De-Clutter & the Big Move

This is a blog about when you realize you and your significant other have significant differences in life vision for retirement. One significant difference has to do with stuff. He firmly believes: he with the most stuff at the end wins. While he is not a true hoarder, he is definitely a packrat. I’m not exactly going minimalism, but I do envision a future with the reduced complexity of stuff.

This has really come to a boiling point with our downsizing move. We are shrinking our living space by half. We are going from 12 closets to 4, literally.   There is just not the space to have 45 different sizes/shapes of backpacks, 25 different winter coats, a Costco-supported pantry, boxes of board games we never play, or just-in-case anything.

I’m coming to terms with it and yes, I plan to purge more clothes and shoes. I really don’t need 20 pairs of (black) work pants anymore, nor cute heels in a range of colors. My daily reality is jeans/shorts and T-shirts and a couple of going-out outfits for each season.

And who am I to doubt serendipity – recently 2 bloggers commented about getting rid of all the old work files. In the move, I had what amounted to 4-5 boxes of old work stuff – memorabilia, reference books, and file folders full of resource material. I put this on the after-move purge as well. I’ll need to watch for the negativity elements on that (for me that’s reminders lost identity & daily relationships) and focus on the positive (the work shaped my skill development, created the person I am today).

Recently I read another blogger who said: “Holding on to something just for sentimental reasons (like the 50-year-old matches from my wedding) can weigh you down.” In this move a lot of sentimental stuff showed up in those 12 closets. Some got put in the Goodwill pile, some still managed to find its way into the 4 closets and basement storage. But I did feel the weight of it as we moved it in!

So I have been trying to de-clutter the stuff. But hubby just cannot give up his 6 computers; stacks of DVDs, CDs and albums; bikes, non-motorized water-craft, motorcycles, and all the associated paraphernalia; those 45 back-packs; or T-shirts and race awards from his running days. Yes, he has really tried to not move some things (an old TV, a second computer desk, years of magazines, clothes that will never fit again), and I can tell it is wrenching him to pieces.

I have also realized it is more than stuff – it’s also organization of said stuff.

Last week, during our multi-week move, he realized he could not find one of his car titles, and there were 5-6 boxes of office papers it “might be in” – in different rooms in the old or the new house. (At least I got him off the sidetrack to find it and back to a packing mode.) So, there was a realization I need to help him create a better system – which he’ll push back on, but I am the more organized and he did say he needs more organization. How to do this without marital fighting? A plan for November I’m thinking (after the move!), when we can stay focused on the fact it is not de-cluttering, just organizing.


So what have I learned about our differences. I cannot push him into the “do you love it, does it bring you joy” (Marie Kondo) or even “have you used it or looked at it in the last 10 years” thinking. I need to give him the space in the new house to keep his stuff – from the 2-bay garage with 8 sets of heavy duty shelving to an “attic office” of his own, also with 8 sets of storage shelving.   I can appreciate him for the great traits he has, and allow him to be the packrat he is. (Although he did agree to not have a Costco-supported pantry any longer!)

And I can focus on how to minimize for me. Yes, I’m the one with the 25 different coats (I know, but my excuse is the old house had 12 closets and I had no idea I had that many coats!).

What have you been able to de-clutter in your life? Or not?

Picture Credit: Tim Doyle, Africa Safari 2017, the “say what zebra”

