Simplicity in Action: Cynthia

Editor’s Note: This is a post in the series, Simplicity in Action.


My story is still unfolding. I grew up on the road for half of my growing up years. My Father was an evangelist and my Mother was unwilling to kiss him goodbye for months at a time, so she loaded up the kids, made arrangements with our school to take the curriculum with us, and went along. We always kept a house, but would be gone from it for weeks or months, and would live that time out of suitcases, hotels, others’ homes, and our car. One might think this would lead to a satisfaction with doing with less, but the opposite was true for me.

Having to “do without” an extra change of clothes or options of that nature, I found it difficult as an adult to get rid of ANYTHING. I kept it all. Receipts, letters, shoes, jewelry, books, you name it, I kept it. As I married and had children I accumulated more and more. We moved to a bigger house and put more stuff in it. I began to be burdened down by all the stuff. Organizing it, arranging it, cleaning it, storing it … it was just exhausting! I discovered that I no longer owned all that stuff; instead, it owned me! I had to get free!

I was so overwhelmed. My house was over 3000 square feet, and every drawer, shelf, cupboard, and closet was stuffed to the gills. I had to start somewhere. Somewhere small. I chose my closet. I paid two of my daughters to spend the day helping me empty out the closet. I was not even sure what all was in there. All I knew was that I could not see the floor, and every time I opened the door to my closet, my heart was burdened down with the mess inside. It was an ambitious undertaking. I decided to empty it completely, vacuum the carpet, and then put back only what I would keep. My family was amazed when they arrived home that evening to find that my bedroom had disappeared under layers of clothing, notebooks, decorative items, shoe boxes, etc., and the stuff even spilled out into the adjoining room nearly filling it up as well. They decided my closet must be magic because there was NO WAY all that stuff could EVER have fit in there. My husband half jokingly threatened to call Hoarders.

Some things were really hard to let go of because of sentimental attachment, but I decided that if I was not using it, I should let it go. It was unpleasant to keep it since it was crowded up under more sentimental items, and my memories would not suffer if I did not have that thing. I found that I had to make that choice by myself. If someone else forced me to let something go, it would hurt more. I needed the power in my own hands, and I could square with the sadness of letting go on my own terms. This worked better for me than having a friend or family member hound me to let go.

Less than half the original items made the cut back into the now sacred closet. My husband and my family were so proud of me, and Good Will was happy to see me coming with a trunk brimming with treasures for their shelves and racks. I am happy to open that closet door now, and my success, limited to that one space in my home, fuels my desire to take on another brimming-over storage space in my house. It’s such a process, both getting over-burdened with too much stuff, recognizing that fact, and making positive change for the better. I am applying the same principles I used to take back control of my own closet in other areas of my home, and, bit by bit, I am becoming free of the shackles of too much stuff.

And that’s a beautiful thing!

Read more from Cynthia at All About The Details.



  1. Kathy Mader says

    I know the feeling. I decided that when I would start swearing because it took me hours just to pick up stuff and clear counters before I could actually clean, that something had to change, something was dreadfully wrong to feel that frustrated and upset. NOTHING feels better than having your house manageable. Key words, manageable without stress.

    • says

      Too true, Kathy. I find it so frustrating when many of my family members are careless with our home environment. There are six of us living in the house, four of whom have jobs and school outside the home. This results in topsy turvey attendance to home and chores. I’ve found I really need a tidy home to rest in, and sometimes it’s overwhelming to consider making the whole place orderly. I have to narrow it down to one or two key rooms. Keeping it from getting too out of control is a big factor as well.

      I’m SURE I’ll miss it when they are all grown and gone. =) Then I’ll have it all to do myself, but there won’t be so many around to undo it.

  2. MotherLodeBeth says

    Personally I think that some older people and some disabled people simply would love for someone to help them de-clutter and clean. But they either cannot find someone to help or are afraid to ask.

