I’ve been fascinated lately by the minimalism movement and what has emerged from that. People are drastically decluttering and downsizing their possessions and/or moving into tiny houses. When I first started reading about these concepts, I’d think, “Wow! What a sacrifice! I could never do that.” But now I’m not so sure it is a sacrifice. As I’ve been doing some massive decluttering of my own, I am starting to see the benefits of not having so much stuff. There is less to keep clean, less to take care of, and less to distract me from what matters most in life. I’m learning that simplifying has been improving the quality of my life.
In my physical spaces, I’ve been working to purge the possessions that I no longer need and have been letting go of items that no longer bring me joy. I was holding on to a lot of stuff in case I needed it “someday.” I used to have a hard time parting with things from my childhood or that I received as gifts. I felt some obligation to keep these things, even though I wasn’t using them.
One area that I’ve struggled with for years is my closet - it’s been overstuffed with too many clothes that I didn’t like and I never or rarely wore. Every once in a while, I’d purge a few items to donate, but then I’d go buy more to fill the empty spaces because I had “nothing to wear.” There have been too many mornings where valuable minutes were wasted as I stood there, trying to choose the day’s outfit. After one instance where I wasted a full hour stressing about what to wear to a gathering, I decided enough was enough. It was time to clean out my closet once and for all. So I invested about three hours one afternoon to tackle the project. I assembled the outfits that I have worn most frequently and that I actually enjoy wearing and hung those items together in the closet. Then I went through every remaining article of clothing and made a conscious choice about whether or not I was going to keep it. I kept a few of these “extras” and got rid of the rest. I went through every single accessory too - scarves, hats, and jewelry - and again kept only the ones that bring me joy and that coordinate with the outfits.
Decluttering our physical spaces can be overwhelming. But I’ve found it easier by asking myself these types of questions:
- Does this item bring me joy? Does it beautify my home or does it create mental clutter?
- Is this item associated with a strong, positive memory?
- When was the last time I used/wore the item?
- Does this clothing item make me feel fabulous when I wear it?
- If I were moving tomorrow and could only take one half of my belongings, would I take this?
I’ve also been taking swift action to address areas of our home that were draining my energy. As one small example, I used to dread doing laundry. When we transitioned from a top-loader to a front loader, there was not enough space to open the door all the way because of how the room was set up. It was really difficult to get the clothes in and out of the washer and dryer. It was awkward and cramped, and the annoyance and frustration was really depleting my energy. After dealing with it for several years (too long), I finally enlisted the support of my spouse and we invested time and money into reworking the room. It wasn’t a major overhaul; we didn’t knock down any walls. We took down old shelves leftover from previous owners that weren’t functional for us. We had the electricity and HVAC system moved so we could move the washer and dryer to another wall, and we bought a stacking kit to save space. These changes created more space to install a more functional shelving unit to hide everything else out of sight, which also provides extra storage (and I’m pleased to report that several months after this change, there is still empty space in there!). Addressing this nuisance and making a few simple changes alleviated mountains of frustration and stress that I felt several days each week.
As I’ve been decluttering my home, I’ve noticed that the areas that were most “out of control” were metaphors and external manifestations of what I was experiencing in my personal or professional life. For example, it wasn’t too long ago that my office space was chaotic and overwhelming. I couldn’t find anything, I was easily distracted, and I was not comfortable in the space. As I worked through this with a professional organizer, I saw the connection between the chaos in my physical work space and the chaos I felt professionally and in my business. And more recently, the clutter in my closet was an external manifestation of what I had been keeping in my metaphorical/emotional closet - the past hurts and grudges I’ve been holding on for too long. Over the last year, I’ve been attending to strained relationships, letting go of grudges and anger, and learning to forgive people (including myself). Shining the light on what was blocking the flow of connection and love in my life, and doing the work to let those blocks go, has made a tremendous difference in how I approach my most cherished relationships.
The process of simplifying can be overwhelming, and it’s not always easy. It can be scary, as we fear what we’ll be losing or sacrificing as we let things go. In reality, when we simplify, we don’t lose out. We gain. We gain more time, more energy, and more freedom. We create more space to focus on what matters the most, and we create the space that’s needed for peace, joy and love to grow in our soul.
Take Inspired Action:
- What areas of your home or life are in need of decluttering?
- Where are you doing too much?
- What issues are draining your energy?
- What is one simple action you can take this week to reduce the chaos and create more space in your life?