Few activities bring me as much joy as throwing things out. I don’t know what it is, but there’s something about purging unnecessaries that really makes me feel alive. I don’t mean to suggest that I enjoy being wasteful. In fact, most of the time “throwing out” looks more like repurposing, donating, or giving things to friends that I no longer have use for. I try to make it a regular habit to assess what I have versus what I actually use or get enjoyment out of. Like clockwork, once every season (sometimes twice) I announce to my husband, “I think it’s time that we got rid of some junk!” This is typically met with an eye-roll because he knows that the wheels are already in motion and there’s no stopping me. Last time, he responded, “You’ve already gotten rid of everything, there’s nothing left to throw out.” Wrong. There’s always something that can go.
Researchers at Princeton University Neuroscience Institute found that visual clutter contributes to an inability to focus. For me, personally, this could not be more true. When my desk is cluttered with stuff, I find that I focus on it more than the work I need to do. I’ll think “wow this is a mess, I should really clean it.” Then I remember the coat closet that is bursting at the seams or the freezer that probably has frozen vegetables leftover from 2014, then I think about how I should really eat more vegetables…maybe I should try out a vegetarian diet….what am I thinking, I love tacos! Before I know it, it’s been an hour and the only thing I’ve accomplished is surfing Pinterest for veggie taco recipes.
Even with my seemingly compulsive need to purge the junk, I still find myself with a lot of unnecessary stuff. Which makes me wonder if the issue isn’t simply a need to be more organized, but rather a need to be more mindful of what I accumulate in the first place? I am a spender, I enjoy purchasing new things (probably more than I should). But, at what point am I buying just to buy? Going one step further, why am I choosing to save the things that I save? Each new purchase needs a home, the more I have the more real estate is required to house it. I can organize and organize and organize, but I only have a limited amount of space, which begs the question, Is my stuff making me happy or is keeping all of it creating an endless, recurring chore?
“When every possession is special, none of them are.”- Author Kathi Lipp
I will never forget a visit to my granny’s house when I was in college. While telling me stories about my late grandfather, she sent me to the hall closet to fetch his old army dog tags. When I opened the closet, I found one standard office box. Perplexed, I returned to her and inquired “Granny, where’s all the rest of your stuff?” “What do you mean?” she replied, “That’s it.”
That’s it?! I was dumbfounded. 80 years of her life fit into one box. She was a true minimalist. She had a small collection of truly meaningful items, each representing special moments from her life, and everything else was given away.
Perhaps it’s that memory that fuels my seasonal de-cluttering activities, I’m not sure. It certainly has served to make me more aware of what I save. It’s easy to assign significance to everything. After my wedding, especially, I found myself thinking that everything was worth saving. Not just the big things- like my wedding gown, but little junk like a stack of leftover programs, extra Save-The-Date magnets, decorations, cards, etc. etc. etc. The truth is, most of that is just stuff. If I throw away the programs (or keep only one) I’m not going to suddenly forget my wedding day or the memory of Bill (my husband) spending hours assembling the programs (according to my very specific instructions). Giving away the table runners that my mom made, doesn’t mean that I am not eternally grateful for all of the love, effort and hard work she put in to making my wedding day beautiful.
It’s just stuff.
I’m off now to clean out the refrigerator.
Do you have any seasonal cleaning rituals? Tips or tricks for cutting through the clutter? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!