About what matters

Writing about what really matters

Tag: clearing clutter

Making way for the new

Receive

Today I’ve been conscious of the need to clear out the old, all that no longer serves me, to make way for the new.

I was waiting for an important phone call this morning; I’d suggested 11 am, but that hour came and went, and no phone call. My instinct was to clear some clutter in order to create some space.

Recently I scheduled a book exchange and dinner with friends, and I’ve slowly been working through my stack of “maybe these can go” books. (Those that can definitely go are pretty much already gone.) Each of us will bring a dozen books or so, and take home books we’re interested in reading. I plan to donate the unclaimed books to either my neighborhood’s Little Free Library, or a nearby community library.

Our last exchange, of unwanted Christmas presents, was lots of fun. We all offloaded our unwanted stuff (and unwanted presents from family can have some weight to them), and came home with a few things we did want. I’ve also attended a clothing exchange in the past, where I was able to see others appreciate my clothes that seemed too good to just drop in a donation bin, and pick up a couple of things myself, including a t-shirt and new-with-tag pajamas that are still in rotation.

I wanted something faster, though, and I thought of my basket of catalogs. I grabbed my recycling basket, and tossed in virtually everything I’d received prior to January of this year. I filled it three or four times, and dumped the old catalogs in my recycling cart. I began emptying my wastebaskets to take the trash out as well, and in the midst of doing that, shortly after 1 pm–the phone rang. It was good news, and a good conversation.

I put out fresh towels, did laundry, ran the dishwasher, and cleaned the bath. Next up is a good spring clean of the flowerbeds.

I’d love to hear some of your favorite ways to clear clutter and make way for something new to emerge in your life!

This post is illustrated with my SoulCollage® card Ready to receive.

SoulCollage cards are for personal use, and are not for sale, barter, or trade.

 

How to eliminate and prevent clutter

Paper clutter was my weakness.

I’ve written before (in Letting go) about how important releasing clutter has been to making progress in my life. Sometimes I feel an urge to clean, purify, organize … and I always listen. Once when this happened I bought a beautiful vintage Deco sideboard for my dining room, and organized all my cloth and paper napkins and silver in its drawers.

Recently I got an invitation to a clothing exchange, and took the opportunity to purge my back closet of all the ‘too good to donate’ items I’d been hanging onto. At the exchange, I really enjoyed seeing someone fall in love with a vintage polka-dotted raincoat that didn’t work for me. That same day, I had a major breakthrough, realizing I needed to move on in another area of my life. Coincidence? I believe it was more of a chain reaction.

Several years ago, my paper clutter was so pervasive that it took persistent and sustained effort, organization, and systems to clear it and keep it at bay. Here’s what worked for me …

When I started, I had every magazine that had ever crossed my path, every paystub I’d ever received, every letter or card I’d ever been given. Thank you notes for doing things for people I couldn’t remember, never mind the favor I’d done. Boxes upon boxes of paper. Somehow I believed I needed all this stuff. As always, first my belief needed to change.

Eventually I realized that everything I’ve encountered, read, experienced is already part of me. I don’t need to hang onto the physical evidence, and in fact, doing so can hold me back from what’s next. I realized it’s to my advantage to slough off everything that isn’t currently serving me.

So I started making a bit of time to sort through it all. I’d set the timer for 5 minutes in the morning and evening, and sort papers into the recycling (the most common destination) or my filing system. Five minutes was my minimum commitment, but often I’d get into it and work longer.

I loved it when I’d have a breakthrough that allowed me to clear a bunch of things all at once. I had a whole cardboard box full of letters from a childhood frenemy with whom I’d corresponded into early adulthood. Reading some of them, I admitted to myself that this person hadn’t been a good friend to me, and we’d been thrown together–I’d never really liked her or chosen her as a friend. This realization allowed me to dump the whole lot into the recycling. Whee!

Printed information is so pervasive today that I believe having a system in place to deal with it is really necessary–at least for someone like me, who places such importance on the written word. It’s important for me to distinguish between written words that are life-changing, written words that are helpful, and written words that are of no value to me whatsoever.

My mail comes through a mail slot in my front door, and less than 10 feet away I have a basket whose designated purpose is recycling. I stand next to it or sit on the sofa, and toss in whatever I can decide about immediately, including circulars and opened envelopes. Bills go into the nearby bill drawer to be dealt with biweekly, and the rest goes into a basket in the bath. Every time I go in, I look at something in the basket. It then either goes into the recycling, the cross-cut shredder, on my to-do list, into the bill drawer for consideration when I make monthly charitable donations, or into my filing system.

Anytime I come across a stash of paper that appears to need sorting out, into the basket it goes. So without any extra commitment of time, I’m now able to ensure a paper clutter issue never develops again.

With the magazines, I started reading the covers and asking myself if I really wanted to read this content. Did it resonate with me now? When the answer was no, the magazine went into the recycling. (I filled a 64-gallon cart several times.) When it was yes, it went into a basket or onto a shelf for reading later. I typically read magazines when I’m taking a tea break or eating by myself. I read a mix of new ones and older ones, and when I finish one, I select another of the same type (new or older) to put into the rotation. The ones I’ve finished I now donate to a SoulCollage facilitator. I find it helps me let go of anything when I know it’s going to serve a useful purpose with someone else.

These books all inspired me at various times when I needed a clutter-clearing push, and challenged my beliefs about my stuff:

  • Karen Kingston’s Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui
  • Brooks Palmer’s Clutter Busting: Letting Go of What’s Holding You Back
  • Peter Walsh’s It’s All Too Much

I hope they’re as helpful to you as they were to me!

Letting go

I’ve found that to make room in my life for what matters, I must let go of what doesn’t.

Things I’ve let go of … anger, resentment, whole people. College papers, superfluous books and magazines, objects that conjured unpleasant memories. Sometimes it feels like I’ve spent years letting go of what no longer serves me. (That may be because I have.)

After clearing all this clutter, I find that I have space. Room to breathe.

When I let go of insecurity and preoccupation with myself, I was able to see what was really going on with other people, and hear what they were actually saying.

When I let go of my collection of all the nasty notes and letters anyone had ever written me, I let go of the negative emotions around them.

When I let go of my college papers, I was able to come into my own as an adult more fully.

Letting go really beats hanging on.

One of the most satisfying things I’ve ever let go of was the truly hideous variegated brown enamel kitchen sink that came with my house, a darling 1920s English Cottage-style bungalow. I gather this brown stuff was popular sometime in the late 60s or 70s, but it’s never been popular with me. Before I moved in, a friend and I went over to scrub the place down. She ran a paper towel along the edge of the sink, and it came back the same brown as the enamel. Later on, I knew the sink was clean because I’d cleaned it myself, but I never could shake that image.

So one day when I was reading Josephine Collins’ Home As a Sanctuary and one of her lists of “10 things you can do right now,” no. 8 jumped right out at me:

8. Get rid of or replace one possession that you really don’t like or use very much. If you can choose something that you have had to look at every day, the improvement will be more obvious.

Right there in black and white, definite encouragement to kick that awful sink to the curb. I found a lovely white porcelain Kohler sink, and a beautiful old-fashioned nickel faucet with white porcelain Hot and Cold taps, and had them installed. Ah … sooo much better.

If it’s bothering you, it matters.

See also: How to eliminate and prevent clutter

%d bloggers like this: