Collectibles Usually = Clutter

Recently, I was shopping in a thrift store when I happened to see a stack of Norman Rockwell collector plates. I remember seeing them advertised in magazines back in the 1970s and 1980s, and they weren’t cheap. In fact, I think people could pay for them in monthly installments. But now they’re only $3 each at the thrift store.

Then there are Hummel figurines. My elderly relatives think their Hummels are worth hundreds of dollars each, because they paid a lot for them back in the day and they assume that prices have only gone up since then. I don’t have the heart to tell them that most Hummel figurines sell for $15-30 on eBay nowadays.

And of course anyone over 20 remembers what happened with Beanie Babies. They became popular and people bought and sold them for outrageous prices. Now you see them for a buck each at garage sales.

The fact is that once-collectible items often become clutter that’s hard to get rid of, either because you paid so much for them or because you’re aware that they were once valuable and you feel guilty getting rid of them. Neither of these are good reasons for keeping this stuff, especially if it’s getting in your way.

Consider that any items that were once highly sought after are probably not worth as much now because there are so many of them in existence: their popularity doomed them to eventually become commonplace, just because of the sheer quantity of them that were created.

Nevertheless, it’s still hard to get rid of such things.

The key, I think, is to make a strict rule to only keep items that you truly love. They may have once been collectible, or they may be something no one else wants. But if you dearly love them, they can stay. And if you don’t love them, they need to go. You must be picky, picky, picky, if you want to live in a clean, uncluttered and lovely environment. It’s the only way.

Shrinking My Wardrobe

Today I shrank my wardrobe by about 33%.

I’ve kept many clothes over the years, partly out of sentimentality, and partly because most older clothes are better-made out of better fabrics than the clothes I find in stores today. I’m sure people are sick of seeing me in the same old things, because I’ve been wearing some outfits for years!

I do buy the occasional “new” thing here and there, usually at a thrift store a half-hour from here. There are plenty of thrift stores in my own town, but I seem to have particular luck at the store that’s further away, sometimes even finding actual “new” clothes (they might have been new ten or 15 years ago) that still have the tags on them.

I’ve had a bit too much fun at that store in recent months; as a result, my wardrobe no longer fit in my closet. There were too many things hanging in there, and the two large plastic boxes I keep for out-of-season clothes would no longer close tight; they were way overstuffed.

I took everything out and sorted it into piles by type: tops, sweaters, slacks, jeans, etc. I also went through my dresser drawers and took out anything I hadn’t worn yet this season. I did all this sorting on my bed, which is positioned conveniently between the closet and the dresser.

The first part was the easy and fun part: I found all the socks with large holes in them and pitched them. Ditto for the underwear that I’d be embarrassed to be seen in if I ended up in the hospital.

Then I started making a pile for donations to the local Goodwill, where I can just drive up and they’ll take my stuff before I can change my mind. At first that was easy, too: tops that I haven’t worn in ages, pants that no longer hang right on me, the sweaters that are perfectly fine but that I have far too many of…the result was a nice-sized pile. Some of those items came from the thrift store, so I had little guilt about giving them up because the price I paid for them was a donation to the religious charity that runs the thrift store.

It helped that I’d been planning to go through my clothes for a few weeks, so I’d already begun thinking about which specific pieces of clothing I’d give up. Those items went straight into the pile; I guess I’d already mentally wrestled with them.

But there were plenty of items that I’d forgotten about, so I now had to make decisions about each of them. As a result, despite the decent-sized pile of donations, there were still far more items stacked on my bed than could fit into those two boxes. And so the hard part began.

When you’re sentimental, it’s so easy to find an argument for why you should keep something:

  • I’ve had this forever.
  • I’ve had some good times in this outfit.
  • This was a gift from someone I love.
  • This is one of the few colors that look good on me.
  • I wore this top when my kids were still at home.
  • I’ve always loved this brand.
  • My husband used to compliment me when I wore this.

Yes, I said all those things in my head, and more. Suddenly I grew tired of all the arguments. I began grabbing favorite items and stacking them in the plastic boxes that would be stored in my closet. Once the boxes were full, I put the rest of the clothes in the donation pile before I could change my mind. Then I bagged it all, put the bags in the trunk of the car and slammed the lid.

Back in the bedroom, peace reigned. Two boxes, flat on top instead of bulging, were put back in my closet. There was space between the clothes hanging there. My drawers had plenty in them, but were not overstuffed. Oh….it feels so good to be done with this task for a while!

In a week or two, when I think of some piece of clothing I used to wear, and I realize that I gave it away, I’ll probably feel bad for a second. But then I’ll remember that it served me well and that it was time to let it go. Believe it or not, that always makes me feel better, and then I can move on.

I wish I was one of those people who aren’t sentimental, and can swiftly grab up piles of clothes and get rid of them without a second thought. But that’s just not me, and I know I’m not alone.

(If you’re sentimental like me, you’re going to love my new book, The Sentimental Person’s Guide to Decluttering. Check it out HERE.)

The Truth about Tiny Houses

Tiny houses continue to be popular, and I understand why people like them:

  • They’re cute, and often cleverly designed.
  • They’re good for people who want to live very simply.
  • Since they’re on wheels, you don’t have to pay property tax on them.
  • Since they’re tiny, they don’t cost much to heat or cool.
  • They’re sturdier than a modern towable trailer.
  • They’re cheap enough that you can pay cash and live mortgage-free.

Nevertheless, I can see some problems with tiny houses, particularly for those who are looking for a cheaper way to live:

  • They’re very expensive per square foot. A new 20-foot long model (226 square feet including loft) sells for $62,950 or $279 per square foot. Consider that many nice small homes sell for $100 per square foot or less. (Of course, tiny houses can be cheaper if you build your own.)
  • There’s little room for storage, meaning you can’t save money by buying on sale in bulk, nor will you have room to store the tools needed to make repairs or create things (ouch!)
  • You’ll have to find a landowner who will give you permission to park your tiny house on their property.
  • Tiny houses often have wooden exteriors, which will require regular maintenance to prevent weather damage.

Finally, there’s the fact that most tiny houses have upstairs lofts for sleeping, and they’re usually accessed by tiny ladders or steps. Being a woman of a certain age, I think I’d be courting disaster when making my routine middle-of-the-night bathroom trips down to the bathroom and back up to bed using a ladder. So tiny houses might be better suited to the younger set.

Nevertheless, tiny houses have been a popular topic for a few years now. No doubt the lousy economy has something to do with this surge in popularity.

Personally, I find that living in a small house with a basement solves the affordability problem very well. Our purchase price worked out to $84/per square foot (not counting the basement or garage). Our basement is finished, making it great for entertaining and useful for extra storage. And even though I can’t take my house with me when I travel like people with tiny houses can, I find that a well-appointed hotel room or vacation condo suits me just fine and makes a nice change of surroundings.

But that’s just me. If you’re convinced that a tiny house is the only way to go, why not rent one to see how you like it? It would be fun to spend a month in something as cute as this tiny house, and it’s in a lovely location to boot.