MY DECLUTTERING EXPERIENCE
I’ve been sitting here for awhile trying to start this blog. I managed to do in two weeks what the experts say could/should/would/ought to take six months. “When the student is ready, the teacher appears.” In my case I didn’t expect the teachers who came my way. The teachers who showed me love, and not the kind you find in a bottle.
I’ve thought about decluttering and organizing for as long as I can remember but somehow never really did it. My dad always had papers and books and everything everywhere, including the floor. My dear sweet friend Sharon, who was like a second mother to me, had so much “stuff” in her house she could barely move around it. I saw what they needed to do but I never looked at my own house, my own external space or internal space for that matter.
Decluttering isn’t just about giving things away. It’s more about clearing away emotional cobwebs, letting go of the past. I’m letting go of mine, but I couldn’t start until ready. My dad was never really ready, but his Parkinson’s forced him to be ready. My friend Sharon’s cancer forced her to be ready.
By the grace of the universe I don’t have their illnesses, and I don’t want to wait for one to force me to be ready. I didn’t know I was ready really until one day in December the light switched on. Some people did something for me and didn’t expect anything in return. It wasn’t the first time people helped me, but somehow this time it clicked. This time I decided the time had come.
The time had come to love myself. Somehow I intuitively knew I had to start with my apartment. I had to convert my living space to a space of joy and love. I wanted to come home every day and feel happy. But how to do this?
I’d been hearing a lot about Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, so I went to Barnes and Noble and picked it up. Before buying it, I tested it out in their café. I skimmed the book and got to the part where she wrote “Throw out anything that doesn’t spark joy.” That clicked and I knew what I had to do.
THE PROCESS BEGINS (in the closet)
I went home and decided to start with my meditation/reading room. (BTW, I don’t follow Kondo’s advice directly. I broke her rules and decluttered to fit my personality. I also read other people’s ideas too in order to find the keys that worked best for me.) I wanted to feel a sense of peace.
The closet in that room also looked messy, so I took just about everything I could and placed it in the center of the room. Bit by bit I looked at each item and if it didn’t spark joy I tossed it in the trash pile or in the donation pile. I ploughed through Christmas decorations, books, tchotchkes, pictures—it felt like it would never end.
A plan started to form: I’d start putting my Christmas decorations in the closet. This also meant I’d have to take down my Christmas tree early to formulate the desired space. I gathered all my decorations and started placing them in the plastic bins. I kept most of my decorations, except some I’d found at the 99 cent store. Those didn’t have value and I knew I could replace them. Or find better ones.
Once the decorations were all nestled in their spaces, I could formulate a plan for the remaining items: office stuff, papers, and pictures. All of those found new more organized homes. The closet took shape and started to look so much fresher and cleaner.
NOW FOR THE REST OF THE ROOM
The books didn’t prove as difficult as I thought. I looked at each book and kept the ones that made me smile. As simple as that. I placed them by category on each of the shelves. I even created a special shelf for my school books, so I would be able to find them without thinking.
I cleared off shelves, dusted them. Looked at all the things I bought that had once meant something to me but now just collected bunnies. I thanked each thing for the joy it brought me. I got that from Kondo and from another organizing book I’d glanced at. Show gratitude for all the things around me. That really helps keep me in a happier frame of mind.
The more space that cleared, the greater the peace felt within me. I could sit in the room and feel the stillness, just feel it. I spent over a day on this room, finishing at 2a.m. with a quick vacuuming. But the job had just started…..more remained.
Before and After Pics of the Meditation/Reading Room
THE BEDROOM AND THE BEDROOM CLOSET
Clothes. I love clothes. I love wearing clothes that make me feel pretty, but that feeling had gotten lost in the masses of materials in my closet and in my dresser and in my nightstands. I hardly ever opened my dresser, so what did I keep in there anyways?
As it turns out I kept some books and stuffed animals in the nightstands. They’d probably been there since I moved into this apartment several years ago. The books I moved to the bookshelves in my meditation/reading room. The stuffed animals I placed on display as they bring a smile to my face.
