• Wealth
  • How to Declutter for a Simpler Life – Part Six: Final Thoughts

    I’ve spent the last four months turning my life upside down from the inside out.

    I’ve scavenged every nook and cranny. I’ve touched every item I own. And I’ve asked, “Does this spark joy?” more than 500 times.

    I’ve traveled back and forth from Goodwill to clothing resale shops to electronic stores to my mother’s house. I’ve used dozens of white and black trash bags to discard items. The dumpster has become my friend. What remains are items that I truly enjoy and the 10 lessons I’ve learned.

    10 Lessons from Decluttering

    1.Sometimes you get it wrong.

    After a day of decluttering, I would rest and relax until the next day. Then I’d wake up and re-evaluate my situation. Where am I? How have I done?

    I found that in my excitement or emotional turbulence I kept several items that didn’t spark joy. Or I failed to properly ask the question in the first place. So I returned to certain categories.

    I reviewed the items that remained. And parted with several more things. Until I felt complete.

    I choose not to judge myself. I’m only human.

    So keep in mind, should you choose to declutter, you might also do it wrong, forget a few things, or not ask the right question at the right time. But that’s okay. Because you can always go back.

    2. We often hold onto things out of fear.

    Fear of the future. Fear of not enough. Fear of what others will think. Fear of emptiness and spaciousness. Fear of ourselves.

    Feel the fear and let it go anyways.

    Living in fear is far from inspired. And never leads to a happy, empowered life.

    3. Stuff carries emotional baggage, some of the time.

    You can’t predict what will be the hardest to let go. And other times, you’d be surprised by how easy it is to discard things.

    Remember when I cried over perfume bottles? Perfumes I hadn’t worn in a couple years. But then there were mounds of books I plowed through in minutes. I knew it was time.

    You’ll know, too, when it’s time to let go. And you’ll be stopped in your tracks by things that pull emotional cords.

    4. You’ll just know.

    I get what Marie Kondo means when she says, “You’ll just know.”

    Decluttering is about finding a balance and a knowing with your belongings. It’s about everything you own having its right place in your physical, mental, and emotional space.

    You’ll love what you have. You’ll have less stuff so you’ll care for it more. You’ll put it all back where it belongs. Therefore, your home will be tidier.

    And at the end of your decluttering process, you’ll feel at peace with your belongings. Until you do, you’re not done.

    5. There’s more involved than you might expect.

    It’s not just a matter of getting rid of things. It’s a whole process.

    Collecting everything in one spot from all the locations your stuff could be – all corners of your home, your car, your parent’s home, your friend’s home, or your work.

    Then entering the process of discarding. One item at a time, “Does this spark joy?”

    Then collecting it all to remove from your home. And dispersing all your stuff to the dumpster, the resale shop, your mom or dad’s house, or your best friend’s home. It takes more time than I expected. No wonder she gives you six months.

    On top of that, you can’t predict the emotional impact each session will have. Your emotions will either slow or hasten your desire to declutter. Remember my need for space? Sometimes you have to resolve emotional issues and face fears before continuing. And that’s okay.

    6. Many businesses are unsustainable.

    Most businesses these days are unsustainable. In our consumer and producer world, we believe that we can keep creating “products” to make a living. Yet the living we’re making is destroying the world we live in.

    The belief that we can continually reach for more and more, produce more and more, is unsustainable. But all businesses think about is hitting that next big profit goal without considering the impact it has on the environment – in the short and long term. 

    We buy clothes continuously because there’s a seemingly endless supply (to the detriment of workers in sweatshops in third-world countries).

    Planned obsolescence forces us to purchase the next best gadget. Otherwise, we can’t install the latest app to check our email or listen to music.

    To live in a healthy world, our business practices must be sustainable. Which means our purchasing practices must be sustainable as well. As consumers, we have the power to direct the market. The power of our purchases guides businesses.

    So make no mistake. The power is in our hands.

    7. You can declutter more than physical items.

    Other areas of your life can be decluttered, too. Like your goals and projects. Your chores and daily tasks. Your activities. Your friends. Your beliefs. And your digital world.

    Maybe just start with your home.

    But consider the impact that decluttering can have on your entire life. Simply ask yourself, “Does this task/goal/friend/belief spark joy?” 

    8. Decluttering impacts those around you.

    My boyfriend started his own decluttering process. It’s not the same as mine but he’s inspired to live a decluttered life as well.

    I didn’t encourage him to do it. He simply noticed the impact my decluttering has had on my life – which affects him, too. So now he is joining.

