Usually around the beginning of the year I like to read a de-cluttering book to inspire me to do a bit of weeding out. This year I did one better. On Monday night I attended a presentation by Peter Walsh, author of many books on organization and getting rid of stuff. He is also host of the television show Clean Sweep.
With his soft Australian accent, I found him to be very engaging. He was energetic, had a great sense of humor, and was totally charming. He wandered from the stage to the audience and gave out hugs to some of the (mostly) women attending. I felt sort of like I was sitting in the audience of an Oprah show.
I liked him.
Here's the short version of his presentation.
Basically there are two types of stuff we hold on to:
I-might-need-this-someday clutter - "There is nothing wrong with this 'thing' and I paid good money for it and it might come in handy one day."
Memory clutter - "If I let this go I am going to lose or dishonor the memory of the person, place, or achievement from the past that it represents."
I am guilty of both.
It's with good reason, he says, that we use language such as drowning, suffocating, and can't breathe when we talk about the stuff cluttering our spaces. And our lives.
I took his advice and when I got home I stopped for a few moments before I put my key in the lock. I thought about seven years ago when I completely changed every surface in my small house. The floors, the paint colors, the entire bathroom, knocked out a wall to connect two rooms, had a fireplace built, and designed storage. I got rid of unwanted furniture, books, lamps, wall art, etc., etc., etc. I dreamed of sleek and uncluttered and serene. I wanted a contemporary, curated haven. And I had it...then.
But, when I opened the door to my house Monday night, I saw piles of books with a few magazines thrown in for good measure; a desk with a clear work space the size of a handkerchief; an old laptop stored in the box that the new one came in; a tote bag full of receipts, brochures, maps, and other paper memorabilia from past travels (I swear I am going to put them in a scrapbook some day!); and three magazine holders storing past years' tax returns and backup information sitting on the floor in front of a bookcase.
And that is just what I could see. I won't even go into what I knew was behind closed doors and stashed away in drawers.
Besides being motivated to acknowledge how much is in my home that is not contributing to 'curated and uncluttered', I had this insight as to the tote bag full of 'memory clutter' from my travels: I keep it because it is evidence that I have (or eventually, had) a LIFE. Mr. Walsh would tell me I need to honor and respect those items. Either pull out the 'treasures' and preserve them in some way that honors them or throw the whole bag away. Clean sweep.
His latest book is Let It Go. He was signing copies after the presentation but I didn't buy it so as not to add to more book clutter. So I can't really recommend it although I am sure it is useful. My library does have one of his others - an ebook - which I now have on reserve.
A few other points:
Find a charity, any charity, to donate to. Don't worry about finding the right one or a good home for the stuff you want to get rid of.
Find the treasures and treat them with honor and respect.
Set a limit on how much space you allow shoes, or kitchen implements, or hobby supplies to occupy. (I tried this with books and had settled on three well-curated bookcases. Now they are jammed full and books have taken over the tops of tables, my desk, and even a footstool.)
Stop using the word 'later' as in 'I will put it away later.' Don't put things down, put them away.
There are two times in life - Now and Too Late.
That last one might stop you in your tracks. It did me.