By the time I was done with my M.A., the stacks of paper in my bedroom were overwhelming. For a brief moment, I pictured myself building a huge bonfire, dancing around the flames, rum punch in hand, laughing hysterically. When sanity returned, I opted to forego the wrath of flames and sensibly sorted and recycled every 8 ½ x 11 sheet instead.
I was hyped up on the adrenaline of clearing out that hideous paper and decided to give my room a long overdue clean and declutter. In hindsight, I should have gone to the movies instead. Decluttering is not for the faint of heart. It took me months to comb through each item in my bedroom, and I’m still auditing what I decided to keep.
To avoid falling into the trap of holding onto stuff that I should throw out or give away, I visualised myself migrating to Mars. Earth was no longer habitable and we had to evacuate. Obviously, there would be weight restrictions for luggage. I could only take those earthly possessions which were justifiably (the spaceship authorities would require documentation to this effect) of immense value to me.
Starting with clothes, I sifted through my wardrobe and created three piles: keep, give away, discard. Too many items had only been worn once and/or hadn’t been worn in over a year. Thankfully, they were in great condition so I was able to donate them. Note to self: curb your habit of buying clothes for a specific occasion and then never wearing that outfit again.
I also went through my stay-at-home clothes and my underwear and sock drawers. Tattered socks, bras that had seen better days, those comfy unsightly panties—tossed into the garbage. I love old t-shirts but sometimes you have to admit that your favourite tee is nothing but a rag and should be treated as such. I am proud to say that the clothes I now wear at home are actually fit for company.
Moving on to jewellery. I can’t believe how many of my earrings were rusty or discoloured. I hadn’t noticed because I wasn’t wearing them often enough. Like my clothes, I tend to wear the same jewellery over and over. Rings, brooches, anklets, bracelets, necklaces, nose rings…I spent a couple days sorting them out, discarding damaged pieces, restoring their shine, and organising them so that they’d be easy to find when getting ready to head out.
Handbags and clutches were dealt with similarly. Some bags were frayed or had zippers and hooks that no longer worked. I tossed those out. The bags I kept each have a purpose. A tote for travel, a weekender bag, a solid leather handbag for professional affairs, a small pleather bag for errands, a hand-made cloth bag that satisfies my Caribbean aesthetic, a military backpack that I use for hiking, a beach bag…you get the idea. I’ve somehow ended up with two gym-ish bags even though my exercise of choice is chewing food. Both are earmarked for donation. I am down to three clutches, two of which I’m ashamed to admit I never used, and two small wristlets. I don’t care what I’m wearing, I’m not buying another bag or clutch to accessorize an outfit!
And the shoes. I was a chronic shoe-shopper and had been making a concerted effort to exercise self-control. At the time of The Great Purge, I owned 20 pairs of shoes. Not much by my previous standards and yet there was a pair of sandals I wore twice, a pair of heels that I wore once, two pairs of ballet flats that I wore a handful of times, and one pair of beautiful leather sandals that never made it to the shoemaker for repair. I culled the shoe population to 17 pairs and I’m determined to wear them all. I will not be buying any more shoes for a bit since I can clearly survive with even less.
Then came the storage boxes that are usually hidden away from view. Battling the overpowering dust, I emptied them onto the floor and attacked their contents with zeal. What a treasure trove! I found my autograph book from the last days of Form 5 and Upper 6. Re-reading the wishes for the future that friends and classmates had scribbled on its pages made me smile (sweet youth, where have you gone?). I’d saved every greeting card I had received from about 12 years of age. I unearthed notes written in the hand of boys long forgotten. Photographs of lost loves. Old pen pal letters. How I loved writing letters! My assortment of postcards from all over the world. Winnie the Pooh stickers that I never used. Tourist mags that I’d swiped from hotels. After the nostalgia dissipated, I had to ask myself—would I take these to Mars?
Even my beloved stuffed toys were not immune. My collection is a third of its previous size. Two little sisters are playing with those fuzzy beauties now. That’s what toys are for…
When I had rested from the physical labour of decluttering my room, I sat down with my electronic devices and got to work on digital decluttering. I deleted apps that I rarely used or didn’t need. Remember those sheets of 8 ½ x 11 paper? The electronic equivalents still resided in folders on my laptop and in my Dropbox. I saved one copy of those files to a flash drive and removed them from my machine. My Gmail was also overflowing with hundreds of emails related to assignments, group work, and the do you know what the hell we’re supposed to be doing in this paper? enquiries. I deleted them all.
You know how you take 55 pics to get that one perfect selfie? Suffice to say, I had a lot of cleaning up to do in my photo albums. I also deleted images of former lovers, fake friends, and family who I wish I were not related to. Whaddya know? Decluttering works for people too.
I highly recommend the catharsis of decluttering. I feel lighter, freer. I plan to repeat this exercise again in a few months and I plan to extend it to the rest of the household too.
If you’ve been meaning to declutter your life and have no idea where to start, Pinterest is a great resource. Good luck!