Stuff … stuff … and more stuff … I am amazed at how much stuff comes through my front door.
Junk mail, papers, tchotchkes, candies, toys … the clutter keeps piling up. And this stockpiling of stuff doesn’t come only in the physical form – there’s also the mental stuff. The emails, the priorities, the inner dialogue, the to-do lists… this type of mental clutter can be just as taxing as the physical.
That’s why, earlier this year, I set a goal to get rid of the mental and physical clutter that prevented me from achieving the goals I had set for myself — the clutter that had been staring me in the eyes for years, daring me to go toe-to-toe with it.
While this goal was certainly nothing new to me, the time and intention I was willing to invest in it was.
You see, I seem to go through a cycle of decluttering every few months or so, only to find myself back in the very same place I started. The cycle goes something like this …
Stage 1: The Overzealous Purge
Nothing is safe or sacred at this point! I’m determined to get rid of all the items I haven’t touched in months and to clear my agenda of any activity that doesn’t help me achieve my goals.
Stage 2: The Rational Purge
Ok… let’s be reasonable. I can’t be irresponsible by getting rid of things that would cost money to replace. I bet I’ll use these in the future, or even better… maybe I’ll save them for a garage sale.
Stage 3: There’s No Time to Purge
Sigh! I’ve run completely out of time, and now all my items and thoughts are scattered. I’ll quickly put them back in their place and get rid of them next weekend.
So, this year … I was (and still am) in the process of doing this differently. How?
Enlisting the help of my husband and children.
Typically, my decluttering activities are a solo sport. But this time, I thought it was important for us to participate in it together. Because we all have different reasons for keeping particular items or doing particular activities, I wanted to ensure I wasn’t placing judgment on things they valued.
Now… some of you might be thinking, “How in the world does your whole family have time to declutter life together? We can hardly find time to eat together.” Well, we had to get creative.
While I had increased my time commitment to this activity, not everyone in the house had that same luxury. So, I made sure to actively involve them when I could, and I set key items and questions aside for them to review when they had the time.
Being more intentional about ‘how I decided’ to get rid of stuff.
I was never good at getting rid of items I haven’t used in a year; after all, we don’t always keep possessions because of their practical use. We keep them for deeper reasons, as well. So, rather than repeating the same old thought process, I decided to apply the five purposeful questions shared in a previous Minimalist Manager article.
I asked myself …
- Does this bring me joy?
- Does this help me live out my values?
- Does this help me employ my strengths or mitigate my weaknesses?
- Does this help me fulfill my purpose?
- Does this help me execute my strategy?
Asking these questions made the world of difference! Especially when it came to items that I saw as ‘junk’, but my husband saw as ‘joy’ (or vice versa). Or activities that some thought were a ‘waste of time’ and others thought were ‘helping them employ their strengths.’
By understanding each other’s perspectives, we stopped complaining about the things ‘we needed to get rid of, but never did’. Instead, we saw their value for what it was… meaningful in its own way.
Prioritizing the most important and realistic areas to declutter.
In the past, I’ve been guilty of taking on too much at once (a common theme you’ll notice in future posts). Because of this massive undertaking, I tend to move the ball slightly forward on a lot of things rather than fully forward on a few.
Having recognized and acknowledged this personal tendency, I decided to prioritize the most important areas of my life that I needed to declutter. I achieved this by noting the way particular rooms, activities, surroundings and people made me feel.
Then I asked myself … “can you realistically improve this?” If the answer was ‘yes’, it made the list. If the answer was ‘no’, I moved it down the priority list until something changes.
I also used the five questions above to guide which activities were most important. While I might want to clean out my fridge, clearing out junk in my office is more likely to impact the success of my goals.
Where are you?
We are all on separate paths to decluttering our lives. Whether it is the physical junk that has been sitting in the corner of our room, mental clutter that blocks our creative thoughts, or activities that keep us from what is most important, we all have different ‘stuff’ we need to tackle.