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Conscious Uncluttering

Conscious Uncluttering
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I read an article recently that discussed how our children don’t want any of the “stuff” we leave behind. Where we might have inherited (and used) the family silver and china from our mother, this next generation has no room or interest, so it really is a service to the whole family if we purge our possessions now and sell/donate/dispose of the mountain of things we have gathered over the years.

But where to begin? Look no further than the wildly popular book, the Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Japanese organizing consultant, Marie Kondo.

In it Kondo asks a simple question: After searching through everything you own, does it all “spark joy”? Not such a strange query when you think about it. That hand-woven poncho you got in Peru looked great when you sat at outdoor festivals passing around a joint, but where do you plan to wear it now that you are headed into your “golden years”? The baby carrier you held onto to give to your daughter someday has no use since she announced she is not having children. It’s presence only will serve to remind you of a disappointment and can actually be used by another new mother.

Next, after you have winnowed your mountain to more of a molehill with the joy-test, put all remaining items where you can see them and reach them easily. If it can’t be seen and used—out it goes.

Kondo asks that we think of uncluttering differently. Instead of tackling the worst task (that dusty attic or bulging front hall closet, for example), she suggests you unclutter by category. So start with clothing (the least emotional category) and gather all clothing through the house, sorting it out first. Books come next and photos (which definitely spark laughter and tears) are last. You can waste days reading old love letters.

She also asks that you determine how your belongings feel. Yes, you read that right. How do your winter clothes (the ones you swore to bag and mothproof, but never did) feel sharing space, maybe even a hanger, with some leftover summer duds from that beach vacation? Such fanciful thinking will help you organize with “respect for the clothes.”

Fold your clothes, don’t hang them. Kondo uses a long rectangle fold and then keeps folding from the bottom up. Store everything in shoe boxes in your dresser—easy to see and access–and this method gets rid of the pulling-everything-out-of-a drawer-to-reach- that-T-shirt-on-the-bottom problem.

Find your new style. You may discover colors, textures and fabrics that you didn’t remember you had or suddenly look a whole lot better with your silver hair or that have come roaring back into style (I see Mary Quant-inspired clothing everywhere and only had to unpack several old wardrobe bags to find a treasure trove of that genre. A little hem lengthening and I am on trend…again).

Some benefits of the Kondo method become readily apparent:

  • Holes in your wardrobe make themselves known: I’d been wearing the same outfits for so long, I was unaware I had no tunic sweaters without holes.
  • You can’t kid yourself anymore: You will never really wear that peach lace blouse that looked so pretty on the hanger or the ten evening gowns you’ve gathered. Give them away to someone else who may really love them.
  • Cleaning got a whole lot easier. Everything in its place is a truism. Once things aren’t shoved everywhere, keeping things sorted, cleaned, pressed and accessible is a breeze.
  • You may make use of new technologies: You never have to move all those books again. Get Kindle versions or make real use of your library card (you can even get ebooks, audio books and stream movies from your library. Ask a librarian what to do. They are thrilled to help. Set aside a few days a month to work on scanning all your family photos into a cloud storage system. Also put them on archival (30-year) discs and give a copy to each of your kids as a family photo library. Replace your beloved CDs (or, and we are showing our age here) vinyl albums with a Pandora or Spotify playlist (or, if you must own the music, buy individual tracks or whole albums on iTunes.)

Apply the “does it give me joy” question to your whole life. Look at the situations and people in your life and discard what doesn’t fill your heart up with happiness. Hanging onto pain, sorrow or guilt are more things that should be thrown out of your new uncluttered life.

As you leave your 50’s, entire your next decade lighter of spirit. Here’s to your unencumbered new journey and your next 50 years.


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