Yesterday, we talked about reasons for letting go of stress. Today we will take our first step towards a stress-free life, decluttering.
I have organized my house, my car, and my time, many times over. It lasted a few days, even a few weeks, and then it was in chaos again. That is because organized excess is still excess.
When you own more outfits than what will fit in your closet, organization is not going to help.
When collections fill all of your shelves, it does not matter how they are sorted.
When your kitchen cupboards and drawers are stuffed with gadgets, heirlooms, and other non-necessities, it doesn’t matter what goes where.
When your day is filled with so many activities that you can’t eat dinner at the table, it doesn’t matter how your schedule your routines.
When you have so many bills that you can’t possibly pay them all, it doesn’t matter how you budget.
When your life is so busy that you can’t think, it doesn’t matter how much you work on your marriage.
Before organizing, you need to do some pruning.You need to look at your possessions, your finances, your activities, and your obligations. I’m not asking you get rid of everything. Remember, this is voluntary simplicity. It’s living deliberately. If something stays, it must be important.
The pruning can happen all at once, or it can happen gradually. Most people recommend the latter, but we found that, when we tried it, it never really happened. What we needed was one crazy weekend, when we first got home from Moonraker. In our case, it was the pruning of possessions that reduced the most stress, but we did make cuts in other areas as well.
Here are some ways to cut out the unimportant stressors in your life:
1. Take a look at your possessions. When people think of voluntary simplicity and minimalism, they think of the stuff. And it is true, a house full of stuff will cause stress! However, extreme minimalism may not be for you. Go through everything you own and ask, “Do I use this–RIGHT now?” If it’s a pair of pants that used to fit, pitch it! If it’s a gift from someone you love, know that they care about you, and donate it to someone who will use it. Also, look at hobby supplies. Is this something you actually do? If so, keep the supplies you use. Otherwise, donate them, so someone else can use them. I found that our house was so full of stuff, that we couldn’t use any of it. Miss Minimalist has some great articles on decluttering possessions.
2.Declutter your bills What “necessities” are you paying for, that you don’t use? Look at every fixed expense. Could working out at home replace the gym? Do you really need a land line and a cell phone? Cable internet? Cable television? We put PLPD only on our cars (we buy used, so our initial price isn’t so high). We got rid of our cable phone and internet for cell phone and internet, to save $30 a month. We recently shaved $20 more a month off of that, by switching to a Smart phone. We’ve never had cable television or payments on anything other than the house. We don’t use credit cards. Next summer, we’re not even renting a marina slip! And next winter, we plan to stop paying electric and gas bills. Cutting down on your bills, even if you have to do it using un-orthodox methods, will allow you to live on less. We live on one income–mine–so we get more time together.
3. Next, look at your activities. What do you have your kid signed up for? Do they enjoy all of those activities? What hobbies do you own equipment for, that you don’t do? We realized that, with Moonraker, we didn’t need to own other boats (other than our canoe and a dinghy, which we will be getting for next year). Only keep equipment for hobbies that you do and enjoy. It helps to find your passion, which is something I will be writing about later in this series.
4. Examine your obligations. Do you volunteer for everything? Don’t brag about it! It is fine to take a supporting role in some areas. If you spread yourself too thin, you will not accomplish anything. You need to make some choices, so that you can give to your family and preserve your own mental health. Zen Habits has a great article on this.
5. Set a time limit, then move on. Don’t get hung up on decluttering. It’s a process. We had our crazy weekend, but we still purge things now and again. Decide to spend a weekend, or a week, or a month on decluttering, then move on to the next step. Perfectionism will paralyze you, so don’t do it! Make a dent, then move on. It’s good enough, I promise!
Now, get started purging!