By Susan Caplan McCarthy
A Year of Decluttering - February: Decluttering as Self-Care
The February theme for A Year of Decluttering is decluttering as an act of self-care. A lot of people feel stressed when at home, faced with cleaning and organizing belongings, tackling the seeming endless reams of paper that end up in piles in too many rooms, losing and misplacing items (occasionally followed by repurchasing items), staring at a closet filled with too many garments that never get worn, and wondering what to do with the purchases that were supposed to inspire them or make life easier.
Decluttering simplifies your lives by eliminating things that aren’t important to you. To eliminate those things, you need to envision what you want your life to look like. I’m not talking about a fantasy of sitting on the beach, drinking a mai tai, and reading a romance novel – that might be fun for an afternoon but hardly worthy of a lifetime.
Simplifying makes space for questions such as: How can I work in a way that challenges me intellectually and creatively? What do I give and get from my close relationships? How do I stretch myself mentally and physically?
This month focuses on ways to simplify the things you use all the time, thereby streamlining routines and eliminating decision overload.
Declutter Your Stuff First
When you decide to declutter your home, you can really start anywhere you want. Some people go for a few easy wins (refrigerator, bathroom, junk drawer) to feel a sense of accomplishment. Others grab the family and get everyone involved (willing or not) in a space that effects everyone, such as the family room.
Unless you have an immediate priority (you need to clear out a room and make it ready for a family member who’ll be visiting or moving in), I’m going to suggest that you consider starting with your stuff. This isn’t a new idea, but I’m going to ask that you consider this as an act of self-care.
You Learn What’s Important to You
When you simplify your life by decluttering, one of the things that you’ll notice is that with less stuff you make fewer decisions. When you’ve pared down your wardrobe, you’ll find it easier to get dressed by streamlining this willpower-destroying decision-making process.
Decluttering helps you learn what is important to you. As you weed through books, you discover the topics that most interest you. When you narrow your wardrobe, you learn what styles you best like to wear. As you sort through hobby supplies, you discover what you best like to create and why you enjoy the pastime.
Also, when you declutter your stuff, you don’t have to worry about anyone else’s opinions, feelings, or participation.
Sometimes, you can clarify what is important to you and use that as your motivation to declutter. Or, for you, it may be easier to start decluttering and learn what is important to you as you make decisions about your stuff.
You’ll notice how you spend your money. Do you buy a lot of inexpensive items on a whim and never use them? Do you lean toward buying aspirational items for things you hope to do or for the person you hope to become?
You can address items with an emotional pull at your own pace without facing someone who pulls an item off a shelf and asks why you want to keep it. As you learn to be kind to yourself and decide which possessions best tell the story of your life, you develop a skill that you can use with other members of your family.
You Become an Example of the Benefits of Decluttering
Remember, it’s unfair to ask others to do what you haven’t done (even if you’re convinced the problem is them). By decluttering your stuff, you lead by example. When you talk about what you are doing, you may encourage others to declutter without requesting that they join you in the task.
You’ll learn to schedule time to declutter your stuff and come up with a plan for donating the items. You’ll learn to make confident decisions and how to deal with the disappointment of wondering if you should have kept something. You’ll learn to curate the best, most loved, pieces of your collections. Basically, you learn to declutter by decluttering. When you move on to common areas and, perhaps, help other family members declutter, you’ll feel more comfortable and confident with the process.
Also, by focusing on your personal items, you may also choose to donate to smaller charities that perhaps only take business clothing for women or evening dresses for girls who want to go to prom. Instead of facing boxes and bags of items belonging to different ages and genders and various rooms in the house, if you want, you can focus on finding a good home for the items you are releasing as opposed to donating to the charity that will take everything you’ve decluttered.
By focusing on decluttering and organizing personal items, you give yourself the space and energy to move onto other projects (and I don’t just mean more decluttering).
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Do you have a decluttering topic you'd like me to discuss? Leave your suggestion in the comments below.
I help people focus on what's important to them by guiding them through clearing clutter and distractions from their lives. I teach decluttering and organizing skills through articles; books; courses; speaking engagements; as well as virtual coaching sessions.