As told to Elisheva Appel
I work from home as a graphic artist, and I’m also studying to be a health coach, so I’m pretty busy. Since I’m home a lot, I’ve been noticing the vast quantity of stuff that fills my apartment.
I come from a family of hoarders. We save stuff. I have my old high school notebooks, mementos from camp, and that’s just the beginning. I’m organized but not neat, if that makes sense. I know where everything is, but mess doesn’t faze me, so I’m not good at enforcing — or modeling — my kids’ cleanup.
My husband will walk into the kitchen and say, “How do you even work here?” The counters may be cluttered, but that’s how I roll. I don’t crave clean surfaces like he does. For the sake of shalom bayis, I did once splurge on a personal organizer, and I admit it was awesome. My husband was right — our lives were much more functional when things were neat.
We’re going to be moving soon, and I intend to hire an organizer to help me put systems in place, so hopefully good habits will stick. But in order to move without losing my sanity, I want to first get rid of my extra encumbrances.
I’ve been trying so long and so unsuccessfully that I’m ready for a public commitment to keep me on track. Long-term commitments are tough, though, since there’s always something going on, so I decide on a flexible obligation: I need to declutter one area every day, but I’m not assigning specific areas to particular days. The day’s target could be one room or one drawer, depending on how ambitious I feel.
At the same time, I’m setting an overall goal of ridding my life of 1,000 objects. It sounds overwhelming, but it should add up fast.
With two simultaneous goals, my project won’t be all or nothing. Even if I’m unsuccessful at one aspect, hopefully between the two objectives, I’ll accomplish something.
I tell my kids about it — that, for example, those crayons that are almost down to nubs but kind of usable are getting tossed — and they understand. While I’m not enforcing their participation, I tell them they’re going to need to limit their possessions to a single prize box apiece.
How It Went Down
Getting started is tough. I feel a rising dread as I start each day, but then I remind myself that I’m going to report to thousands of admiring fans when I’m done, and push myself to get going. Once I’ve actually jumped into the day’s project, I pick up steam.
I quickly learn that the question to ask myself is not, “Will I ever use this?” because the answer will always, somehow, be yes. Instead, I ask, “Will I miss this if I throw it out? Will I even notice it’s gone?” Almost invariably, the answer is “no.”
The kitchen feels overwhelming — it’s such a huge space. But then I start digging through cabinets, and it goes quickly. I basically only have the cookware I use all the time, plus I clean the cabinets regularly, and there’s Pesach, so there isn’t much clutter.
The extras I do find are snap decisions: that trivet my sister made for me when she was nine, that I never used because it was lopsided and made pots slide off? I can throw it out. She’s 18 now and won’t be insulted.
(Excerpted from Family First, Issue 636)