This quote by William Morris is one of my favorites, and has been on my mind lately as I’ve embarked on an exercise I’ve been doing that I’ve found very meaningful. I’m on the 5th day of a 9-day exercise in letting go and creating space.
The gist of it is that I go through my physical space, and choose 27 things each day for 9 days to get rid of. It’s based on feng-shui principals of releasing anything in your space that no longer serves you, thus making space for new, wonderful things to come into your life.
When working with clients who struggle to part with items, I ask them certain guiding questions that help them make decisions about what to hold onto and what to let go of. I used these same questions myself last summer when I moved, and again throughout this 9-day practice. Today, I’d like to share with you my process.
Certain go-to de-cluttering guidelines have become popular, such as “if you haven’t used or worn it in a year, get rid of it” or the one-in one-out policy, whereby you get rid of one item for every new item you bring into your home. I find these hard to enforce because they are somewhat arbitrary and don’t take into account the context or meaning items may have. Instead, consider the role of these items in your life and if they are helping you live the life you want.
Here are the questions I ask myself to decide what to hold on to and what to let go of:
Is this something I LOVE, USE and would truly MISS?
As William Morris suggests, our home should be filled with beautiful and useful items. Except for seasonal items and some memorabilia, items in storage tend to be forgotten about and can become a waste of space. Think about the things that are tucked away or boxed up and ask yourself why they are hidden, not given a place of honor in your home. Organizational guru (and one of my heroes) Peter Walsh says that if something is really special to you, then respect that item by displaying or using it. If you cannot say that you love or use an item and would not sincerely miss it, that consider letting it go. Release any guilt or obligation that you should keep it; if you don’t love and want it, give yourself permission to get rid of it. Then take a deep breath and smile.
Can someone else benefit from this more than me or offer it a better home?
I find that one reason why people don’t want to let things go is that they fear being wasteful. However, if you reframe this as passing on the item to someone more in need, then you are really giving a gift. Someone may cherish that purse more than you, or actually use that cheesecake pan (in my case), whereas for you, these items are just taking up space and weighing on your mind. Release the burden of feeling like you should be using these things by giving them a new life with someone else. (Plus, consider the tax benefit of donating 243 items, which is the grand total of 27 items over 9 days!)
What does this item bring up for me, and is it something I want in my future?
So much of what we own is tied to our past. This can be wonderful. In my case this week, I deliberately chose to keep many things that tie me to my childhood, college, old relationships, and first career. However, these were all carefully considered, and I kept only the items that brought up joy. I also am finding that it is time to part with items that bring up negative vibes. If you’re really honest with yourself and open to the process, you’ll know when you touch or hold an item if it is something that makes you feel lighter and expansive or heavy and constricted. I invite you to begin to let go of some of the items that have negative connotations, therefore making more space for items that bring you love and joy to enter your life. Note: this is getting much easier each day. Letting go is a muscle that needs to be exercised, and by day 5, I’m finding it noticeably easier to make decisions about letting go of emotionally charged items. I suggest starting with the easy stuff first!)
Admittedly, the benefit of living in a 1 bedroom apartment in New York City is that I’ve been able to hold or touch everything I own and ask myself if this is something that contributes to my ideal life. I’m now reacquainted with everything I possess, and where everything is. For those of you who have larger homes, you may choose to focus on just a room or two for this round.
At the end of this process I’m confident you’ll feel remarkably lighter. You’ll create an intentional space that will be surrounded by items that hold only positive associations. I highly recommend this exercise, and can say that the structure of needing to hit 27 things each day pushes me, and using the above questions helps me know that I am making intentional and meaningful decisions. Be warned, however; the rules state that if you skip a day, you must start over!
For those of you who aren’t ready to embark on this, keep these guiding questions in mind for spring cleaning. Spring is trying its darndest to arrive, and when it does, you may just feel that you’re ready to release the heaviness of winter and declutter a bit.
Some things I let go of: -a beige turtleneck I never wear because it makes me looked washed out -a cheesecake pan I’ve never used, and which was so far out of reach that I clearly had no intention of ever accessing it. Aha moment-I don’t make my own cheesecake, and have no desire to do so. -earrings that have long since lost their partner -articles I’d saved to read “when I have the spare time” Some things I was delighted to rediscover and put in a place of honor: the pins I received when I submitted my senior thesis from college, marking my most significant academic accomplishment a magnet for my fridge that says “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” a necklace that had been a favorite of mine years ago that I thought I’d lost, and now am happily wearing again