Modern life is becoming so full that we need our own ways of going to the desert to be relieved of our plenty.
– Thomas Moore, American writer and lecturer on spirituality, psychology, ecology, and religion
After taking down the Christmas decorations a few weekends ago, the house seemed bare at first, and then I came to appreciate the clean lines of my home. That sense of order and simplicity triggered a desire to declutter in January and not wait until springtime. Decluttering each room in the house has been on my to-do list for at least the last five months. But it seemed so overwhelming, even as I listed each room as a separate task that I could check off.
I remembered the advice given years ago by one of my friends, who is in my Mom’s Group, about how tackling cleaning in 15-minute spurts can get you a clean house with seemingly little effort and time. Back then, I thought it was a brilliant idea, but I never acted on it. I decided to give it a try, only because I got distracted over the weekend and started cleaning my office. Thirty minutes into pitching a lot of what I call dead reading material and folders full of old work on my desk, I realized I needed to pick up my daughter after her flamenco lesson. The idea of decluttering in spurts caught on.
I had been meaning to declutter the bathroom, so that was my next conquest when I had a few minutes to spare. You will be amazed, as I was, how many pills and other medicines are expired – some as late as five years ago! This simple 10-minute task resulted in gaining 25 percent more space in my medicine cabinet. I put the expired medicine in a small handled bag. I need to go through the downstairs bathroom and then take the bag to hazardous waste in Richmond the first Saturday of the month (please don’t flush meds down the toilet!). Bathrooms are small, so you can zip through them quickly. Next up were the cabinets under the sink. One of my pet peeves is finding three bottles of the same cleaner filled to varying levels of chemicals. One bottle’s opening was plugged and caked over. Another one had ingredients that would not come out because, I suspect, the goop had dried completely. Once I removed duplicate cleaners and those that were nearly empty, I gained nearly a third more space below.
Once you get started, you look to the next small, containable area to declutter with alacrity and emboldened resolve. But not only did I declutter, I did things that will make decluttering in the future easier. For example, I got rid of a stack of magazines that I knew I’d never get a chance to leisurely read. They are in the garage waiting to be deposited at our recycling center’s book swap area. While I cleared out the magazines, more importantly, I also made the decision to let the subscriptions expire – saving money, space, and time.
If you treat each task like a game – getting closer to some sort of crowning achievement or goal – those decluttering tasks can be somewhat pleasurable. Well, okay, only if you’re a Type A like me when it comes to, say, a clean working area or office. Sometimes when I get overwhelmed with my work, I straighten up my desk because while I may be spinning out of control, I can look at my clean desk and feel as if my brain has been put into working order, which makes me believe I can get through whatever project has gotten me all worked up.
One of these days I’ll alphabetize my books in my library or the CDs in temporary shelves in the living room – CDs that we hardly ever listen to now. This has been on my to-do list since we moved back in after the remodel nearly seven years ago. I’ll get to my closet, and when I do, that will be a separate blog post! Until then, I’ll keep working my way through the house, feeling less weighed down by stuff that I don’t really need. It’s calming and it’s freeing, so you can expend your energies creating something beautiful or enjoying the litheness of time.