If your home is an indication of your emotional well being, then I am going through deep (more like piled) serious stuff. I am in the process of moving out of my highly “loved in” home of 24 years. During the onset of this process I found that devouring self help books on decluttering was far less stressful than actually purging unneeded items.
I started with the ping-pong table. Historically, it kept me a virgin in my youth—”Oh you want to make out? Let’s play ping pong.” Somehow the “ping” was dropped and it morphed into a pong table for my college-aged daughters. I am happy to report that the beer-encrusted, net-less item has left the building. Tackling the big stuff was far easier than what was on the horizon—the sentimental items that defy explanation.
My hope is that the helpful hints I gleaned from my research will lead me down a path to a simpler life with less time spent on finding a working remote, car keys, or phone charger.
Remember your basic needs.
We all need food, air, water, shelter, wine, and baked goods (OK, I threw those last two in). Ask yourself why you are hanging onto items that do not bring you joy. If there is negativity attached to an item, it’s time to let go. Old stuff can trap you in the past and block you from living in the now.
Somewhere along the line I became the Queen Keeper of the… *ahem* let’s just say “stuff”. During my self help book binge reading, I learned that this can indicate an overactive “pleaser gene” and inability to set boundaries and establish my needs. Really? I am not only storing things for my daughters, but for friends, and daughters of friends and four international students that I have loved and nurtured as well. No more Miss Nice Guy. I am terrible at threats but I am determined to tell them to come get their things…or something, no clue what, but I mean it!
Let go of gender-biased guilt trips.
I do not mean to generalize, but I have found that women, especially in an all male clan, end up with the decorative plate from great-grandma Bertha’s commemorating the 100th year anniversary of her church and other assorted items. If items do not have meaning in your life’s story, it is time to let go. Are you really honoring her life with a chipped plate that’s tucked away in a drawer?
Eliminate “just in case” items.
I have untouched cake pans that I bought to inspire me toward greatness, assorted thingamajigs, and a Ziploc bag filled of electrical cords and keys that have no hope of ever finding their matching gadget or door but I keep them “just in case”. If you haven’t been inspired or found the purpose of an item in six months it is time to part ways. I cannot tell you how liberating it was to finally pitch my unmatched socks. I bought a brand new industrial package of matching new ones for twelve bucks. I think the time saved and no longer experiencing a wave of stress every time I walked into the laundry room is worth the cost.
Purge with a purpose.
A dress I donated ended up being worn by a financially-burdened cancer survivor to marry the love of her life. The things stuffed in the back of your attic or basement could bring joy to others.
Remember, although painful, decluttering your life could lead to a better you with greater focus, clarity and precious time. I know there is no fear that this “Mother of Mayhem” will be able to totally lead a clutter-free life. The fact that I’m hanging onto a full-size, paper mache ostrich I received from my youngest is a pretty good indication that I am still a work in progress.
However, thanks to going through the process of purging, I have realized my house is far more than a container of things and I am excited to fill my new home with the love of friends, family and memorable moments—and a few of great grandma’s decorative plates.
Mary Helen Darah is an award-winning columnist who has appeared in numerous publications in the Toledo area and beyond. Her column, The Mother of Mayhem, publishes on ProMedica HealthConnect the first of each month.