From the BlogSubscribe Now

Decluttering: The Work Never Ends

I’m definitely not what you’d call a minimalist – I have way too much stuff for that – but I’ve been taking small steps toward decreasing some of the junk in my house. Awhile back, I cut my wardrobe down drastically when I cleaned out my closet, and I’ve been on the lookout for other things I can consolidate, organize, downsize, and/or throw away.

Last year, when I decided to cut the cable cord, one of my goals was finding a way to get rid of all my DVDs. The cabinet under my TV was bursting at the seams (it was the replacement for the ugly DVD tower I used to have) and I knew there had to be a better solution.

Since then, I’ve spent hours ripping my DVDs to iTunes. From there, Jayden and I can stream our movies to any device in the house, including the TV in the living room (thanks to the miracle that is Apple TV). I was kind of upset to find that my DVDs were only worth an average of a dollar each, but it felt AMAZING to clear out the clutter and reclaim my TV cabinet’s storage space for more important things.

The problem? I found more DVDs in the basement yesterday. 

Attachment Leads to Clutter

See the picture above? That’s the stack of DVDs that were shoved in a corner and forgotten for the past two years. About 40 of them, counting home videos, and two brand new DVDs that were never opened. Gee, do you think there’s something wrong when I can misplace that many movies without even realizing it?

I really wanted to just sell them – no need to move them to iTunes when I’ve lived without them this long, right? But then I saw Short Circuit and Short Circuit II. And Van Wilder, which is one of my favorite movies of all time. Oh, and there’s the VeggieTales move that Jayden used to love when he was little! Before long, I was sitting in the floor trying to decide which movie to watch first.

The funny part of this is that I really don’t watch much TV. It’s rare for me to watch movies, too – just ask any of my friends who try to talk to me about recent releases! Yet I look at all those movies and I simply can’t bare to part with them completely. I can let go of the physical DVDs easily, because they take up space and get on my nerves. But it’s impossible for me to sell them before I preserve each movie in iTunes for future viewing. Because I may totally feel the need to watch Cast Away again someday, right? (Has ANYONE made it through that movie more than once? If so, there’s probably a merit badge or something. You should check into it.)

Clutter Leads to Debt

There’s a reason why so many people turn to minimalism (or some form of it) when they decide to get out of debt. When we form emotional bonds with material items, we allow ourselves to spend emotionally, too. We convince ourselves that a pair of shoes, a certain car, or even a movie on DVD will make us happier. Before long, we’re surrounded by stuff and the only thing we feel is disgusted by all the money we spent.

I’ve been very resistant when it comes to minimalistic behaviors – I still enjoy some material things; I just wanted to stop going into debt to get them. And I’ve done that, for the most part, but I can’t help wondering if my reluctance to give up my stuff is a sign that I’m still in danger of adding to my debt instead of paying it off.

I think part of me just doesn’t want to admit that it was a COMPLETE AND UTTER WASTE OF MONEY to buy all those DVDs. I probably had about 200 before the initial declutter, not counting the ones I found yesterday. If I estimate $17 for each disc, that’s at least $3500 spent on DVDs in the past 10-12 years. And how much time do Jayden and I spend watching said DVDs? Maybe 3 hours a month, max.

I think I just threw up in my mouth a little.

Decluttering Never Ends

I feel like I’ll never be finished decluttering my house. First of all, I keep finding more stuff. Mainly, though, I keep realizing that I’m in semi-denial about my past debt and spending. Each box I open is more money wasted, more lost opportunities, and more realizations that “recovering spendaholic” isn’t just a cute way to describe myself. Chronic overspending and debt accumulation is an illness, and I was very sick for a long time.

I’m doing so much better these days. I have a budget (that I usually follow). I don’t buy on impulse anymore. I don’t use credit cards to buy things I can’t afford.

But I also have a long way to go – I still obsess about things I want to buy. Sure, I save the money for them first, but could that money be used for something more important? And do I really need anything else when I can find a box of DVDs that I didn’t even know I had? What else do I own that I don’t know about?

I’m learning that decluttering isn’t just about getting rid of stuff. It’s also about getting rid of the attachments and mental baggage that allowed the stuff to accumulate in the first place. And it’s lessons like these that make me feel like my game piece just got moved back to START. And even though I know I should move on, it feels like a good time to rip the rest of those DVDs to iTunes before I bid them farewell.

Do you struggle with clutter? When you open your closet doors, do you shield yourself from the avalanche you know is about to crash down? How does the amount of stuff you have correlate with your spending or debt?

About Andrea Whitmer

Andrea is a freelance web developer and mom trying to maintain a sense of humor in an otherwise chaotic world. She blogs in hopes of helping others avoid the same mistakes she made in the past. Join in the discussion here on So Over This, or connect on Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, or Google Plus. You can also subscribe to new posts via RSS so you never miss out!


  1. Vanessa -- Random Thoughts & Acronyms says:

    I had a phase where I would scour eBay/Wal-Mart's discount bin and buy anything that looked appealling. At 5$ a shot, buying was cheaper than renting except that the DVDs available were things that I have 0 interest in watching. I tried to sell some a few years later but no one wants to buy these horrible, horrible movies

    • It's really sad how the value of DVDs has dropped over the years. These days, I'm glad to get anything at all! I wish I would have done more bargain bin movie shopping – I usually bought all the popular titles at full price like a total idiot.

  2. For me, it's books. I usually get gift cards n' things from family members and friends around holidays and birthdays, but what happens is this collector's mindset about a book.

    I've been known, based solely on a recommendation, to buy an entire series without reading the first book to see if I'll like it because I'm so impatient that I can't stand waiting the extra day or so to get it. What happens is a library full of hundreds of books. As in almost a thousand.

    The solution I've come to is my eReader. See, I can get books instantly on that, so instead of ponying up the cash at the brick and mortar for the whole set, I can actually just GET the first book in eBook because if I decide I want books 2-9 after, it's a click away, one at a time. I really do spend less this way since I have don't let myself buy a new eBook until the last eBook has been finished.

    Also? Barnes and Noble give away a free eBook EVERY FRIDAY. It might not be the title you'd pick out for yourself given a chance to wander a store, but it is an enticement to step outside of the areas you'd usually read in. Not to mention, if you don't like it, it's not taking up physical space. 😀

    Kudos to you for getting ride of your clutter!

    • I have the same problem. Even after getting rid of a TON of my books two separate times, I have more than I know what to do with. The good news is that I reread my books over and over, so I don't regret the money I've spent AS much as I do for other things.

      The Kindle app has been bad for me – knowing I can have it instantly makes it so much harder to resist! Then if I really love the book, I want it in physical form. I think book addiction is a serious illness.

      <img src=>

  3. DontDebt says:

    The best way that I have found to motivate me to throw things out is to watch an episode of Hoarders. My kids know that if I'm watching that, they better get out of the way, because I throw things out like it's my job.

    Ironically, I have season one on DVD if you'd like to borrow it. LOL

    • I LOVE Hoarders! It always makes me feel better – no matter how much stuff I have, I know it's not that bad. Jayden and I used to watch it every Monday…. Might be a good idea to start watching it again!

  4. I know about book clutter. Sold off 2 boxes to the local used bookstore when I wanted to get myself a present. I was kind of irked that they gave me beans for them, but hey it let me buy a couple of new-to-me paperbacks. That was a huge step for me because I’m apparently unable to get rid of things. I keep saying I want to get rid of the clutter in my apartment, but to date that’s just big talk. Still have stuff in boxes from when I moved in about 3 years ago. Clearly I can’t possibly need any of that stuff.

    • I'm the same way…. I keep looking at all the boxes I STILL haven't unpacked and wondering if I should just throw them out without opening them. Knowing my luck there would be something worth thousands of dollars in there.

  5. I think we all struggle with clutter.i go through phases where I just want to buy stuff, and then I use it and forget about it, and it all stars over again.
    You are right it new per ends.

  6. oh boy DVD's . . . DVD's were one of my biggest purchases when I was in debt. I own over 500 DVD's – $8,500 at least spent on them (but I'm sure it's closer to $10,000 since I bought a lot of expensive DVD's). I remember at my breaking point, I had a Carrie Bradshaw "woman who literally lived in her shoe" moment – I would have to build a house out of my DVD's because I couldn't afford my rent anymore. It's funny, I had my DVD's in perfect alphabetical order, but my room and my life were a giant mess!

