Letting Go

In April 2019, Retreat, Stuff by Alison Hill3 Comments

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Excess stuff causes stress. It’s true—whether psychological or physical, clutter is chaotic and creates more work and hassle.

It also takes up space and costs time and money. More than 10 percent of households rent storage units for extra belongings, which can cost up to $1,000 a year. And only 15 percent of homes with garages actually have a car parked inside. The rest of us use them as storerooms.

When you’re getting ready to move, it really hits home just how much accumulates over the years. So please, don’t take it with you! Instead, carry out a ruthless purge.

My globetrotting, house-sitting friends stored everything they owned in a couple of suitcases. I envied their freedom and the ease of dealing with just a few choice items. In fact, when I immigrated to the U.S. from Wales, I was forced to fit everything I needed into one big suitcase and two large expandable bags, including clothes, shoes, accessories, three favorite Stephen King hardback novels, two pairs of knee-high boots and a riding hat!

What happened?

Of course, now we have a child, so toys—masses of toys!—have been added to the pile. Do stuffed animals reproduce overnight? We seem to have hundreds of them. And our 6-year-old daughter is adamant that none of it goes. That’s a whole other challenge!

We’ve just moved from the Triangle area to Asheville and I wish I’d planned it differently, even though at the time I thought I was doing well. We sold countless items—a dining table, grandfather clock, outdoor patio set, side tables, knick-knacks, decor and toys on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, at the flea market and at two garage sales. We drove three carloads to the thrift store and a pickup load to the junkyard. But somehow we still ended up with too much.

Half a U-Haul of junk is stocked high in the garage of our new rental in stacks of unopened mystery boxes. I get heart palpitations just looking at it. 

How did we manage to lug so much unwanted, unnecessary and obviously unused stuff with us? Talk about carrying excess baggage! We’re planning on buying a condo with possibly no garage, so we really need to downsize. But it’s so hard letting go …

If you’re like me, you may need some guidance. Parting with your belongings, especially if they’re sentimental is hard. But when I heard of the ‘KonMari’ method, I had that quintessential “eureka” moment.

By now, most Americans have likely heard of Marie Kondo, a Japanese organizing consultant and bestselling author. She helps people get rid of clutter through her unique “KonMari” method and many Americans are embracing the minimalist lifestyle she promotes. With the debut of the Netflix show “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo” in January, homes are tidier, garages are emptying and thrift store shelves are brimming with treasures. And soon, I will be able to see the floor of our garage.

Kondo divides stuff that needs sorting into five categories—clothing, books, papers, komono (miscellaneous items) and mementos (items with sentimental value.) The key is to evaluate your belongings one category at a time, taking each item, holding it in your hands and asking yourself “does this spark joy?” If it does, then keep it and organize it. If it doesn’t, thank it and then simply let it go.

What I like about this method, and maybe why other purging attempts have failed, is the question: “Does this spark joy?” In the past my question has been: “Do I need this?” Which can lead to excuses, such as, “Well, maybe in the future I will need it,” and so it goes into the “keep” pile. “Does it spark joy?” is more definitive. It either does or it doesn’t, and if not, why keep it?

With yet another move looming, a motivating factor for me now is of a more practical nature: How much room will this anthology of American Literature take up in a box? And how heavy will said box be to lift? And where will I put it?

Before boxing up all your belongings and hauling truck loads of stuff across town, the state or the country, re-evaluate what you own and apply a method such as Marie Kondo’s. Having fewer possessions literally and figuratively lightens your load. I loved my house when we’d moved half of our stuff out and into the garage of the new rental. I helped stage it for sale, and the few carefully chosen décor pieces were striking in a minimalist setting; the place looked bigger, clean and tidy. I could breathe easier and relax. And the house sold in four days.

To give yourself plenty of time, start weeks or maybe even months before you plan on moving. An emptier house looks and stages better, sells faster and is easier to keep clean and tidy!

And then, of course, there’s the biggest reward of all—there’s less stuff to pack, haul and then unpack in the new place.

Happy purging!

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  1. Da iawn. And so very true. This is what needs to be done in my cottage Too. But it is not easy. Good writing.

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