38 thoughts on “De-Clutter & the Big Move

  1. I keep replying to your replies but so much fits our situation. We have lived together in my husband’s family home for 30 years and his family lived in it for 20 years before that. So I moved into a house that was full, on property that had barns that were full. So between being a new bride redecorating, refurbishing, eliminating and oh my gosh, re-wallpapering, it’s been an interesting life in this big old full house. I must admit, clutter and all, it’s been a good life. I had to lower my expectations on orderliness being married to this man and in his family and I guess it was a good thing since we ended up having four kids and there would not of been order anyway. Messes and all it’s been a wonderful life. But as you alluded to, with so many people losing so many things recently it certainly has lowered both my husbands and my attachment to many, many things. I think that lots of people are feeling that way now. But I do know better than to ask him pare down his Lpl records. That subject is off-limits; the rest of it we can at least discuss.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Interestingly, 16 years ago we had the option of moving into his family home where his parents had been for almost 40 years. I decided no, mostly because I wanted to redecorate and I’d never hear the end of it from his sisters. But we then had to clear it out…six bedrooms, an attic. Thankfully no barns! But a lot of stuff simply migrated to our house. And now, we are downsizing. The LPs, CDs, and DVDs are stacked to the ceiling (literally) in his attic office. The boxes of tools are waist high and three deep in the basement. And sports gear….also piled over my head in both the basement & the garage. I’m not sure how long I’ll manage living with this level of mess.

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  2. Oh goodness. What a fabulous post. I’m sure it fits far more couples or singles than you know. I husband to is a collector. Literally like a combination archaeologist historian memorabilia preserver and collector. So I understand the difference between a collector is that they want to show you their stuff while a hoarder does not want you to see their stuff. My man is definitely a collector because he takes anybody who comes to our house up the stairs to his man cave formally known as a walk in attic. It contains archaeological dig items like native American tools and arrowheads and sharks teeth and monasaur teeth, antlers and animal skulls (no human ones thanks goodness) and then there is a match collection a bottle collection a matchbox and hot wheels cars collection and then there are the thousands and I’m not exaggerating thousands of record albums CDs and 78’s and 45s. Oh and instruments we have oodles of guitars fiddles and a banjo. We have teo mandolins and two ukuleles and all kinds of brass instruments. Out of all that he actually plays a couple of guitars and a mandolin and could play his trombone if he chose to. Oh and books. That one I fully understand. I could go on anon but I’ll stop there to say that if he did not have an area or two that he could fiddle with his stuff he would be an unhappy man and that wouldn’t make me an unhappy woman. I think you’re wise to lighten up and let him have his space and his stuff. As they say, we all have to “Live our best life” and occasionally I’ll say to him, “you do you and I’ll do me.” I appreciate that saying. I did not even mention the fact that we have a very full horse barn, storage barn, old granary barn, well house barn, and a gardening barn. I won’t even get started on that. There will be no downsizing in my world unless it’s of my own stuff and sneaking things away which I may resort to. But only things I absolutely know that nobody cares about. And that they would not even notice is gone.

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  3. We faced a similar challenge to declutter when we moved three years ago, but unlike you, we moved to a 50% larger space, so we did not have the pressure of “where are we going to put this?” as much as we felt the weight of all of this 30+ years of accumulation. I am a minimalist in terms of clothing. That has never interested or fascinated me much. However, when it comes to tools and shop gadgets, well, that’s a different story. I’ll take the title of packrat there for sure. The odd thing about being a packrat is that it doesn’t take much reinforcement. Finding a useful piece of something-or-other in your collection once a year or so easily justifies your habit! (Jackie’s weakness is fabric and sewing/quilting gear.)

    Our problem is that we didn’t have enough time to really go through everything before we moved. It was a Sam Kinnison type of move; “get your kids, get your sh*t, we’re moving!” So now, we are slowly working on the disposition of all that “stuff” that got moved. We did empty and abandon our off-site storage unit, but one of our garages (we have two, two-car garages, one of which is my shop) is still more than half full of unresolved items. Our goal is to be able to get ONE car in there this winter. Ha ha.

    The biggest thing we have to somehow deal with is multiple bins of decorator-weight fabric left over from a previous business. That had been causing us to wrack our brains without much luck to this point. I am hoping that by our five year move anniversary, we will have dealt with all of the flotsam and jetsam. Wish us luck!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I do wish you luck. Hubby also just piled things into boxes and moved them… it’s a glorious disaster. No rhyme or reason for why things are in the same box. And not even packed neatly – literally tossed in. It makes my skin crawl – organization freak that I can be. I certainly hope we are not 3 years out and it’s still like that!!


