The Joys of Decluttering: Part One of a Three-Part Series

messy closetI was recently sitting in a meeting at work when my logistical satisfaction levels rose. Our workplace is very organized and has plenty of order and things that would make one’s logistical satisfaction soar. But when I’m sitting in the Board Room, shockingly enough, I’m not always thinking about logistical bliss. And then it happened. The following magical words were actually uttered by a co-worker: “Stuff expands to fill the space available.” She said this in a matter-of-fact manner while describing a storage project that’s on her radar.

I just love it when I hear people talking about storage principles and other exciting organization-related topics. Especially when it’s unexpected or when it’s from someone who isn’t a fellow organizational blogger, even if they are very organized (as is the case with this colleague). And as she uttered those words, the violins played, my eyes grew big for a moment, and I immediately jotted down her comment. That’s how much I loved it. (Yes, I know I’m a nerd. But at least I’m an organized one!) And so today I present this post to highlight just how correct my colleague was with her comment about schtuff.

In my own experience, I have found that it’s true – stuff and clutter really can expand if you have enough space for it and if you allow that to happen. Closets are a perfect example of this. When I first moved to this metropolitan area (pre-hubster), I shared an apartment with a friend from college. Although we had fairly good-sized closets for our respective bedrooms, my closet also had to double as a storage space for personal belongings that I didn’t want to stash in our pantry or in our basement storage space. I had plenty of stuff with me because I didn’t store anything at my mother’s house. In short, everything I owned at that point was under my rented roof. And so I had to declutter and get rid of things. The prom dresses had to go. Favorite sweaters that should’ve been retired awhile back really did need to be retired. Paperwork and other items had to be sorted, shredded, or otherwise paired down. In short, I filled the space available – and when space was no longer available that which didn’t fit had to go.

When there is space-a-plenty, it seems that if we’re not careful, we can find ways to fill that space. We might store things broadly as opposed to storing them as compactly as possible. We might hang on to things (think: prom dresses) that have sentimental value but will never be worn again and could make someone else very happy. We might feel comfortable collecting those little free samples or a variety of new clothing items that we really don’t need. As my wise co-worker said, “Stuff expands to fill the space available.”

Moral of the story: Instead of allowing our space to dictate how much schtuff we choose to keep (although sometimes in smaller spaces, that seems to be a necessity), take some time to consider how much schtuff you really want in your life. How many things – or types of a specific item – do you truly need or really want? Some questions I like to ask myself if I’m finding it difficult to pare down are as follows:

  • Will I use this a month from now?
  • Will I use this a year from now?
  • How many of these items do I already have? (this works especially well with black heels and sweaters)
  • Could someone else make better use of this right now?

All of us – including yours truly – have daily opportunities to declutter and pare down. Wishing you peace as your decluttering adventures continue!

* Photo by Chris Scott

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