The Art of Decluttering

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I recently read an article by Susanna Sonnenberg in Whole Living magazine that I want to share. I’ll paraphrase the parts I liked, since I can’t find a copy online.

First, I loved that the subtitle of the article called “decluttering” an art — I’ve always felt like it was drudgery, so to elevate it to the level of highbrow makes me feel slightly more sophisticated when doing it. (And now I can check two 10-minute boxes for the price of one — “tidying” and “art”. Love multitasking!)

She quotes the author of “Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui: Free Yourself from Physical, Mental, Emotional, and Spiritual Clutter Forever,” Karen Kingston, as defining clutter as: “anything neglected, forgotten, unwanted, unloved, or unused [that] will cause the energy in your home to slow and stagnate.” We’ve got a match! I’ll try to hear that mantra in my head when tidying. I wonder if having a guideline like this would also help my kids to discern worthwhile from worth tossing.

Here are some sections I thought were helpful…

Kingston says, “Clutter drags your energy down, and the longer you keep it, the more it will affect you.” Sonnenberg could relate — the “Pile” on her kitchen counter had it all. “To get to the street-cleaning schedule or the school directory, I had to dig through batteries, plastic lids, Monopoly hotels, more batteries, erasers, a mini bottle of Tabasco.” 

That one hurt. I just bought my husband a mini bottle of Tabasco as a souvenir from a trip. One day’s cute is the next day’s clutter.

Sonnenberg says, “If the sentiment nourishes your spirit, fine, but otherwise, free up this precious space and allow something new to bloom there.”

“What if an airy nothing gives us more than the solid stuff?”

“What’s really meaningful to you?”

“Do I love it? Do I need it? Does it bring me peace and energy or uneasy trouble?”

Kingston advises that a person trust each decision made during decluttering, even if the benefits are slow to emerge. In the whole process, I found parts of myself I had thought lost, eased movement in our house, helped friends, bonded with my mother-in-law, prioritized our needs, let go of stale hurts and worries; and, thanks to the cleared-out spot once occupied by The Pile, I had renewed with passion and vigor many aspects of my marriage (that’s for another article!)” …I’m waiting!

“The act of choosing to discard it — thinking about it — gave it more value than it had in the closet, waking me a little more to the possibilities of our full world.”

“Space opened in our house, the closets, the bookshelves, and the rooms. Space inside myself. What would I put there. What is it about an empty spot that makes us fill it? We equate empty with nothing; but when I resisted refilling the space, air and light moved in, became a sanctuary.”

That last one was my favorite, because it really summed up for me the benefits of decluttering — not to have the neatest house on the block (not gonna happen), or to look like the best homemaker (we’ll leave that to June Cleaver) or the most efficient mom — but to figure out how to use the new “empty space”. Hopefully by not filling it with more Tabasco!

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