I live in a small apartment in Seattle, and every once in a while I get overwhelmed by clutter—it occupies the mind and saps the strength. Like many people I find myself occasionally battling this issue, but I got rid of a lot of things this week and am on the way to getting rid of more. I realized I’ve been asking myself the wrong questions as I consider which items to keep. Usually, I look at things and wonder: “Will I use this?” or “Is this useful?” The answer to those questions is almost always yes. Here are my new questions:
- Am I saving this item just because I want to remember some story? If the answer is yes and it’s not a vital piece of memorabilia, I am taking a picture of the item and donating the item itself to the thrift store. Only you can determine what is vital.
- Does this item reflect who I am now? I am a former Medieval historian, so I have a large amount of foreign language dictionaries even though I no longer regularly translate French, German, or Latin. I can look up words online or in the library—I no longer need these references taking up space or anchoring me to my old profession.
- Does this item advance my goals? If the item isn’t something I can use now to get where I am going, or something to make my life better on an ongoing basis, I don’t need for it to take up space in my home.
- Does this item have negative associations? I was keeping a bottle of lotion an old lover had bought me because she loved the smell—I never liked it, and it ended up being a bad relationship, but I was trying to use it up. Every time I put the lotion on, it brought back all those negative feelings. I removed that lotion from my bathroom and substituted the stuff I love—less clutter, more happy.
I’m going to keep decluttering. I’ll have more room to store the things I love, and it makes it easier to find things and keep everything tidy. I have been trying to bring fewer things in to my life—everything that comes in takes its own space and maintenance. No matter how good I get at this—and I have gotten a lot better over time—I know it will be an ongoing process. As I change and grow, so too will my needs and wants. My life and my space will continue to evolve, and that’s as it should be.
Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:
232. Go through a small area of your home like a drawer and ask yourself these questions about the items you find. What can you donate to charity? What do you want to keep? Are the things you love accessible and out where you can use them?