So it’s the last day of 2014 and I spent a big chunk of today reflecting on the past year and journalling in my Leonie Dawson 2015 workbook.
It’s certainly been an enormous year for me, particularly these past four months. To be honest, I feel like I need a couple more days of this holiday break to properly reflect on the year – and then I’ll be able to write some sort of wrap up. I know it will be a few days late, but I’m sure you won’t mind.
Today however, I would like to share with you one very awesome goal that I totally smashed out of the park this year.
My “Declutter 2014 things from my home in 2014” challenge.
Yes – 2014 things! At the start of 2014 I was faced with a house full of “stuff” and I decided I needed to take drastic action.
Now, let me assure you that my home wasn’t in Hoarders territory on January 1 this year. It was perfectly respectable. But it was definitely cluttered! After moving home from interstate six months earlier we had tried to cram everything from our 4 bedroom, 2 living area, 2 bathroom Queensland home into our 3 bedroom, one living, one bathroom SA home. With not much success!
We also had a preschooler and a baby – and any parent knows just how much “stuff” you accumulate for the little ones in those early years.
I had this icky feeling that I was being smothered by all this stuff (figuratively, not literally). It was creating some nasty Chi in my life and I wasn’t at all happy with my surroundings. I was also inspired by the gorgeous Denise Duffield-Thomas, who talks a lot about de-cluttering in order to create abundance and wealth. And who doesn’t want more of that!
So I decided enough was enough and because it was the start of 2014 and New Years Resolution time, I set myself the goal to de-clutter 2014 things during the year.
And that’s exactly what I did – my tally of “things” hit 2055 on Monday December 29, when I managed to declutter the girls toy boxes at 3am in the morning, while watching over a poorly toddler snoozing in front of a Minnie Mouse DVD after being a bit spewy earlier that night. True story. #mumsglamorouslife
So what did I de-clutter? Everything!
By far the biggest clutter-culprit was clothing – seriously around 500-600 pieces of clothing. WHAT THE ACTUAL EFF!!! How on earth did I end up with 600 unwanted pieces of clothing? Firstly, our two young girls had sooooooooo many clothes. My youngest moved from a size 0 to a size 2 this year, so we had everything from 00-1 to get rid of. Plus we had been fortunate enough to receive lots of hand-me-downs from people, so we had plenty to get rid of. Also, I was completely ruthless with my and my husband’s wardrobes and got rid of anything that didn’t fit, didn’t suit us, didn’t look nice, was rarely worn, was being kept in the hope of “fitting into again one day”. It’s amazing how many clothes we had that we simply didn’t wear. nb. This tally also includes pairs of shoes, and I counted all socks and shoes individually – so maybe the final number wasn’t really that bad… Of course, most of it went to Vinnies.
I don’t really want to think about how many Vinnies bins I filled with my 2014 things.
The girls “helped” declutter their shoe drawers.
There was also lots of toys. So many toys! Seriously my girls simply had so many toys that they didn’t even KNOW what they had. We had a couple of plastic containers of toys stored in the garage that hadn’t been looked at in months. I decluttered most of the toys one long Friday night in the middle of the year when the rest of the family were away. I literally scoured the house for every single toy we had and piled them all up on the living room floor. This was what THAT looked like…. A sea of pink plastic….
Toys. So many toys.
Then I worked through them – deciding what to keep, what to bin and what to give away. The vast majority went to local SA Charity, Backpacks for Kids. I actually found this task really hard, as most of the toys had been given as gifts to my girls from friends and family. I felt quite bad for decluttering these – like I should hold onto them out of respect for those people, even though my girls didn’t like, didn’t need, or didn’t play with them. The best way for me to deal with that emotionally was to know they were being sent on to other children who were desperately in need and would appreciate them so much more than mine.
What else was there? Books, magazines, paperwork, old business cards, plastic knives and spoons, odd and mismatched kitchenware and plastic containers, pens, broken crayons, used batteries, old toiletries and makeup, craft and sewing supplies, knick knacks, bric-a-brac, old towels and linen. Stuff. Stuff. Stuff. Stuff. Stuff. By far, most of it was recycled, sold or passed onto other people or charity organisations. There wasn’t much that was tossed at all. Thankfully. Re-use, re-purpose, re-gift, re-cycle and all that.
So what have I learned? That I really don’t need that much stuff. That “stuff” doesn’t make me happy. That I now value quality over quantity. That I value presence over presents. That more stuff makes my kids less grateful and less imaginative. That it feels good to let go of the past. That it feels good to know others will make use of things that would otherwise sit at the back of cupboards or the bottom of drawers.
Most importantly – I learned that I really value a clean, light, uncluttered home. I feel more comfortable. I work better. I’m more relaxed.
I need my spaces to be light, bright and airy. Free from clutter and mess and stuff.
