As I have been reading more and more about simplifying, I have felt compelled to begin getting rid of the clutter in my life. I began with one of the more obvious ways: sorting through my personal belongings. Like many people, I have far more than I need or even want. I have clothes in my closet that I don't wear often enough to keep, books I know I won't reread, and tons of papers I will never look at again.
One of the tips that I found to be the most positive and encouraging was to not look at decluttering from the perspective of choosing what to get rid of, but choosing what to keep. When you focus on the reasons you want to keep the things you really like and cherish, other things seem far less important and necessary.
I didn't begin with a defined five-step program, but I did look at others' guidelines to give me some general direction as I went.
As I looked at my room as a whole, I took inspiration from Simple Life Together:
- Determine your needs. What is your end goal? How do you want the space to look? Keeping that in mind will make you keep going when it gets difficult.
- Assess your space. What's working? What's not working?
- Purge/pare down. Pull everything out of a given area, sorting items into piles for trash, recycling, relocating to another room in the house, donating, keeping, and a don't know pile (to return to later). Move around the room as you finish each area, systematically tackling one room at a time.
- Organize. Put like things together, label things, and make sure everything has a home.
When evaluating individual items, I turned to this list from The Art of Simple:
- Do I have something else that could serve the same purpose?
- Would I ever use all of my multiples at once?
- Do I expect to have an immediate need for this?
- Do I love this item more than the clutter it might create?
- Can I use this keepsake or preserve the memory in another way?
Knowing that this project would take a substantial amount of time and effort, I started with a single defined subtask. I scanned papers I wanted to have record of to my email, recycling the original copies. In all honesty, I probably won't reference them again, but at least they're not taking up physical space in my room anymore. It's a step in the right direction.
I am continually paring down my clothing, proving to myself that this is a journey of progress. Nearly every day, I find myself asking how I can get it down to a more manageable size. I don't mean just looking at a specific article of clothing and wondering, "Should I get rid of this?" I stare at my closet as a whole, set on finding something to remove. I don't want to get rid of my favorite pieces or be left wearing the same outfit every day, but I want to be sure that I only keep the things that I really like. I still have more than enough clothes, and think this area might very well be one that I have to often revisit in order to keep it in check.
In examining my bookshelves, I feel an emotional connection to many of the books I own. When trying to get rid of things I don't need, I continually came back to a few big questions:
- Am I going to reread it?
- Would I recommend it to a good friend?
- Is it worth keeping for potential future children/nieces/nephews?
Getting rid of some of my stuff has allowed me to be better organize the things I have left, leaving me with a cleaner space, which I love. And the feeling of freedom I get when I let go of things I don't need is addictive. It's a continual challenge to confront the endlessly accumulating collection of stuff in my life, but it's truly liberating to realize I can choose what to keep and get rid of the rest, allowing my excess to benefit others instead of sitting unused. And that is what keeps me going in this ongoing project.