Death & Decluttering

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I'd started a blog post on Death a few months ago, but said no...that's too dark, don't go there on a public forum. 

Then July happened.  

Uncle Phil, gone. 

Kelly, a high school friend, gone.  

Uncle John, gone. 

So we're talking about death, decluttering and our past.  I promise they are related. 

A few months ago I started going through the last of the sentimental stuff I'd been holding on to, snug in my parent's shed for 18 years, not bothering anyone.  Except me.  It was always on my mind, taunting me, calling my a hypocrite.  I mean, how can I tell you to downsize your sentimentality when mine loomed large?  

Oh man, you guys. This was hard.  So hard.  I sorted and cried, cried and sorted, and called an organizer friend to come hold my hand (yes, we ALL need help sometimes).  And then I cried some more and let some more go.  

But why?

Why these tears?

Why do any of us get upset over letting this stuff go?

Why do we hang on so tightly?

Why is it so damn hard? 

What do we gain by boxing up our past selves and putting them on a shelf?

This is what I came up with:

We hang on so tightly, I hang on so tightly, because the future is unknown.  Because the past has been cast in the rosy glow of perfection. Because it served me to box up some feelings and not look at them for a long while.  Because if I let go of my past stuff, I'm letting go of my past self.  Letting go of the people who gave and saved this stuff for me.  Letting go of me.  

Right?

Wrong? 

Wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong!!!!!  

Of course we can't erase the past. It's sewn into our cells like a million little diamonds of remembrance. It's in our laughs and our sighs. It's in the wrinkles on our skin and the smile on our face. Or maybe the tears on our face.  It's there, always. 

But I think our past self that lives within is us is begging us to let down our load. Our boxes. Our storage units. Our piles. Begging to be remembered, not with exhaustion and anger from dragging it with us, but with truth.  It was what it was, no less, no more.  It's not coming back, it can't be recreated.  Our past is what made us, but that past doesn't reside in the stuff, it resides in us.  

Even so, I couldn't get rid of all of it and that brings me to....death.  

Because here's the thing, I wanted some of this stuff as a record that I existed and achieved, saw and conquered. Why else do we really keep things other than to keep ourselves and our loved ones alive.  But at what cost?  The angst and overwhelm of keeping, sorting, cleaning, preserving started to cost more than the emotional cost of letting go. I fantasized about torching the lot of it.

Death is the final declutterer.  It doesn't care that I kept everything.  It doesn't care about my past. It doesn't care about your storage unit or my shed. We really can't take it with us.  Uncle Phil had very little, yet we kept even less,  a few items each to remember him by.  Kelly's husband is planning the garage sale and Uncle John's husband is planning to downsize.  They will each keep their favorite items of remembrance, but no one wants the bulk of our stuff.  

With that in mind, I'm working on a "highlights reel".  A small box or two that may actually bring my loved ones a smile through their tears, rather than a garage full that will just exhaust and overwhelm them, should I depart this mortal coil.  Hell, it might even bring me a smile or two when I'm 80 and forgetful, sitting on the front porch, reminiscing.  

What about you? Do you want to live in the past? Constantly upset and exhausted? Sorting and organizing and trying to keep up some facade of what your life should look like?  Hanging on to a past that overwhelms you (and your loved ones)?

Or do you want to join me, make a highlights reel and let the rest go.  See what our life actually is?  Today.  Now. To spend our time on our passions and joys, not on our pasts and regrets, our legacy of mere stuff?

I choose less.  

I choose now.

Katy and Uncle Phil - 1989

Katy and Uncle Phil - 1989

Kelly/@umberdove - 1997

Kelly/@umberdove - 1997

Uncle Ed and Uncle John - 2017

Uncle Ed and Uncle John - 2017

PS  Kelly spent her time in the NOW.  She was my inspiration and idol as she created, loved and truly lived, even in the face of 7 years of breast cancer.  If you'd like to read more about her, please check out her Instagram or blog.  You can start at the first post or the last. 

