Thursday, January 21, 2016

Cape Horn, Shoe Horns and the Art of Purging

Cape Horn, Shoe Horns and the 
art of purging

Ten Ways to Declutter for the Slightly Sentimental

If getting rid of everything you have not used or worn in the last six months sounds absurd, this blog is for you.   Do all these so-called "organizational experts" live in 800 sq. foot apartments in Manhattan?  

The most recent litmus test I have read about for keeping your stuff is, “does it bring you joy?”  I get their point but who can really do this?  My exercise bike does not bring me joy, panty hose does not bring me joy, neither does my foam roller to roll out sore muscles after running.  Joy?  Hardly!   

I will admit - joy is freedom from stuff.  Joy is simple.  Yet, not all  things can be joyful all the time.  My whole hearted desire is to reduce, reuse and recycle.  Cross my heart and hope to die;  I want to be minimalistic.  Simplicity is refreshing and unencumbered.  My soul longs for that freedom.  

An ominous and ever present battle currently exists.  The world wants us to have stuff.  The conspiracy seduces us into believing we must acquire, buy, sell, make, manage, and finance stuff.  Television sells stuff.  The internet force feeds us stuff. It will make us richer, thinner, younger, happier.  Really?  

Stuff is the true robber of Joy.  Not only do we pay for stuff, we maintain it, inventory it, protect it, insure it, clean it, organize it, store it, rotate it.  I feel exhausted already and for the record, I am not richer, thinner or younger.

Other than never buying it is the first place, purging is the first and necessary step to win the war against stuff.  Obviously, the word purge has some additional meanings, but these are my two favorites and one I made up.  

  1. to rid, clear, or free
  2. to clear of imputed guilt or ritual uncleanliness.
  3. to win the post consumer war against the thief of joy

"Opportunity knocks" is a mantra in our home and when it comes to travel, we jump.  My husband was recently invited to fill a last minute cancellation on a trip to Antarctica.  To reach the continent of Antarctica, one must travel by boat around Cape Horn; officially known for the roughest water in the world and nicknamed the “sailors graveyard.”

Cape Horn marks the entrance of a narrow passage where the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans collide. Due to the winds coming off both bodies of already turbulent water; it is not uncommon to have 50 foot swells and occasionally a rogue 100 foot wave.  

My husband is the quintessential “boat guy.”  Even with a good set of sea legs, we have teased him about the probability of purging as he travels through the rough waters of the Drake Passage.  Considering his potential for misery, I decided, if he can purge - I can purge.

In spite on numerous remodeling projects over thirty years, we have never painted our closet.  No kitchen; no problem.  Using another bathroom for six weeks; do-able.  However, moving out all personal belongings from our closet for several days has been a disruption we apparently have not been willing to endure.  Like most shared walk-in closets, it is where the southern ying and the eastern yang of turbulent oceans collide.  Ours is no different.

After emptying our closet of its contents, I was overwhelmed and full of regret.  I had a flashback of once trying to get an air mattress back into its ridiculously small box and wondered how I would even finish what I started.  However, there was no turning back.

“When  something or someone no longer serves a positive influence in your life, it may be time for a PURGE.”

This is the time of year that Americans reorganize and after all, it is not only about bringing yourself joy but finding peace in your surroundings, right?  That place of balance is different for everyone and the challenge is finding where your personal equilibrium lies.

I needed ideas and solutions for decluttering.  There had to be a better way.  If we really want to get down to brass tacks, there is often more going on than merely redistributing and organizing our stuff so that it fits “better”.  There can be some underlying reasons why we hold on to our stuff in the first place.  

“Clutter is nothing more than postponed decisions.”  - Barbara Hemphill

In a blog entitled, "The Why of Clutter", the suggestion that our clutter tells us quite a bit about who we are and why we hang on to what we keep.  It is an fascinating read if you are ready to understand or listen to the wisdom trapped in the odds and ends we accumulate.

Real purging and the fine art of letting go must be accompanied with a firm commitment that we will not regret!  Let me repeat, NOT REGRET!  We simply can’t languish next summer over the jacket with sequins we donated that we could have used to make a handbag.   Instead, it becomes more about a sense of gratitude and appreciation for the things we keep.  Our choice is to look forward - and resist the temptation to look back.   

With a little research under my belt, here is my list of the "best of the best" for purging.  It is a list I can live with.

Decluttering for the slightly sentimental:

1. In your decision to purge - be brave, be resolute and be strong!  No regrets!

2. Have a plan or a motto and stick to it.  My motto - Do I need it, use it, or does it bring me joy?   If I can’t answer yes to one of those questions - Bye, bye.  Five multi-colored shoe horns?  Does anyone still use those?  My exercise bike - I still need that, darn!  Panty hose, Ugh!

3. If you can’t see it, you won’t use it. Find ways to make things visible and accessible.  If you have five bins stacked on top of each other in the garage, you won’t get something out and you certainly won’t put it back if you do.

4. Allow yourself some special and sentimental things but decide how much space you will devote to them.  Each of my kids got a “special bin” for their treasures.  Don’t worry, they change over time so giving them each one bin was never a problem. They rotate out their treasures and wonder why they kept some of them in the first place.

5. Make your space happy.  Use quotes, plagues, sentimental family items, and trinkets picked up on vacation to lift your spirits and remind you of wonderful experiences.   

6. Even while purging, put things away as you go.  You can go through those spaces when you get to them.  Otherwise you just move stuff around and make little progress.

7. Tackle the paper dragon - Photograph papers, business cards, receipts or use apps such as “Scannable” and save to the cloud.  Create a paper file for the most important documents as backup.  Try to only touch paper one time and deal with it as you get it. Then - Toss it!

8. Make a commitment to stay on top of things. A place for everything and everything in its place.  When well organized, it is just as easy to put it where it goes as on the floor. 

9. Allow yourself a junk drawer, stash shelf or space.  We all need a place to put things in a hurry.  When it is full, tackle it.  Don’t allow it to spill over into more space - unless someone died.

10. Realize this is a process.  Tackle one space a day, one room a week, or an area every six months.  You decide.  This is a journey to bring us more joy; not to create more stress.  Do it at your own pace.

My closet is newly painted, my stuff has all been assigned a new place and I feel a pretty good sense of accomplishment.  I bravely sent many items to Goodwill and know they will find another good home with people that can use them.  Life is good.

Two days later, I find myself getting ready for the day and wish I had that wide belt I just gave away.  NO REGRETS, remember!  Sheesh!

photo credit: quotes;

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