What does your stuff mean to you? The Art of Decluttering.

December 10, 2014

the chaos (1)

I have to admit I’m feeling guilty about something.

I had promised a story last weekend (via newsletter…you are signed up, right?) and I didn’t deliver. Here’s why: I was super burnt out. From the sale, from some recent changes made to Stark (yet to be announced!!), and because I was busy getting rid of 9/10ths of my possessions.

Yup. You read that right.

But here’s the thing: I didn’t just clean out my garage or attic (don’t have either one of those); I got rid of 9/10ths of my personal belongings. Stuff like clothes that were perfectly good, but I never, ever wore. Stuff like random accessories and things I’d be hanging onto for years and didn’t really know why. I even got rid of “memorabilia” that just no longer sparked any joy in me. Oh, and over 70 books that we will never re-read (and yet we still have what feels like a full library…in fact looking at the shelves at all the beloved titles and authors makes me feel that our library is so much more complete now.)

I was able to finally part with these things because I was able to address my true feelings about them. For so long I avoided confronting my feelings and relationship with all these objects, but when finally faced, realized that they had very little value in my present life. This made me think about whether my future self would really need these things either. The answer is no.  Future Jess is a more confident version of current Jess. She’s practical, she values quality over quantity, she’s secure with her identity and style, and she’s making great memories in the present (I mean, future. This is confusing.) Sure, I’m keeping old photos, some special little knick-knacks and some baby Z mementos (for him as well, of course), but not piles of it. And I’m only keeping things I truly love.

So what made me give up nearly all my stuff? Well, I had already been interested in simplification and minimalism (people always comment how our little apartment feels so spacious…now it’s a tiny mansion!), then I read this quirky little book called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing that just struck a chord with me, and before I was half done reading it, most of my possessions were out the door and off to the thrift shop. The author advises you to “talk to each of your belongings and thank them for their hard work”, which admittedly, is odd. However, I like odd things, tried it and it worked. I was able to let so much stuff go, and with it, all emotional ties. (The book gets away with quirkiness because it is translated from Japanese…I think North Americans have a different relationship with our hoards of crap and wouldn’t anthropomorphise our belongings, but why not? There’s no harm. Trust me.)

I didn’t realize it until I really started talking to (ha!) and de-cluttering that stuff, how much space they took up within me. I admit, I cried a little. When I was done with my clothes, and it started to get easy after a good half hour in, the space in our bedroom felt completely light and easy. I got this sense of freedom. Like when you’re on vacation, and you have just your little suitcase with your most beloved, practical clothes, best shoes and most loved, trusted toiletries and cosmetics. The stuff at home? You’re not even missing it.

Well, I’m not missing a single thing I’ve gotten rid of. I’ve hardly even thought about any of the stuff or even remember what it was (which surprises me). And my big, bare, beautiful closet? It’s waiting for just a few things I will love and cherish, and that makes me feel really, really good. And when I look inside, I see pretty baskets, my favourite boots, and a few cool purses I love. Getting dressed it easier, and I wear stuff I love way more often (like, every day!) Heavenly. Our bedroom is spacious and uncluttered. The air feels different. It’s amazing.

So why am I telling you this? First, because it was so life-changing for me that I really think you must try it. Also because Black Friday happened last week, and of course tiny retailers like Stark need those big sales days for survival (not to be all melodramatic, but it’s true), and sometimes contributing to consumerism makes me feel gross. With every sale, all I could think was “I hope they love these items, and that these products bring them joy”, because this is my deepest wish. I hope this doesn’t come off all Pollyanna or whatever, but it’s true. I want to remind you to only bring into your life things that inspire you, that bring you joy, that encourage you to be the best version of yourself. Life is too short to wear clothes you hate, use products that don’t make you feel good, and to try to use pens that won’t freakin’ work.

Next stop? The kitchen.

PS. I was interviewed for the Globe and Mail! Squeeee!

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