This Wellness Wednesday I wanted to write about something that I’ve been doing a lot lately- clearing clutter- and generally pairing down on all my material possessions. This is something that I feel is really undervalued and can make a huge change to your life and can be incredibly stress relieving – taking a literal weight off your mind.
This has been a big focus in my life lately, mostly brought on by the process of moving. When I moved from the apartment I lived in for my four years of university to my current apartment, I really had to come to grips with the sheer amount of material possessions I had accumulated. The move was mostly stressful because of all the furniture and kitchen things, but I also realized that I had too many things, too many clothes, too many knick knacks, too many books, just too much stuff. And it was with slight bitterness at myself that I carried the numerous boxes down three flights of stairs and into the moving van.
So I resolved to change and I have been going through all my things in my room at home and my current apartment and donating everything I can part with! It is especially important since I’m anticipating moving home this summer and having to fit all of my things into my home bedroom! eek! And I refuse to be stuck moving a million boxes of things that I don’t need again!
Generally I’m not an overly sentimental person, nor do I get overly attached to material things, so this hasn’t been too overwhelming for me- but we all have our weaknesses- my biggest weakness is definitely fabric, as you can see from my sewing room post I did yesterday, especially fabric that was my grandmothers- also I get weirdly attached to vintage children’s sewing patterns, I don’t know, don’t judge me.
I also acknowledge that this is a lot harder for some people- my mom for instance has a hard time getting rid of things and sorting through things and gets overwhelmed making all those decisions herself and I’ve known a lot of people who struggle with this too. I do believe there is a small (or moderate sized) hoarder in many of us.
Anyways I have been really successful with going through my things and helping my mom go through her things and I have figured out a few tips and tricks that make the process easier and more successful! So without further chatter: my 6 big tips!
1. Clear your space– make sure that you have clearly defined piles that won’t get mixed up and that you can easily clear away after you’ve sorted.
For example when I go through my clothes- I throw them all on my bed – then I have bags behind me on the floor- one for donations, one for garbage of things that are worn out, and another bag for things that I want to take to a consignment shop or offer to my friends. Then when you are done- you can label your bags and tie them up and take care of them easily. If you are sorting through glass wear or delicate things you can do this with boxes instead. It makes it so much easier after- the worst is when you don’t have a clear system and you just get bogged down and you aren’t sure at the end what things are supposed to stay or go and you feel like you got nowhere. Also once you have done all the sorting work- get rid of it quick! take it to the thrift shop the next day, plan a visit with your friends to give them the clothes- take out the garbage right away!
2. Get help from a friend– Have a friend or family member help you sort through your things- they are way more objective than you are, and can help you think logically about your things.
It’s hard to be completely objective about your own things and someone else asking questions like ‘when is the last time you actually wore that?’, or ‘are you really going to get that reference book out or are you going to google it?’- and when you have to answer to someone else it is not as easy to just brush it off like you would if you were sorting through it yourself. Also I find having another person sort through your things and hold them up for you and put them in piles is somewhat less stressful than doing all that yourself, because you don’t get as overwhelmed by the sheer volume of things and you can just focus on the individual item.
3. Try it on- This is specifically for clothing/ shoes- I cannot tell you the number of things that I have held onto in my closet that have a lot of hanger appeal but just don’t fit me right or don’t translate very well when I wear them.
I find these things are the worst because you look at it and your mind says ‘oh that looks so cute- I should keep that and I will wear it more’ but you forget that the reason you don’t wear it is because when you actually put it on you don’t like it- the proportions just aren’t right, that colour washes you out, or those shoes are just a little too tight around the toes and you know you’ll get a blister- but they SHOULD be so cute. When you come across one of these ‘oh so cute’ pieces in your wardrobe that you can’t understand why you don’t wear – try it on, right then, right there- you might actually find a gem, but more likely there is a reason you don’t wear it and you will know right away when you actually put it on.
4. Do it in two steps- What I found to be really good was going through my things in a two step process- an overall bulk going through session first where you can clear away everything that you’re completely comfortable with, then again a few months later for those items that you held onto in the first round, but still haven’t used since.
When I went through my things for the first time in October I found that I got rid of a lot of things, but there were a number of things that I considered to be ‘on trial’ that I wasn’t quite prepared to part with yet and the deal I made myself was- if I don’t use them or appreciate their presence in my life by the next time I go through my things then they are out. This worked SO well for me- because I found the things that I actually did want to keep- I would remember, use and incorporate in my life like lost treasures, and the things I didn’t remember I was so much more prepared to leave behind and almost excited to get rid of because after the first round of clearing clutter you realize how nice it is not to be so weighed down by things you don’t actually want in your life. An embarrassing fact- I can’t even remember 2/3 of the stuff that I have donated over the last few months. I have donated upwards of 10 large garbage bags of stuff and I don’t think I could make it past 20 trying to list them- you really don’t need this stuff in your life.
5. Is it really sentimental?– Some things we keep for sentimental reasons- and that is totally legitimate but I think a lot of people have to take a harder look at what is truly sentimental.
I keep my stuffed animal kitties (and their small wardrobe) from my childhood because they are very sentimental to me. My mom keeps the baby clothes she made for us. That is fine, but the problem comes when everything becomes sentimental- ‘oh I can’t get rid of that [insert large, awkward, ugly, inconvenient, object with no use here] because it reminds me of that thing I did one time’. Well my opinion is – if you need that object and can’t just remember ‘that thing you did that one time’ then maybe it wasn’t really that important. Alternatively – could you take a picture of this object? add it to a scrapbook to remind you of that great time? Perhaps you have pictures of that ‘thing you did that one time’ and you can add a picture of this object in with them? because a picture is a lot less bulky and overwhelming than keeping whatever object. I also feel like having fewer sentimental items makes each sentimental item you have more special- if i kept a whole bin of my favourite stuffed animals would my kitties really seem that special?
6. Can you give it to someone who will appreciate it?– I find it easier to part with things that have more value to me when I know I’m giving them to someone who will appreciate them.
A good example of this for me is some of the stuff that my grandmother left me. She had a excessive number of vintage dresses and accessories, but it would have just been completely overwhelming to keep them all, not to mention they weren’t all my size, nor did I really have an occasion to wear all of them- but I felt really guilty at the idea of just anonymously dropping them off at a thrift store, since they belonged to my grandmother and were special- so I gave them to my friend Marina who owns the Boretski Gallery, which I did a post on in November, where she sells all sorts of vintage dresses and accessories, and every time I bring her things we have a great conversation, and she gushes over the things I bring and I can tell that she really appreciates them- and in my mind I can imagine a cute 17 year old girl finding my dress for her prom and feeling like a 50’s princess!- all while knowing that I’m supporting an amazing local business. And I feel nothing but good after that- no regrets about giving away my grandmothers things, because I know that they are so much better off now! So if you have things like that, that were maybe an expensive purchase or special at one time and it’s making you hesitate- try to find someone who will really want it- and then you can have the added benefit of feeling good about giving it to them!
So those are my 6 big tips that have helped me tremendously through the process of clearing away the clutter from my life and I have to say that I feel so much better for it- you really don’t realize how much stress comes with drowning in stuff until you clear it all away! And my new goal now is to only add things into my life sparingly and only that are worth having! Which for me means clothes that I’ve made myself or that are vintage that I really love, artwork that my sister makes me, books that inspire me or make me more creative- things that actually add value to my life.
I hope this helps someone out there- I know just how hard this can be! but I promise it is SO worth it!!
Hope your Wednesday is full of Wellness!