  4. I can see how this would create a little bit of tension between the two of you!

    Thankfully, neither Husband nor I are packrats, and yet stuff has a way of accumulating as if by magic. I’m willing to bet that between the two of us, we could have at least 25 backpacks. Now that you’ve made me aware of that fact, I’m sure I’ll be obsessed with it 🙂

    I currently have my eye on our 3-piece wall unit which I’m planning to get rid of and replace with a much leaner single cabinet. The problem is that it’s stuffed to the max. I predict a bit of a painful exercise in my future to make that happen!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As some folks have pointed out, there is a sense of freedom when you get rid of things that are not bringing you joy. I’ve found I need to go through things a few times to get down to the stuff that really matters to keep. When it came to smaller space, and I had 2 things and only one would fit, I knew in my heart which to keep – that’s what happened for me.

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  5. My hubby is a collector pure and simple. Frustrating…I’ve employed the sneak attack. When we added to the master BR, a lot of things, clothes, etc went to charity. When I lost 30 pounds, a huge bunch of my size 14s went to charity. It felt so good! I still have too much stuff and don’t have the time or right frame of mind to deal with it right now. Good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve created a list of the various things I need to deal with – excess cleaning supplies, paperwork piles, work memorabilia, work clothes. I’m thinking winter time when the weather is blah – pull out an area to deal with!

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  6. Hi, Pat – Like others, this is a very timely post for me. We are currently traveling (again!). I have late-November and early-December earmarked for ‘purging.’ I plan to start with my stuff, and then gently attack any shared stuff (that Richard truly wouldn’t notice if it went ‘missing’) when he is out. One small suggestion that might work with your husband is to clean up one of the backpacks and offer to sell it. Good quality backpacks usually sell easily. This ‘exchange’ (money for a previously valued item) might help your husband with the parting of some unnecessary stuff. Good luck with your decluttering project. I look forward to reading a progress update!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. We tried the selling route with some stuff and got nowhere. So for me, its donation – less work/pain. According to his sister (who actually commented on my FB post link), it’s both nature and nurture. So it’s small steps forward and allow him to mourn the losses.

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  7. Decluttering seems to be in the air! Like Marty said, we think of this type of activity as being a spring thing, but, in reality, fall often means much more time spent inside. Given this, many of us want to spend that time in a comfortable, calming atmosphere. I’m currently in the midst of another decluttering push (mostly focused on ridding my file drawers of unnecessary files and papers). Fortunately, my husband isn’t too much of an impediment but, often, what I see as his “junk,” he sees as “important stuff” (and, I’m sure, the reverse is probably true too).

    Good luck with your quest. Have you considered having your husband rent a storage unit for all the stuff he can’t bear to get rid of? Sometimes getting that monthly bill can prompt one to purge. Fortunately, it sounds like his junk can be sequestered to non-public areas so you don’t have to see it every day.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve come to the conclusion that I will never go into his attic office – out of sight, out of mind!

      We briefly talked storage unit, but I’m actually hoping the smaller space forces him to declutter…and it has a bit. I took 100 T-shirts to goodwill just the other day. He finally acknowledged he would never wear any of those race-related T-shirts ever again (some from 30 years ago, many size medium – he was a skinny young man!). I did pull out a set of “cute” ones to have made into a quilt for his birthday. So some of the memories will be there. And he’s said a couple of other things can “possibly go” into the Goodwill pile. Small steps forward.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. My goodness, Pat, you just made me realize that we are married to the same man! It wasn’t until I read this post that I realized that all of the “minimizing” that has taken place around here has pretty much been done by me. Items in the general areas of the house, and my personal belongings. I haven’t even discussed HIS stuff! I’ve left his garage, his office, and his clothes pretty much alone. And he has continued to accumulate. What is it about some men, who feel the need to own Every.Single.Tool ever produced! Great post!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. LOL. In the move we are trying to put like things together – a bit of organizing. He has 9 saws. Yes, 9. And we have zero trees on new property. Why 9? A couple are his dads, a couple are his granddads, one might even be MY dad’s. So it’s not just every.single.tool. It’s multiples of every.single.tool. Don’t get me started on snow shovels (how many people does he think will be shoveling snow?). Gosh, and we do love them is spite of it!

