Decluttering has always held a special place for me, and it was one of my first blog posts years ago. When I wrote about it then, it was at the culmination of a pivotal year-long stint as a full-time caregiver—for my son and his complex needs, for my father who was ill and passed, and even for myself, as I worked to finally accept the mantle of “special needs mom,” which I had been pushing away for years.
The year had been one of intense change and spending time decluttering was helpful. I wrote then about “the delicious rush of the feeling of spaciousness – physical, mental, psychological and spiritual – that comes from picking an area of my home and then giving a ruthless “buh-bye” to anything I don’t love, need or want contained within it. After decluttering a drawer, a shelf or a closet, I can return for days to gaze at the generous capaciousness, not just the controlled order of the things, but the blank space between the things that reside there.”
The spaciousness brought order and hope to a little corner of chaos. Unexpectedly, it was also an invitation to the creative powers that be to send me a new calling, new professional and personal opportunities. Anyone who’s ever done a good solid clearing before knows that when you make space, the Universe will fill it. (Maybe I shouldn’t have cleared quite so much.) Within months, there was less time to keep up with our “stuff” and the piles crept back, as they are wont to do.
As we prepared to sell our house and pack for our huge adventure and head out to Sweden next week, we’ve had to take decluttering to the proverbial “whole nother level” to say the least. A trifecta of motivators—a cheer-leading realtor, the understandably high cost of trans-Atlantic shipping and an earnest desire for a fresh start—has lit a fire under our bums and experience has been nothing short of catharsis.
Every manner of item unused, unwanted and unloved was tossed, given away, sold, donated. Old resumes, a prom dress, craft projects, broken toys. Books from old jobs, clothes that don’t fit or flatter, things with plugs that won’t work for us anymore, gone. Taking inspiration from the minimalist movement, I asked myself only two questions:
- Do I love it? (save it)
- Do I need it? (save it)
What I didn’t allow myself to ask were these questions:
- Was it a gift?
- Did I pay a lot of money for it?
- Will someone think I’m silly for getting rid of this?
The questions make the decluttering easier and faster. They really do. And the results are astounding. It’s easier to move around, to clean up, to see what’s beautiful. Why wasn’t it like this all along?
It’s not just among my physical possessions that I’m decluttering. Email newsletters, newspaper subscriptions, catalogs, memberships, they’re going too. Those gift cards I’ve been carrying around in my wallet—time to spend them down. It’s luscious.
The final frontier to declutter, and of course the most difficult one to tackle, is the clutter of the mind. The sabotaging habits, the outdated tapes and scripts, the unwanted labels—I’d love to leave some of those behind as well. There’s no way to toss them into a recycling bin or trash bag. I’ve been struggling with this a bit.
While writing this, I started wondering what the equivalent “questions for mental decluttering” might look like. A neuron fired and I recalled the Byron Katie‘s powerful The 4 Questions and realized that they might just be what I need. Check them out if they resonate with you, but here’s a teaser:
- Is it true?
- Can you absolutely know that it’s true?
- How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?
- Who would you be without the thought?
I can feel the space opening. Who would I be without the thought? Who would I be without the thought that I am not enough? Who would I be without the thought that this is too hard? Who would I be without the thought that there isn’t enough time? Who would I be without the thought that it doesn’t matter?