Spring cleaning is every year, but now I make a monthly purge.

When I graduated from college in 2010, I had amassed a great deal of drawing and painting supplies. Initially, I wanted to be an illustrator but as time went on I became drawn more towards design. I knew that my passion lay with design by the my final year, so I packed up all of my oil paints, brushes, canvases, solvents and materials into a big trunk and held onto that trunk. I brought it to every apartment I’ve had since moving back to Central PA. After settling on a new house in 2015, I put that trunk into one of my large closets on the first floor. It’s been almost a year since I put that damn trunk in that closet, and when I think about it, I instantly think of my dad.

My dad is a great guy, but he has one character trait that everyone in the family loathes…he’s a hoarder. I’m not talking like a hoarder that is of the OCD type or that causes major life disruption where every room is filled with junk and trash. I am talking about the “future pragmatic hoarder” type. We all probably know someone like this. They keep a lot of things in a certain, “pragmatic reason”…here’s a few examples.

  • Tools – tools for automobile repair, word-working tools, even metal working tools and their accessories…useful, practical….vast majority haven’t been organized or needed in years.
  • Music – Boxes and boxes of defunct cassette tapes of music from the 80’s and 90’s. Why? I don’t even know. He claims much of it you can’t get on Spotify or iTunes.
  • House upkeep items – Cans and cans of spray paint, buckets of paint, tons of brushes, caulk, tools…again…all valuable, but 20 years of accumulation.
  • Old work documents and tools – Manufacturer brochures binders, Window unit demos….stuff outdated from 20 years ago.
  • Clothes – Nothing pragmatic about this….no one wants to see you or anyone else wear your “impressive” collection of Hawaiian shirts from ages past.

Most of this stuff is confined to the garage, but it has leaked into other areas of my parents house. My sister and I joke the only way this would ever get cleaned is to burn it all to the ground. But as I look my that damn trunk in my closet I can’t help but think…

Shit, I understand where my dad is coming from.

He’s always told me a reason for keeping the things he does and everyone once in a great while…like once every five years…he’ll delve in the fathoms of the garage and pull some antediluvian tool or item that is exactly what we need for a certain task. When that happens, it’s amazing, but it’s so few and far between when that need arises, it doesn’t justify the need to keep everything. Now it’s transitioned to the point that there is so much stuff that to even begin to start throwing things out, it’s a monumental undertaking.

…and I understand where my dad is coming from…

So that trunk is going. I’m going to throw it up on craigslist for free and see if anyone locally would like a ton of painting supplies and if I get no takers, I’m going to get rid of it regardless. Would I like to devote time to painting? Absolutely…but I’d also rather devote my time to learning code, or playing music, or playing with my dog. Honestly, the need to paint is very low in my life’s priorities. I could keep it when the muse strikes and the ambition is there, but I know it’s a slippery slope of just holding on to more crap. And it’s not just that trunk I am talking about either. Clothes, old stuff from our apartment, certain furniture, old TV’s…as I think about it, I just think it’s ridiculous that I have even let myself get to this point.

As a designer, one of the many mantras I live by is to keep it simple. Too much can lead to distraction and loss of focus. I’ve seen logos, brands, websites, printed material that all suffers from having “too much”; too much information, too much color, too much superfluous visual cues, etc. We’ve all seen these examples and they don’ evoke a sense of confidence, but rather it evokes immaturity or insecurity.

So what if I applied to mantra of keeping it simple in my life?

Sounds easy enough, so I began to start getting rid of the things I no longer use and really began to pare down my life with more of the essentials.

Clothes will go to Community Aide. If I don’ wear it often, it’s getting tossed.

Old electronics are getting recycled.

Old books (not the classics or RPG books) will get donated to local libraries.

Anything that doesn’t have a meaningful purpose in my life anymore will be given away or tossed.

The goal in mind is to create an uncluttered space to focus on what’s really important and not get bogged down but the past. It’s meant to be looked back on, not physically living with it everyday. So as I began to declutter my house, I am finding that it’s helping me focus on what is really important. As I began to inventory and figure out what needs to stay and what needs to go and here’s what I learned

  • Quality mattered – In my clothes, electronics, housewares, etc. Quality was the value of things. A good pair of work denim jeans were worth more than four or five crap pair from Walmart. The cheaply made socket set from the Dollar Store doesn’t stand up to the Snap On tools that I use.
  • Managing became easier – Being able to go to the garage and get what I needed to fix something around the house without having to search or have fifteen different options just makes managing life easier. The kitchen also became much easier to maintain and use.
  • Importance realization – As I started to go through the junk that I have collected over the last few years, I began to appreciate what I use on a more regular basis. For instance, we have a rice cooker, but I always use a pot. Sure, the rice cooker is nice and might speed up things…but unless I made a ton of rice all the time, the rice cooker is kind of pointless. My trusty large pot, however, gets used frequently.
  • Simply less stress – Just like looking at my Dad’s garage, the sight of unused stuff that serves no purpose was a big stressor. Delving into and clearing out the junk was a bit cathartic and left me feeling accomplished. A few days later when I would look at the area I cleaned out (a closet, a room, etc) I didn’t have any stress looking at what I had accomplished. The lack of clutter, just made me feel better.

In the end, adopting a lifestyle of living minimally and keeping it simple has helped me take more control in my life. By doing with less, I have gained more.