The older I get the more drawn I am to Eastern principles such as Chi and Feng Shui – perhaps it’s because I’m better at getting inside my own head these days. But it feels good to be more in control of my environment, because it’s a big part of being in control of my life.
So what about 2015? Well I’m not about to declutter another 2015 things – I’m not sure I have that much stuff left! So my goal for this coming year is to really CREATE my home. Sure, it’s already a physical structure – but thus far I haven’t really created it as our HOME. We moved back in here 18 months ago, and have been somewhat living in limbo. I avoided hanging pictures because I wanted to paint first, we haven’t planted gardens because we’ve had limited time, we haven’t replaced the carpets because we haven’t had the budget. We still have our hodge-podge furniture, a cobbled collection of hand-me-downs and Ikea flat-packs. Nothing really matches and there’s no discernable style. There’s not much in our home that tells the story of US, our family, me.
So that’s my plan for 2015. To turn my house into my home. To create our sanctuary. To make it our happy place. Wish me luck!
Don’t think clutter impacts on your wellbeing? Think again!
I’m sure we’ve all watched those episodes of Hoarders and thought to ourselves – “How can people live like that?” Piles of decades old newspapers lining the hallways, stuffed toys stuffing every single closet, rusty saucepans spilling out of kitchen drawers. Ugh – it sends most of us non-hoarders into a tailspin! Often in these shows, there’s some sort of documented psychological issue that precipitated the hoarding – the compulsive need for “things” often comes from a place of deep unhappiness, anxiety or trauma. It really is quite a serious condition, and if you, or someone you know fits this category, I’d highly suggest looking for some professional assistance to help you work through it.
But I’m not talking about that level of clutter today. What I want to talk about is our everyday, run of the mill clutter. The type of clutter that the vast majority of us DO have in our homes, and which doesn’t come from a place of mental distress. It just comes from a busy life, full of stuff and things, and potentially with limited amounts of time and space.
Overflowing wardrobes, toys sprawled across every single room in the house, bathroom cabinets teeming with expired beauty products, cans of corn with expiry dates of October 2013. You get the idea. Most of us have clutter. And most of us just put up with it, perhaps telling ourselves that we’ll get around to clearing it out “someday”. Right?
Apart from the mental health aspects, the thing that always strikes me about the people on those Hoarders-type shows is how physically unwell they generally always are. They often complain of having multiple health conditions, many of which disappear once they get on top of the cleaning, clutter and chaos.
As with pretty much everything in life this falls on a continuum. We don’t have to have floor-to-ceiling clutter to be affected by it. Even your average run of the mill clutter can have a negative impact on our wellbeing. All the more reason to make that “someday” today, and take action on clearing your home of the unnecessary “stuff”.
Here’s just a few ways clutter affects your physical health,
- Increased respiratory stress – due to dust, allergens and airborne particles
- Increase falls hazards – not to mention the intense pain of stepping on a stray Lego piece barefoot – youch!
- Mould. This stuff is toxic. Don’t just think about the mould growing on your shower curtain. How about the mould you didn’t know was growing on your winter boots, or that suitcase you put away slightly damp last winter?
But it’s not just about physical wellbeing – it never is! We already know that our physical health and wellbeing is intrinsically linked to our emotional health – mind-body connection, right? So these physical health issues will certainly affect our emotional wellbeing.
But there’s also more direct correlations between clutter and emotional and social wellbeing.
- Blocked chi – the ancient Eastern practice of Feng Shui sings the praises of clean, uncluttered open spaces. This is because clutter is thought to block the flow of “Chi” throughout a space. “Chi” is the life force, we want it to be able to move freely and swiftly for optimal health, we don’t want it to become stagnant or stuck. When Chi can’t move freely, our energy and stress levels can be negatively impacted. Not convinced? Close your eyes for a few seconds and imagine yourself walking into two rooms. The first, bright, breezy, airy, lots of natural light, plenty of wide open spaces. The second room, piled high with books, clothes, bags, shoes, too much furniture shoved into the room. Maybe you’ve already been in two rooms similar to this. Close your eyes and focus down into your body – in which room do you feel the most comfortable? The least stressed? The happiest and calmest? I know which one it is for me. In fact, I use de-cluttering as one of my stress management techniques. You know I’m getting stressed when you see me emptying my collection of Women’s Health magazines into the recycle bin!
- Financial stress: Bills that get misfiled and forgotten so you attract late fees, food that gets wasted as it’s stuck at the back of a cluttered fridge. Having four almost identical black clutches because you can never find one as it’s stashed somewhere at the back of your wardrobe so you just buy a new one. Clutter costs us money, and that causes us stress.
