I am no stranger to “spring cleaning”, regardless the time of the year. End of August and beginning of September are the best times for “back to school” organizing. For many moms whose children are still living at home it is a welcome move from unorganized chaos of the summer to a schedule-based school year. For those empty nesters whose children just left home it is time to stop crying and begin enjoying the freedom- and space. Trust me.
Regardless of what your situation is decluttering may be just the thing you need to get a fresh start. By doing so you undoubtedly will gain a new perspective on your surroundings and future actions. It is hard to approach new beginnings when weighted down by baggage and clatter, be it physical or emotional.
When you are facing changes in life, are scared and vulnerable sorting things out may need to start in your closet.
Do you hold on to emotional baggage? How about stuff in your closet? Do you keep a few thing with tags still attached because you just can’t let go of them? Are you also afraid to let go of friendships that don’t make you feel good any more? Did you accept hand-me-downs you didn’t really like (and never wore!) because they were free and you could not refuse the temptation? How about other temptations in your life, do you give in easily? Can you say no to requests that will sure put you over the top? Are you afraid to express your true feelings to your family members because you don’t want to hurt them? Do you still have that skirt you got on clearance three years ago? Even though it was a little too tight it was cute so you got it hoping to lose weight soon. Does it fit you now or have you gained a few? Do you still hope to lose weight? That’s good, but a thing you don’t realize is that a skirt is a silent reproach of your conscience: you can’t do it, looser!
Can you recall everything you own? How about in just one category? Do you remember every pair of jeans you own? Every blouse and dress? Can you access them easily? If the answer to every question is yes than congratulations, you are a minimalist and you may stop reading now. If, on the other hand, just reading about clatter in your closet makes you anxious it is high time for you to do something about it.
This month I will walk you through a few simple steps. Please don’t get carried away and try to clean and organize everything at once- you may burn out and quit altogether. That is not what you want, right? Let’s start with clothes. Decide what you will do with the things you will let go of. Give away? Donate? Sell? There may be people who appreciate vintage and want what you no longer need. You, on the other hand, will learn what you truly need.
You may be blessed to afford beautiful expensive designer clothes. Even if you spent a lot of money on such things do you still love them? If not, one by one separate them from the things that still bring you joy. You may choose to donate them. In this case you may want to locate designer boutiques that may give you better tax credit for you items than regular donation places. Another option is selling them. But only consider selling if you definitely WILL do it! Don’t create a pile of things you will eventually sell if it will never happen, it only creates more baggage and clatter that will weigh you down emotionally.
After you made a decision about what you are going to do with discarded things have some fun! Pull out every skirt or pair of pants you own. If you have dig for it, that’s ok, just try not to get distracted and start organizing your photos or other non-clothes items, that’s a no-no at this step. This is a week to deal with clothes only. Pull every item out, take it in you hands and ask yourself if this thing still excites you. What are the reasons you may want to keep it? If you think “It may fit me eventually if loose weight”, ” I can wear it to work in the garden”, ” You can barely see the stain, I’ll wear it around the house”, ” It’s sort of cute”or “I wore it in 1982” that is not it. Does it make you happy? Do you want to wear it tomorrow? This week? To a next party? You have to love it to keep it, otherwise it should go into a “letting go of” pile.
May be someone would love it more than you do. Count your blessings that you were able to afford clothes that gave you please to wear them. Then free yourself from them with gratitude. After you are done with all skirts and pants by using this approach you will move to a next category: sweaters, dresses, scrubs, dress shirts. At the end you will most likely cut your belongings in half. Bag the items you don’t want to keep. Nearly organize the things you chose to keep so they are easily reachable. As for the things you bagged, try get them out of your living space within a week, the sooner the better.
Good luck and happy cleaning!
Two days after I posted my previous blog entry Spiritual Desert of a Laundry Room I had a breakfast with a couple of girlfriends. As we were having a great time catching up one of the ladies mentioned a beautiful red lamp she recently purchased for her laundry room. Laundry room? Did I hear her correctly? I was not the only one surprised. We were curious why she decided to decorate her laundry room in a special way.
The answer was unexpected as well as eye opening. For this woman her laundry room has become her spiritual retreat. She loves coming there at night not only to wash clothes for her family of five, but also to enjoy some solitude and prayer time. She decorated it with splashes of color and items she likes to make it cozy and inviting.
Listening to her I thought how a change of perspective could completely switch one’s attitude. Decorating a place you spend a lot of time at and leaving negativity at the door can be revolutionary in a sense how you perceive any task you complete in that space and possibly affect your overall satisfaction with life.
I remember praying for my loved ones on numerous occasions as I did household chores: cooking, cleaning, laundry. My least favorite was ironing. I disliked it since childhood. We did not have a dryer when I was growing up, clothes came out wrinkled after being line dried and it was my responsibility to iron piles of clothes week after week. I became an expert at ironing, but I hated it. Later on even with a dryer there were still things that needed to be pressed. I used to set my ironing board in front of a TV and watch spiritual shows because not even sitcoms worked to sweeten a pill of this task… I also learned to pray more for my husband as I was pressing creases out of his dress shirts. Can you imagine my huge sigh of relief when I was able to send stuff to the cleaners where someone was doing laundry for me? Halleluiah!
Most people I know can easily identify their most and least favorite house chores. For me ironing tops the list of least favorite and it took a lot of prayer not to spiral down into resentment and self-pity when I was doing it.
What I do like is washing dishes by hand. There is something soothing about warm soapy water running through my fingers. It brings me to an almost meditative state of mind and it feels like a mini-retreat. I think that is what my friend experiences when she does laundry in a quiet room at night. Nobody interrupts her thoughts there and she can just be. Often this is as much “me” time as she allows herself.
Having downtime to unwind is necessary for everyone and there are many ways to do it. Often we think it is necessary to allot special time and find a place. But it can be as unorthodox as one’s laundry room or a quiet time by a kitchen sink.
It is funny how house chores can become uplifting spiritual experiences regardless if you like them or not. It’s all in a mindset.
“Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world…” Philippians 2:14-15 ESV