It all started with books. Mountains of them.
At the base of the mountain, there were boxes of dishes and a cavernous pile of mugs and coffee cups. Stuffed between the boxes was a river of towels and bedding in a variety of colors and sizes; there was enough here to outfit a small hotel. Towering high above this landscape of stuff was an upper shelf that held contents as mysterious as deep space. No one dared to access them for fear of the avalanche that would ensue.
These things had been here for a while. When I peeked into the boxes of china, the newspaper it was wrapped in dated to the Reagan administration.
Although it was clear to the homeowners that something needed to be done with all this stuff, it was overwhelming. They’d close up the box and move on to other things, telling themselves they’d deal with it another day.
The thing was, every time they saw those piles, they felt drained and even guilty. Clearly they didn’t need those things. After all, they’d been wrapped up and left alone for years. Truth be told, they didn’t really want most of the items either. Some were inherited, many were outdated or broken, and some were purchased because it was such a good deal (“70% off…how could we pass that up?” they’d say). Some things they loved but didn’t know where to put them, like those books. All that added up to a visual and mental burden. It was time to let go.
Sound familiar? If so, here are three easy steps to getting started.
One: Start Small.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed, so focus on one thing at a time. Pick a task and see it to completion. Begin with something manageable, like cleaning out a junk drawer or just one shelf in your pantry. Focusing on one thing and seeing it completion will help you keep moving and provide a boost of instant gratification.
As you go through your items, put things into one of four piles:
T = Trash. Move these things straight to the trashcan. This includes broken items or anything expired (better to throw it out than throw it up!).
A = Assist (Others). We’ve all heard the saying that one person’s trash is another’s treasure. Bless someone else with things you aren’t using or don’t really want. You’ll feel better knowing that what was a burden for you can enhance the life of someone else.
S = Sell. Garage sales, consignment stores and online resources like Craigslist, eBay, Replacements Ltd or Letgo can help you make a bit of money. Just make sure you aren’t lured in to buy more stuff as you scan the site to sell your own!
K = Keep. William Morris said “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be beautiful or believe to be useful.” Let this be your guide as you determine what to keep. There is peace to be found in living where form an function meet; the opposite is true when you hold on to things that aren’t useful or lovely.
Three: Act. Immediately!
Trash goes straight in the trashcan. Donations go right into your car (bonus points for going to the donation site the same day). Items to sell are posted online, driven to the resale shop or put in a dedicated spot for the garage sale. Keepers are put where they belong.
Now you have one space that looks good and functions better. Notice how you feel when you look at and use that space. Are you lighter, as if a weight has been lifted? Visit this spot of calm to motivate you to keep moving to your next organizing task. If you don’t have time or prefer to have help, call me. When you surround yourself with things that meld form and function, life is easier to enjoy.