What Do Your Things Say About You?

I did an interesting exercise this week. No, nothing like burpees or hand stands – besides those are two-handed exercises and impossible for me to accomplish. I walked around my house and took photos of things I would choose to take with me, if my life would require a move. This exercise was prompted by circumstances in someone else’s life that have brought about the necessity of down-sizing. It has proven to be a very painful task for her. What lessons might be taken from her experience?

1.Start sooner rather than later: There are lots of books and articles written on the subject of de-cluttering and downsizing. (I just did an Amazon search – 1,295 titles!) Moving frequently often helps to solve this problem, unless you are a person who moves boxes from one house to the next without ever opening them. My general rule of thumb about things has always been: If it has some purpose and there is room for it, it can probably stay. When my children left home, creating room in two more closets, I did spread out a bit. Having company come to stay took care of that issue. Just because it is behind closed doors or in a sealed box does not mean it should stay. Start sorting!
2. Find a little joy in the task: Mary Poppins sings the song “A Spoonful of Sugar” while helping Jane and Michael Banks sort and clean their bedroom. Put on your favorite, energetic playlist and tackle one closet or cupboard at a time. Taking the time to sort through treasures can be fun. I recently de-cluttered my spice shelf. I have always been an alphabetizer. It really does make it easier to find things. However, I found alphabetically organized jars of what I am certain were 47 year old herbs. My cooking style, and ingredient list, has changed over time. I was not sad to say goodby, and it makes me smile when I open that cupboard now.
3 Get the donation pile out the door ASAP: I have truly never regretted the decisions that I have made about donating perfectly useful items to an organization that can provide employment and income to someone while providing a setting for my things to find a new home with someone else.
4 Use your personal power to choose: Stuff really is just stuff. Things are just things. I have accumulated things in my life that reflect people I care about, as well as my various avocations, hobbies and travels. I love looking at all of them and have specific memories attached to most. But if and when I need to choose, I will focus on a small number of things that will allow me to remember and share the significant stories from my life. The beautiful, functional box holding my rather sizable collection of floaty pens, brought home from almost every place I have visited in my adult life, would provide hours of smiles and stories. Hopefully, I will still have my memory to be able to share them.

I have the good fortune of occasionally working with a professional organizer – when the task seems a bit daunting. When the sorting, organizing, trashing and donating is finished, I have a physical lightness in my being. I hope when the time comes for me to move – either to a new home or my eternal home – that whoever is left and enters my space will not find too many neglected collections of stuff and ask, “Now what in the world did she save this for?”