As someone who has an ever-evolving soundtrack to my life I also have an ever-expanding collection of playlists. I have all the usuals - aimless drives, songs that make me think of mom, relaxation music, cardio music etc. I went in search of songs about cleaning because I'm undergoing a MASSIVE spring cleaning this month and I came across “So Fresh, So Clean” by OutKast - perfection. Other notable cleaning tracks include things with beats that make you bop your head like “Uptown Funk” by Bruno Mars and “7 Days” by Craig David.
So I've had about 5467 plans for my life before arriving at this moment and so many of them have been thwarted, redirected, delayed that I find myself now in the house I grew up in with a bazillion things I own coupled with the bazillion things owned by my family. As I've joked with friends; we are a CLUTTERED people. We haven't always been this way but the pandemic, mom's illness and then losing her have made the clutter so much worse. Living and working in the same space heightened this overwhelming clutter and finally I took a staycation to tackle it - systematically, room by room with a list. Was there any doubt this plan contained a list? Didn't think so.
Day one was the kitchen and as we purged expired canned goods or random ingredients I had to buy a whole package of to try one teaspoon in one recipe. I kept thinking “Why am I like this? Why do we have so many duplicated (now expired) items? Am I even LOOKING at what we own before buying?!”.
The kitchen is so tiny and so disorganized that oftentimes I'll want to make a dish, decide after two seconds that we don't have what I need and I need to buy a new one - then sometimes said ingredient is on sale and I end up with two. It's a vicious cycle that I find repeated over and over as I see 2018 and 2019 and 2020 on the “best if used by” dates as items pile into the trash bags. Next came the fun category of “not expired but no longer serving the life I want to live” - you know those items… Cake mixes, pop tarts, cookies that have so many preservatives they likely NEVER go bad. Into the donate bin they go, along with anything I know I won't use before it expires.
I already feel lighter. After just a few hours the kitchen is feeling lighter - seeing visible progress gives me hope.
Then I arrive at my knick-knack appliance shelf and hope is no longer warranted. I own 3 blenders. Plus a VitaMix. Plus an immersion blender for soup. I own 2 hand mixers - neither of which I ever use. I have a KitchenAid mixer and my mom's handheld mixer that's 40 years old and makes the best whipped cream ever. I have 4 pans for making popovers (you need a special pan to make popovers but you certainly don't need it in multiple sizes), I have a pizzelle maker (which I could not being myself to donate because mom loved pizzelles and two Christmas’ ago we made them to gift...and ended up eating about 52 while giggling), I have 3 different food processors in varying sizes and I own 17 spatulas. I wish I was joking. It's no wonder my tiny kitchen is bursting! Let the culling begin.
At some point in the first few days of cleaning I moved on to the living room where I had to address just how many things I can save under the guise of “but they were mom's!” before I am part of the problem and not part of the solution. I also had to address my throw blanket obsession. Most people have 2-3 in their living room….I had 13 in varying lengths and weights. Then came tackling my book collection. Does anyone else buy a book because the cover looks cool then never actually open it? Please tell me I'm not alone… Some local library just received a lovely donation.
I heard this quote from a friend and I liked it so much I printed it and hung it on my mirror in my bedroom -
Clutter is not just the stuff on your floor – it’s anything that stands between you and the life you want to be living. - Peter Walsh
During one of my breaks I came across an article from Ted.com about clutter in my Facebook feed (not a coincidence, nothing with social media is “coincidental”!). Kerry Thomas covered the 5 kinds of clutter and honestly, I felt attacked. I am guilty of all 5 kinds (though I will say my digital hoarding is just photos - every document I own is neatly arranged in Dropbox or on my work laptop). This line really resonated with me:
“Change is a result of action, and action is the result of a decision.” You have the power — even in the midst of feeling horrible overwhelm to the point of being paralyzed — to create change by making a decision. It all starts with an action.
The rooms of my house are littered with my good intentions and iterations of who I could have been. Hobbies obsessed over then discarded, crazy diets ventured and abandoned, clothing trends tried and vetoed. Walking through the clutter in the house is like walking through the grief of all those lives not lived. In order to move on I need to take action.
You have to let go of the past to move forward, both in your life and in your home.
Ouch! It hurts because it's true. If I really want to move forward with the next chapter of my life I can only do so by letting go of the baggage I'm clinging to from this one. Some things have been easy to let go and when I see how much lighter and brighter a room feels I instantly know I made the right choice. Other times have been much harder. Parting with expensive hobby accessories or outfits never worn (that now would not fit) - the acceptance that sometimes things don't work out and holding on isn't going to change the outcome.
I have another few weeks of cleaning and organizing in my spare time to get the house where I want it to be but this week has been a fantastic jump-start and much needed downtime. I'm not sure I will ever attain minimalist status but I think I can be consciously less cluttered going forward!