Sometimes I am asked (the tone of voice is usually somewhat bewildered), "Why did you get rid of that coat/CD player/candlestick/tea-set etc.? It was beautiful, and you loved it and used it!" The answer is that I wanted the space, the freedom and the flexibility more than I wanted the thing. "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."
"Do you love it and/or use is?" and if the answer is yes, then it's a keeper.
Now, I tell people to use that question too, and it's one I ask myself. It's a great first step, and will weed out quite a lot of the dross.
But I have found, going only on this question, that there is usually still way too much stuff left...though of course to be honest, we usually let that question mean "Do I use it now or anticipate using it in the near future?" - if we stuck to only what we do use NOW, honestly and forcefully, we'd get rid of a lot more stuff!
However, maybe we should be also asking ourselves "Do I want space and freedom MORE than I want THIS thing?"
What do I mean by space and freedom?
I mean space in our physical surroundings - so that shelves are not overflowing and difficult to dust, piles aren't stacked everywhere, things aren't slowing us down and tripping us up. It's easy to find an item you need when you don't have many items, and they're all where they should be, easily accessible without moving a ton of other stuff first! Relaxing!
I mean space in our minds - minds free from "shoulda, coulda, oughta" thoughts - the cleaning you should do (because it's done - and it doesn't take long when the clutter is gone), the projects/books/movies you could do/read/watch (because you let go of most of them - you wanted freedom more!), the nagging, unending feeling that there's a ton of things you ought to do, if only you had time (because now you DO have time, but all that remains are the actually important, and you can get them done easily). Peace!
I mean freedom to be and to do all that God intends for you. The ability to have a regular quiet time. Time to dress up for your husband occasionally, or plan a special date. Time (and energy!) to play with your children, read them stories, or go for a walk and stop to smell the roses/chase a cricket/lie on your back and look for cloud pictures. Time to enjoy homeschooling your kids, or to get creative organising those (few) things you chose to keep. Availability to help with a meal for someone who is in need, have a coffee with a friend, earn a few dollars using your gifts and talents from home. Blessed spaciousness and freedom!
Do you really want ALL those DVDs and videos so you can watch them again one day - or do you want the space more?
Do you need to keep ALL those books on the shelves, or do you want the space and freedom more?
That craft project you started 6 years ago, and mean to finish one day - how much do you REALLY want it? Or do you want the freedom more?
Those "useful" gadgets in your kitchen - do you want to keep all of them? Or could you get by with less - and enjoy the added space, and the ease of getting something out or putting something away that would result?
The clothes stuffing your closet and drawers - do you need to keep them all, more than you need to just chose enough to cover your body each day, and enjoy the freedom instead?
All those little bits and pieces stuck into drawers, piles, baskets - those bits and bobs you mean to sort out and put away properly...somewhere....what if you spread it all out in view, gave yourself 5 minutes to pick out anything truly essential (the chuck key for your husband's essential drill, for example, or the only key to the shed) and then just swept the rest into a bin and tossed it? Do you want to spend those hours trying to sort and find homes for all that stuff - or do you want the freedom more?
Me - I want the freedom more!
Now, for those of you who can't even comprehend letting go to that extent just yet, I do understand! I think it's a process, something of a layer-by-layer thing, to get to the point where you're just ready to let go. At least for a lot of people. And that's ok. Start by identifying what you really love and/or need, and eliminate the rest.
But for some people, you just need to get where you're sick of living this way - of running in circles, overwhelmed by stuff. To where you glimpse a better way - and you WANT IT MORE - more than all that stuff. I had a friend like that. A lovely lady with the biggest heart, she had gone through a lot of struggles - but the thing really overwhelming her was the state of her house. She had clutter and stuff everywhere, and no idea where to even begin. She also suffered tremendous dust allergies, and every time she decided to do something about it, she'd no sooner get started picking stuff up, than the dust would start off the allergies, and she'd end up in bed for 3 days, too sick to do anything. She finally got to a point where she was willing to do anything to be free - and I stepped in to help. I got her to sit in another room while I scooped up and roughly sorted everything in one room at a time - taking things to her in groups for her to decide what to keep and what not to. She was so ready to let go, she would just tell me to bin nearly everything. We kept her kids essential current clothes, favourite toys and books, and pretty much tossed everything else. Most of the games and DVDs went, with just a handful kept. Anything ripped, torn, stained or damaged was history. All the stuff stored in the garage for "one day" was tossed.
It took one week to work through her house. At the end of each day, I loaded donation items into my van and dropped them off at the Salvation Army. Meanwhile, we boxed or bagged up trash, and piled it outside. At the end of the week, we borrowed a large truck (I'm talking an industrial truck, not a pick-up) from my husband's employer and we took 2 truck loads, piled as high as we could get it, to the dump. As we got each room cleared, we arranged the remaining furniture, making up beds, setting the kept items out nicely. When the kids came home the day we finished the boy's room, they had been apprehensive, but were delighted to find they had SPACE and could enjoy their things - we had set up an art desk for the older boy, with all his supplies laid out nicely. Instead of blobbing on the couch watching the tv, the boys spend HOURS happily occupied in their now clean, nearly empty room. And the same thing happened when we got the girl's room finished too.
And best of all, with all that stuff gone, it was now easy to clean her house - and my friend began to do just that every day, never again allowing herself or her kids to just leave things lying around. She knew what it was like to live the other way - and she wanted freedom more!
Most notable was the dramatic improvements in the kid's mental, emotional, academic and social well being after we emptied the house and created physical space and freedom!
Stuff? Or freedom? I want freedom more!
I also identified 47 items to sell - 8 videos, 1 book, 1 advent calendar and 37 readers, but I have a feeling most of these are going to end up in the give aways too.
I have family coming to stay from this weekend for 5 days, so I'm currently tidying up, including some basic decluttering as I go - but after they have left, I will go back around and make some deeper choices. I definitely want freedom more than all this stuff - even the "good stuff"!