• 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 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.