Wednesday, January 17, 2018

January De-Clutter

January is a great time for "out with the old, in with the new," something I've been attending to with vim and vigor this past weekend. For the first time in years, I decided to not save any leftover holiday wrapping, gift bags, ribbons and bows which then encouraged me to scour through the house to see what else could be tossed or recycled. It was amazing what I found, especially when I consider myself to be an expert minimalist! Some of my top get-rid-ofs included:
  • Books. For the last couple of years I've held the rule that for every new book I buy, an old one has to go. This has been an excellent practice forcing me to use the library more, read used books I find on giveaway piles, and curb a life-long habit of buying books because they're for sale. But this weekend I went way beyond a single book or two. I got rid of dozens of titles I won't be reading again for pleasure or using for reference. It was wrenching, but, oh, those shelves look good.
  • Gift wrap and more. Besides getting rid of the 2017 Christmas wrapping and bags, I cleared out all those other types of gift bags I'd kept for sentimental reasons or that I'd intended to use "one day." The thing is, one day never came, or at least not the day when I wanted to put a gift in a bag from a store that the gift couldn't possibly have come from. The same with leftover Christmas cards from several years ago, as well as worn-out holiday decorations. All gone.
  • Clothing. If I haven't worn something for a few years, chances are I never will again. And thanks to our unseasonably warm Albuquerque weather this winter, I was able to clear out several bulky and not-so-favorite items I'd been hanging onto just in case the next Ice Age arrived overnight. And if some freak mega-blizzard does arrive in the coming months, I can always layer with what I decided to keep.
  • White elephant gifts. My writer's group used to swap unwanted, unneeded, or duplicated items at our annual holiday party until we eventually ran out of things to share. However that was several years ago and in the interim I've somehow managed to collect some more. I think (I know) I'd been storing these things out of sheer guilt: (It was a present!). Not this year. Off to the thrift store they went.
  • Art supplies. I love to experiment with new supplies, but more than once I've had to learn the hard way that new doesn't mean it's for me. Which is fine--my local recreation center loves donations. Giving away several sets of unloved pencils, pastels, and brushes will help someone else discover their true artistic self this year. A real win-win for everyone.
  • Old art work. My biggest weakness. You'd think parting with failed paintings and drawings would be easy, but for me it's like getting rid of my soul. I painted that! It took me hours to get it all wrong! My current compromise has been to save my entire collection of sketchbooks (I will NEVER part with those), but I decided to get ruthless with everything that was truly for practice or not very skillful. What didn't go into the trash I tore and/or cut into small pieces for collage and art journaling.
  • Old manuscripts. This task is still a work-in-progress, but I'm going through all the freewriting stories that I wrote for . . . freewriting . . . and will never even attempt to publish. The ones that I like I'm transcribing onto a flash drive. The ones that I don't, out they go with the not-so-great artwork. I'm doing the same with old drafts of projects that are now in the final draft stage. I don't need physical copies of the originals and in many instances I don't need digital copies either. Delete, delete, delete!
  • Bills and paperwork. I like having only one filing cabinet and I like keeping it neatly labelled, uncluttered, and easy to close. I only file copies of household bills for a year, tax materials for five, and after that, off to the shredder I go.
  • Stuff. This seemed to be the most esoteric of my categories and also the most ridiculous. Included in what I managed to sort through and toss were keys that opened locks that no longer existed, a 20-year-old pair of glasses and their broken case, and a ceramic bear without a front leg. Several more items were so peculiar I couldn't even recognize what their original purpose had been, e.g., a strip of blue plastic. What was it? Where did it come from? Why was I keeping it?
De-cluttering always makes me feel good. The challenge, however, is not allowing the clutter and excess to accumulate in the first place. With that in mind I'm hoping to approach this new year with a firm refusal to allow unwanted belongings enter my life at all. The stores won't be happy, but I'm looking forward to a year of Zen-like shelves and closets. No more three-legged bears for me!

Tip of the Day:  Keeping old, unwanted stuff isn't an obligation or a social duty. Instead, clear out, clean out, air out the past and make 2018 the year to let go. Holding onto items you mistakenly think you have to only sets up resistance and resentment. This also goes for any unloved, unfinished creative projects you don't want to work on any longer. Be brave, take a deep breath, and make the new year a clean slate.

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