I recently attended a zoom where we chatted about organization. More specifically the feeling of powerlessness and overwhelm that comes from having an abundance of possessions. How having so many things can get in the way of progress. Too many possessions get in the way of living in our homes the way we want to and feeling free from the burdens of the past. It is humbling to consider how many of us have garages, basements, storage units full of things that we have not seen, used, or benefitted from owning in weeks, months, or years. In some cases we are even paying storage fees and the “stuff,” is not only not serving us but costing us. The key to freeing ourselves from this burden is simply getting started.
The freedom to live our lives the way we want to is often obstructed by the burden of too many possessions. That said, we need beauty, whimsy, and delight in our homes and among our possessions. If a variety of shoes delights you – by all means buy them, wear them, enjoy them. However, if an overabundance of shoes leaves you exhausted and drained because you can never find the pair you want then it might be time to let the shoes go.
We all have those things that we enjoy and delight in owning – and that is completely appropriate. But when we feel obligated to maintain or keep items that do not serve a purpose or bring us joy then it may be time to reassess. I usually feel ready to purge after the winter months or visiting a place that makes me feel overwhelmed with clutter. It can be an enlightening and enlivening experience to donate those items that I no longer want or need. It is also freeing to share the items that no longer serve me with others.
A friend attends a white elephant party annually where guests bring three items from their homes that they no longer want. The items that no longer serve them are redistributed among the attendees. The pieces that don’t find a forever home are donated.
It feels incredible to release goods to the universe. And even better to share them with someone who may put them to good use. It is a powerful and freeing exercise. But getting started can be overwhelming. When we look at the clutter of an entire basement or the stacks that take over a garage we freeze.
When we have so many things that they no longer bring us joy but instead feel like a burden, we have an opportunity to make a shift. If looking at the stacks of bins overwhelms you. Or the anxiety inducing prospect of organizing feels like too much. Give yourself a time limit – plan to organize one box or bin a day. Do this organizing for 15 minutes and then stop. Give yourself a reward and don’t skimp out on it. Do this job for 15 minutes then it’s time to call a friend. Also, don’t tell yourself 15 minutes and then work for 30. You’re not foolish and your brain can spot a liar. If you overwork this time it will be even more challenging to try next time. You are simply getting started.
Beginning a new task is always hard. I remember in high school a coach and I decided to start our training by walking. We wanted to be up and out for a walk early in the mornings. The first day we planned to go walk – we simply got up and went to breakfast. This seems counterintuitive but we rewarded ourselves first. As Julia Cameron tells us, “Treating myself like a precious object will make me strong.” We cannot berate and belittle ourselves and hope that things get better. We are all just big kids. Who among us responds well to being yelled at?
We naturally don’t want to do the difficult task and pressuring ourselves to accomplish it will not work. However, if we simply start the exercise, organize a single box or shelf, it makes it that much easier to move forward. And to come back another day to do a little bit more. Because we didn’t lie to ourselves or work past our breaking point – we simply took the steps necessary to make a little progress. Like a snowball at the top of a hill, we pick up momentum, speed, and weight as we roll downhill.
We can’t begin our progress and finish it in the same day. We simply have to start. Getting started and re-starting over and over until the task is done. And we can do a little bit every day to make our lives sweeter. This stead progress helps us to cherish the things we intentionally choose to keep. It also creates a home that functions well for us and our families. Organization and limiting our possessions gives ourselves the space to blossom and grow healthfully and wholly in the space we have and among the belongings we truly want in our lives and in our homes.