Have you ever typed the word “Decluttering” into a word processor? It isn’t a recognized word. What? I think it’s one of the most important words in our language today, and certainly deserves better treatment than that!
It’s not only an important word and concept, but it’s one of the most important practices. How often do you declutter? Do you clear off your desk each morning or evening? Or clear the dining room table so you can have a clutter-free dining experience every night? Does the mail get sorted and filed as soon as it comes in the door? Or does it languish in a pile, left to the gods of chaos to claim as their own?
Ok maybe that’s a little melodramatic…. but those plies! They can suck energy right out of you, just with a sideways glance and a “I should really deal with that” thought. Do you know what I’m talking about?
I had been leaving my basement studio/office in a state of disarray for about 3 weeks. I finally got up the energy to tackle it once again when I really needed to be working at my desk and couldn’t really find it. My mom and I had done a massive decluttering project this fall, complete with dumpster. I was AMAZED that we had enough trash/recycling to fill that thing! It was huge! Thankfully we bought the type where they will sort through it and recycle anything that is recyclable, but it still felt crazy that we were holding on to so much excess STUFF.
So we spent weeks sorting, trashing, organizing and stashing. We found a home for everything and it felt amazing. Expansive. Divine. Sacred, really. I was starting to feel that even-though-this-isn’t-my-dream-house I could actually breathe here, and relax, enjoy and feel at home. We’ve only lived here for 8 years — it was about time I had this feeling!
The amazing thing was, though, that after the holidays threw up all over my studio (and by that graphic imagery I mean we used it as a dumping station for gifts-yet-to-be-delivered/wrapped, packaging, wrapping and crafting; it was fair game for anyone in our family to leave a project unfinished and it was all things but the clear and clean workspace it had ever so briefly become this fall), I was able to rather quickly return it to it’s previous clutter-free state. There was a PLACE for EVERYTHING. Shocking. Amazing. Easy. :::::aaahhhhh::::::
I had been avoiding the decluttering partly because I was frustrated with myself for letting it get this bad again after the massive purge project of the fall. I was also unsure where to start! I remember feeling that way before, and this time WAS different because once I started I realized that since there really was a place for everything, it wasn’t so hard. It didn’t even take that long!
I will say this, though, that even if you’re just embarking on a big project like clearing out/making space/decluttering, there are two keys to keep in mind:
#1. Start anywhere; it doesn’t matter where you begin, as long as you BEGIN. Try to focus on one area at a time and try not to get distracted by a new project as you unearth them. One thing at a time. Focus!
#2: Don’t try to declutter AND organize at the same time. Leonie Dawson has a great term for this: “Organizing + Decluttering = Organuttering” — whatever you call it, though, don’t do it! If something has a proper home, put it there. If, however, everything is going to need to be organized and sorted and a proper place made or labelled, wait until you are done with the first layer of decluttering. Get rid of the garbage, recycling, and things-that-don’t-belong. One of my favorite tricks is to take a box or a laundry basket and collect everything that doesn’t belong in the room. If things aren’t too bad you can even do it for a whole floor of your house at a time. Once you have everything collected, THEN you can get to work putting it away, finding homes or getting rid of it.
I also find it helps to have a buddy for this type of project. My mom is a Virgo and AMAZING at organizing, as well as having a ruthless sorting instinct that doesn’t let me keep things that I don’t love or are broken or what have you. She’s also really key in getting the stuff that doesn’t belong OUT of my house. She has volunteered more times than I can count to take my boxes and bags of things-that-aren’t-broken-but-I-don’t-want-anymore off to the thrift shop for me! (She knows me too well, and knows that I’d leave it in my barn or in the trunk of my car for way too long, and might even peek back in the bag and reclaim something I’d previously tossed and wouldn’t have missed if it had just disappeared!). A partner-in-crime is key to this kind of project! (That is to say, Thanks, Mom!)
Once you get started it can even be kind of fun. I tend to get overwhelmed at first and need to take frequent breaks — that’s ok! The rewards are definitely worth the work and the overwhelm. As things get clearer, space gets more open and the dust settles, the calm and peace this type of project can bring really can ripple out into the rest of your life. For me a clearer workspace means I am more productive during my work hours and I feel more focused. A clearer kitchen table means we can sit down to eat together and even invite friends over without a mad scramble to stash things in cupboards to clear space for them to sit down. Peace, space, calm, openness. Yum!