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    2. Now wait! I don’t have EVERY single tool. 😂. I don’t have a Sawzall for example. Just to give you an insight into how we toolophiles work, I bought a 23 gauge pin nailer for what I thought was going to be one project. I was a little reluctant, but I bought it anyway because the project demanded it. However, I have now found several other uses for it and I just made a cute little box for my wife with it, so the purchase has been completely justified and it’s on to the next tool!

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  9. Amazing timing. I have regretted for years that I thought I gave my grandmother’s china to Goodwill in a previous “we never use this” cleaning. How thrilled I am that a few days ago my husband found the boxes of china behind cases of mason jars. Now that I’m retired and have the time to hand wash china, I am so looking forward to using it at the next family dinner. That said I don’t regret getting rid of work stuff, old books, etc. The china was the only regret and now it turns out not to be a regret! And yes, I’m keeping my mom’s fur coat that my dad gave her 65 years ago in the hope one day I’ll lose enough weight to be able to wear it.

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    1. OK, I have my husband’s grandmother’s china still and his mother’s fur coat. Both made the move and I have no idea when I’ll use either! I have my own china that I do hope to use a bit more now that I have a kitchen to more easily cook in…but a second set? I used it years ago when we had 25 for Thanksgiving dinner, but now all the kids are going to other sides of the family and I doubt I will host any big dinners in my smaller dining room. But, just could not give it away to Goodwill! Happy you found out grandmothers china…. it was meant to be!


    2. I love the story if finding the China. I just hand washed some old China yesterday and plan to use it at thanksgiving. It’s fall looking. It was stashed away in my in laws’ belongings that were shoved away along with tons of other stuff we just put away expecting o e day to let our kids pick through and take what they want. I’m looking forward to using this set. Also I have washed lots of other breakables and am putting those I think the kids will want into a huge plastic bin in one of our overly crowded barns. That’s worth storing. Now to remove their old company copier that’s as big as a short fridge. Now that I know we won’t need. Looking forward to clearing out all that kind of stuff.

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  10. Oh Pat, I am so with you on this one. And, I agree, when you are part of a couple, you must let your partner move at their own pace in their own time. I declutter every year. It’s amazing what one can accumulate in a year’s time! It’s also amazing how I think I’ve decluttered, but am really hanging onto items I can’t seem to let go. The purge of items I no longer need or use is cathartic. I do still have a couple of the napkins from our wedding, but I let go of the work suits and heels. I hung onto a few of them until realizing last year I hadn’t worn the remainder in the last 5 years, so they went to Goodwill as well. I’m like you…t-shirts and jeans. Good luck on the decluttering…it’s a process. K

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I did 2 work-type events in the past 2 weeks and in neither case did I wear suits and heels. So I’m thinking next clothing purge a bunch more will go away. I have a full list of “purge reviews” to do… I felt it might be better to stack and cram and then take the time to go through and purge later. Those dismal winter months when you want to stay inside… I have my to-do lists!


  11. This is definitely something others are thinking about at the moment, which is interesting since usually springtime is when we traditionally think of cleaning out those closets. I have for the most part gotten rid of my work memorabilia. One thing I have learned is that moving around a lot definitely keeps you mean and lean. Good luck with your efforts! – Marty

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Marty. I’ve lived in this house the longest ever – 16 years – lots of time to accumulate. Plus husband’s parents stuff that we “inherited”. It was frightening at times to see what was in the back of closets that we didn’t even recall putting there. It will be nice to be a bit more lean and mean going forward.

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