    Am partially disabled because of balance issues and I readily admit it’s hard for me to lift and pull anything, so I may take two days to get the boxes of items for the thrift store, into the car, since I have a hard time either asking for help or getting help.

    After my husband died, I hit a deep depression and within a couple weeks of I became more depressed when I saw how things were not being cleaned and cared for. So stayed up all night once and cleaned and cleaned and the depression lifted. Doctor called it situational depression.

    Now I find myself wanting to have so little because it just seems more relaxing and peaceful. Still am getting rid of items and this cottage is less than 500 sq feet. Just hate anything that collects dust, or is more work than pleasure.

    • says

      That’s a good point, Beth. It would be great to offer a service to elderly and disabled people who would really love to have a clean tidy space to live in, but just can’t manage it alone.

      I too have physical limitations that prevent the lifting of anything over ten pounds. This means I can’t move heavy boxes or furniture by myself. Even grocery shopping can prove challenging. I can’t buy kitty litter without one of my children along to heft it. This limitation has helped me to let go of my pride in asking for help. I really need help, and it won’t hurt others to lend a hand. It’s actually a good opportunity for growth on both sides.

      I understand depression too. We nearly lost our house in the last few years, and have been in grave financial difficulty. But this too has been a tool in my life to dig deep for sunshine and joy. It’s more valuable when I have to work for it. It’s been a long few years for me, but nothing like losing a husband. I’m so sorry for your loss. I can only imagine how awful that would be.

      I agree about dust collectors! They serve no purpose other than to create more work. I lived in a 680 sq foot home once, and I loved it! Sounds lovely!

      • says

        I feel bad for the people who have atsium, why can’t everyone in the world be normal. I find these stories sad to read, but also interesting. David seems like a bright kid, just because he has atsium , people start making fun of them, even if they are smarter than you think. At first as you were discribing David I had also thought that he isn’t a smart chid. But as I was reading on I figured out that not all kids with atsium have to be dumb.

  3. says

    Hello Cynthia. I am so proud of your efforts. That is a large undertaking, with amazing results. Not only did you clear a lot of stuff, you also had some major personal growth.

    I so agree that the decisions need to be on your own terms, but having help and support along the way is so important too.

    A simply beautiful story. Thanks for sharing it with us

    • says

      Thank you! It was a huge undertaking, and it could not have been accomplished by only one person in only one day. It seriously took three of us all day to complete. Plus I know I would have gotten more discouraged if I’d been on my own. I’m blessed to still have family in the house who can help!

  4. says

    Its important to find a starting point, in the end it doesn’t matter what that starting point from a counter top to a closet. At least you found a starting point and managed to get to more simplicity.

    • says

      Matt, that is so true. It took years for me to finally absorb what my husband told me all the time, “Celebrate PROGRESS, not perfection.” And so the journey continues!

  5. says

    Great job, Cynthia! One step at a time.

    I worry that my daughter is going to go through this. No matter what size space we live in, she fills up her portion of it.

    • says

      I’m pretty sure at least two of my girls will experience this as well. Out of the four of them, only one is innately orderly. She enjoys bringing order to her spaces. The others? Not so much. They take more after me, unfortunately. I was never a tidy child.

  6. MotherLodeBeth says

    Was also reminded of how since December I have literally spent two weeks at a time each month at the hospital with our son, or at their home helping care for him and take him to appointments, which has meant my own place has ended with drive by living issues.

    Like eating a quick meal and rinsing and placing dishes in the sink or not getting laundry done for two weeks. 150 mile round trip daily starting early morning and ending around 7 pm when I come home eat, shower and go to bed.

    So I have had to rethink things and make sure that in the evening the only chore I do one evening is load the dishwasher and load the washer then when I get up put the wash in the dryer. Then one evening per week I clean the bathroom before taking my shower. One evening I vacuum and mop the kitchen floor then shower and go to bed.

    This way things do get done which keeps the stress at bay, and makes me feel better.