A couple of times a year, I go on a de-cluttering rampage. This time it is even more serious than ever. Too much “stuff” equals too much stress. I firmly believe we are energetically connected to our stuff and having too much stuff is exhausting.
Here’s the reasoning behind this year’s rampage: In the past decade or so, I’ve not only disposed of both parents’ earthly belongings, but also my brother’s and those of a couple of close friends.
During those painful processes, I confess to more than one snarky comment along the lines of “Why the heck did he/she keep this?”
There were my Dad’s pocket diaries (appointments only) from the 1950s, my Mom’s endless collection of old Time magazines and my brother’s self-confessed “terrible” angsty teenage poetry.
Yes, there was Dad’s tank driver’s license and letters home from World War II and my Mom’s and brother’s collections of never-before-seen family photos, my grandmother’s hand carved wooden figures, a Christmas ornament or two from my friend. These are treasures that should be passed down between generations. But take a look—none of these things are bulky and they really don’t take up much space.
Along the way, I actually became something of an organizing expert. It started with Dad’s house. There were only three choices that my siblings and I had because we were under time pressure and I was running the show from 500 miles away:
- Keep it and move it out today
- Donate it
- Trash or recycle it
After being the agent of disposing of others’ things, it’s impossible not to think of who might someday be tasked with getting rid of my “stuff.” What a horrifying thought!
Why should anyone have to dispose of those half-burned candles in the dining room cabinet or the years of utility bills or the files from book projects decades past or the numerous balls of yarn squirrelled away with the thought I might someday learn to knit?
A friend recommended a little decluttering life book by Joshua Becker called Simplify.
That got me rocking.
You probably know most of what Becker says. It’s all common sense. It all boils down to a simple concept: If you need it or love it, keep it. Otherwise, say goodbye.
So, the rampage of 2017 began. Do I really need 15 wooden spoons in my kitchen or six black shirts? No. Do I really love that power corkscrew someone gave me five Christmases ago? No. Do I really love the painting my cousin gave me last Christmas and the book of Maya Angelou’s poetry? Absolutely!
I am not going to become a minimalist. I don’t need to survive on two pairs of shoes and four shirts and three pairs of pants.
I love it that Becker says if you love books or teaspoons, by all means, keep them. Just make the choices about these things. I’m not getting rid of all my books or my Grandma’s mantel clock or the platter I bought in Tuscany.
I’m pacing myself. As my old hero the Fly Lady recommends, go for a drawer a day. She also recommends going through the house with a garbage bag on Day One and putting at least 20 items in it, then immediately taking those 20 items to a thrift store. No fair tucking them somewhere in the garage to deal with later.
At my current pace, that means that my house will be about halfway de-cluttered when the family arrives for the holidays. That’s OK. It’s a marathon and we will be permanently ridding ourselves of stuff we don’t love or need, so it’s worth the time.
A big de-cluttering opportunity arose when the weather turned unseasonably cold and local shelters put out a call for coats and hats and scarves for homeless and needy families. How could I have possibly have accumulated 30 or maybe even 40 coats and jackets? Now I have ten (more than enough) and needy people will be warm. Plus, the coat closet has space for guests’ coats and I can take a sigh of relief when I open the closet door.
I know, clutter will probably creep up on me again. Although this year’s massive de-cluttering is making me feel so good, maybe it won’t. We have agreed on a new house rule: For anything non-consumable (toilet paper and food don’t count) that comes in, at least one thing must go out. That should help keep us in check and will be a big favor to our kids when we have shuffled off this Earthly plane.