grandparents

Our grandparents and great-grandparents lived simply out of necessity. There wasn’t as much expendable income to be blown on “stuff” in their day. Family finances went toward what was important: food, shelter and necessary clothing. If you’ve ever looked at an older home and marveled at the lack of closet space, know that it’s not because people didn’t believe in hanging up their clothes. It’s primarily because they just didn’t own enough clothing to fill a closet.

My grandmother and grandfather had probably a dozen outfits each when I was a kid. There was a Sunday best dress or suit, a few out on the town outfits for Pop and work clothes—Pop’s was a pair of blue jean overalls and Grandma’s was a cool flowery sack dress and a scarf that she wore over her hair to keep it clean.There was no closet, though they did have a single armoire where they kept hanging clothes. 

My grandparents ran a fruit, vegetable and flower farm and they didn’t spend much on themselves outside of what was necessary. Yet they still managed to be happy. Probably even happier than many couples today. They had what they needed: food, shelter, clothing and love among the family. And everything else didn’t matter much to them. We could all stand to learn a bit from our ancestors. Try our five simple organization tips to live a happy, clutter-free life.

5 Simple Organization Tips For A Happy, Clutter-Free Life

1. Don’t just declutter your house. Declutter your life. Spring cleaning and donating items you no longer use are good organization tips, but they do nothing to break the cycle. Why not stop buying extra stuff in the first place? When you’re considering a purchase, think long and hard about whether you truly NEED that item. Will it make your life easier, happier, better? If not, put it back on the shelf. Declutter at the point of origin instead of letting it creep into your home.

2. Stop using emotion to make decisions. Do you truly love the item or love the memories it brings back? Take a photograph and save it in an album instead of keeping an item you no longer use. Want to keep the clothing of a lost loved one? Rather than keeping loads of clothes no one wears, donate the majority and have some of your favorites made into keepsakes like Heirloom Memory Bears. If an item is no longer useful to you or anyone in your family, donate it, repurpose it or toss it depending on its condition. 

3. Figure out where your clutter is coming from and why. There are many reasons for clutter, some practical and some emotional. The best organization tips help you figure out where the clutter is coming from, why it’s staying, and how to stop it. So, if you realize the majority of your clutter is coming from say, your kids’ school artwork, you can talk to your kids about keeping favorites, and either recycling or repurposing the rest.

If your main problem is toy clutter, consider asking family and friends to give fewer gifts for birthdays and holidays. Swap contributions to your children’s college funds or a gift membership to the local zoo for space-sucking toys. If you’re a clothing shopaholic, declutter your closets and stop buying until you figure out what’s getting worn and what isn’t. Give the rest away.

If there are emotional reasons for your clutter, examine those reasons. This willallow you to cut off the clutter at its source rather than getting overwhelmed and feeling pressured to take care of it once or twice a year when guests are on the way.

4. Remember, your grandparents did this all the time. In ye olden days, everyone lived this way, without reading articles about organization tips. As I mentioned, past generations didn’t buy new junk because they wanted to, or because it made them temporarily happy. They bought what they needed to live, to survive and to thrive. Take that to heart and realize that the stuff is not the most important part of life. Intangibles like friends, family and your memories are what you really cherish.

5. Get inspired. If you need even further encouragement to live your life simply, check out The Simple Year. It’s an inspiring blog that catalogs a family’s 365-day challenge to buy nothing new. Spoiler alert: they did it. And then they passed it on to a second family. That family is committed to the same challenge this year. So if they can do that, we can all commit to buying less junk and living more simply day-to-day.

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