Less Is More (Fulfilling): Stress-Free Ways to Purge Junk
How to de-clutter your pointless possessions to make room for the stuff that really matters — more space, more free time, and more happiness.
Lauren, a gifted crafter and mother of two, hired me to organize her busy home. When I suggested that some weeding might be helpful, she burst into tears. Why “punish” her by recommending she get rid of her stuff? What Lauren didn’t realize is that reduction is the go-to advice that all organizers give to anyone — ADHD or not — who is having difficulty managing her home. It is like advising someone who is cold to put on a sweater rather than move to Florida.
The less we own, the easier everything is to maintain. Organizing is all about maintenance. No organizational system works if we don’t put stuff away. But because cleaning up comes at the end of any chore, when we are running out of steam, this is the step most likely to get skipped. Fewer things to put away, along with well-organized storage spaces, make this step doable.
Studies show that contentment is not about possessions; it comes from free time and solid relationships. Stuff that needs to be laboriously maintained eats up our free time, while clutter and chaos stress our homes, budget, and relationships.
Purging the items that can be purged (and shopping from a list, so we don’t impulsively re-acquire them) improves our lives. Yet the devil is in the details, isn’t it? For Lauren, giving up any of her craft supplies seemed to be a waste of money and the abandonment of her dream of a fully tricked-out craft studio. Reducing the number of her kids’ toys and pruning their activities seemed a cruel deprivation. Many of my clients are burdened with items once owned by the dearly departed, unwanted gifts, memorabilia from their childhood, or that of their children.
As we gently weeded Lauren’s crafts, we discovered that she had often purchased duplicate materials for the same project. The planning and shopping for her crafts excited her as much or more than crafting. Eliminating the duplicates, and ceasing all shopping until the crafts in progress were done (or abandoned), meant that she could re-focus on her art and rein in the acquisitions that were compromising her home and bank account.
Clearing out the toys that were no longer age-appropriate, and eliminating those activities or items that no longer excited the kids, gave them the space to play with the toys they like. They had room to entertain their friends, something that Lauren hadn’t permitted for years.
Family and Friends Plan
As for the stuff received from friends and family, if we thanked the giver, the thought still counts when we discreetly pass on their gifts to charity. If the possessions of the deceased are retained for sentiment only, size matters. This is also true of our memorabilia and that of our children. Keep Grandma’s brooch, but get rid of her rickety dining set; keep the graduation tassel, cull the robe and hat; keep one pair of Junior’s baby booties and a single rattle, donate the bins of baby toys and clothes. The smaller the items, the more of them we can keep! Create a “memory chest’” to give it all a home. When the chest fills, it’s time to weed out the items that no longer have meaning for us.
As Lauren discovered, giving priority to activities and relationships, rather than stuff, is the path to a richer, contented life.