Monday, March 15, 2010
Spring Cleaning and a Free Book
I've spent the last several years sorting, tossing, donating and generally unburdening myself of a lot of possessions. And burdensome is exactly how they felt, even though some of those possessions were beautiful antiques I had inherited and had enjoyed living with, familiar things I grew up with that brought me fond memories, and lovely newer things I had acquired with great enthusiasm at the time of purchase. I don't know what flipped the switch in my head, but suddenly I wanted to feel liberated in a way that I couldn't if I was responsible for all that stuff.
The notion of responsibility for our possessions isn't hard to understand; we worked hard, and our families worked hard in the past, in order to have all the comforts and luxuries we enjoy. It doesn't take much introspection to generate feelings of gratitude for having these things and the sense of obligation to care for the stuff properly kicks in quickly, too. If we inherited things, whether valuable or not, that puts an extra layer of responsibility on us. But the notion of being the caretaker of the family history in the form of ownership of stuff can be perceived as a welcome privilege or an oppressive weight, or anything in between.
Because I don't have children who would inherit the family furniture, dishes, etc. (and, believe me, not every child is thrilled to inherit every item we each deem important), I had to make a decision about what to do with most of my sentimental stuff. Yes, I did keep some things that are particularly significant to me and that still bring me joy; for the rest, I opted for what I called my "pre-estate sale." This allowed me to be the one to make choices about where I wanted things to go. That did not necessarily make it easy to let go of these items because, even though I was well aware of how much I wanted to feel that sense of freedom, I didn't simply turn into an unsentimental person. Even now, I can still get a little twinge at times when I think of all that I parted with, but, fortunately, a moment of reflection puts me back in touch with the certain knowledge that I did the right thing.
However, The Final Layer of Clutter is not only a small amount of remaining sentimental stuff. In fact, much of it doesn't have any sentiment attached to it at all. But it does have that sense of obligation hanging over it: I know I should do something with it. Often the sense of obligation is totally misplaced, so I need to make sure I really do need to do something with these things and, if I do, I need to act on it. Do I need or truly want to organize and scan my family photographs? Yes. Do I need or truly want to keep a stash of old costume jewelry? No.
I think I had battle fatigue after letting go of so much truly important stuff and then making sure I reached my goal in last year's 365 Item Toss Challenge (I exceeded it!). And now I face The Final Layer. My solution? I'm preparing to celebrate one of my favorite holidays again: Discardia. I first heard of Discardia from blogger Jeri Dansky on her popular blog, Jeri's Organizing and Decluttering News and I've posted about it in the past (here and here). The short explanation of the holiday, according to its founder, Dina Sanders, is that Discardia is about "letting go of stuff and ideas that you don't need." It's celebrated between the Solstices & Equinoxes and their following new moons. The next Discardia begins on Saturday, March 20th, and ends on April 14th. Even though Discardia is strictly a no-pressure holiday, I'm going to use it to motivate me to do my best to deal with The Final Layer of Clutter during that time. I'm also going to make a major effort to unload some of the useless mental baggage that I cart around.
To help motivate you, I'm going to give away a copy of my book, Sorting It Out: One Disorganized Woman Solves the Problem of Too Much Stuff. All you have to do is leave a comment telling me what kind of spring cleaning and uncluttering you plan to do. Are you at the beginning of your uncluttering efforts or have you made lots of progress? Do you have sentimental stuff that's holding you back or are you simply swamped by everything? Do you already have your house in order and live the life of a thoughtful consumer? Whoever you are, please join the discussion. I'll use a random number generator to choose the winner (assuming more than one faithful reader responds!) and I'll announce the name in the comments of this post next Saturday, the 20th, day one of the spring Discardia celebration.
Let's see if we can make spring cleaning fun! Okay, that's probably too much to ask. Let's just make this a fun contest!
© 2010 Cynthia Friedlob
Photo by littlekata at stock.xchng