One of my daughter’s favorite sayings is “clutter means chaos” and I have to agree with her.
Last year for Lent we pledged to “purge” forty items from closets, cupboards and drawers. We reduced, recycled, repurposed, and reused many items and took loads of things to the thrift store and the recycle center. The goal, of course, was to have as little as possible go to the landfill. This year we’re doing it again. It’s amazing to me how much “stuff” we collect in only a year. I must admit that I’m being more diligent about things that I ignored last time. Although I love to cook, I truly don’t need forty seven cookbooks in my cupboard and I have more table cloths and steak knives than I would need to feed an army and who needs fifteen shades of nail polish?
I have a friend who is considering moving into a senior’s residence but the thought of downsizing is leaving her feeling uncomfortable, anxious and overwhelmed. I decided to do some research to see what the experts have to recommend. There were many excellent pieces of advice but I thought I would reduce them to a short list so that it wouldn’t make her even more unwilling to face the process of making sense of the mess.
Firstly, we are supposed to set a time to begin sorting and organizing; a time when you are feeling calm, focused and in control. Start small they say, so that when you are done you feel proud of the diminished clutter but not emotionally finished. Containers in which to sort things play an important role. My daughter loves baskets but my grandson does better with clear bins so that he can see what is inside them (labels help as well). An assortment of lids in his favorite colors adds to his pleasure. They should be stackable and of standard sizes to make the process easier.
Choose a place to begin: garage, attic, basement, shed, closet or even jewelry box. With the appropriate sized containers beside you, start by deciding what to keep, what to discard, what to donate, what to sell (if that is one of your choices) and what to recycle. Many of us have too many books which we are not going to read again, clothing and shoes that we no longer wear or are the wrong size, and bric-a-brac that has become a collector of dust – no longer bringing us pleasure to look at. When the containers are full, remove the items to boxes or black plastic bags and actually plan a trip to the recycle depot and the thrift store of your choice. The objects you have decided to keep can stay in their container and when you begin again, you will need another bin. Don’t put them back where they were or you will be sorting the same items for a second time.
Personal documents: tax forms, medical records, sales receipts, warrantees (toss out any that have expired) etc. should be filed in an accordion files or a box file so that you can lay your hand on them when you need them. Tax records should be kept for seven years. Any paperwork of a sensitive nature that you are going to discard should be shredded, torn up or burned so that your information cannot be compromised.
Working as a “downsizing Diva” can help us to feel that we are in control of things and the clutter doesn’t totally occupy our minds. So, even if you are not moving, cleaning away clutter is an exercise we should all do regularly. Author Laurie Buchanan, PhD says “cleaning clutter – be it physical, mental, emotional or spiritual – brings about ease and inspires a sense of peace, calm and tranquility”. Sounds good to me.