50 Weeks to Organized: Week 29

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Seeing as I saved most of my Big Projects for summer, it probably seems as though I haven’t been focusing as much on simplifying and de-cluttering as before, but that would be grossly untrue: in fact, this room I’m about to show you has been a constant project for me since I decided to do this challenge back in December. In other words, I’ve been working on getting this baby in order for over 6 months, and that’s the wretched truth.

Of course, when I remind you of how bad the room looked to begin with, you’ll probably see why:

I think this space, more than any other room or area I’ve organized this year, has really been the driving force behind me wanting to seek out a more minimalistic lifestyle–once I was confronted with this overwhelming mass of STUFF every day that never brought me joy (only heaps and mounds of stress and frustration), I was finally able to find it within myself to start getting brutal in my decisions.

Because this is the room that stored most of our mementos, it was the one that had typically always tripped me up by feelings of guilt (“I can’t get rid of that because…”) and fear (“I really shouldn’t chuck this because what if…?”). Once I recognized that I was letting those two emotions completely dominate me when it came to my stuff, it became a bit easier to start letting go—I knew I didn’t want my possessions to be there because of negative feelings I had, so I started looking for things that truly fostered positive emotions in me.

When I made it as simple as that, I got pretty merciless.

I cannot express in words how much lighter I feel now that this room is completely under control. I can now look in this room and feel happy, not only because it’s no longer an eyesore, but because I’ve really only kept stuff that brings me happiness.

Ready for your own happy high?

Pick a space–any space–and check out my to-do list below.

Junk Room/Spare Bedroom To-Do List:

*Break the room into sections. It will be entirely too overwhelming if you focus on the mass as a whole, so come up with various areas that you can focus on (bookshelves, desk, closet, floor, etc.)

*Lay ground rules: what are you willing to keep storing in this space? How much space do you actually have to keep things? (for us, we only had a small closet and a little bit of space in the desk drawers. If it didn’t fit in one of those places reasonably, we let it go.)

*Starting on one section at a time, go through and sort everything into piles: belongs in another location, donate to charity, throw out, needs to be filed or organized, etc.

*When everything from one area is in a pile, tackle the piles—donate, throw out, and sort right then and there.

*For mementos, ask yourself some questions: is it currently being displayed or enjoyed in such a way that it’s bringing me satisfaction? Am I willing to change how I store or display it to bring me more satisfaction? If the item brings you joy but is not currently being displayed like it does, find a way to display it. For me, that meant creating a scrapbook of sorts—basically any letter, card, ticket stub, or certificate that was meaningful to me, I put between page protectors in a binder. I need to go back through and organize them further, but now they’re in a format that I could actually enjoy, rather than being stuffed in a box somewhere and never looked at.

*If a nostalgic item is no longer bringing you joy and is only taking up space, donate or get rid of it. Something that helped me to do this (since I apparently get pretty emotionally attached to things) was to take a picture of me with the item before I got rid of it (and for some, write about why the item was important to me). That way, I still got to “keep” the item in my life forever without it actually taking up any space. Win-win.

*Learn to get ruthless: if your mind starts playing the “What if someday I need this” game, remind yourself of the last time you actually used the item. If it wasn’t in the past year or two, get rid of it. (It was this thinking that finally allowed me to get rid of that mass of electronics cords that’s just been sitting there because “someday” I might discover I suddenly need one of them, even though we hadn’t used any in probably five years.)

*Limit yourself on certain types of items you want to keep storing to just one box. For example, I allowed myself one box of mementos from my childhood and one from my mission. That was it. (I got rid of about 8 boxes in our closet this way.)

*Don’t overstuff your drawers or closet, as that pretty much defeats the purpose. If, when you’re starting to finish up, you realize that you can barely stuff anything else in your storage spaces, go through them again—trust me, you can ALWAYS find stuff to get rid of the second or even third time around. (I accredit it to the fact that learning to de-own things is a skill that gets better with practice.)

*When everything has been put in its new place, consider a rearrangement of the furniture or decorations.

*Vacuum, dust, and clean the windows.

This Project’s Quick Stats:
# of Items Tossed/Donated: 115 (and that’s counting all the papers as just one thing!)
# of Items Left to Toss/Donate Before Dec. 31st: 85
Amount of Money Spent on Project: $20 (for a 4″ binder and page protectors)

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