Emptying the House.

Emptying the House.


My living room before we filled it with stuff.

My husband told me to stop telling people I’m trying to empty our house. It’s possible I’m getting a bit obsessive, but I’ve maintained all along it’s better than the alternative.

We had some friends over recently and the topic of my selling everything we own came up. We laughed that I probably wouldn’t stop until we were sitting on the floor eating food with our hands because I’d sold all the dishes, utensils, and the dining room table.

If my mother had been capable, she’d have been a full-blown hoarder. Mentally she was just the right kind of woman for it, and despite her physical limitations, we still had piles of crap everywhere. It took me many years to learn to live a lifestyle without towers of things threatening to avalanche. I’ve been told my house looks like people don’t live in it for the lack of clutter. But if they saw my home office, they’d know I’m just one mental slip away from my very own cable television special. The tendencies are there, people.

And since I tend to operate in blacks and whites with very few shades of gray, I’ve come to a point where everything must go. I’m tired of looking at this stuff. I started taking pictures of everything I can and listing it for sale on my personal Facebook page and a few online yard sales. I’ve donated bags of things to Goodwill and, when my friends were here, I gave away two vases and a gigantic container of dried bay leaves. My friend tried to convince her husband to give me fifty dollars for an old china closet I wasn’t even trying to sell, but unfortunately that didn’t pan out.

Nathan has witnessed all of these items exiting the premise.

“What’s that pile of stuff, Mom?”

“Someone’s coming today to buy it.”

It’s a frequent conversation we have. I don’t sell anything that belongs to him without his permission and really, it’s all stuff he’s outgrown anyway. He doesn’t get upset and he’s gone so far as to ask me for the money. I thought we were cool.

At some point the other day the conversation among my friends turned to children outgrowing bicycles, what with Spring arriving and all. My friend’s son, just a bit younger than mine, was possibly too tall for his current bike and we all wondered if he was tall enough for one the size of Nathan’s. So I pulled his bike from the garage and called the other kid over to hop on for measurement’s sake.

Upon seeing this, Nathan went white and exclaimed, “What?! You’re selling my bike, too!”

Haha. Whoops.

Maybe my husband is right. Maybe I’m scarring my kid for life with my drive toward minimalism. I guess we’ll find out if he ends up with his very own episode of Hoarders some day.


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28 Responses to “Emptying the House.”

  1. Yup, you’re going to have to go easy. Modeling a minimalist life can be good as long as he doesn’t feel deprived. Then, watch out TLC!

  2. My favorite line: “Haha. Whoops.”

    I’ve had more than one “Haha. Whoops” moment when my kids found something in the trash or recycling bin that – ahem – shouldn’t have been there.

    • michellelongo says:

      Nathan would save every single thing if I let him. I don’t make him get rid of anything, though I do ask him if he’s really sure he wants to keep something. Every single piece of paper with a picture of a bird on it, for example, must be kept. And you’d be amazed at how many pictures of birds make their way into this house.

  3. Getting rid of the excess sounds like a great thing to obsess about. :) I read your other post, “Urge to Purge,” too. It sounds like 2014 is going to bring about lots of wonderful changes. Having less sounds wonderful.

    • michellelongo says:

      Thanks! I really, really want to get to a place where there just isn’t so much. I’m half kidding, but I keep telling people if I had to run away in the middle of the night with a moment’s notice, I couldn’t. But if we pair down to the essentials, I could walk away in an instant. Who needs all that stress worrying about having a place to put things? I want to be free to go wherever, whenever.

  4. I agree. I got through periods where I hate stuff. I look at all the stuff I buy and think, I’m just bring clutter into our home. I’ve gotten better about giving away. I need to start to try and sell some of the sell-able stuff. Excess clutter is stressful. I get it.

    • michellelongo says:

      I’ve been trying very hard not to buy new stuff. I don’t get much for myself, but I do still pick up stuff for Nathan. I look at it as small progress though. Not hanging on to stuff we don’t need is growth. The rest will come in time. I’m sure it will for you, too.

  5. Ha! I need to take a note from your book. After living in the same place for 8 years, I’ve accumulated way too much stuff that I no longer need. Time to minimize.

