Thursday, May 4, 2017
My Emotional Journey of Decluttering
Marie Kondo, a guru of decluttering, believes everything in your house should give you joy. I had actually never heard of Marie Kondo until she was mentioned in a Gilmore Girls Revival episode, and I was already knee deep and several years into in this journey of decluttering, which began in 2015 for me.
A little back story, my husband I married at 19 years old. We worked full-time and put ourselves through college. I was a preschool teacher for a few years, then the year after my husband finished college a lot happened:
1.) My husband began an entry level job as a social worker
2.) We bought a starter home of a 900 sq ft bungalow (which we are still in 10 years later)
3.) I had twin boys and became a stay at home mom
Now fast forward several years. We were struggling to make ends meet for so long at the beginning, I never said no to anything given to us; including hand-me-downs, giant pieces of furniture (headboards, entertainment centers, etc), and old school tube TVs. We were drowning in stuff because I felt like I couldn't give away a gift. While I was not qualified to be an the show "Hoarders", I had been unconsciously hoarding things, with the idea that they gave me security. In reality, they added to my anxiety and discontentment in our small house.
The real push to change came with a Willow Tree Nativity Set. It was a very expensive full set that my estranged mother had given me years before. It was worth hundreds of dollars, and my husband and kids loved it, but it made me remember negative feeling every time I saw it. It truly was beautiful, so I brought it out the first few years of my kids' lives, then slowly stopped bringing all the pieces out each year , claiming there wasn't enough room to set it up....then it stayed in storage three Christmas seasons because I couldn't bare to have it in my house.
Once I finally decided that my feelings were more important than the supposed value of this set, I finally had the courage to give it away. The problem was I didn't want to just give it to Goodwill, and I felt guilty about selling it. I wanted to turn this symbol of God's hope, a depiction of Jesus' birth, into something positive, instead of a negative reminder of a broken relationship.
I prayed about how to give it away for almost 6 months. In the end, God gave me a very clear direction for a specific person who needed the encouragement of the set. The weight I felt lift when it left my house was AMAZING. The joy of seeing the other person enjoying the set replaced all those years of negative association. Now when I see a Willow Tree Nativity, it reminds me of when God transformed my hurt into joy.
The process of getting rid of the Nativity made me examine WHY I owned each item in my house. This meant purging things I was storing out of guilt or obligation. Slowly, but surely, I began to get rid of anything that didn't bring me joy.
It wasn't overnight, but this first step gave me permission to make a big change in my life. If you don't know me, I am a recovering people-pleaser. My people-pleasing tendencies mean that guilt was a big motivator in my life, and this guilt was tangible by piling up stuff in my house!
Some may call me unsentimental, but conquering my people-pleasing meant even some gifts given by beautiful loving people had to go- things that weren't my style or just didn't fit our lifestyle. I had 4 Pie fancy dish/displays and had never baked a pie in my life. I had 14 sheet sets, because I kept receiving them as Christmas gifts from my in-laws. I sold the furniture I had been given that I was storing for my "dream home", that was keeping me from enjoying my present home.
Once I got rolling, I finally had the courage to I donate clothes I had been given, or ill-fitting clothes I bought at garage sales, but felt ugly in. I gave myself to permission to buy clothes I actually feel good wearing. Now I have less clothes, but I like how I feel good in all of them.
This journey has taught me that stuff wasn't just stuff, every item in my life had power to affect my mood and life. Decluttering wasn't just tidying up, it is a practice in courage and being true to myself.
This is where I must urge you to pray, or bring a friend alongside you when you begin decluttering. It will bring up emotions you may not expect, but need to be dealt with. The feelings may not be guilt like me, but fear for the future, or a myriad of other things we attach to our stuff. The other side is beautiful, keep going, but don't go alone.
Give yourself permission to put yourself before your stuff.
So that is the story of how I started my decluttering journey. It took me almost a year and half to get rid of the equivalent of seven full van loads (all seats down and stacked to the top) of stuff. I now love my little house again, and everything it in is useful or brings me joy.
Good Luck if you are beginning this journey. Take your time, start small, and don't go alone.
You might be interested in my other Decluttering Posts: