Organization, simplification and downsizing.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

This year I was especially prompt when it came to putting away the holiday decor. Though I totally understand those who leave their tree up throughout January (a less jarring transition into the New Year and glum First Month weather), I like to make the transition a quick one for practical and emotional purposes.

This year is a little different. We are facing the likely prospect of apartment or condo living for a few years starting this summer. We will be living as close to my grad school as possible to limit time spent commuting, which places constraints on our housing prospects since both programs are in very urban areas. Plus, we are feeling a strong pull to simplicity: someone else mowing the lawn; a smaller area to clean; walking distance to amenities; an on-site gym; etc. But that also means whittling down our belongings to fit in a significantly smaller space. The plan is to have a yard sale this spring/early summer, but a lot of sorting has to occur and decisions have to be made before that can happen.

I decided I wanted to start this process early and tackle it as organically as possible as opposed to putting aside entire weekends to sort through all the totes in our garage. So last fall I resolved to go through our holiday decor as we put it out and took it down. This past weekend I sorted through everything we didn't use and put items into boxes labeled for donation or a yard sale. Then I carefully packed up the stuff we do love and use and put them into labeled totes. What was once many boxes and totes with zero organization became a succinct storage system so we will know where everything is when we go to look for it in the future. (One tote for fall holidays, one for Easter, several for Christmas and so on.) What we were left with was a fraction of what we had before and I feel just fine about that.

This is absolutely the way to tackle the problem of stuff! We usually do it just prior to moving which inevitably ends in copious amounts of stress and a good dose of arguing. Four days before a cross-country move is NOT the time to be deciding the fate of that box of broken ornaments from your childhood. (Our previous moves have felt like last minute adrenaline-fueled affairs and I'm eager to do away with that particular habit.)

And just like that a project I've been avoiding for years was completed in a couple days. Because it seemed so much bigger in my head than it actually was.

I've had Marie Kondo's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up in my nightstand for a year but have yet to read it. (I'll get to it next!)  Still, I've seen enough interviews and read enough articles about it to understand some of the core principles. A big one for me is taking the time to evaluate individual objects while sincerely considering its value in my life. I also have to be honest with myself about why I hang on to certain things: is it really the love of an object that keeps it in my life or an unhealthy emotional tie I need to sever? I went through that process, briefly, as I put all the holiday decor away and cleaned out totes. Do I love this? Do I see myself using this for years to come? Is it going to hold up? and other such filters crossed my mind before deciding its fate. It works.

We did a giant stuff purge when we moved from New Hampshire to the Pacific Northwest 3 1/2 years ago. And yet so much still remained. (Enough to have a lucrative yard sale this past year.) We also have to consider that we are going to be transitioning from a 2400 sf house to something, well, much smaller, so we will have to be even more committed to letting things go. Which can be so very hard + anxiety-inducing. We have accepted that we will likely need to keep a storage unit for a few years, but we don't want that to be an excuse to keep stuff we aren't passionate about. Our future selves will thank us for tackling this now.

I got the ball rolling early on and that feels good. Now it's just a matter of keeping up the momentum as our moving date grows nearer. There are so many question marks in our lives right now that I don't want to add more stress to the mix. Slow and steady is the key, I think.

This year I resolve to be surrounded by only the things I love, to have less clutter, and to spending less time worrying about the state of our stuff.

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