    Also, he has gained a lot of joy from reading my old high school journals. He wanted to keep a few of them. And I let him. About once a week he opens one and reads it allowed. We laugh at how ridiculous I was in high school. And we bond as he gets to know the person I used to be.

    9. You learn a lot about yourself.

    I learned the most when decluttering the sentimental category. It’s as though I forgot who I was over the years. And decluttering helped to remind me that who I am today has ties to my past. My interests and passions can be traced back to my youth.

    Beyond the sentimental, I’ve learned about myself by uncovering my beliefs about stuff. My fears. My emotions. It has been an eye-opening and empowering journey.

    10. You don’t need to buy more things to be happy.

    I don’t feel as a strong an urge to fill my home with stuff.

    It’s easier for me to say no to things. My boyfriend has offered to buy me several home good items that I’ve had on my “want list” for a while. But each time I think about going out to buy something new, I reconsider and realize I don’t really need it.

    So I mostly say no. Unless it would feel joyful to have. This saves us money.

    My purchases are more powerful and thoughtful, and they have greater meaning.

    Finally…

    A major overhaul such as this one only comes every once in a while. Once you’re done you should be good for at least a few years. You should have discarded enough things that your home is tidier than ever. And you’ll mostly likely be far more thoughtful about what comes into your home, too.

    Yea, my home will get messy every once in a while. But it is easier to keep tidy. I have less stuff. And the stuff I do have has its spot.

    Decluttering is not only an overhaul of your belongings but it’s a personal overhaul. It’s an opportunity to re-evaluate your life and your values. It’s an opportunity to align your values with your actions.

    You can confront your habits and choose to change them. And then you can create new habits. Healthier habits. And in the process, you’ll discover that you’re happier for it, too.

    My hope is that you’ve learned about the decluttering process. Not only the physical task of how-to but also the unexpected twists and turns. And I hope you’re inspired to take stock of your life – your belongings, emotions, time, attention, and loved ones.

    How are you spending your precious time? You only get one life.

    Are you shopping every weekend to fill a void? Are you continually cleaning and keeping up with all your stuff? Are you too distracted by all the stuff to spend quality time with friends and family? Have you lost touch with life? With your passions? With what lights you up?

    Maybe now is the time to get out from underneath the stuff, come up for air, and align yourself with what brings you joy. Start a decluttering process today. And send me an email and tell me about how it’s going (writer@pauladjones.com).

  • Wealth
  • How to Declutter for a Simpler Life – Part Four: Komono Cont

    declutter for simpler life part four

    Honoring Your Need for Space

    It has been several months now since I started this journey. My attention has waned in the last few weeks as I’ve given myself space from the decluttering process. But I’ve returned. The emotional turbulence of the project requires time to assimilate and attune to what’s taken place.

    I’m a big proponent of honoring our individual needs for space and time to heal and renew one’s self. And that’s what I’ve been doing. Yet I learned a lot in my last round of decluttering. In this post, I’m going to share with you the rest of my experience in decluttering my komono.

    If you didn’t read my last post, komono is the Japanese word for miscellaneous items. These are items like make-up, CDs/DVDs, knick-knacks, decorations, wires, pens, papers, etc. These items can add up quickly. And this category contains sub-categories, which can consist of a large portion of items.

    In that post, I discussed the mundane task of sorting paper as well as the emotional summersaults I experienced as I discarded – possibly sentimental – perfumes. Each round of decluttering shows me life’s stability and instability. The ups and the downs. The boring and the lively. This teaches me that objects take up space on all spectrums of our emotional Richter scale.

    With each object we own, we set aside a certain amount of emotional space in addition to psychological and mental space. Each object registers as an emotion from joy to anger to boredom. And, often, we thoughtlessly keep objects that register as fear, obligation, boredom, dissatisfaction, or even sadness. We fail to recognize that these objects no longer bring us joy. And we never stop to contemplate whether or not we have the power to part with what doesn’t spark joy for us. (P.S. We do have the power.)

    If I’m not happy with it, I don’t have to keep it.

    Recognition of Fears (Limiting Beliefs)

    During the komono category, I began to recognize certain fears getting in the way of my letting go. These are the same fears that prompted me to keep what I have in the first place. As I recognized this, I decided to step back and ask myself: what are common fears that come up in response to discarding items?

