It’s Ash Wednesday. People everywhere are giving up chocolate or soda or carbs. Me? I’m giving up stuff. Lots and lots of it. Sometime after Christmas I started purging my closet. I’ve donated over a dozen garbage bags full of clothes and shoes. I still have things I can and probably should get rid of, and hopefully by Easter I’ll have made significant progress towards getting rid of it all. So, how am I doing it?
Does it pass the “spark joy” test?
Confession: I haven’t read either of Marie Kondo’s books. I plan to, if for no other reason than I’ve already found some of her philosophies helpful. Picking up something and deciding if it brings me joy is easier than I ever thought it would be. Today I was reorganizing part of my office and I was able to throw out some silly promotional gadgets I thought were cool when I first received them. Although they were cool then, now they were just taking up space. That was decidedly un-joyful. That same thinking has already helped me go through a guest bathroom cabinet and a few boxes of Christmas decorations. If it’s broken, old, dirty-why am I hanging on to it? Every time I look at it I’m going to see something broken, old and dirty. This also helped me to purge a full bag of clothes that were faded, pilled or torn. No matter how much I liked them when they were new, I was never going to enjoy wearing them again. So why were they still in my closet?
Let someone else make the decisions.
One of the biggest roadblocks I’ve had when it comes to purging is assigning a value to things I didn’t really want or need. Those totally cute shoes that hurt your feet? That kitchen gadget that’s never been used? The unopened makeup you bought on sale but never got around to trying? All of that. I’ve always found it the hardest to get rid of things that I could still picture as useful, even if it wasn’t useful to me. My solution to this was to give up control of those items. I have a friend who is an active seller on eBay. Every so often I’ll give him a bag or two of things I’ve gathered from around the house. He knows that once it’s in his hands, he gets to make the decisions. If he can sell it, we split the money. If he can’t, he’ll throw it out or donate it to the local thrift store. Not only is there relief in not having to make those choices, I’ve also made a few bucks. And so has my friend. It’s win-win. Even if you don’t know someone who’s already familiar with selling on eBay, there’s no reason you can’t partner with a friend. You can help each other out by making each other’s sell/donate/trash decisions. And it’s not like selling on eBay is hard.
Get creative to find inspiration.
Remember that really cute Kate Spade inspired storage cart I made? That was the catalyst for organizing my bathroom linen closet. I still have two smallish bags of things from that closet to sort, but overall it’s an organizational triumph from shelf to cart. That’s because I’ve made it a daily goal to put things back as I use them. It’s helped me realize that it’s not any extra effort to put things away rather than leave them on the bathroom counter. Just this morning I noticed that my hair dryer was taking up a lot of bathroom counter real estate. This is despite the fact that I use my hair dryer maybe one or twice a week. Thanks to my prior work on organizing the closet, I already had a bin with my hair supplies where it could stay until I need it. Once you tidy up one space, you want to tidy up more. And more. And more. Because it feels really good.
Avoid arbitrary mandates that set you up to fail.
My goal for the next 40 days is to purge at least a little more than I bring into the house. Simple, right? If every night ends with things just a little bit better organized, tidier or cleaner, it’s a victory. 40 tiny victories is one huge victory. And hey, if I do get really productive one day, all the better! Whatever your goals, make them reasonable. I could say I have to clean one room every day or donate one bag of stuff every day, but I know how my mind works. I’ll get caught up in not getting that room finished or that bag full, feel like I’ve failed and then give up. Give yourself an obtainable goal and don’t give yourself an out if you miss a day. Or two days. Or a week. Just start again and move forward. This doesn’t have to be a Lenten project or a New Year’s resolution or somehow attached to a specific moment in time. It can be a random Thursday when you decide you need to get a handle on your stuff. And you don’t have to stop at 40 days. Or 10 days. Or whatever you original goal was. If you still have things that need to go, keep going.
You’re not going out of business. It’s not like everything must go.
Don’t hate on yourself for the things you keep. If it makes you happy or it serves a purpose? Keep it. It’s OK. I have a ridiculous amount of toys in my office. Every last one of them brings me joy. They’re not going anywhere, and I’m perfectly fine with that. I also know that my mind changes over time, and what I want to keep today I might want to purge tomorrow. That’s why I never push myself too hard to get rid of it right now. I know that a week from now-or two weeks…maybe a month-I’ll either know I should keep it or I’ll realize that I should purge it. And this time the purging process will be anxiety free because I’ll know I’ve given it sufficient thought.
It doesn’t matter when you start. It just matters that you start. Today I threw out five small bags of trash and filled one bin with clothes to donate. That’s one day down…just 39 more to go…