Last week, we decluttered the kitchen. The very last room on the list. There was so much resistance getting to that point –I've yet to work out why – but now that it's done I'm trying to work out how I feel about the house, about the whole process. Before I get there, I want to reflect back...
In Karen Kingston's book, she mentions four categories of clutter: things you don't use or love; things that are untidy or disorganised; too many things in too small a space; and anything unfinished. I think we can all relate! I remember feeling such a weight reading this, because I knew it and I knew we had too much in every category.
The office is where we first started. Too many books, too many piles of paperwork, old picture frames needing to be filled and hung somewhere, binders, magazines – oh the magazines! – and general clutter were making the room feel heavy. But I never made it a priority. We never made it a priority. I guess we weren't ready yet. It's important not to judge ourselves by the way. This was timely:
Let's take judgment about clutter – your own and everyone else's – and dump it right now. You can also unload any guilt you may feel. If you have clutter in your life then for some reason you have needed to create it. Therefore, the clutter you now have has been perfect for you in your life until this point.
I can hear you exhale. I know I did just that.
It drained me every time I used to walk in or walk past the office. Must sort that office out, I'd think. Must sort through those magazines. Must file that paperwork. There were thoughts like this everywhere in the house. And I know it was just compounding my tiredness and zapping the life out of me.
Every time you think about it, your energy dips, until eventually it is costing you more energy not to do it than to just roll up your sleeves and get on with it.
It was all I needed to hear. I need more energy not less. So I cracked on. My magazines were the first to go. Gourmet Traveller, Country Style and all the UK magazines I used to write for. I donated some, and the rest Luca and Kian went to town cutting out their favourite images – they got used and then binned in the recycling. I kept a stack that I refer to regularly and the ones with my work. It was harder when it came to books, old ornaments and gifts from the past. In fact, I got a bit stuck. Obligation, a little fear, not wanting to contribute to landfill rubbish, not wanting to let things go without trying to sell them first.
But the object of this exercise was to clear it out and make space; it wasn't a money-making exercise. I held onto that, particularly as the thought of listing everything for sale and having it lying around in the interim drained me in itself. And again, I focused on how I wanted the house to feel, how I wanted to feel when I walked into a room, so I shifted the environment concern – I knew I would dispose of things responsibly. As for the other emotions, this gave us clarity:
If you keep it in your home out of obligation, you are giving your power away. Every time you walk into the room and see it, your energy levels drop.
There it was again... energy levels. Suddenly, Graeme and I were picking things up and asking each other out loud, why are we keeping this? Do we love it?
We went through junk drawers (out of sight, out of mind doesn't work either), filed the paperwork and developed a ruthless streak. When one of us started to cave in, the other would step in.
It got easier. I drove huge boxes and bulging bags to the charity shop, rearranged our bookcases and after two days solid we ended up with a room that was easier on the eye and lighter to walk into... a room that made us feel good. There's space on shelves now. Space!
And here's the telling part: those things we dilly-dallied over, those books we couldn't imagine giving away, those little nicknacks that we daren't part with because they were shipped across the world, well they're not here anymore and the truth is I couldn't name a single one of them if I tried. You think it matters, but it doesn't. You think you need it, but you don't. I don't remember anything that we gave away; I just remember the size of it.
Something to keep in mind if and when you start your process (applies to everything, not just books):
Aim to end up with a collection of books that represents you as you are today and the intended 'you' of tomorrow.