Some time ago, I began cleaning out my house, weeding out things I no longer need to keep.
had done a little targeted weeding a few times in my life, but I had
never done a serious, top-to-bottom assessment of everything I own. I
had accumulated far more than I'd thrown out or given away in my life.
The only thing that had limited me in any way was the fact that I lived
in one-room spaces until I was in my mid-20s, and then I lived in a
one-bedroom apartment for a decade after that. One's possessions tend to
expand to fill the available space, which is why I encourage people who
have just moved into a larger space not to be in a hurry to get more
stuff. Hang onto those empty spaces as long as possible; they will fill
naturally soon enough.
There is a lot of advice out there in the
world on simplifying your life and downsizing your possessions. Some of
it is drastic, accomplishing major deaccessioning in a very short period
of time. I've discovered that I need to go slowly, doing a little at a
I have seen progress. The walk-in closet in my writing
office is finally neat, organized, and uncluttered. I finally have the
things I use the most within the easiest reach. I've thrown away bagfuls
of junk, recycled bagfuls of paper, donated and freecycled boxes full
of usable clothes and furniture and books. But I still have a long way
If I try to tackle it more aggressively, I quickly get
exhausted and discouraged. So I keep plugging away a little at a time.
If I keep getting rid of more than I bring in, I will make progress.
other thing I had to come to terms with was that the person with whom I
share a house does not currently share my desire to simplify, at least
not to the same degree. There are times when I would like to tackle the
clutter in his spaces. But I had to reach my readiness to downsize in my
own time. Nobody else dictated that for me, and I cannot control the
timing of others' readiness. Also, I can't know what is really "clutter"
among someone else's possessions. So I focus on my own spaces (mainly
my writing office, where most of my clutter is concentrated, and parts
of our bedroom). After all, I certainly have plenty to keep me busy for
months to come.
Letting go has been an eye-opening process for
me. There is so much I've been holding onto for sentimental reasons or
"in case I ever need it." I've really been questioning my attachments to
every object, every piece of paper. It has also made me more mindful of
everything I bring into my house, to avoid future accumulations of
clutter. I ask myself: Do I really need or want this? If so, where
should I put it? How long should I keep it? What will I do with it when I
no longer need or want it?