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Monday, October 10, 2011

Decluttering? Getting Rid of Expensive Things? Frugal?

Our very full little room. Before decluttering.
We've been co-sleeping with our kids pretty much since they were born. Ok, there was a few month hiatus when Lee slept in his own room after we regretfully and unsuccessfully tried to sleep train him. Mike took pity on him, when he saw how lonely Lee was sleeping in his own room, and Lee rejoined us in our bed just a few months before Ike was born, who we co-slept with since birth.

Until last night, we were regularly co-sleeping with our 4 year old and 2 year old sons.
And no, we aren't ideological co-sleepers.
I hadn't planned on still co-sleeping when my eldest was 4 years old... It's just that my husband and I have a problem with letting toddlers cry themselves to sleep or feel lonely or neglected during the night, and we felt that if Lee was in his own room, that would be the case.
And then we moved to our current teeny tiny (484 square foot) apartment from our old small (900 square foot) apartment. In our old apartment, there was the option of putting our kids in the second bedroom. In our new apartment, there is only one big bedroom, and then another teeny tiny "half room", roughly 9 feet by 6 feet if I'm remembering the dimensions correctly. We'd been using that room to store our things as the apartment is really small and comes with no built in storage space; by default, our kids were in our bedroom for lack of better options in terms of sleeping arrangements.
But I didn't love it, and neither did my husband.
We kept in mind that when we need it, there is that option of moving our kids to the little room to sleep, but weren't prepared to do it right away. We didn't think Lee was emotionally ready to be in a room by himself, especially upstairs as our little room is. We said that when Ike was old enough to move out of our room, when he was sleeping through the night, we'd move both boys together into the little room, so that it wouldn't  be lonely there.

Right.
As if.
It took a while for Ike to sleep through the night. He gave me sleeping trouble for quite a while. Only once I weaned him when I became pregnant, and he stopped nursing every 40 minutes, did he actually start sleeping much better. But still not all the way through the night.
Now fortunately, Ike is potty trained, and he wakes up once in the middle of the night to use the potty, and then goes right back to sleep until morning.
Now Ike is finally ready to be moved out of our room, and he and Lee can both move into their own room.

Only we majorly procrastinated.
Because the room was in use! It was our storage room! Where would we actually put the kids with all our things there? If we moved the kids there, where would we put all our stuff?
And so, we dragged our feet, not moving the kids out of the master bedroom even though we could have... because of the issue of the "little room", our storage room.

I think there's this tendency in every frugal person to be somewhat pack-rat-ish.
You spot and purchase something at a terrific price, you're given something as a hand me down or as a present, you find something terrific in the dumpster, and you immediately think "I can use that! That's going to save me lots of money!"
And then all that stuff accumulates.

As a frugal person, its really hard to get rid of things.
Every time it comes to parting with an item, you are forced to think to yourself "What if I need that in the future and I need to spend more money to buy it new?"
The thing about frugality is you don't always come across a bargain or dumpster treasure exactly when you need it. You need to be prepared. You get things when you find the sale or the trash treasure knowing that it'll come into use in the future, and therefore you've saved money. Waiting till last minute to try to find what you need will generally end up costing you more money.

So you stock up when you see sales. You trash pick when you see something amazing, even if it isn't useful to you just at the moment, because you know it'll save you money in the future.

That's what we do. And that's how we end up with so much stuff. Because when someone has something to pass on, I'll grab it, even if I don't need it just yet, because quite possibly I'll be needing it later.

But then you have too much stuff, and you realize you need to declutter. Badly.
But you are torn.
If I get rid of this, what if I end up needing it next week or next month and end up needing to buy it retail? Tossing this will make me lose money! I can't do that!!!
Even harder is when it's something that you purchased, and paid good money for, and you are contemplating tossing it. That cost me so much! I can't throw that away! That's throwing away all the money that I spent on it!!!


There are some rich people who routinely clean out their closets, and get rid of things... because they want to buy new, and they can afford to replace what they toss.
But when you're tight on cash, is decluttering actually a money saver, or is it a luxury that true frugal people need to do without?

Lets go back to the situation with our "half room".
We're expecting another member of our family come January.
You wouldn't believe how many people pretty much assumed that we'll be moving out of our apartment before then, or at least as soon as our lease is up in May.
Because obviously, while we're totally cuckoo to have our family of 4 in our 484 square foot apartment, having a family of 5 in this same size apartment is simply impossible. We wouldn't be able to fit.
If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me "So, where exactly do you plan on putting the baby?"

Honestly, we can't continue as we have until now once we have a new baby. No, we can't co-sleep with 3 kids.
We can't even co-sleep with 2 kids anymore.
The other night, Lee pretty much kicked my husband off the bed. He was spending the whole night on the half foot of mattress that Lee left for him.
That pretty much was the final straw. If we're already having a hard time sleeping with just 2 kids in the bed, three is simply impossible. (And lest you think Ike doesn't join in on the fun, he regularly kicks me in the face, in the belly, in the chest, etc...)

But where could we move the kids?
To the little room?
But what about all that stuff in there?
Well, some of those things we could move to other places in the house... but we would need to get rid of a lot of the things.
And then comes the dilemma.
Is it actually frugal to toss things you may need in the future?

I'll tell you why I think so.

Housing costs are expensive. No matter what.
The bigger the place, the more expensive the housing costs.
We currently have a really cheap apartment with a great landlord and great neighbors and in a great location.
Other apartments in the area, even this size, are going for more money.
If we'd need a larger apartment to house our growing family, we'd be looking at an increase of at least 200 dollars per month on our rent. For a 2 bedroom apartment instead of our one and a "half" bedrooms, not even a 3 bedroom.
We'd strongly been considering the need to move to a bigger place. Because of the fact that we can't co-sleep with three.

But.
By getting rid of lots of things that we were storing, things that were potentially useful, we'd be saving 200 dollars a month by being able to stay in this apartment. Even if that means that in the future when we need those things that we tossed, by keeping an extra 200 dollars in the bank each month, we'd be able to afford to replace those things, in the event that we needed to.

By keeping clutter, even useful clutter, you have to pay for the space.
And if you can manage in a smaller space for less money, with less clutter, even tossing potentially useful things is a money wise move.

Today, Mike and I decluttered the little room like crazy. We got rid of mountains of stuff. Bags and bags, piles and piles. Clothing. Beautiful fabric. Fish tanks and fish tank supplies. Gadgets. Electronics. So many different, great, useful things that were just sitting in our room unused.
And I'll be honest, in a way, it pained me to part with items I knew were valuable, items I knew could potentially be useful to use in the future.
But at the same time, as I saw the clutter lessen, as I saw the room get emptier and emptier, and as I saw the room start turning into a cozy little children's bedroom, I knew we made the right choice.
(In case you were wondering what I did with all those stuff, I posted on our local email group that I had a whole bunch of things available for the taking and I got many takers. I didn't throw anything other than pure garbage in the trash.)

By getting rid of things, passing them on to others, we're able to stay in our cozy home even longer. Possibly we'll be able to stay here for an entire 2 years after the baby is born, and not just a single year.

I plan on showing before and after pics, and how we made our children's room a fun place for the kids to be, but that'll have to be for another post.

Do you declutter? Or are you a pack rat?
When you declutter, how do you decide what to keep and what to toss? Do you take into consideration sentimentality? How much something cost you? How likely you will be to need it again? When the last time was that you used it or even thought about it?
Have you ever came to the realization that you were paying a cost for all that clutter, that you were paying to be able to store those things that you thought saved you money?

Linking up to the Homesteading Barn HopWFMW, Frugal Friday

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