After reading Merlin Mann's latest series of posts (I am a little behind on my Bloglines) on The War on Clutter, I realize that I have missed a fundamental concept in de-cluttering. I confuse "organizing" with de-cluttering. Just because I sorted that pile of junk into three smaller piles and it is now in neatly labeled containers, that does not mean that I have cleared significant space psychically or physically. In fact, I may have missed the whole point.
I will now live by the Golden Rule of "Never Organize What You Can Discard" (thanks Merlin).
Plus, he appealed to a newly activated neural pathway for me, the concept of surrounding yourself with the things, ideas and people that are getting you closer to the life you want to have (and chucking the rest). He says simply "If the stuff that you accumulate doesn’t help get you closer to the life you want to have, it’s simply not worth keeping." Now, Merlin didn't come up with all of this on his own, much of his recent blogging enthusiasm for living with less is inspired by Peter Walsh's book, It's All Too Much, which he has convinced me I must own.
One of my biggest barriers to getting rid of stuff is that I find infinite future uses and meaning for so many truly discardable objects. I also like to think that I am holding on to something for a short time, when I will realize who in my life needs that particular item. So, I delude myself into thinking I am "reinventing" items and that I am a thoughtful friend, when I am actually a craphound. Now, I must say that I am not hoarding or out of control with my collections of stuff, in fact most people who come to my house remark on how well organized it is. But that is just the thing I woke up to today. I look around and I see a lot of very well organized crap I don't love, need or use. I suspect that there are layers of crap under that crap too, so I am bracing myself for the task.
I am also guilty of avoiding essential daily household tasks by detouring into "organizing mode". So, at the end of the day I'll have made a trip to Home Depot for hooks, eyes & wires for my earring holders and rehung my clothes by color and style, but my dishes are still in the sink and the laundry is piled in the corner. My good friends know that at any given time, there may be dirty dishes hiding in my oven.
Not that I haven't made progress (I use the "like with like" rule and the "donate it if you haven't worn it in 6 months" rule) but now, thanks to Merlin and Peter, I can go even further. I am at a critical juncture in my personal and professional life and I only want stuff that is moving me toward the life I want to have. I am ready to look at each item and ask myself "Is this making my life better?" I am excited to temporarily abandon my trash to treasure fantasies and organizational detours for the pure joy of loving every single thing I have.
In previous attempts to bring a sense of controlled chaos, I have simply created more aesthetically pleasing organization. This time is different, I am ready to go big. I love the giant trash bags and "dump pile" suggestions form Merlin's post on The Tools to Purging Big. Last summer I hauled two truckloads of junk to the dump and earlier this summer I cleaned out the junk in the outdoor shed and I was exhilarated afterward. It is strangely exciting to just let go of stuff. Plus, at the end of the day I had some storage for stuff I love (like my fabric) and a place to park the lawnmower. And, funnily enough, a little time capsule at the very back of that closet; an unpacked suitcase from 1979 that my grandmother had left years ago, that included a Diane Von Furstenburg sundress that fit me perfectly. That one sundress and the giggles from the random contents that my grandmother packed 28 years ago were worth every bit of work to clean out that space. Unfortunately a year later, that same closet is now housing many other things that I really don't use or want, and which some people could put to good purpose. I have posted (and sold) a few things on Craigslist this week, but I am ready to get medieval on my excess stuff.
I can't help but acknowledge that this is all very much in line with my Vision Group's work on the Success Principles. My first revelation with the group was the concept of actively saying yes. I have had much life experience learning to say no (which was extremely important) but it is now yes-time. This process of radical decluttering is really about getting clear on what I am saying yes to, and making that yes louder.