    Here’s what I came up with (please add your own):

    • I’m being wasteful
    • My family member’s or friend’s feelings will be hurt
    • What will they/he/she think of me
    • What if they/he/she gets mad
    • It’s irresponsible of me
    • It’s still in good condition
    • I might use it someday
    • I might like it again
    • It might come back in fashion
    • I’ve had it forever though
    • I use it… sometimes
    • It brought me joy… once
    • I’ll feel sad if I let it go
    • But others have so little
    • This is bad of me

    In other words…

    • Might, might, might (future-tripping)
    • What if, what if, what if (future-tripping again)
    • Fear of other people’s feelings and reactions
    • Self-criticisms
    • Fear of own emotions

    These are what’s called “limiting beliefs.” Limiting beliefs hold us back from making personal changes. They keep us from expanding into a new level of personal growth. We can’t reach the next step if we allow these thoughts to go unseen and unquestioned. In decluttering the remainder of my komono, I came up against limiting beliefs such as these.

    I can see now that I didn’t get joy from at least 75% of what I’ve kept. The only reason I’ve kept these things is because I thought, “What if I have to buy this again in the future? What if I don’t ever find one quite like this one? What if I like it more next month or year?” Or other thoughts like those above.

    I heard these thoughts bubble to the surface as I cleaned out my patio closet. And in particular, when I reached for the fire starting logs.

    The Unquestioned Fire Starting Logs

    Evan and I have a fireplace in our apartment – that we never use. And yet we’ve managed to get a bounty of fire starting logs. They come from family and neighbors who give them to us out of kindness and simply “thinking of us.”

    Most recently one of our neighbors moved. And she dutifully brought her logs to our front door. I smiled and said thanks, as though it were some kind of departure gift. A “farewell for now.” Or, “Take luck!”

    As I toted them to our patio closet, I reflected on how I haven’t started but one fire in that fireplace – and we’ve lived here three years. Now our living room furniture is arranged in a way that it would be unsafe to start a fire. And I don’t intend on re-arranging.

    I knew we didn’t need them from the moment I took them in my hands. As I walked to the patio closet, I looked down at the logs with a frown on my face. I felt like a sheepish child scooting away from a poor decision. And yet it didn’t cross my mind that I could throw them away. Instead, I stored them in an already overcrowded closet.

    It didn’t cross my mind because I bought into the limiting beliefs that said, “Maybe I’ll need them one day.” Well, those beliefs went in the trash. And so did those logs.

    The Decluttering Continues

    As far as my komono decluttering goes, I’ll be here for at least a few more days, if not weeks. I find myself unable to move forward to the final category: sentimental items. I’m just not there yet.

    I’ve given myself space from decluttering, since it’s a deeply emotional process at times. But now that I’m ready to move forward, I see areas in which I can still go back and declutter further. I see things I wasn’t wholly honest about. Items that can be discarded still.

    As I mentioned in the first post, decluttering can take up to but no more than six months (Marie Kondo insists). So I’m giving myself until the end of June to have this process completed. I think I’ll be finished before then, but that gives me time to comb through previous categories before moving on to the final – and hardest – category: sentimental items.

    Stay tuned for the next post to see if I’m able to move forward!

  • Wealth
  • How to Declutter for a Simpler Life – Part Two: Books

    declutter books

    *This post contains affiliate links.

    In the last post, I discussed how to declutter clothes. I shared with you how I cleaned out 75% of my clothes. I posted pictures of the before and after. And now I’m on part two – books.

    I was excited and nervous to tackle this category. I felt like this would be easy and much faster than discarding and sorting clothes. And it was.

    One afternoon I took all the books off the shelves and from various rooms in my apartment. It’s amazing where I keep things. I had books in my kitchen – on the counter and in the cabinets. I had books in my laundry room, in my closet, and on my nightstand. I gathered all the books I thought I had. And then I gathered more!

    After I gathered them I spread them out on the living room floor, like Marie Kondo suggests. Then I took each one in hand and asked, “Does this spark joy?”. With this process, I discarded 85% of my books. I filled four extra-large reusable grocery bags. For a book lover, I found this astonishingly easy.

    I’ve had most of these books for a long time. And it was time for most to go. They had served their purpose. I felt no qualms about putting each one in the sack. I knew I wouldn’t be reading them again. And I kept the ones I absolutely loved. I reduced my books to a few that I store at my bedside and a few that I store in the bookshelf beside my desk.

    The day I discarded all my books I was ready to sell them, too! I hopped in my car and took them all to Half Price Books. I collected a small but welcomed amount of cash.

