrens activities is ridiculous and we have quite a generously sized house. We recycle and use both sides of the paper when printing – this can all be so overwhelming at times. We have invested in good quality storage containers and labelled them all neatly and put them downstairs. For our business there are strict retention periods as I have also just found out relates to Scouting documents too. (12 years). Let’s not get started about the children’s rooms aarrggghhh. Perhaps during these school holidays I can find the time to start and FINISH a clean up as you have proved is possible. Keep up the good work I really enjoy waking up to your blogs twice weekly. Blessings 🙂

    • Sorry Heidi, I’ve been so slack in replying this week. I’m hearing you. Paperwork is RIDICULOUS!!! Especially when you have to keep it. Ugh. I admire your ability to file it neatly and store it in boxes, although if I had that much I’d be forced to do it too. What I really hate is when I’ve filed neatly all the stuff that doesn’t matter any more (like out-of-date warranties, or instruction manuals for things we no longer own), but can’t find the things I DO need, like the receipt for the dishwasher that we do own.
      Good luck with the holiday clean-out. And thanks so much, I’m so glad you enjoy the blog 🙂

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