When I realized I was going to be moving into a smaller home, I looked around at my rooms full of things and felt overwhelmed. I’ve lived in this house for more than fifteen years. A variety of people have come and gone, leaving behind things that I never knew what to do with.
Looking at my houseful of stuff, I’d sometimes felt paralyzed and even guilty. I’d thought that I “should” have kept from accumulating so many things. I “should” have been better at letting things go. Shame. Embarrassment. Frozen.
But now, instead of just feeling general embarrassment and overwhelm, preparing for the new home and the new life it would bring became something that somehow freed me from the guilt and shame. It’s just stuff. Now I just need to sort through it all and figure out what is going to make the move with me, and what’s going to go to a donation bin to make someone else happy.
I don’t want to be weighted down with junk. In my home, I want the freedom and space to create. I want a home that is welcoming and that I share with visitors without shame. I want to be nurtured by my home. I want it to be livable and clean. I want to be content with where I am, and content with what I have.
I’d read an article about Swedish Death Cleaning, and had decided, in many ways, that was what I was preparing to do. Paring my things down so that those people who come after me won’t have a huge task of going through my belongings after I’m gone. Not only will things be lighter for me now, my collection of “stuff” will be lighter for others later.
Since I had a year to prepare for the move, I felt the freedom to take my time, go slow, and do it well. We’re two months into that year and I’ve accomplished quite a bit in three rooms of the house. No room is finished yet, but they’re getting closer.
Part of me wants to dive in and go crazy and get it done quickly, but I know myself. I would just end up burned out and then find myself not wanting to finish. And because there is a set time frame for moving, this is a job that has to be finished. I don’t have the option to get burned out and save it for another day.
I think it’s important when undertaking a decluttering job of this magnitude, to keep in mind your own personality type. Some people need a big project that they can dive into and get done quickly. Others need to bite off bits and pieces of the project so as not to get overwhelmed. One of the things I try to tell myself when I work a little bit on this big project is, “Whatever I do — right now, today — is an improvement, and a step in the right direction.”
I also find it’s helpful to try to do away with the sense that I need to do this the “right” way. I just need to get on with it. Muddle my way through. There are so many books out there on decluttering and homemaking, that it can get easy to get locked into thinking there’s only one way to accomplish this process, and every other way is “wrong.” For example, I’ve learned a lot from people like FlyLady and Marie Kondo. I use many of their techniques and find them helpful. BUT I also know that I need to adapt their ideas to fit with me and my own tendencies and personality in order to bring about lasting change and success.
I took some time out from decluttering this week to read a book called Declutter by Debora Robertson. I found it inspiring in the sections on actual decluttering, but a big part of the book was about homemaking and how to keep your house clean. Which really didn’t apply to my undertaking. I realized that my project of downsizing is a different sort of project than just choosing to declutter the house and keep it from getting overwhelmed. My experience really is more of a Swedish Death Cleaning type of project.
If you’re wanting to declutter, do you think you’d do better by doing a little at a time, or doing one big push to accomplish a lot at once? Are you looking to pare things down a little bit, or are you preparing for a complete overhaul, or a move to a smaller home?