Someone posted on Facebook a challenge, 40 Bags in 40 Days. (Here's the original Blog http://www.whitehouseblackshutters.com/40-bags-in-40-days-2014/) The idea is that you declutter one closet, one drawer, one shelf every day for 40 days (actually you get one day a week off, but I got so far ahead on the first couple days, I definitely will meet the quota even taking off a day a week). While there is a picture of a giant black garbage bag on the post, she goes on to say, don't let that overwhelm you. Somedays it might be a shopping bag and somedays a sandwich bag. It's about decluttering a spot a day.
I went at this with great gusto! Finally a Lenten discipline I can relate to. Plus decluttering to me feels like losing weight.
Well I realized--there are all kinds of bags and all kinds of weight--besides giant black bags, shopping bags and sandwich bags. There are emotional bags too. I think that is one of the reasons I started writing again (plus the ever wonderful Bruce Abel asked me too as did another friend who may or may not want to be called out here). There are lots of things that weigh on our soul or psyche. Sometimes it's as easy as rearranging the desktop on your computer. Sometimes it's a lost item you haven't taken time to look for. Sometimes you don't even know what it is until you've uncovered it and you go "wow, I feel so much better!"
People talk a lot about "living in the moment." Which as a general concept is a great one. I get it don't obsess about the past, don't worry about the future, live in the now. And based on this advice, I do try to stop and take a moment to smell the roses, as it were. To take a snapshot of a moment, because I truly believe we don't remember days, we remember moments. That's why someone will say, "remember when we did such and such?" And you have no clue what they are talking about. It's because you snapshotted a different moment.
It kind of makes me sad that I didn't journal more (at all) when the kids were little. I definitely recall saying "I want to remember this moment forever" but often that's it. What was the feeling of that moment? Oh but I digress.
So after three momentous days of decluttering, I got sick. It's hard enough to motivate when you are well, forget when you have a cold. Well any excuse will do. However, those three days did help. Now when I see a "hot spot" I just stop and organize it. There are some burning, on fire, places in my house that will require the giant black garbage bag and a few hours. I will get to those. But it's good to know that the weight can be lifted by rearranging my shirt drawer or tidying up the house or by going to the laundromat.
There is a fine balance here between cleaning ADD and living in the moment getting things done. I have learned a very excellent trick (I must credit the Fly Lady-whom I go back and forth between thinking she's brilliant and wanting to stuff one of her purple cloths down her throat) -- it's the "put away" bag. You know how you get cleaning ADD? You are cleaning a child's room and then you find dishes, so you take them downstairs, realize that the dishwasher needs unloading. You start unloading and then hear the dryer go off so you go out and change the laundry, meanwhile you know you need to get back to the kid's room but you've got laundry to fold, the dishwasher to empty and now the dog is barking to come inside and you notice that there are dishes on the porch and it really needs sweeping. (Well now I know how Give a Mouse a Cookie was written!) Oh wait, so my very excellent trick--the put away bag. When you are cleaning your chosen spot of the day, you do not leave that spot until you are finished. Got something that belongs somewhere else--put it in the "put away" bag. Dryer goes off -- oh wait, I haven't had this problem in two weeks because I've had no washer to wash stuff. It is rather freeing, but anyway, whether you go change the laundry is up to you. But I will tell you this, do not stop to check email, do not stop to check Facebook and most of all do not stop to write a blog entry!
So back to the emotional baggage. I think letting go of some things is just as important as decluttering the dining room closet. Of course the stuff I'm finding comes with it's own emotional baggage. I once read something about decluttering and they said that if something doesn't make you happy you should get rid of it. Hanging onto something for sentimental reasons? Does it make you happy? Does it feel like an anchor in your living room (the bad heavy kind not the good kind you plan the room off of)? If it doesn't make you happy or weighs you down every time you look at it, get rid of it. Being somewhat of a pack rat, this has helped me immensely! Getting rid of some of the stuff is getting rid of some emotional baggage--because that thing, that chair, that lamp, that vase, that bookcase full of books you read but don't remember what they were about, is weighing down your psyche. And when you take it to Good Will or the library or the garbage can, you feel a little lighter. The pan you hung onto but never used but you got if for your wedding and it's sat in various closets for 21 years and has fallen on your foot (thankfully not your head) more than once. So you get rid of the pan. And when you hand that giant black bag over to the Good Will man, you feel lighter. You have your husband, you have other pans, you have dishes -- all that you got from your wedding, all that make you feel happy. So why were you hanging on to that pan? When the answer is I don't know, try letting it go. You'll find you feel a little lighter because in the end, it's just a pan--the emotional baggage that made me keep it is what I really want to get rid of.