I bought this cabinet at an auction a few years ago because I thought it was the coolest thing ever. I adore vintage office furniture and really wanted this to store and organize all my smalls. Which kind of worked. I had a drawer for heavy socks and one for dress socks. All nicely labelled.
I also had extra drawers. And those got to be a bit of a problem, because bit by bit, I used them to squirrel away yarn and craft supplies and, um… Well, basically, this gorgeous piece of office furniture was a total crap magnet.
I would try to tidy it up, one drawer at a time. But as long as each individual drawer wasn’t overstuffed, I really had no motivation to dig any deeper.
I attacked it on my yearly declutter a few months back, one drawer at a time. Removed a few balls of yarn from one drawer and then opened another and, whoa, more yarn! And even more three drawers down.
This approach wasn’t working, so I grabbed a laundry basket and emptied all of the drawers into it and let me tell you, that was a bit of a shock. So many balls of yarn! And socks! How many feet do I actually think I have?
And now that it was all out there where I could see it and trip over it and, even more embarrassing, Alan could also see it and trip over it, downsizing it all was a whole lot easier and went quite quickly. The usable socks have been tucked away into other drawers and the unusable ones that I hadn’t been making any decisions on have been thrown out. Most of the yarn has been given to the thrift store. All the drawers are empty. Our town has “Treasure Hunt” weekends where residents are encouraged to leave still useful things on the curb so others can take them home and love them. We will be carrying this out to the curb in the hopes that whoever nabs it will be better at shunning clutter than I was.
I come by my tendencies honestly. When we were clearing out my mother’s house, I decided one day to attack her front hall closet. It was tiny. It was tidy. I had a free hour…
Have you ever shredded up a cabbage? It’s amazing how one tiny, round vegetable can suddenly turn into coleslaw for a hundred.
Mum’s closet was like that. It was packed tight and pulling everything out gave it room to expand. Which it did, filling the entire living room with crap. Alan walked in to the room just after I had pulled the last bits out and shouted “WHOA!” Alan never shouts. “What did you do????”
I was just standing there, staring at it in shock.
“I don’t know,” I said. “I just emptied the closet.”
It took two days to get it all sorted.
I filled four (FOUR) recycle bins with old birthday cards that her sister had sent her through the years. No personal messages, mind, just the card and her signature. Unbelievable amounts of paper that she hadn’t been able to let go and so had compressed and put in that closet. None of us knew it was there, so we weren’t at all oppressed by it. But it must have bothered her. And, in fact, when I told her that we cleared it out, her eyes got very big. “Oh no….” she breathed. “Are we still friends?”
And, you know, it’s not just our stuff that needs a regular airing and examination.
Our thoughts need it, too. Our assumptions, biases. Our unacknowledged racist tendencies. Our fears.
It’s not as easy to pull them out. We can’t really roll up our sleeves and say, right, today I’m going to declutter my brain. But there are things we can do to help the process along.
Reading widely is a good idea. Opposing opinions, stories outside your usual range of interest. Making friends outside your demographic will expose you to new ideas that will make you question the ones you already hold dear. Volunteering can introduce you to another range of people and ideas you might not otherwise encounter.
And as you do all of this, you can notice what comes up. When you find yourself dismissing an idea or a person, you might want to take a moment to figure out why. What bias might they be challenging. Do you need to change your mind?
If we do this gently, we can become more open, less rigid in our thinking. We can discard the thoughts that no longer serve us, learn new ways of being in the world.
And the best part is that, unless we decide to confess them, those outdated, no longer useful, downright embarrassing thoughts can be kept to ourselves and quietly set aside. Unlike a laundry basket full of holey socks or four (FOUR) recycle bins of generic birthday cards.
What have been decluttering lately? I’d love to know!