Living with Less

My husband and I have been married for almost 15 years. During that time, we have moved 3 times – once internationally, twice with our three kids. Over time, we have accumulated a lot of stuff. I have always made sure that my stuff is organized, though: friends who would visit our 900 square foot apartment in NYC would comment well-organized it seemed to be – and it was … the problem was, I didn’t realize that there was no real point in organizing stuff that I didn’t actually need.

As you’ll understand as you read on, there is a huge difference between ‘being organized’ and ‘decluttering’. I used to think that being a professional organizer meant helping people put all the

 things they had into organized little compartments, no matter how much stuff they had. As it turns out, that is PART of the job … but it’s not the only part of the job. In fact, the main part of the job, and my professional mission, is to show people how to live with less.  After all, you can’t organize clutter.

A few months before I started my company, I read a book called ‘Zero Waste Home’, by Bea Johnson. What this book made me realize is that organization on its own is not the answer. Whether or not you hire an organizer,  when you declutter and organize your space, your goals should be:

  • Have less stuff. Decluttering doesn’t mean you can go out and buy more stuff now that you have more space: remember that the goal is to have less.

  • Be satisfied what you have. If you managed to pare your belongings down once, it means that what you kept is really useful to you. Appreciate it, use it. If you don’t, there’s no point keeping it anyway.

  • Be honest with yourself. Throwing stuff away is HARD – and it requires a lot of honesty. For example, in some cases you will need to look at an item of clothing and say: I have not worn this in so long (you can choose whatever your conditional timeframe is), and in reality I probably won’t wear it again because it didn’t fit right, or it’s too formal, or for any other reason is no longer of use.

  • Take it easy. Work slowly. Getting into a throwing-out frenzy is a recipe for mess and rash decisions. Sort through your stuff methodically and thoughtfully for best results.

Brutal honesty isn’t the only quality you’ll need to cope with when you declutter. Emotions like fear, worry and anxiety will likely come into play to: maybe I WILL need it, or it IS useful, or I just can’t bear to get rid of it.

One way I have found to ease my concerns when I declutter my own stuff – which I do often – is to work in stages. Every week I pick a place in my home to sort out. Sometimes it’s a space in my kids’ rooms; sometimes my closet, sometimes the kitchen. Admittedly, one of the biggest challenges for me comes from the fact that I don’t HAVE a lot, and what I DO have is really useful to me so it’s difficult to find things to get rid of. Even so, every time I decide on a space to deal with, I manage to find at least one thing to donate, trash, or otherwise get rid of; often, there is even more.

By taking the decluttering process slowly, you have time to assess your needs in stages.  Going through winter clothing at the start of the summer is better than going through them right before winter starts, because you can honestly assess whether you wore an item and I need it, or didn’t wear and won’t wear it next winter either. An easy pace gives you time to think about what you are actually using, so that you can be honest with yourself. Sometimes your immediate, gut reaction is to hold on tight to an item; calmly considering the item is sometimes all you need to be able to let it go. As both a short-term and long-term process, going slowly gives you time to adjust, and get comfortable with the idea of less.

I often get calls from people after six months, asking: “can you come back?” When I get there, it doesn’t look like a bomb exploded – their home is usually in pretty good shape, clutter-wise; but after a certain amount of time has elapsed, people gain perspective and are able to realize that what was once valuable to them is no longer that important.

Get in touch with me today so we can make a plan and help ease your worry, and start honestly assessing what is really important in your home and your life.

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