    I have kept my DVD's so far, but my husband and I use them as trade-ins at a used video store – we can trade a few for one new DVD. I no longer buy DVD's often – only movies that I really really love are worth owning.

    • Since I stopped buying actual DVDs, I've learned that I can live without owning most movies. Much more worth it to rent them (especially since I can rent directly from iTunes without leaving the house) – at least that way I don't have to feel guilty when they're cluttering up the house and I haven't watched them.

  7. We've been working on clearing out clutter for the past year. I've made a good deal of money getting rid of our stuff. Oddly enough we never bought a great deal of anything but stuff just has a way of accumulating over time. A few DVDs and CDs here, some books there. A lot of the things we got rid of were things that we bought that didn't quite meet our needs like tools that we thought were a good deal but they ended up not doing the job that we needed them to perform. Some things were more difficult to get rid of like musical instruments. I play a lot of instruments but some were from high school and I knew I was not going to play them again. I feel like I need to hold on to things like that just in case I want to play them again and for sentimental reasons but the fact is that it's better to have the money now and then go out and buy a replacement used item later if the need arises.

    • That's a great point re: buying something again later if you need to. I really need to do that when it comes to shoes. I always hold onto shoes I don't wear because I may need them later, but I could technically buy another pair if I needed to. Would probably cut down my shoe collection immensely, though I'm so emotionally attached to them I'm getting kind of sweaty just typing this. Baby steps!!!

  8. You really are an apple fan lol. Can't believe you have apple tv. I didn't even know of it's existence.

    This line that you wrote
    " I still obsess about things I want to buy. Sure, I save the money for them first, but could that money be used for something more important?

    That's a tough thought yo ponder, It's got me thinking deeply and pondering a post. It's a good question to ask yourself but the truthful answer will be tough to find.

    And Van Wilder was awesome.

    • Apple TV is awesome! It's not an actual TV – it's a little box that hooks up to your TV. I can stream anything through iTunes, plus watch Netflix, Youtube videos, and even rent movies all from my couch. For $100, it was one of the best purchases I've ever made.

      I'm really working on "wanting things." I have so much stuff, yet I can always think of at least a few things I desperately want when I have the money saved up. I'd be much better off (in most cases) just holding onto the money. It's hard to break the habit!

  9. Normally, I'm not a huge person that needs to buy things. Lately, I've faced a lot of difficult times and have found myself looking at new items that I could buy because I have the money now – instead of saving it for later. It's amazing how much psychology can go into things.

    btw, I'd be a huge fan if you went back to just the regular wordpress comments. 🙂 But I know you hate the looks of it.

  10. Yes, clutter is a sickness! I think we all have a bit of it. Less is more.

    One of my best de-cluttering tips is to get rid of one thing or one set of things per day. Eventually, you'll be rid of quite a bit to the point where you can't get rid of anything anymore!

    • That's actually not a bad idea. I may try that next month – a 31-day declutter challenge. I wonder if I can find substantial items to get rid of, though… Knowing me, I'd throw away a broken paperclip and be like, "It counts!"

  11. thisaggiesaves says:

    I definitely struggle with clutter. Last weekend my family had a garage sale and I ended up selling almost $200 worth of my stuff that I didn't need. My biggest problems are craft items and clothing.

    • My family used to do a huge yard sale every Memorial Day weekend. I need to find out if we're doing it again this year. My problem is that I cannot STAND people who haggle at yard sales – if you don't want to pay what I'm asking, DON'T BUY IT! My refusal to negotiate has lost me a ton of sales over the years, but I'd rather keep something than give it away for fifty cents.

  12. I've really tried to stick to buying things I'll either consume or use on a regular basis. I always ask, will this be part of my routine, or will I throw it in a closet and forget about it? It's helped to a point, but I still have all the stuff I bought BEFORE I started thinking that way. It's overwhelming sometimes.

  13. This is definitely one of the reasons I like living a minimalist lifestyle. It saves money but most importantly for me, it saves time and energy trying to keep track of all my purchases. I'm pretty picky what I buy and bring into my house. It's a bummer that CD's, books and DVD's are losing their value, but I'm glad everything is moving towards digital…less clutter!

Join the Discussion!