Friday, October 31, 2014

Letting go of stuff

Some time ago, I began cleaning out my house, weeding out things I no longer need to keep.

I 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 time.

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 to go.

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.

One 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?


  1. I love this post. I do something like this periodically, mostly in my own office/writing space, which--yes, I have the most control over. But it's also my hanging-onto that has made the piles that start stressing me out, the lack of space that makes me--for some reason--nervous and uncomfortable.

    I don't know that I've ever done it at the depth you're doing, though. I think someday it will possibly come to this--but I also think it will probably coincide with something dramatic, some at least biggish change.

    1. Yes, clutter can be stressful, even if subtly so. Decluttering is like getting extra breathing room. I feel more restful when looking at the corners where I've made improvements.