Decluttering to “Lift the Spirit”


The other day, my coworker and I were talking about the feeling of joy we each had recently experienced after taking respective carloads full of last season’s clothes, long-forgotten (and mostly unused) kitchen gadgets, and random household decorations to local thrift stores.  I mentioned to her that when I returned home from the thrift store and noticed the space in my kitchen cabinets and the ease with which my desk drawer now slides open, I felt liberated; I felt ecstatic; I felt good for having helped people in need with my donations; I felt…. like I needed to fill that empty space with more STUFF!

Why is it that if we have an attic or garage or freezer, we somehow fill it to the brim with items for safe keeping when we know that some of those things will be the first out the door when the next inspiration for purging sets in?   And, more importantly, what is this clutter doing to our lives? To our sanity?

In a series of blog posts on The New York Times’ The Well, writer Jane Brody describes her journey to declutter her home and ultimately her life.  Brody’s first post references the recently released book The Hoarder in You by Robin Zasio as her guide to throwing out and reorganizing things in her home.   Some of the main points Brody highlights are:

  • Pick one area (geographic area or a specific project) to work on at a time and be satisfied with your work when finished.  And, go for the low-hanging fruit.  What seems manageable?
  • Put decluttering on your calendar and do a little most days until you’ve reached your goal.
  • Make three piles: “Keep, Donate, Discard” and separate each item into one of those categories.
  • Get the items in the donate and discard piles out of the house as quickly as possible.  Select an organization or an individual to whom you’d be excited about giving some of the items.

Brody’s second post is a follow-up to the first, a progress report, if you will, in which she shares her decluttering victories.  Yet this time, Brody takes the idea of too much stuff one step further:

“Most of us have little idea how many things in our lives keep us from enjoying life more. But one’s life can be cluttered by more than household objects. The irritating extras can include activities that are no longer rewarding but are continued out of habit or guilt. Perhaps it’s time for a more extended kind of housecleaning.

Mr. Dennis [Barry Dennis of The Tchochky Challenge ] cites several ‘tchotchkes’ I might never have thought of: electronic equipment that keeps us from living in the moment; people who are an emotional drain instead of a joy; piles of CDs and DVDs that are never watched or listened to; food that gets stuffed into an already satiated body; and unwanted or unloved gifts from people you nonetheless care about.”

Ultimately, Brody says, “Lightening one’s physical load can brighten the mind and lift the spirit.”

When was the last time you took a minute to think about decluttering… your office drawer, a closet, your schedule, your mind?

-Katie Huffman

(Image by Ivetta Fedorova; copyright 2012 The New York Times Company)

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About Katie Huffman

Katie is a Wellness Advocate with the Clergy Health Initiative. She has an undergraduate degree in History and French and a Masters degree in Gerontology; prior to her current position, Katie worked as a social worker in a retirement community in Chapel Hill. Outside of work, she enjoys gardening, spending time outdoors, baking, and hanging out with her husband, Noah, their daughter, Ada, and two kitties, Grady and Gracie.

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