What I Learned from 30 Days of Decluttering

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I absolutely LOVE doing the 30 Day Decluttering Challenge each year.  Your participation and feedback is what I live for and it's so much fun to be doing this with you. 

This year though, I though "Well...we've been decluttering and minimizing for 3 years. I don't think I'll have anything to let go of".  Yeah, so I was wrong.

While I posted photos each day of "suggested" categories to declutter, I was mainly going through my own sentimental items.  That included the rave fliers in the photo above (they will be worth something on eBay one day!!!!!), travel souvenirs and photos.  Oi.  I am EXHAUSTED.  The trip down memory lane is a Loooooooong Drive.  

In the middle of that trip, I decided to take a detour to one of our closets.  Our new room has two.  One for our clothes, one for our coats, TV and dresser.  The shelves were a complete sh*tshow. Because things that worked in a previous house just didn't work here.

Exhibit A:

 

Thankfully, TJRossMarshalls had a few baskets that helped us get this under control.

Exhibit B:

 

 

The Bins Contained:

Bedding:  2 bins for bedding, including our spare sheet set for our bed, spare flat sheet, 2 extra blankets and a couple of pillow cases for guests.

Electronics: The miscellaneous phone cords, tripod, lens, external backup hard drives and an external DVD player/burner.

Art Supplies: This bin housed my oil pastels, drawing paper, glue, colored pencils, glitter and paper cutter.

Office Supplies:  Since I don't have an office, this one bin holds stamps, cards, highlighters, a few paper clips and binder clips, pens, pencils, and a ruler.  It's amazing how few office supplies one needs and having a small bin to corral them keeps them under control.  

Hats: This one holds hats, beanies, gloves and scarves.  An ever-present necessity for an always cold person living near San Francisco.

So yeah.  While I do advocate less in general, having a few well-chosen bins and baskets can make all the difference in the world. For $40 I now feel cool, calm and collected.  That's less than half a dinner out in San Francisco.  Win.  

They also keep categories under control.  If they are overflowing, it's time to pare down.

Thank you, everyone that played along with the decluttering challenge.  It was fun and helpful for me too!

30 Day Decluttering Challenge - 2017

This is seriously my most favorite time of the year.  I love hearing from you all every day and seeing what clutter you're removing from your home (and life!) in order to make more room for what's important (hint: it's not the stuff).  

You'll also be entered to win a free session with Amy or myself ($399 value) or a month of phone coaching with me if you're not in the area. 

30 day simple challenge = 1 entry into drawing

Mins Game = 2 entries

Having an Clutter Buddy = 4 entries

Doing the Mins Game with a Clutter Buddy = 5 entries

Simple Challenge:

  1. Remove 1 item from your home each day (donate, sell, recycle, or trash)
  2. Post what you removed in a comment on either the daily photo on our Facebook page or on this blog post.  i.e. if you threw out a magazine, you just need to write "magazine" in the comments (or post a photo or video!!!!!!!) 

Mins Game:

 If you're super motivated to make a huge change in your living space, I'd like you to take the 30 day challenge to the next level and play the Minimalism Game.  To play, you remove one item on the first day, 2 on the second, 3 on the third and so on.  

Use the hashtag #MinsGame in your comment and you'll be entered 2 times.

Clutter Buddy:

If you'd like to be paired with an clutter buddy, email me and I'll set it up!  You can also choose a friend to do this with.  If you both complete the 30 day challenge, you'll be entered 4 times!

Use the hashtag #clutterbuddy in your comments.  Put both #minsgame AND #clutterbuddy if you're doing both!

A couple notes:

I will be posting a daily photo of a suggested category to get declutter, i.e. shirts, pots and pans, pens, etc.  You can choose to declutter something in that category or any of your liking.  

You may find it helpful to keep an "outbox" in your entryway or garage to put your donation items in each day.  As it fills, take it to Goodwill.  Rinse. Repeat.