- Guilt – when faced with clutter in our homes, or our lives, many of us experience extreme guilt. “I really should sort that mess out”, “I really need to clean out that spare room”, “I really need to take those bags of old clothes to Vinnies”. We instinctively know that our clutter is detrimental to our health, so we feel guilty about it, which simply amplifies the negative emotions we’re already feeling.
- Not to mention how clutter affects our ability to manifest the life of our dreams – it’s all about abundance and the law of attraction. This part is pretty new to me, but the total expert on it is Denise Duffield-Thomas from luckybitch.com , check out her website to see how clutter impacts on your lucky (or unlucky!) life. There’s also lots of correlations here to financial stress – just as I mentioned above!
This is seriously one of my favourite things to do in the entire world. (I know, I’m strange – sorry!) But I simply love the feeling that comes with clearing a space, and feeling the fresh energy flowing through. I always feel calmer and more focused in a de-cluttered space, and I seriously struggle to focus in a cluttered, messy office. So yes, I’m struggling a bit now, as my office has gotten pretty disorganised towards the end of this year, due to a pretty hectic last few months! But don’t worry, I’ve already got a few days over the Christmas break set aside to declutter, clean and sort out my office!
In fact, I love de-cluttering so much that at the start of 2014 I set myself a New Years Resolution – to declutter 2014 items from my home! Sounds impossible? Nope, it’s not. In fact, I’m so, so close, to 2014 items. I’ll blog about it when I hit my target. (And no, I didn’t start with a Hoarders-style situation!)
My de-cluttered bookshelf.
But if you’re not a seasoned de-clutterer, don’t despair. There’s a million and one resources out there about de-cluttering so feel free to Google away and find one you like, but a couple of my favourites are listed below:
Katrina, the Organised Housewife – she runs a free year-long de-cluttering challenge, which is awesome and very simple to undertake.
Peter Walsh (from The Living Room tv show)
Denise Duffield-Thomas, of Lucky Bitch
(ps. No affiliate links here, I just love to share the people I think are great!)
So over to you? Are you a de-clutterer? Do you do a yearly de-clutter, or are you more of a de-clutter daily type of person? Or are you just drowning in a sea of kids toys, tupperware containers and “one day I’ll fit back into them” clothes? I’d love to hear your story – let me know in the comments below!
Until next time,
Live your best (uncluttered) life.
When was the last time you felt the sand between your toes?
“I want my staff to work hard. But I also want them to play hard!”
This was what an awesome businessman once told me when he was discussing how he runs his clinic. He’s an Occupational Therapist – like me – and he employs about a dozen other OTs. He wants them to work hard, but he sets shorter working hours and is super-strict on his employees taking leave. Because he also wants them to have balance. Time for family. For rest. For recreation. For adventure. Time for life.
I like his thinking, because I know that far too often those of us who have families and mortgages can repeatedly put off doing those very things that can bring us balance.
To succeed in life we have to work hard. To make more money we have to work longer hours. More hard work equals more money and more reward. That’s how the story goes.
And it’s true. To a point.
But what’s also true is that we frequently fall into the old trap of working more, doing more, trying to be more. We drown out the little voice in our head that starts telling us to pull back, that we’re taking on too much, that we can’t possibly maintain the pace we’re setting for ourselves. That we haven’t taken a break in nearly two years. That we’re working such long hours some days that we barely get home in time to tuck the kids into bed.
But it’s okay, we counter – it’s just for now, just until the end of the financial year, just until we get through this round of bills, just until the kids go back to school. I’ll put in the hard yards now, and I’ll take a little break sometime soon.
It’s easy to understand why we do this. We all have goals, we want our careers and businesses to prosper, to create an ideal future for ourselves and our families. So we convince ourselves that the sacrifices we make now will pay dividends in due time. It’s the rule we’ve always been taught – delayed gratification at its darndest.
But the problem arises when that planned break gets continually pushed back. And back, and back. When we live our life constantly forging ahead, but never retreating.
Retreat is all about giving yourself space. Emotional, physical and social space. It’s important because space is where we bloom – both personally and professionally. It’s where and when we develop amazing experiences and memories with our partners and children. And experiences are more valuable to them than any gadget you’re planning to buy with your next paycheque.
I know it seems counter-intuitive. That to push your life forward you should step back for a bit. But it’s absolutely the truth. The challenge is knowing how and when to make that retreat – how to balance your work and personal commitments. This takes practice, and the ability to read your own personal signals as to your stress and energy levels. For some, it may mean enlisting a health or business mentor to help you learn how to do this.
My advice to my clients is to schedule your retreats. Plan your calendar well ahead of time and build space into your life on a daily, weekly, quarterly and yearly basis.
It doesn’t have to be oodles of space. Just enough to make sure that you (and your family) get the best version of you in the present, without sacrificing your future wellbeing.
So embrace your space. Value the importance of retreat. By allowing yourself the space to breathe deeply, you’ll breathe more life into your life.