Letting Go

Why is it so difficult to let things go? I’m wondering, as I stand before my cluttered junk drawer. Crammed with the kids’ colouring and a Dyson warranty card and hair elastics. Old bills, report cards, Band-Aids and a tube of Speed Sew. It’s bad, people. Every year I face the same dilemma. I let things I don’t need pile up. I can’t seem to absorb the fact that something I deemed valuable at one time may not hold that same value forever. The new year comes and I think, time to simplify. I don’t need all this stuff! Standing before the clutter, I’m so overwhelmed that other, less daunting chores jump to high priority status. When’s the last time I dusted the washer and dryer? Cleaned the light switches? I’m living like a heathen…this drawer will have to wait. And off I scamper. To procrastinate somewhere else. It doesn’t feel good.

Whenever I’m frustrated and overwhelmed, I ask the Google. Guess what I learned? Clutter is killing us. Seriously. Psychology Today cites numerous studies that show living in cluttered environments causes stress, weight gain, depression, fatigue, and sleep loss. Are you nodding as you read this? Me too! There’s a feeling of doom that creeps into me when my pantry is stuffed with almost-empty chip bags. When I’m stepping over the recycling to reach my slow cooker and rifling through my dreaded junk drawer for the one good homework pencil. With the eraser. I hate when things get like this – so why do I let it happen?

Here’s something else from my buddy Google. There’s “organization porn.” Not making it up. One site was called ThingsOrganizedNeatly.com … on seriously? Websites with endless images of gleaming kitchens void of a single appliance, closets with only six shirts, and desks with one perfect pencil in a tiny red cup (my personal favourite). It seems we’re craving an uncluttered existence. If we can’t summon the discipline to produce our own, we’ll covet our neighbour’s.

As I stand before my disgraceful drawer and berate myself for laziness and lack of domestic goddess-like behaviour, a terrifying thought bursts through all the others. If clutter in our homes is having such a huge impact on our health, can you imagine the damage clutter in our brains is inflicting? There’s no escape from it. We can’t close the door and leave it behind. We have to muck around in it all day. Rifle through the heaps of insecurity and worry, stack and then re-stack the grudges and failures piles, just to find a grocery list or the name of our friend’s new baby. Birthdays? Coffee dates? Easily misplaced beneath the to-do lists for today and tomorrow and the one you didn’t complete yesterday. Our minds, like our junk drawers, are completely overstuffed. Let’s clean house. 

Tips for decluttering are plentiful. I like the “Four Piles” method. Chuck. Keep. Donate. Move. I open the drawer. Start sorting. Don’t think too hard about my daughter’s smile when she gave me the letter that says, “Mom, you roc.”  Nope. That’s staying. But I’ll move it. I’ll get a box and I’ll keep all the kids letters in it. A nice fabric box, like on Pinterest. So now I have to go buy a box. I don’t think getting more stuff is the point. This isn’t going well.

One hour later and my drawer is done. High priority items like scissors, keys, and the good pencil – right up front. I guess I’ll declutter my brain next. Oh boy. Talk about a muck-out. Start chucking. Self-loathing and impossible standards. Chuck. Jealousy and old grudges. Chuck. Outdated goals, regrets, and past mistakes. Wow – I feel lighter already! Love and praise? Donate. Often and abundantly. I move the to-do lists and future goals to paper. Magically, possibilities become intentions. I see them and have clarity. Now I’ll put all my keepers right up front. Kindness. Empathy. Patience. Acceptance. Humour. My breath comes in long, slow draws. I’m smiling. This is good. I’m organized and prioritized and I have space. For listening. Anticipating. Noticing – your new haircut or that your voice sounded off when we spoke. I’m present. And I think letting go of things, while difficult at times, might be pretty fantastic.