How to Get Rid of Stuff
The other day a friend texted me as she was packing up to move across the country: "HELP! I am overwhelmed because I have so much STUFF. I am feeling buried alive. I know you have figured out how not to hold on to things. Can you give me some perspective? I need some tough love."Posted — Updated
The other day a friend texted me as she was packing up to move across the country: "HELP! I am overwhelmed because I have so much STUFF. I am feeling buried alive. I know you have figured out how not to hold on to things. Can you give me some perspective? I need some tough love."
When I got her text I was standing in front of my bookshelf, hyperventilating. I happen to be moving in a few days, too— though just a couple miles away, not out of state—and I was in a state of panic. My shelves were just the tip of the iceberg; I hadn't even started on the kitchen, bedroom or closets. Here is an (incomplete) inventory of the bookshelf in question:
*Books I love but haven't touched in years (because I already read them)
*Important papers I need to fax to the IRS (as soon as I find them)
*A stack of old homework and Scholastic book club flyers brought home by my children, dating back to the fall (the IRS papers are in that stack—I HOPE)
*A favorite photo of my grandmother who recently passed away (I always meant to frame it)
*Many, many CDs—from my old Beatles collection to the Taylor Swift album my daughter got for her birthday (we have all of them on iTunes now).
What to pack, what to toss, and how long before the IRS gives up and spends my tax refund on something else? (Can they do that?) I felt guilty for never framing the picture of my grandmother, the idea of throwing away the CDs made me nauseous, and I dreaded hauling a lot of heavy books to my new place—no matter how good they were.
So why was my friend was asking me for advice? Because I'm supposed to be the expert. I moonlight as a personal organizer. People pay me to come to their homes and make them throw things away—even though I still can't get rid of the Christopher Pike books I was obsessed with in high school.
If your stuff causes you stress, it needs to go. Here are a few guidelines for tackling common clutter magnets:
When I do a big stuff purge—throwing away things that were perfectly good, just not good for me—I feel guilty for maybe five seconds before a feeling of lightness and freedom takes over. The high that I get from getting rid of stuff makes me more productive, more patient, kinder and more generous with my time, because it is not spent being stressed about clutter. Any lingering guilt just helps me to be more mindful of what I DO take into my home in the future.
Here is the text I ended up sending my friend:
And now if you'll excuse me, I need to get busy and take my own advice. There's a certain bookshelf calling my name.