The clothes in my dresser I pulled out and put on my bed along with the clothes in the closet. I have buckets of clothes and they can make or break my mood. Some of the clothes I had to try on to figure out my feelings, but if I even hesitated I threw the clothing out. Well, I should say I put it in the donation pile.
Kondo really hit the nail on the head with the “sparking joy” idea. We wear our clothes all day. They are a part of us. They ought to bring joy.
I created space in my drawers for underwear, properly rolled, and socks, differentiating between the pretty socks and the functional socks! I love socks of all kinds! Then I did something I’ve never done before. I put my tank tops in my dresser, rolled up. I’m not sure I’ll keep this up, but for now it creates more space in my closet and gives all the clothing more breathing room. The clothes do seem happier having more space.
I put my fancy Princess dresses in the closet along with most of my other dresses and skirts. After I put all the clothes back in the closet I took the hangers I didn’t really care for and put them in the donation pile. Happy clothes deserve to be put on happy hangers!
I also organized my hats and fascinators on the closet shelf, so I can see them now.
All this has created quite a freeing transformation. I’ve always been a smart dresser, but now I find it so much easier to select an outfit that will make me happy and shine—after all, a princess needs her bling! Since I’ve organized and tidied my closet I’ve received more compliments on my outfit choices. My clothes haven’t changed, but I do believe they feel happier!
Before and After Bedroom Pics!
THE HALLWAY CLOSET
I managed to develop a strange relationship with my hallway closet. I put towels in there. I also put workout clothes and yoga supplies and other assorted junk. It became a dumping ground of sorts. I put stuff in there that I’d use some day, the type of some day that never really comes.
I knew I wanted a functional linen closet, a place where I put towels, a place where I had plenty of room to put towels. I also had more Christmas decorations and I needed a place to put those. At this point it would be the hallway closet or buy a couple more plastic boxes.
Kondo mentions in her book the need to visualize a space before you start to organize. I have a craving for travel, a strong craving, so I knew I wanted a spot for travel necessities—my way of telling the universe that I desired travel.
I had cleared out my dresser and created a place for all my work out clothes and yoga gear so that meant the lower part of the cabinet could function as my linen closet. I found I didn’t use most of the stuff in the upper cabinet so I decided one shelf would be for travel items and the top shelf for Christmas stuff. Oddly enough, I think there’s more stuff in the hallway closet now, BUT I know what’s there and it all has a purpose!
THE DREADED KITCHEN AND DINING AREA
I say dreaded, but it wasn’t as bad as all that. I’ve gone through my pantry before, but this time I made a big decision. I wanted more space on the counters. MUCH more space. The pantry is big but the shelves are deep, so I crafted a plan to make space for the Vitamix and the juicer in the pantry, near the front of the lower shelves.
On the upper shelves I placed the items I used the most near the front of the shelves and other items toward the back. On the high shelves I placed some kitchen holiday items. This tactic garnered me more counter space, making it easy to prep foods. I like to cook and need to do more of my own cooking, which requires space.
In the week since I created more space on the counters I have found it much easier and more enjoyable to prepare meals. I’ve even done more early planning! Imagine that! As I write this my breakfast for tomorrow awaits me in the fridge. This will make it so much easier to get ready for work in the morning.
I also needed a spot where I could place items that I need to deal with in the short term. I don’t have an office space, and I didn’t really want one in my reading meditation room. I had a printer stand that could be re-purposed. When the last printer died I realize that maybe I didn’t need a new printer. I need to print so few things that it really didn’t make sense, so I’ve decided, for now, not to buy one.
I thought about donating the stand, but then realized it would make the perfect spot to place a plant and hold a few short term items. I put in in the corner of the dining area. As I look at it now, it holds, on the bottom shelf some items that I need to take to the post office soon. The top has the plant a few other items. As long as I keep an eye on it and take care of things once a week or so, it will serve its purpose. The key will be dealing with those items. Looking at it now makes me happy, so I know it’s the right decision.
