Have you ever read a book that you didn’t want to end? Of course, you have. But how about a non-fiction book you didn’t want to end? Harder to come by. I just read one that I didn’t want to end—Living Well Spending Less: 12 Secrets of the Good Life by Ruth Soukup. When I finished I wanted another dozen secrets.
Just watch the trailer and you’ll see why:
I expected a bunch of financial, money-saving tips—and there are definitely some good ones in the book (I will never grocery shop the same way again)—but it was one of the more subtle themes that hit home most for me.
The part of the book I loved, which totally surprised me, was “clearing our lives of clutter”. I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about clutter and didn’t think I had a cluttered home. In fact, I didn’t think I needed that secret.
I was wrong.
Clutter isn’t just for hoarders. Everyone has clutter. Some of us just might stash it away better than others or not realize it’s clutter. We all have clutter in our homes, and in turn clutter in our hearts…and we continue to unknowingly want more.
Ruth helped me realize I too have a clutter problem and she gave me strategies to deal with it. I had three big clutter aha-moments while reading the book.
1. Toys are out of control, even if they do all fit neatly away.
The built in cupboards in our living room are full of toys. My home looks neat and uncluttered, because the toys are all hidden behind cupboard doors. That doesn’t mean we don’t have a toy clutter problem.
Who here has threatened to take all their kids toys away?
I think every parent has. My hubby threatens to get a trash bag regularly, and sometimes goes as far as to get the bag, but no toys ever end up in the trash. Hollow threats.
My favorite story from the book is when Ruth took all her kids toys away…never to return. It spoke directly to one of my biggest pain points as a parent. Toys, clutter, stuff. Ruth had the guts to do something about it.
It was incredibly refreshing to read another mom’s story about taking the toys away and how her kids lived to tell the tale. It’s true, her kids didn’t die, they didn’t wither away in boredom, and after only a few weeks they didn’t even want the toys back.
Ruth says, “Instead of being bored, they suddenly had no shortage of things to do. Their attention span grew longer, and they were more able to mindfully focus on the task at hand.They were able to read or color for hours at a time (they still had access to books and art supplies) and would happily spend the entire afternoon playing hide-and-seek or making up an elaborate and imaginative game. They became far more content, more able to appreciate the things they did have, and more able to enjoy the moment without feeling the constant need to move on to the next thing.”
This year I want to change our relationship, and struggle, with toys. Following Ruth’s lead, I want to reduce the toys in our house to the treasured few. Because the truth is my boys already take most of their toys for granted, so why do we keep those around? I’ve long said, they drag 99% of the toys out just looking for the 1% of them they actually want to play with. What if all that was left was the 1%?
2. My Closet is Full of Dead Weight
We moved into our home about 5 weeks after my youngest son was born. I spent my maternity leave nursing and packing. When it came time to pack my wardrobe, I packed it all. Now nearly 5 years later I feel weighted down by a closet overflowing with clothes, most of which I can’t currently wear. I have clothes in there ranging from size 4 to size 12.
Ruth took her closet down to 40 hangers. Just 40 hangers.
Ruth says, “I limited my clothing to what would fit on forty hangers. Compared to the closets of a century ago, forty hangers is still a lot, but for me — and probably for most women today — it was a pretty drastic change. I purged everything that didn’t fit or that I hadn’t worn within the last year, and suddenly instead of feeling like I had nothing to wear, I felt like I had stumbled on a whole new wardrobe, one I actually loved!”
I am incredibly blessed to have a large walk-in closet that is the size of a small bedroom. But just because I have the space doesn’t mean it should be filled. I am picturing it in my head right now…40 hangers of my favorite pieces surrounded by…empty closet rods. Now that sounds like luxury. I could turn my closet into a proper dressing room with all the extra space, free from the weight of clothes I won’t or don’t want to ever where again. This year I want to purge my closet and create a dressing space that makes me feel refreshed.
3. I hoard decor I don’t need.
Reading Ruth’s book, opened my eyes to clutter I never realized I had, because I made neat little storage solutions to manage said clutter. I turned the inside of an unused TV cabinet in our dining room into a storage mecca for party supplies and decor. I use a cute turquoise cart in my studio to hold other seasonal or new decor that doesn’t have a home yet.
Even though I teach about styling and decorating, I don’t use all the decor I have. I have go-tos and favorites. The rest is just well-stored clutter.
Ruth admits in Living Well Spending Less, “Our home was not filled with junk; it was filled to the brim with really nice stuff that we really didn’t need.”
I have the exact same problem. I started to correct it a couple years ago with my home spending hiatus and have hardly added any new decor since, but honestly it never dawned on me to purge the decor from the past. I don’t need it, even if it is stored neatly away.
The Clutter Problem I Didn’t Know I Had
I always equated clutter with piles of stuff you don’t have a place for. That is one type of clutter. But there is a more covert clutter plaguing us. The stuff that is stashed neatly away, not creating visual clutter, not taking away space from something else, but all the while weighing us down.
It is clear to me now that we do have a clutter problem and Ruth’s book, Living Well Spending Less, has given me hope. We can transform our home this year by addressing our covert clutter and consciously changing the way we view bringing more stuff into our home.
In Ruth’s words, “Less stuff equals more joy.”
I highly recommend reading Living Well Spending Less. It’s not an overload of inspiration, theories, or ideas you will never use. Instead, it’s full of practical tips and real strategies you can start right now to live well and spend less. Grab your copy of Living Well Spending Less and start putting the 12 secrets of the Good Life to work for you.
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