The Year of Using it Up

How did 2017 treat you?

The year felt so long that I don’t even remember what all happened in the last 12 months. I know we ended on something of a bang, albeit not of the good type.

We finished out the year making multiple ER and urgent care visits for multiple family members for multiple reasons. Personally, I had a bit of a high blood pressure scare last month, but that seems to be under control now. Then, on Saturday, I came home to smoking outlets and an electrical emergency.

Today, I am starting off 2018 without home phone service, cable and internet. The hot water heater isn’t working, and the furnace is limping along. However, with the help of numerous space heaters, we are staying relatively warm despite the near 0 degree temperature outside.

Things could be better. They could be worse too. And I’m trying to stay optimistic that the repairmen will zoom out tomorrow and make everything in the house right.

Why Now is the Time to Use it Up

In the meantime, I’m looking toward the future and how I’m hoping the next year will shape up. I’ve long been fascinated with the idea of a shopping ban, but it doesn’t seem like a realistic option for me.

Instead, I’ve settled on the idea of using up what we have and seeing what we can go without. It’s not a no-spending year exactly, and it’s not really a decluttering resolution either. It’s more about being a good steward of the things I already own.

It’s also something that I think is doable for the following reasons:

1. I am past my need to compensate for my losses with stuff.

Grief leaves a hole in a person’s life, and I tried to fill mine with purses, books and so much other stuff. At one point, buying became something of a compulsion. Some people develop drinking problems. I developed a shopping problem.

Now my grief is more like a scar than an open wound. It’s still there, but I don’t feel the need to frantically distract myself from it. Oh, I will still add books to my to-read list, but in 2018, I want to make a concerted effort to read what’s on my shelves as well. I will still pin recipes to try, but I want to be intentional about using the cookbooks and recipes I’ve already horded.

I want to use up what I have before adding more, and I think I am emotionally ready to do that.

2. My mom is slowing down.

Out of respect for my mom’s privacy, I hesitate to write much about her here. However, this might be the most important reason why I think I can successfully implement a “year of using it up” so it needs to be mentioned.

My 82-year old mom has memory loss. Her mom and old sister died of Alzheimer’s, and it is clear my mom is going down the same road. Despite that, she’s been physically very healthy and loves to clean and shop at the thrift store. That has meant things are never where they should be because she can never remember where items go. She also made weekly trips to the thrift store and each time would come home with, literally, a trunk load of stuff we don’t need.

However, mom is slowing down. I can finally beat her to many of the household chores, and she has agreed to hang up her car keys so I feel like I will finally be able to take control of the house and what comes into it.

3. I am ready to live proactively rather than reactively.

For years – since the end of 2009 at least – I feel like my life has been spent reacting and coping with events outside my control. We’d get through one tragedy, only to have another pop up. It’s an exhausting way to live.

After a few quiet years, I feel as if I finally have my bearings back. Rather than waiting for what happens next, I’m ready to try to actively steer my life to clearer waters. I know that doesn’t guarantee I’ll be successful, but I’m tired of having all my time and energy dictated by things outside my control. I want to at least try to set the tone for my life. That starts by clearing out all the excess.

Decluttering vs Using it Up

So why don’t I just junk all the stuff and start fresh? For two reasons.

First is that decluttering can be expensive. You go on a bender, give everything away and then realize later you need to repurchase items you hastily discarded.

More importantly, it feels wasteful. I have lots of perfectly good things here. The items I bought came into the house because I thought they would be useful. So let’s use them. If something doesn’t work, then it can go out the door. But until I know for sure, I don’t want to preemptively declutter items.

Right now, I really want control in my life, and this method gives me control. It lets me see, feel and understand what exactly I have in the house because right now, I really have no clue.

So in 2018, I’m looking forward to digging out the bags of clothes from the closet and wearing those pieces, finding recipes for the ingredients buried in the back of the pantry and hopefully brightening some people’s days by sending out cards from the vast collection in my desk.

What will you be doing in 2018?


    1. Good luck with the organization/decluttering project! I need to do the same. Hang in there! Here’s to a peaceful New Year!
      Karin Waterbury

      1. Thanks Karin! Have a happy and blessed new year!

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