I do not aim for perfection. I aim to feel more organized, less cluttered and to have some space in my physical environ that will lead to greater space in my creative and emotional environ.
THE LAUNDRY ROOM
Ever since I can remember I’ve wanted a laundry room. I love that this apartment has a laundry room, albeit a small one. It’s not that the room itself had a lot of clutter. It just wasn’t organized. Stuff piled on top of the washer and dryer. Kitchen appliance boxes rested on the upper shelves.
I didn’t quite know what to do about the laundry room until I read a tidbit in Kondo’s book. She recommended that people throw out appliance boxes. I thought to myself “she’s right.” I can buy boxes if and when I move. I had each appliance for more than a year. Plus I liked the idea of having space.
Once I decided to throw out the boxes I felt such a sense of utter glee! I had SPACE!!!!!! I cleaned that space—shelves get dirty after four years! And then I took my selection of bags and organized them. Bags to hold recycling. Bags to use to carry things. Dust pans. A shelf that used to contain empty boxes now had a FUNCTION!!!!!
I love the feeling of having a fully functional laundry room, where I can walk in and know where things are that I like to use on an almost daily basis. There’s freedom in that. Real freedom.
Ah yes, the car. This task proved to be much easier as I really just had to empty out the stuff that had gathered for the past couple of months: mostly gym clothes—not stinky ones though. Well, at least I didn’t think they were stinky! Other assorted papers (receipts and such) had managed to gather there. How? I don’t know……..
The day I took the stuff out, I put it all away. I laundered the clothes; I went through the papers. I didn’t take one pile from the car and allow it to pile in the apartment.
After all that I took the car to the car wash. The car felt very very very happy being clean. So did I.
My apartment was never really that bad to begin with. But it was never really that free either. I didn’t know where things were. I would spend time in a stupor sometimes just looking at things wondering how to really fix it. I think people can read all the books they want; when the time comes for you to tidy/organize/declutter, you’ll know it and you’ll make it happen however it works for you.
Maybe you’ll read books and ideas will strike you. Find ways to organize that make you happy. Find what works for you. I did, and here are some tips that worked for me. Maybe some will work for you!
NANCY’S BEST TIPS FOR A HEALTHY DECLUTTERED AND ORGANIZED HOME (adopted from some of the decluttering books and websites I’ve read)
- Pick one space in your apartment/house/office that would bring you peace and start there! Maybe it’s one room; maybe it’s a corner of a room; maybe it’s a mantel. Choose one area. That’s what I did. I started with my meditation/reading room. When I finished it, I enjoyed the peace so much that it inspired me to keep going!
- Adopt Marie Kondo’s advice and if an item doesn’t “spark joy” donate it. Dispose of it.
- If possible, as soon as you have one bag full of trash or items to donate, take it to the trash or donation bin. That will help you feel a sense of accomplishment and will prevent second guessing.
- If you haven’t used an item in 6 months and don’t have a plan to use it within the next year, then donate it. If it’s a sentimental item, find a place to display it. My dad and I shared a love of Get Smart, the Don Adams/Barbara Feldon tv show, and I have a Get Smart lunch box, so I’ve placed it on a shelf in my reading/meditation room and have positioned it so I can look at it when I’m sitting in my recliner.
- Only keep toiletries that make you feel happy and make you smile. After all, your body houses your soul!
- As you complete each task, take time to stop and appreciate your efforts and the joy your new clear and happy spaces make you feel.
- Create a ritual that celebrates your new space. If you believe in sage, then burn some sage. Or burn some new candles or incense. Or simply thank each room, each space that you occupy. Be grateful. Express gratitude.
I’m just a couple of weeks out of the decluttering/cleaning/organizing project. As time goes on I’m going to compile more tips and ideas that have worked for me. The real joy and challenge (maybe!!) will be in maintaining the new space and in experiencing the new creative avenues that will open up in my life.
Watch the YouTube video of my clutter free apartment: https://youtu.be/9zdTgd6tjxU
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