• Wealth
  • How to Declutter for a Simpler Life – Part Three: Paper and Komono

    declutter-simple-life-komono

    *This post contains affiliate links.

    Decluttering papers was an easy category for me. Much easier than decluttering clothes. And far easier than decluttering books.

    It made for an easy transition, since decluttering my books excavated serious questions for self-reflection. In fact, it was so easy I almost forgot it was a category. But I rely on Marie Kondo’s book to keep me on track in decluttering and in writing. Since it was a lackluster category all-around, I’ve decided to include komono in this blog as well.

    Sorting papers is as boring as it sounds. You collect all your papers – like lecture materials, greeting/birthday cards, business cards, warranties, equipment manuals, taxes, etc. You place them all out in front of you. And you discard pretty much everything. You throw it all in the trash except warranties that are still in effect, tax information that is still in the seven-year window, other financial or legal documents, etc.

    I’m not here to go into detail about the specifics. But the gist is that you get rid of all the excess paper you’ve kept all these years. That means throwing out the birthday card that Bob gave you that doesn’t spark joy or those notes you swear you’ll review but just haven’t yet.

    So far this has been my smallest and easiest section. I regularly clean out my papers anyway. And at the end of 2016, I tossed all my nursing school materials. So I had already done the bulk of this work. I moved through sorting papers swiftly and moved on to Komono.

    According to Marie Kondo, “komono” is Japanese for miscellaneous items. And she breaks down this category into 10 sub-categories. Which could grow depending on the variety of komono any person has.

    I found it easy to stay within the sub-categories she outlined. The sub-categories are as follows: 1. CDs/DVDs, 2. Skin care products, 3. Makeup, 4. Accessories, 5. Valuables, 6. Electrical equipment, 7. Household equipment/office supplies, 8. Household supplies, 9. Kitchen stuff, and 10. Other things, like spar change, figurines, decorations, etc.

    You go through each sub-category one at a time. I took my CDs and DVDs and discarded what I didn’t use.  Which was easy. I could count on one hand the amount of CDs and DVDs I owned. Now I own one less.

    Then I moved on to skincare products, makeup, and accessories. I broke a few rules here. I lost track of the whole asking if the item sparks joy thing. And I combined three groups into one. I did that because this was basically my side of the bathroom. I just dumped my bathroom drawers and emptied the cabinets onto to the floor and started chucking things.

    I slowed down when I got to my perfumes and was taken on an emotional ride. Another unexpected twist in this process of decluttering. I’m beginning to see a pattern here. Things are going well – super easy, even – then bam! Emotional turmoil.

    In the last few months, I’ve stopped wearing all my perfumes except one. I’ve become sensitive to synthetic perfumes. And the one I still wear does bother me a little, but it smells so good and I bought it in Paris, so I couldn’t stand to part with it. Let alone stop wearing it. But all the other perfumes have taken a seat on the back row – indefinitely. If I wear a scent on a daily basis it’s an essential oil. So I was happy to discard several perfumes that no longer served me. Except three.

    The first one I took out had been in my life since I was a pre-teen. The second one I wore heavily when Evan and I first started dating. The last one was no longer being produced. Evan had hunted it down and bought multiple bottles for me. I still had one unopened bottle remaining. These three bottles posed an unexpected challenge. A tearful and emotional challenge.

    Memories came flooding back to me as I looked at and smelled each one. Perhaps these perfumes belonged in the sentimental section, which Marie Kondo insists on saving for last. But that insight didn’t trigger until later.

    I sat with each bottle individually for some time. If you had seen me, you would swear I had gone crazy as I sat gazing deeply into bottles of perfume on the floor in my bathroom. The first one I knew would be the easiest to let go. It had been in my life so long. It was simply time for it to go. I laid it aside. Thanked it for its years of service. And moved on.

    The second one was a little bit harder for me to let go. It felt like I was letting go of my memories of me and Evan on our first dates. All the late nights, parties, and intimate conversations. It was a wild, fun, and passionate time. But I knew that my body no longer enjoyed the smell. It made my nose itch and eyes water. And occasionally I’d sneeze. I said thank you and placed the perfume in the bag.

    Finally, I got to the bottle that Evan romantically procured. It was a beautiful smell to me – at the time. Now it smells more like alcohol than jasmine. Perhaps due to a combination of aging perfume and changes to my olfactory sense.

    What’s funny is that this smell wasn’t even linked to particular events. The emotion came with the memory of how he surprised me with three full bottles of what was my favorite perfume at the time. It was so romantic and sweet. He’s so romantic and sweet. He always does sweet things like that. I felt like I was letting him down by discarding this final bottle. I felt guilty. I cried.

    I then proceeded to mope around the apartment while my belongings took a vacation on the bathroom floor. I took the final bottle of perfume and set it on my table. I thought I’d wait until he got home and get permission to discard it.

    I stared at it for a while. I wrote about it. I cried some more. Then I started to feel better. And I realized it was fine for me to discard the bottle. I didn’t think anything bad would happen if I did. I gambled that he wouldn’t actually be upset with me. So, like the others, I thanked the perfume for its memories and gently laid it to rest in the discard pile.

    After that experience, I haphazardly sorted through and discarded the remaining goods strewn across my bathroom floor. This is where I broke some rules. I forgot to keep asking if things sparked joy. I simply threw away what I didn’t use. A few days later when I realized I had forgotten this crucial step, I noticed there were a few things not properly sorted. I re-sorted them. This time I asked the right question. And I discarded even more belongings.

    This was only into sub-categories two, three, and four in a 10 sub-category list. Since the perfumes took such an emotional toll, I decided to take a break for a few days. Which is something I suggest, if you decide to embark on the decluttering journey.

    Never push your way through the process without giving yourself ample time to explore emotions and feelings that surface. The whole process is a deep dive into one’s emotional psyche. And it would be unwise to force your way through without honoring yourself in the process. Honoring yourself makes the whole journey worthwhile.

    Stay tuned for next week’s blog about the rest of the Komono sub-categories.

    Each week there seems to be a little gift that anchors the decluttering journey for me. And I’d love to share it with you. If you haven’t already, be sure to sign-up on my email list in the bar at the top of the page. That’s how you’ll stay connected and get these posts directly to your inbox.

  • 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’.