Owning my Stuff

24 Feb

I was reading an article by a professional organizer the other day that challenged people to declutter their home by giving and/or throwing away half of everything they own. I must say that I was intrigued by the thought. Then he said that you should start by counting everything you own. What? Is he crazy? By the time I count everything I own, I’ll be on Social Security, assuming it’s still around, and if I was organized enough to count everything, I wouldn’t need to organize it.  And this is my problem with most professional organizers; they’re born organized. Born organized people or BOs as they’re called by Flylady Marla Cilley, have a place for everything and everything goes in its place. They would find great joy, as this man did, in having 8,000 or so items in his house. He then proceeded to declutter over 1,000 items from his house in just a few days.

That really got me thinking about my own home, and it  nearly made me sick. My house is not one you’ll ever find on one of those shows where they send in the crew to clear out the crud, but it won’t be featured in Architectural Digest either, but just the thought of counting each utensil in my kitchen made me weak. I probably have over 8,000 items just in my kitchen, if you include my pantry. Ok, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but I cook and bake and have way more utensils than a normal person has. Then I thought about the stuff that’s even smaller. Do I have to count all of the plastic grocery bags that my kids use for lunches? What about paper clips? Do I count them individually or as one unit since I actually do have a container for them? ACK!! The once fun idea became a job and the job quickly became overwhelming, but I knew there was so much value in the idea I just had to find a way to make it work for me. So, I did what I’ve learned to do very well the past few years. I adapted.

I decided to tackle just the middle drawer of my desk and here’s what I found. I had 145 items in that drawer, counting the paper clip container as one item after I gathered up all of the errant paper clips in the drawer. I was able to throw away 34 items, including pens that didn’t write, colored pencils that I had multiples of, pen caps with no mates and bits of scrap paper and broken erasers. I had 12 items to give away that included some novelty erasers and pencil grips my kids used when they were young. Total items decluttered: forty six. Not half, but it’s a start, and the drawer looks fantastic. It’s also incentive to keep going because I figure it’s something I can do every day or at least a few times per week, and by the time I host Easter at my house, I will have launched anywhere from 800-2000 unwanted items from our space based on 30-40 items per declutter session and 3-7 days per week. That’s amazing. As good as decluttering feels, it also has a spiritual side.

In Christianity, there is a story of a rich man who came to Jesus to ask what he needed to do to get to Heaven. Jesus told him to give away half of everything he owned. In Feng Shui, “a Chinese system that studies people’s relationships to their environment, especially their home or workspace, in order to achieve maximum harmony with the spiritual forces believed to influence all places,” (Bing Dictionary) you change the energy in your home whenever you move at least 27 items, and the more space you have in your home, the easier the energy flows and the better your life will be. There is even speculation that home clutter may affect your weight. And then there is the Less is More, or Minimalist, lifestyle that challenges people to live in a smaller space with more sustainability and own as few as 100 items per person. They’re all based on a different premise, but the final goal is the same, to have you own your stuff instead of your stuff owning you.

I like the idea that I own my stuff, but as I look around my home, I realize that a lot of my stuff does own me. The pictures that I haven’t organized own a piece of my energy. The vhs tapes I haven’t converted to dvd own another. The garage that seems to be a magnet for all things unwanted by other family members, owns even more. On a side note, we can still park two cars in our garage. I do have some standards that I won’t compromise. And then there’s the clothes that might fit, the shoes I’ve only worn once and the jewelry that I’ve had stashed for years in my jewelry box that never sees the light of day. What if I got rid of all of those things in the next 39 week days? What if it took longer? What if, at some point in this year, I actually am living in a home full of items I want, use and love? Who would I be if my home were exactly as I want it to be? I don’t know, but I’m willing to find out.

So decluttering I go with fresh energy and perspective. I’ll keep count as long as keeping count is fun. I’ll share stories here when it seems appropriate, and I’ll look forward to seeing more open space in my living areas, basement and garage, when the weather permits. I’ll focus on blessing others with my abundance and look forward to a better energy flow in my home and, maybe, just maybe, I’ll even lose a few extra pounds in the process. A girl can hope, eh? Thanks for being you and have a great day!

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One Response to “Owning my Stuff”

  1. nikkinickell February 24, 2012 at 1:03 am #

    Been going through the same process myself now for about 3 years; biggest asset I found was Freecycle…I don’t even have to haul anything away. Just list it on Freecycle and they spread the word…and you can choose the person to come pick it up. One wag reports it as being “moving my junk to someone else’s hoarding site”…My rule of thumb is I must not replace three items going out with anymore than one item coming in. My way of deep cleaning always seemed to start with cleaning out one drawer….and that was as far as it got. We moved 23 times in our first five years of marriage…so decluttering happened kind of naturally…except the time I hired help in packing. It wasn’t until the unpacking when we moved from Baltimore to cross country Bainbridge Island , Washington that I discovered the lady had packed a lot of trash literally, along with disassembling every one of the 100 or so bowling trophies we had …each screw and part carefully wrapped in tissue paper. Those boxes never did get unpacked.

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