A few weeks ago, my husband and I were getting ready for bed when we heard this dripping noise coming from the basement that just didn’t sound right. We were in the midst of a big rain storm, but our basement had only once had water in it over the four years I had lived there (and the nine years my husband has lived here), so at first I didn’t think much of it. Little did I know that that night we received nearly six inches of rain in under an hour, so when I went to the back room to check out the noise I was greeted with a small river of water running towards the drain. Upon further investigation the water was of course coming in behind our storage shelf, which meant pulling everything out and moving it to a drier location.
Luckily I’ve spent a fair amount of time decluttering and organizing our basement, and just about everything is stowed in plastic bins. There wasn’t really too much to pull out, and nothing was damaged, but this whole event got me thinking. As I was pulling the bins out, I was peeking inside and thinking, “Hrm, if this had been damaged, would I really be that upset?” I found overwhelmingly that no, I would not be upset. I mean, I like that I have some interesting things from my younger years to look back at, and we have some books stored down there right now, but really if it was all gone, it wouldn’t be that bad. The books are replaceable, and although some of the things from my childhood are not, if they’re just in boxes downstairs anyway, what importance are they really in my life?
This made me think about the time when I was 24 and there was a fire in my apartment, leaving me with the clothes on my back plus a few other salvageable items only. At the time, it was quite the event, but it wasn’t the STUFF I was sad about, it was the death of my two cats who had perished in the fire. In the end, I actually found it quite liberating to have so little stuff.
So again, I came back to my stuff in the basement… Between the transition time of my husband and I moving in together, as well as the bins and bins and bins of stuff my mom had saved for me at their house and then brought up to me when I had finally “settled down” in my new home, our basement was cluttered off and on for the first two to three years we lived together. Little by little we got items back to their original owners (my husband may not have had very much stuff himself, but he certainly was storing a lot of stuff for a whole lot of people when I first moved in!) and we both sorted through our old stuff and got rid of the excess. On the first round of purging, I was willing to get rid of A, B, and C, but I wasn’t ready to get rid of items X, Y, and Z. The more the years went on, and perhaps as a result of me working with so many people who just frankly have too much stuff, it became easier and easier to get rid of those items I originally thought I should hang onto. Every time I get an urge to declutter my own home, I allow myself to see my stuff in a fresh new light.
What’s the lesson here? Organizing or clutter clearing isn’t a one time event. And it will probably look different the second time you do it….and the third, and the fourth. It may be that you sort out a bin in the basement, and then the next year you’ll look at the same bin and wonder, “Why did I keep ANY of this?”. Be open to this change, it really is an amazing freedom to feel less and less bound to stuff. And the best part – the first time you do decluttering will probably be the hardest – it just gets easier from here!
Holistic Professional Organizer and Coach at Synergy Organizing, LLC
©Synergy Organizing 2012
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