    • michellelongo says:

      That’s how it was at our old house, and then we moved here almost 4 years ago and we still have unpacked boxes! It’s so easy to toss stuff aside and say you’ll get to it and then not. I try to get rid of one thing every day, so at least if I don’t have time to focus on working at it, I at least did something. Again, baby steps.

  6. Stacie says:

    I need you to come sell all of my stuff. Actually, you’d be proud. I took two SUV loads to Goodwill this week. I’ve got the spring cleaning bug for the first time in 4 years and I’m going with it!

    • michellelongo says:

      That’s great! Once I started, I feel like I couldn’t stop. The selling stuff is a major pain in my ass and I look forward to running out of things to sell!

  7. jenbrunett says:

    Purging is a strange beast. It takes a lot of motivation to get it done but once you get the bug… it’s hard to shake it. I totally get where you’re coming from!

    • michellelongo says:

      Lots of motivation for sure! I do take a week off here in there, just to have a break and work on other things. But it does feel good to unload this stuff!

  8. ardenrr says:

    I just starting doing this too! It came out of nowhere. Suddenly, I just had to be rid of EVERYTHING! I like it though. I have so much more space!

  9. This post certainly resonates, and now I need to go and read “Urge to Purge” since that sounds like it will be equally compelling. My daughter’s room is a place of stress for me because she has stuff/junk EVERYWHERE. I can’t walk in there without my shoulders creeping up to my ears and my blood pressure rising. I’ve tried hard to walk the line between gently but firmly steering her away from the tendency to hoard and allowing her the space to just be who she is.

    • michellelongo says:

      My son would keep everything forever if I let him. I want his room relatively neat, so we focus on that. When the “treasure drawer” is too full of crap he found lying around and had to save to actually close, there’s a mandatory clean the drawer day. And I can’t deal with outgrown toys taking up the space that could be used for stuff he does love. He’s pretty cooperative, but he does save a lot of stuff I’d toss. It’s an exercise in patience for me, which is also not a bad thing.

  10. Kathy Berney says:

    I practically salivated when you described unloading stuff. My mom was a hoarder, and then my husband, due to being confined to a wheel chair, became a hoarder about 5 years into our marriage. I get such a high when a bag leaves our house headed to Goodwill. I completely understand the desire for order and minimalism. I have learned, though, to always get my son’s permission. He’s usually cool with it, as long as he knows he’s in on the decision making. Great post!

    • michellelongo says:

      I definitely don’t get rid of anything that’s not mine without permission. That’s why it was so funny about his bike, because it was the one he currently uses! We sold his toddler bike when he outgrew it and he understood that it should go to a family who needs a great bike for a little less money. Then we can use that money to get what we need for a bigger kid like him. He’s pretty good, most of the time.

  11. jennbird77 says:

    The photo of the empty room is inspiring. Of course, I want to see what it looked like *after* you filled it with stuff.

    • michellelongo says:

      Our living room is still pretty empty by most people’s standards. I will probably have a future blog post on that, so you’ll have to stay tuned!

  12. Sam Merel says:

    I kind of want to be you. I want all the unnecessary stuff out of my house, I just have absolutely no drive or motivation to get it done. Maybe that will be this spring’s project…

    • michellelongo says:

      I won’t lie: it’s a lot of work. If I didn’t work from home and have the ability to do stuff on my lunch break or 5 minutes before my start time, I probably wouldn’t. It’s taken me a year of this schedule to get this far, which isn’t all that far at all. But we have big plans that require less stuff, so I’m trying to focus on the end result. If I only looked at the here and now, my motivation would dry up fast.

  13. I have too much shit and would love to get rid of it.

  14. Larks says:

    I’m all about the minimalism too. My husband, on the other hand, would totally have his own Hoarders episode if he had married someone less psychotically minimalistic. Probably, we balance each other out. But it creates a certain amount of… tension.

    • michellelongo says:

      It’s hard when two people don’t agree. My husband and I don’t agree on everything, but overall we do, so that’s helpful. I just focus on what we agree on and what’s mine and then hope the rest will end up how I want it later on. If not, well, it is what it is.

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