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Decluttering Strategy: Use it (Up)

Over the summer, something terrible happened.

It happened slowly, and the slowness made the pain so much worse.

My beloved comforter, the one I’d pretended still looked fine for the past decade . . . started (quite literally) falling apart.

I wasn’t surprised. That thing was 21 years old.

Yes. Really.

To be clear, I hadn’t kept it for decorative purposes, and on the rare occasions when my master bedroom was accessible to non-immediate-family, I covered the bed with something nicer (and newer).

But the comforter had the unique combination of probably-can’t-find-another-one-like-it-everness and sentimental value.

That’s a powerful combination.

I bought it for myself when I set up my apartment as a single woman living alone in Thailand.

First apartment alone? Check.

Purchased in the midst of the adventure of a lifetime? Check.

Exactly the design (blue gingham) that has caused my heart to sing for my entire life? Check.

But along with the memory-triggers, it was truly the very best comforter I’ve ever had in my life. It was incredibly soft and cool to the touch. And though it was technically stuffed with whatever comforters are stuffed with (giving it the comforting qualities of a comforter), it was lightweight and perfect for summer.

I mean, it was a cozy blanket for use in the tropics. The seasons in Thailand are Hot, Hotter, and Hottest. This meant it was also the perfect bed-covering for Texas. Winter happens, but summer takes up most of the calendar year.

I’m convinced that it isn’t possible to find another like it here in the U.S. Not that I’ve ever actually looked.

For years, as it faded and thinned and the edging rubbed away, I knew the day would come when I couldn’t use it anymore. When it would literally fall apart. I dreaded that day.

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One night last month, my foot wasn’t cozy. As I stretched, it hit something scratchy instead of smooth.

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One side, the whole side, had torn open. Soon another corner was gone.

I thought about getting out my sewing box, but decided to be realistic. The falling-apartedness of every inch of edge on the entire thing would  mean repairing it would be more trouble than it was worth.

I slept several more nights with that comforter, grieving as it became harder and harder to arrange the non-scratchy parts just so.

And then I thought of a way to use it. To, ultimately, use it up.

My dogs needed bedding. We didn’t have anything that fit just right in their crates, and though they never complained, I felt bad about that.

So after thinking about it for another few days, I grabbed my scissors, took a deep breath, and started cutting. One-quarter of the king-sized comforter was folded up into bedding for my itty-bitty dog’s crate, and the other three-quarters were folded up and placed in my humongous new puppy’s crate.

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And best of all? I didn’t even wash it first. My dogs think their “new” bedding smells amazing.

Although I loved it, that comforter had used up its usefulness to me. I was still holding on because of the memories attached.

Even after it started to annoy me more than it comforted me.

But using it to meet a real need allowed me to let go. To make the cut that meant there was no going back. And already, the comforter’s new job has made me less attached. I didn’t even demonstrate how soft it was/is in the video below because I’m not going to rub my face on my dog’s bedding.


That’s a win-win. Decluttering something by using it, and using it in a way that makes me less attached.

The same thing happened with the burp cloths I used as dusting rags. Once they were grimy from serving their second purpose, I could throw them away. I wasn’t attached to them like I was when I couldn’t bear to get rid of them even though we no longer had burping babies. (Burping boys, yes . . . but it’s not the same.) Embroidered baby gear is sentimental. Stained dust rags? Not so much.

The same thing happened when I started drinking out of collector cups we’d gathered over the years. Once they broke or the printing faded, I decluttered them without even a sigh.

What’s paralyzing you? Could you use it up?

DISCLAIMER: I loved the comment from Nell, so let me be clear: this is one strategy for breaking through Decluttering Paralysis. It isn’t “the way to declutter” and her comment is an excellent example of why I wrote my books. Blog posts are fun to write and hopefully fun to read. They’re short and to the point, but they generally only cover one point out of the oh-so-many struggles faced by the person who is completely overwhelmed with clutter. There are so many mindset changes to address and roadblocks to tear down and it is a long process to change how you think and how your home operates. My books cover all of that in instructional form. They talk you through the entire process. Thoroughly. They address your objections and your but-what-ifs and your pity parties. They give you the exact steps to get stuff out of your house. They tell you what it takes to build Decluttering Momentum and how to keep on decluttering when that momentum comes to a screeching halt.

Get Decluttering at the Speed of Life wherever books are sold, but here it is (through my own affiliate link) on Amazon. It will talk you through the process of decluttering your home, no matter the depth of your piles.

If you are completely overwhelmed with everything home-management-related, get How to Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind. 

If you can’t afford a book, check it out from your local library.

See the video on YouTube here. 

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