Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Shedding for the New Year

This new year I’ve been feeling really bogged down by all of the clutter in my house. I thought I would get it all cleared out during the week I was off work after Christmas but, of course, that didn’t happen.

I accidentally watched part of an episode of the TV show Hoarders last year. I don’t recommend it for anyone who has any hoarding tendencies--I’ve been horrified ever since at the prospect that I might become one of those old ladies who lives in an apartment with little paths between the stacks of newspapers. But this tendency does run in my family. My Uncle George, who was the family eccentric in my Mom’s family, apparently had an apartment like that (he also had about a quarter of a million dollars in his estate when he died—unfortunately that part of the hoarding gene seems to have passed me by).

It’s hard to launch into the new year when you’re carrying the weight of all that clutter, all those unfinished projects, all those unread magazines, all those unsorted photographs. And I’m noticing this same theme among the participants in my New Year Dreams class.

I’m hoping that this is all due to the backwards influence of Mercury and Mars both being retrograde at the same time. Madeleine Gerwick, the author of the popular Good Timing Guide says not to initiate any new projects until March 20. That might give me enough time to clear and organize my house.

I’m also reading Julie Morganstern’s new book. I’m a big fan of Julie’s work. The four-step system she explains in her Organizing from the Inside Out book has been very helpful to me. The first step is sorting, and the second step is purging. The third step is containing (finding the right space for the stuff) and the fourth step is maintaining the system you’ve developed. You can use this with clothes, with papers, etc. Over the summer, I used it with my books (and actually got rid of some--a first!).

Her new book, Shed Your Stuff, Change Your Life, is more about how to get rid of stuff you’re holding onto, and she extends it from clutter in your house to clutter in your schedule to bad habits in your personal life. Again, she has come up with a simple system and an Acronym to remind you of it in SHED. First you Separate the treasures from the trash in your life, then you Heave the trash. The final two steps are Embrace your Identity and Drive Yourself Forward.

What I especially like is her focus on the end result. What are the values you are trying to manifest in your life? And do the items in your house (or schedule or life) serve your purpose/help you achieve your goals?

Once you identify the arena in which you want to work, you create a list of entry points, for instance, the pile of unread magazines, the box of unsorted photographs or the box full of old Christmas cards. Then you choose the point which will cause you the minimum amount of difficulty and get you the maximum amount of effect. This is about where I am in the book so I don't know yet how it will work out. But I have until March 20 to carry out all the steps.

Do you have a system that works for you?


. said...

I moved in 2009 and lived in the homes of relatives for about three months before moving into a small house on my family's farm. We had to clean the small house first, after about 15 years of no cleaning by my elderly grandparents who used to live there. The packing process plus identifying just the minimum we needed to have with us as we stayed with relatives plus the cleaning and donating of useless stored goods plus the unpacking plus the smallness of the house is helping me not to accumulate more right now. That's a big thing I've been focusing on. Making wish lists of books rather than buying them when I don't have time to read the ones I've already got; buying only the yarn I need for the crochet project I'm ready to start; being too broke to go clothes shopping anyway and getting back to my childhood norm of having about 2 pairs of pants that actually fit (due to stress-induced weight loss in the last two years)... those are all methods of not accumulating which is a good habit to get into. When I'm sorting and purging, I try to remember that I don't need to keep a copy of anything I could find online. And, I recently went through a couple years' worth of stored copies of Real Simple magazine, tore out the recipes and put them in my recipe binder, tore out a grand total of 2-3 articles, and recycled the rest. It was very liberating to find that I could survive the process of recycling all those pretty pictures. My parents are more advanced hoarders and seeing their example is good motivation to purge and not accummulate.

Anonymous said...

I will not acquiesce in on it. I think precise post. Especially the designation attracted me to read the intact story.

Rebecca Hecking said...

I especially like the word "shedding." One problem many people face with regard to getting rid of clutter and excess stuff is that much of it was meaningful at some point in their lives. For example, books that really resonated a decade ago, but are now outgrown... or memorabilia from past travels. All of this stuff is part of our lives, and we feel reluctant to part with it.
Shedding implies losing part of oneself, like an animal shedding fur or its skin. It's not that the fur/skin wasn't useful or a meaningful part of the animal. But it's outgrown now. Time to release it and move on. This idea can apply to all the stuff we cling to.