The Decluttering Craze From a Country Living PerspectiveMar 25, 2023
Being practical brings its own kind of joy.
Our first calf of the year was born right after a late winter snowstorm. The wind was howling and the weather was extremely cold.
We brought the newborn calf, still slick and wet from the birthing process, into the shop and began drying her off with old towels.
I knew right where the towels were in the storage room. I keep them near the tub of old t-shirts and cut-up flannels that we use for rags.
The towels and rags and clutter hanging in the storage room doesn’t bring me joy per se, but the new baby calf did.
And having what we needed to take care of her brought me an immense sense of comfort and satisfaction.
Redefining the decluttering rules
Living in constant clutter has many negative effects on a person. There are tons of studies to support this.
Along with the studies came various systems or remedies for removing the clutter from your life space.
All the systems seem to employ the same basic rules. However, when it comes to country life, these rules need to be redefined.
- Does it bring you joy?
For people living in rural areas, being practical supersedes the idea of decluttering by tossing out the things that don’t bring you joy.
The empty plastic bucket that once held cat litter is not something I hang on to for pure pleasure. My “joy” comes from having a handy container to hold the weeds I pulled from my flower beds.
- Do you already own one?
The same is true of the rule to not keep duplicates. Seriously, one pair of work gloves or wire cutters or water jugs is a crazy idea as anyone repairing a fence can tell you.
It’s a thirsty job and the wire can be hell on your gloves, but I wouldn’t try fencing without a pair.
- Have you used it in the last 6 months?
The idea of getting rid of belongings you haven’t used in six months or a year is another practice encouraged by decluttering gurus.
If you live in the country, you have many seasonal items stored in your garage, barn, or other outbuildings.
It is too expensive to replace calf bottles, foal halters, garden hoses, weed sprayers, shovels, or canning equipment every year or two.
- Is it broken?
And finally, the notion of tossing out everything that is broken is an insult to the majority of the people living the rural life.
Not everything is “fixable” that is true, but if there is a way to repair it, country people are likely to figure out how to do it. And continue to use it as long as they can.
Repair, repurpose, or reuse
My husband grew up in the ranching/farming world. He learned from an early age to repair, repurpose, and reuse just about everything.
Like many others living a rural lifestyle, he hangs on to things because he might be able to use them again.
I’ve often been amazed at my husband’s ability to repair a piece of equipment with what he has stashed away in his shop.
Or to mend a fence, build a shelf, or even stop a leaky faucet.
Regardless of the size of your “spread,” big ranch to small hobby farm, building and repairing with what you have on hand is a way of life.
Decluttering and organization are two sides of the same coin.
Problems arise when you hang on to so much stuff, you sometimes forget what you have or don’t remember where you put it.
That’s why it’s important to have some organization to your clutter. Without organization, the objects you collect over the years become junk.
Organizing what you have or keep in order to maintain your home or business is one way of decluttering.
For example, my husband maintains a large shop with plenty of storage. If someone new happened to stop by, they might think his shop is full of clutter. There‘s so much stuff.
However, there is a sense of organization to his space. Every drawer in his various toolboxes is assigned a certain type of tool. The tall wooden structure at the back of the shop holds numerous bins of bolts, screws, and nails, and similar small objects.
If the visitor asked my husband for a certain size and type of bolt, he would know just which bin to dig through to find it.
Reasons for keeping the clutter
Living in a rural area is a choice made by people who prefer to live where there is less traffic, people, and noise.
One of the drawbacks of country life is the distance from town and access to big box stores with their cheaper prices and larger selections in products.
Running to town every day is not something we want to do. So when we do go to town, we like to make the most of it.
It’s often a matter of saving time and money.
We often buy in bulk. We look for bargains and stock up on food and household items when there is a good sale.
Sometimes we discover we don’t have much room left in the pantry. We get a little creative in our use of space, knowing that it will look cluttered for the time being.
But what we saved on money is well worth giving up extra space.
Our time is precious as well. A trip to town can mean a couple of hours of your day eaten away between travel time and trying to locate what your need.
Having groceries and other supplies delivered is becoming more popular among rural families. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always solve the time issue.
There is no such thing as overnight delivery when you live in a small community or rural area.
In fact, once I ordered from Costco and waited 2 weeks for all of it to arrive.
The same is true when my husband ordered parts for his equipment. One part took a week to arrive and was broken when he opened the box.
And while he could have run to town for the much-needed part, our small community has limited resources.
More than likely the parts store would have ordered what he needed as well.
How convenient it would have been if it had been one of those parts he already had on hand.
It’s also a matter of pride.
There’s a certain amount of pride that comes with being prepared or making do with what you have.
Our grandparents lived this. People growing up on farms and ranches and in small communities experienced the same sense of self-reliance.
For a while, the world seemed to turn away from that. Everything was disposable. It was easier to buy new than repair.
Repurposing was a sign that you couldn’t afford what you needed. Getting something new was supposed to impress people. In fact, having “stuff” was thought to be a status symbol.
I’m glad to see the tide is turning. The idea of less is more is a good motto for many people.
But not necessarily for people like me. Or my neighbors. Or my country loving friends.
Country style guidelines for decluttering
I’m sure we would all benefit from throwing out a few things. And we definitely need to be more organized about the objects we keep.
But the familiar rules for decluttering do not fit our lifestyle. Instead, I suggest the following guidelines:
- Can I reuse this in some way?
- Can I repair this? Is it practical to repair this? Will I actually get around to repairing this?
- Will I use this again within the next year or two? Will it still be usable within the next year or 2?
- Is it safe to reuse or repurpose?
- Do I have room or a designated place to store this thing without it turning to rust (ie, junk)?
- Will it actually save me time and money?
Simple questions, but difficult to answer. We all have the best of intentions. If we aren’t deeply honest and sincere in our answers, we could find ourselves deep in the negative effects of clutter.
As for the question of “does this item bring me joy?” Well, the joy comes, not so much in keeping the thing as it does in knowing you have it in case you need it.
There is no joy in creating clutter.
It comes from saving time and money by reusing, repurposing, and repairing. It’s the sense of pride that comes in being as prepared as you can be.
There’s joy in the sense of comfort and satisfaction we get in being practical.
And you don’t have to live in the country to understand and practice that kind of decluttering.
Feel a bit guilty for not taking better care of yourself?
Wish you had more time for it?
The Self-Care Mini-Workbook will help you discover what you are doing or could be doing to enhance your self-care practices? Give it a try for free!
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