January 13, 2019: The Process of Decluttering, One Stroke At A Time.
Do the difficult things while they are easy and do the great things while they are small. A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step. Lao Tzu
*Wonderful Creativity Collage was designed by Theresa Hall
Last week’s blog* shared how one of our goals for 2019 is to tackle the overabundance of “stuff” that has overtaken our home and been the cause of disorganization, frustration, lost items, and become “like an island of misfit toys”. In this respect, it refers to things we have collected over the years that were once a focus of our attention and heartfelt enjoyment but now lay abandoned in the dark corners of our basement and garage. You would think that it would be an easy step to discard or give away things we no longer use or make time for.
But like the above collage whimsically shows, that’s where the problem lies. In our home, we have two creative brains. With a creative brain, one can always justify the keeping of an item, because it “might be needed” or “come in handy” in the future. Like the piano which was purchased 20 years ago in the hopes of learning to play and now sits silently in the basement, The what if brain suggests “we keep it because a grandchild might want to it play someday.” Obsolete stereo speakers might come back into fashion, and an antique desk might be worth more in later years. Boxes of pictures, childhood memorabilia from our adult children, books, furniture, specialty tools, etc. all take up valuable space and the task ahead seems daunting and at times overwhelming. When we bought this house five years ago, the intention was to go through all of our boxes to cull and find places or new homes for things which were no longer appreciated or needed. It never happened and as the years passed, more “stuff” was accumulated. It would be so easy to close the door, and like Scarlet O’Hara, “think about it tomorrow”, next week, or……never.
The challenge is especially hard when it involves items which have an emotional connection. When my children were young, I had a hobby of recreating miniature vignettes using doll house furniture and tiny accessories. During that time period, I invested lots of time and resources creating detailed room boxes. Now they also sit, abandoned and dusty on shelves. I loved creating them and received a lot of joy during the process. I keep telling myself, “what if we finish off the basement? Then I can showcase them again.” But I’ve been telling myself this for the years we’ve lived in this house, and refinishing the basement is not anywhere in the foreseeable future.
But something happened this week that caused a shift in my thinking.
One of my 2019 goals was reached. When I was 16, I swam a mile at our town pool, mostly to impress a handsome lifeguard that I had a crush on. I made a goal on my birthday last November to swim a mile by the end of 2019. I committed to swimming 3 times a week and had slowly been building up my distance. I’m not fast, but like the sea turtle, persevered and as the weeks passed by, have gotten faster and stronger. On Friday, I woke up groggy, lacking in energy; and on this bitter cold morning, was tempted to crawl back under the warm covers. But due to my commitment to swim, I headed out to the health club with the intention of completing the minimum of 1/2 mile. Once in the water, I focused on the feel and flow of the water, loving the sensation of being unencumbered and weightless. I completed the initial 36 lengths, and then decided I had the energy to try 6 more. Once those six were completed, I took stock, added 6 more, and then kept adding six more until eventually I had reached 72 lengths, a mile. The feeling was one of complete exhilaration! 50 years later, I had swum a mile for the second time in my life, this time to prove to myself I could do it. I used the strategy, it’s only one length at a time, and focused on that, rather than the 72 lengths needed to complete a mile. As I swam, I thought I really needed to implement this strategy into my life more., whether it’s one length or one day at a time.
These thoughts translated into the question of “how could I apply this strategy into my life challenges including the decluttering of our home.” Instead of facing the overwhelming spectacle of a chaotic, full basement and garage, I will concentrate on one project or section at a time. Even if it’s only a jam packed drawer or a sealed, mystery box, it will be a step in the right direction. Who knows what treasures might be unearthed along the journey? It may be a sea turtle approach, but the leatherback sea turtles swim up to 10,000 miles a year, one stroke at a time.
We would love to hear how you tackle challenges that seem at first overwhelming? What strategies have worked for you?
January 13, 2019
I would see if the grandkids would enjoy the vignettes and pass them on. I have the same issues, but find 2 times a year I get into “get rid of it mode” and do mass decluttering. When not in that mode, I decide to go through a small area, a drawer or box. If still motivated, I’ll do more. I often think, have I used this? Could someone else benefit from it? Is it just taking up room and collecting dust? If it’s something I think I might miss, I take a picture of it. I still have a lif easy to go, but as you said, the turtle approach gets things done, albeit slowly. There are 2 books I find useful, “How to Conquer Clutter” by Stephanie Culp and “Organizing from the Inside Out” by Julie Morgenstern. Books are the hardest for me to declutter btw! 🙂
January 13, 2019
Thank you so much for sharing your suggestions with both the decluttering process and reading materials. I actually have Julie Morgenstern’s book, somewhere in a box in the basement along with a dvd! It is a great one. Another incentive to begin excavating! I mentioned in last week’s blog, that I’m reading the Minimalist Home by Joshua Becker and have registered to take on online course. I keep reminding myself that every step forward is progress.
April 3, 2019
I so love the message of the collage. I do believe that people with creative minds think differently than those whose talents lie in other areas.. I hope you have made some progress. I have the same struggle. Try looking up Flylady.com. She says anyone can do anything for 15 minutes a day, and does not want us to burn out before our goal. She explains better than I can. Her methods are helpful to someone like me who is not a “born organized “ person.
April 4, 2019
Thank you so much Cheryl for reading our blog. I discovered Fly Lady years ago, when my kids were young. I laughed out loud at the description of her chaos…it rang a familiar bell. I do struggle with maintaining organization and order. Sometimes my most creative ideas come out of chaos. The week preceding a show, usually leaves my studio tables looking like a hurricane has blown through, but some of my best designs have resulted from these “brainstorms”. So for me, it’s a daily challenge to stay in the mindset that I am more peaceful when there is order. I keep telling myself…baby steps, and the important thing is to remember to keep taking them.