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Here we are. Another January. Another new year.
While packing away all the Christmas decorations, and hauling the tree to the curb, I noticed the neighborhood trash bins stuffed beyond overflowing with crushed boxes and colorful – mostly red and green – wrapping paper and ribbons.
I’ve been on a mission, increasing each year, of simplifying everything within my control, most especially, around the holidays. With the exception of just a few items, all my gifts were homemade: jams, apricot wine, kitchen towels and one giant papier mache pear.
This quest for simplicity is pursued in an effort to enjoy and appreciate what I have, and edit that which is not enjoyable, necessary or appreciated. My vocation as a re-designer helps keep my feet to the fire when it comes to walking the talk.
Recently, I read a list on Facebook, “12 Things you Shouldn’t Tolerate”. As a re-designer, I was especially interested in # 5, “Disordered Living Space, and # 7, “Too Much Stuff.”
The truth is, despite my intention to live simply, I still find myself occasionally overwhelmed with Too Much Stuff. Christmas is a good example. I am one person, but I own six large bins marked “Christmas”. Of those six bins, I used just two this year, which left four untouched.
All that extra Christmas stuff had accumulated from 1976, a 32-year marriage and three kids.
Putting away Christmas and holiday decorations is the ideal time to cull excess accumulation. Go through each of those Christmas bins, and seriously examine the emotional and practical worth of each item. An excellent way to begin is to incorporate the same method I use to conquer clutter. Create three boxes. Mark one “Toss” another “Donate” and the third, “Recycle”.
Rather than blinding putting away the same Christmas decorations you unpacked a month earlier for the holidays, inspect every item with a critical eye. If you love it, or if it has great sentimental meaning, then by all means, keep it. But if not, pitch it into one of the three marked boxes. Or, for things that find you riding the fence, maybe you should create another box marked, “Pass it on” for things to give to family members who might appreciate them.
Then, when repacking the bins that made the final cut for next Christmas, write general descriptions of contents, instead of just “Christmas” – so you’ll know what’s what. Better yet, get clear plastic bins that allow you to see the contents at a glance.
There are practical, healthy reasons I make these recommendations. Many people I know, myself included, experience stress from the oppression of ‘too much stuff”, or the stress that comes from living in a disorderly home.
Here are some tip-offs that you might be suffering from either of these conditions: Do you find yourself uncomfortable with the idea of people visiting your home? Do you often feel distracted by the need to organize, but lack the desired motivation or inclination? Are you stumped by where to start?
If you answered yes to any of those questions, Christmas de-cluttering is a good way to kick-start your way into a process of methodically making choices of what to toss, donate or recycle throughout your entire house, room by room, closet by closet, drawer by drawer, month by month, until you’re clutter-free, and all that remains is what you truly want or need.
This culling produces a tremendous pay-off: Our home becomes our sanctuary to enjoy, rather than a stifling place that’s out of control with visible clutter, mystery boxes, mystery closets and mystery drawers.
Once you’ve conquered the clutter, there comes joyful liberation that allows thoughtful consideration of each room for its intended purpose, and the opportunity to enjoy the satisfaction of a job well done.
Just imagine the serenity and peace of mind you’d feel.
In the meantime, here’s the list I spoke of earlier. It offers some great resolutions for this new year. Good luck!
12 Things You Shouldn’t Tolerate
1. Unhappiness at work
2. A long commute
3. An unhealthy lifestyle
4. Draining relationships
5. Disordered living space
7. Too Much Stuff
8. Financial problems
9. Living outside your integrity
10. Living without fun
11. Accepting ignorance and inertia
12. Lack of communication
This is a best-of column that was originally published January, 2014.