Ordinary Thoughts, Essays and Short Stories

Decluttering My Tiny Empire

If I’ve mastered anything since retiring, it’s the art of sofa-bound entertainment.  I’ve lost count of the number of series I’ve binge-watched on TV.  I repeatedly run the battery down piddling around on my iPad throughout the day.  And I upgraded to Amazon Music Unlimited so I can ask Alexa to play whatever I want without even reaching over to press a button.  Since most of my favorite tunes are pretty energetic, I do find myself chair dancing at times, but I rarely go so far as to get vertical.  It’s not that I’m physically debilitated, it’s just that I don’t much like to get up.

My new guilty pleasure is bingeing shows about tiny houses.  YouTube has a ton to choose from, so I like to kick back and just cruise from one to another.  Most episodes are under 20 minutes, but they pack a lot of information into those little time nuggets.  Not unlike the way the homeowners manage to pack most of what they need, and even want, into their tiny homes.  It’s cool to see all the different floor plans, especially when it comes to how they utilize every inch of available storage space. 

Many of these homes are less than 300 square feet so, being the type of person who struggles with letting go of practically anything, I find it astounding that people can – and do – reduce their belongings enough to fit inside these small footprints.  They not only do it, they seem to thrive in the aftermath.

Although we have no intention of living the tiny-house life – at least not that tiny – these shows really get me thinking about the importance of having less and enjoying more.  It’s an enviable concept that I find difficult to achieve because, as previously noted, I have a hard time getting rid of stuff.  Our house is always pretty tidy, but my closet and workroom are often stark exceptions.  My spaces seem to be where random things go to die and, when left unattended, it can get really bad.  A few years ago, I performed a major “Marie Kondo” on both of those areas.  If you’re unfamiliar, look her up here: KonMari Method™.  I learned about it when I watched her Netflix series which showcased how she helped people sift through their belongings and keep only that which, in her words, “sparked joy.”

Back then, the bulk of what I needed to weed out consisted of things that had belonged to my late parents and brother.  I struggled a long time with the idea of even getting started because it pained me to part with anything they had physically touched.  I think anybody who has lost someone they love can relate to how hard that is.  But you know you’ve gone to an almost ridiculous extreme when you can’t throw out an old comb that has someone’s hair in it…even though you honestly have no idea whose comb, or hair, it was. 

When I finally bucked up and made the decision to do that major unloading, I loosely used Marie Kondo’s suggestions with each item.  If it didn’t spark joy – or at least convince me it deserved a place of honor somewhere in our home – I found I was able to let it go.  That meant it was either sold, donated or discarded. 

One of Marie’s rules is that, before you get rid of something, you express your gratitude to the item for its service while in your possession.  Frankly, that seemed rather left of center to me but, since the process worked so well for others, I felt it only fair to give it a shot.  However, when it came to Mom’s, Dad’s or my brother’s things, I didn’t have that history with the items themselves.  So, instead of thanking each one before setting it aside, I held it and whispered “I love you, Mom” (or Dad, or Aaron…depending on who it had belonged to).  Once I did that, the letting-go part was easy.  I know that must sound more than a little weird but, for whatever reason, it made the process almost painless.

That mega-purge didn’t cover everything, though, and there’s a lot more to be done.  My closet has this magical ability to accumulate all kinds of things when my back is turned, and a recent visit to the garage attic resulted in the discovery of five tubs of who-knows-what that still need to be gone through.  Those tubs are now sitting on the floor in my workroom.  I’m pretty sure much of the contents belonged to Mom, but the rest is likely stuff I stored away at some point and then promptly forgot about. 

Our home isn’t nearly as tiny as the ones on YouTube, but we did downsize considerably when we moved to the cabin.  That means I simply don’t have the space for whatever is inside those five tubs.  Either it all has to go, or I’ll have to Marie Kondo the crap out of some other stuff in order to make room.  One thing is certain…I can’t keep it all.  Nor do I want to. 

If experience has taught me anything, it’s that these kinds of chores don’t do themselves.  It’s pretty much up to me to tackle this particular project, and I need to knock it out while I still can.  I’m not expecting my number to come up any time soon, but the idea of tomorrow not being promised is a lot more tangible now than it was 10 years ago.  It reminds me of this Andy Rooney quote:  

“I’ve learned that life is like a roll of toilet paper.  The closer it gets to the end, the faster it goes.” 

It’s funny because it’s true.  No one’s time is unlimited, so we might as well make the best of the time we’ve got for as long as we’ve got it.

Now I’m fully aware that, in addition to the mental energy required to let go of more stuff, there’s going to be a lot of physical work involved.  And that’s okay.  My body hasn’t yet totally betrayed me, so there’s no excuse for putting it off.  Might as well get up and get busy.  Afterward, I can get back to enjoying my favorite things without the specter of clutter renting space in my head.  You know…things like guilt-free binge watching.

It’s comforting to know that, once I’ve got it all done, YouTube will still be there to entertain me while I’m curled up on the sofa…nursing my Biofreeze-infused muscles and getting lost in tiny house stories.

Care to Share?


  1. Pam

    As always, I loved it Virginia!! Loved the Andy Rooney reference. I will try to remember it. Love you. ❤️

  2. Barbara

    Love your writing, Virginia, and have so looked forward to reading your bits of post-retirement wisdom. In this case, I feel you and everything you’ve so capably expressed! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Jane fague

    V. !!!! Oh my !!! so me🤪🤪. My sisters call my home a “MUSEUM”. Lol. They’re telling the truth. I have started the process of of tossing or putting in a pile for each kid. .. it’s going to take years 🤣😂🤣😂. Thanks for the fun read …love U ☺️👍🏻♥️

    • Virginia Boshears

      Jane, I know what you mean. We need to get a handle on it now so our kids won’t to have to filter through so much after we’re gone. We’ll be leaving enough stuff they won’t want as it is. 🙂

  4. Tom

    I can SO relate!

  5. Ron

    Girl, this IS the year of decluttering for our household. I will thank the outgoing items for being part of my life, but I may get a bit worried if they say: “You’re welcome,” back at me!

    • Virginia Boshears

      I don’t know. Having them thank you would be a lot less scary than hearing them declare, “I’ll get you, my pretty!” as you throw them out. Just sayin’…

  6. Kim S

    This was an amazing entry!
    I love decluttering and this month I’m part of a FB group that will be working on decluttering one space at a time!
    Thanks for you writing! It’s got the best hint of humour attached 😊

    • Virginia Boshears

      Thanks, Kim. Good luck with your decluttering!

  7. Betsy

    Love your writings. Through your writing I know you understand how I feel. How hard and sad it feels to go thru parents houses and all their belongings. The memories, watching them use tools, books, mixing bowls. I have no one to share those memories with. It’s been 10 long yrs since mom passed. I’ve been doing the Kondo method too.
    Similar to you letting go of things, I have to hold items and recall the memories. I can then let it go. Sometimes it’s so hard, lucky for me Charlie loves me and is patient and understanding. He knows the items that are the tear jerkers for me to decide. Enjoy your Tiny house episodes.

    • Virginia Boshears

      Thanks, Betsy. And, yes, taking years to go through those things is just how it has to be sometimes. We definitely can’t part with them overnight.

  8. Pam

    This was terrific! I have the same issue with letting go. And procrastination.
    My sister in law has a rule for her home- for everything that comes in, one thing has to go out. Hmmm

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