clutter cleanup: how i got rid of the non-essential

After living abroad out of my huge, gray suitcase, I came back and set a goal to be more minimalistic in 2016. For a year, I lived in a cooperative house with just my essentials. I spent less than $100 on new clothes the entire year, choosing to grab hand-me-downs instead, and spent about $20 on groceries every two weeks. I realized how much extra stuff I really didn’t need.

But when I moved back home from college, I had to face something that had been piling up for years… my crap. Toys from my childhood, old textbooks, photos, my seashell collection, notes I had passed to friends in middle school- I had ignored it while I was growing up and pushed it all in boxes in the basement. Luckily for me, I actually love getting nostalgic and organizing so I set aside an entire day to purge.

I recently read a short book on organizing, called The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. I picked it up from Jake’s living room when I let him sleep in one morning and finished it in a few hours (to be fair I was still on Michigan time). The KonMari method sections off categories to work through little by little- clothes, kitchenware, bathroom objects, and so on. The main idea is to keep those objects that “spark joy”; when you hold the object, how does it make you feel? I threw away a lot of things with this in mind, because so much time had passed that I didn’t even remember why I kept it.

What was the most interesting to me was the way that the Japanese treat objects with more care. Marie writes that sometimes it’s difficult to get rid of sentimental objects, like stuffed animals because they seem to have a soul. She suggests thanking these things for enriching your life and sending them away. In Japan, people cover the toys’ eyes with cloth, as it’s harder to say goodbye to those lifelike objects with eyes.

For my toys and childhood trinkets, I used the method my friend Katie and her family use to clean up their basement. What you do is arrange the things in periods of your life. So for example, separate your things from ages or grades and pick only one or two items from each category. I threw a lot of toys in the donate pile with this method. I only kept the journals and papers I was most proud of, and recycled half-used notebooks.

Makeup and clothes were the easiest. The simple solution was to ask myself, have I worn this in the past year? If it was a heavy ‘no’, then I put it in the trash or donate pile. I tend to negotiate with myself that I’ll really use those pair of pants or sweater in a new outfit. Ignore this!!! If you have not used that item in the past year, you won’t use it this year. With makeup, I chose only 10 colors to keep from a makeup palette I couldn’t bear to fully throw away. (I’m trying to also make sure my makeup is cruelty-free, so it was easier throwing stuff away with that in mind).

So set aside a day to go through a category, and really be deliberate with what you choose to have in your life. Maybe I’m just another Millennial with dreams of one day owning a minimalistic apartment, but decluttering has definitely helped me streamline my routines and see what’s important in my life.

(image courtesy of Making Lemonade Blog)