This post was republished with permission from Tiny Buddha. It’s the second article that I’ve written for them. I wrote this set of decluttering tips while packing up my world to come away on my current Latin American adventures.
“To change skins, evolve into new cycles, I feel one has to learn to discard. If one changes internally, one should not continue to live with the same objects. They reflect one’s mind and the psyche of yesterday. I throw away what has no dynamic, living use.” Anais Nin
I’m attempting to fit my life into 10 large boxes (and one red suitcase).
As I enter a new phrase in my life I’ve decided that now is the time to reduce the stuff that has been sitting in my storage unit while I’ve been house sitting and declutter my world as much as I can. The process has been both satisfying and exhausting.
Satisfying because I’m finally able to get rid of things that I no longer need – from an ironing board to a box of 50 plus rubber bands (I’ve no idea when my rubber band hoarding began!).
Exhausting because every item of my belongings requires a decision. Keep or release? Sell or gift? Friends or family?
I found that while some things were easy to be rid of, there were others that I moved from pile to pile, unsure where they should rest. I knew that I didn’t need them but felt unwilling to let go. This feeling came up the most with clothes as it turns out that I’d attached a lot of meaning to fabric and thread.
Like my pink suit. It’s that rare shade that suited me perfectly. The shape was flattering – a random woman once came up to me in the street to say how great my legs looked. I wore it in a corporate law office where black, accessorised with grey, was the norm (I never did like to conform!).
That suit reminded me of a time in my life where I lived in an exciting city and felt successful. That beautiful suit also has a stain down the front that dry cleaning won’t remove. It now looks dated, not to mention that I don’t wear suits anymore. Yet I cling onto it.
Part of my reluctance was due to my scarcity mind set. “What if I never find another suit in that colour that makes me feel as good?” Do you do that when you are trying to let go of your things? We ask ourselves, “What if I give it away and then need it in a month?” Even though we haven’t needed it in the past year and, in most cases, we could borrow or buy a new one if we really needed to.
As I decluttered I found that following decluttering tips helped me. I think they’ll help you too, whether your aim is to empty your junk drawer, your garage or your wardrobe:
1. Start with an easy area or the area that annoys or distracts you the most
Starting with an easy area is great for instant satisfaction and giving you the motivation to continue. Those old shoes that are so scuffed you can’t see the original colour? Out. Those shoes that are lovely but don’t fit you? Out. Give them to a friend and make their day.
Tackling an area that annoys or distracts you is a fantastic way to free up energy. The garage that you can longer fit the car in. Start there. The sock drawer that you have to push and shove to close because it’s so full of mismatched socks. Start there.
2. Give yourself a time limit
Having a time limit will stop you from being sucked into the time vortex that is your closet. Or garage. Or pantry.
Focusing on the time limit that I’d set myself to go through a box meant I was less distracted. If I found myself looking through a photo album, when I was mean to be sorting through a box full of things for the kitchen, a quick look at the clock got me back on track.
3. Give yourself a challenge
Now this step may only work if you’re a competitive soul like me. I decided to reduce my boxes from 16 to 10. Why 10? I thought it was achievable and a stretch. Having that set number really helped me with my decision making as I knew I had a set amount of space to work with.
4. Only keep what is essential or beautiful
Imagine having a home that only contained things that were essential or beautiful or both. That idea fills me with a sense of calm and pleasure.
This step was the best way for me to make a decision on whether to keep something as having that guiding idea took away the constant questioning. “Should I keep it? It could be handy in the future”. “You can never have too many pairs of black trousers, black socks…”
A friend gave me another helpful tip when decluttering clothes and accessories. Does it make you look or feel like a million dollars? I love that the bar is set so high. Most of us have far more clothes than we actually need. Having a wardrobe full of things that make you feel like a millions dollars is simplistic luxury. This doesn’t mean that you keep the most expensive things either. I own necklaces that I bought for a few dollars while on holiday that I feel like a million dollars in.
5. Get some help
Who says that decluttering your world has to be a chore or boring? Invite some good friends over, put some music on and combine laughter with letting go of what no longer serves you.
6. Give your things a second life
Have you thought about giving some of your stuff a second life? I had a pile of t-shirts that I no longer wear (some were 16 years old!). I’d bough them while on travelling adventures and they reminded me of those trips. I decided to get inventive. I sent them to my young nieces and included a set of stories telling them where in the world the t-shirts were from and what I’d been doing there. When my nieces rang me I was thrilled when the youngest said “Thank you for the t-shirts. I especially loved the stories you told us”.
Is there another life that your possessions can live?
7. Connect with your emotions
Letting go of possessions can be like letting go of a part of ourselves. When I came across things that I knew I wasn’t going to use or wear, but was struggling to release, I deliberately sat down with them and dove into the emotions/memories they raised.
Dig into why you’re hanging onto that item. What does the item represent to you? What memories have you attached to that item?
Connecting to those emotions helped me to know that those memories are always with me and don’t need to be triggered by a thing.
I began to thank those items for helping me to create those memories. That might sound a bit odd yet it really worked. I could then release those things with a smile and a thankful heart.
I love the way I feel when my possessions have been reduced. There are less distractions and I feel so much lighter and more in control of my stuff rather than having it control me.
Are you in the middle of decluttering your world? I’d love to hear how you are going and any tips you’d like to share.