    That was easy. Or so I thought…

    I got home after selling my books and felt waves of emotion come over me. What was wrong? It had all gone so smoothly. And I knew that I was better off without the books. Yet my bookshelves were empty – and I felt sad.

    I questioned my actions and started to wonder if I had made a mistake. Had I done that too quickly? What if I had sold books that I actually wanted to keep? What will I do with my bookshelves now?

    I turned on some music and slowly walked to the kitchen to prepare dinner. It was too late. All I could do at that point was keep moving forward.

    I sat with my actions and emotions over the weekend while I put back all of Evan’s books. But the shelves still looked empty. They didn’t feel as happy. And I didn’t feel as happy. Marie Kondo had yet to talk about this part of the process. I was grieving the loss of my books. I didn’t know what to do.

    Eventually, I decided that all I could do was deal with what was in front of me – my empty bookshelves. I rearranged Evan’s books. And I ensured the remaining decorations looked good in their places.

    From there, I started to contemplate the purpose of bookshelves in a minimalist’s life – in my life. I feared the potential feelings of “emptiness” and the other feelings that could follow. I didn’t know what those feelings were, but surely they would be bad. I wouldn’t know until I parted with my bookshelves – if and when I decide to do that.

    Part two in the decluttering process, although at first easy, prompted deep, thought-provoking questions and reflections about myself and my space. One could say that I had found the “downside” of decluttering and minimalism. But is it a downside if it leads to expansion?

    Yes – I finally had to face myself and my feelings about emptiness, space, and stuff. But my freedom expanded. If the price for freedom is prompt self-reflection and immense personal growth, then I think it’s a price worth paying.

    Many questions came through – like… If I don’t have that many books, then do I even need these bookshelves? If I get rid of the bookshelves, then how will the empty space feel? Should I fill it with something? What would I fill it with?

    As though that were the obvious solution. Yes – I’ll get rid of my bookshelves to then purchase something else to go in that spot. No! That is not the solution.

    That is the consumer mind running rampant. That’s the inherited script of our society, “With more space comes greater responsibility to fill it with more, more, and more stuff!” That is the programmed mentality of the masses. That is consumerism at its finest.

    Just because we have space doesn’t mean it’s meant to be filled. And it makes me wonder what life would be like for people if we all made it okay to have space in our homes, in our minds, and in our schedules. How much happier and healthier would we all be?

    Too often we are told that if we aren’t constantly buying more stuff and filling our time with more obligations and responsibilities then somehow we are wrong. We buy into the belief that we are not enough as individuals unless we can prove that we are able to do as much or more than the next guy. We can work harder, earn more, and buy more. More, more, and more. But what about less?

    What if less were the answer to all our problems? What if we no longer felt obligated to buy coffee at work every day but made conscious decisions to drink coffee at home? What if we stopped going shopping “for fun” and only bought what we actually needed?

    What if we lived in smaller spaces because we had less stuff and no longer felt the urge to continually upgrade? What if we didn’t have to upgrade!? What if what we have now is enough?

    What if we already have too much? What if we all started to see that our lives are overflowing with so much that we could donate 75% of our belongings and not just be happy – but happier than we’ve ever been?

    My books – and the space they left behind – made me acutely aware of the role that space (or lack of it) plays in our lives. We are not a country of poverty, as so many politicians and TV ads would have you believe. We are country overstuffed with things and so devoid of meaning that we are starving for true joy and happiness. So we keep buying. Ads keep convincing us that happiness is in that next pair of shoes or iPhone. But what I’ve learned is that happiness can’t be bought.

    I realize that is about as cliche as cliche can be. But for once it lands on the untouched ground within me. It sinks deep into my heart and belly. I feel the true value of these words. It’s a multidimensional truth that expands beyond simple cliches.

    My clothes and books – and the remainder of this decluttering project – is showing me that I was not who I thought I was. In fact, I was the opposite. Now that I see myself for who I was and who I am today, I have flipped the script. I’ve re-written the rules and redefined what gives me value and meaning. I see now that more stuff will never fill the void. And I understand on a whole new level what it means to be a consumer and how to truly create a meaningful life.

    Questions continued to come up as I moved on to part three of the decluttering project. It felt scary. And I doubted my actions and whether I should continue. But continue is what I did. And you can continue reading about my progress in the third blog post in this series. Until next time… <3

    P.S. Who knew getting rid of books could be so profound? 🙂 I guess knowledge, wisdom, and insight can be found outside of the pages of a book just as much as within em’.