I spent Christmas visiting my parents. When I am at my parents’ home, I am always amazed that nothing is ever out of place. I can walk into the house and know exactly what I will see and where it will be. I know what is in every drawer and every closet. If they have made a new purchase, it will be obvious immediately. Mum thrives on order and ordered her home will be.
The same was true of our home growing up. Even now, almost twenty years since my parents sold my childhood home, I still can picture all of the furniture and the contents of every drawer, cupboard, closet and attic. Even the garage was always properly arranged. My parents knew what they needed to keep and they knew what could be donated to charity. If an item was no longer in use, it was no longer deemed useful and then removed from the home, unless I salvaged it as a memento of my youth.
The things I saved are not necessarily things that I would ever use. Some I saved purely for sentimental reasons. I still have an old sweater that my Dad wore in the early 1970′s and a shirt that he wore about the same time. I can remember my Dad working in the yard when I was about 4 years old and he always wore the sweater. I am much bigger than my Dad, so I know I’ll never be able to wear the sweater, but I shall always feel connected to him just because I have it.
Knowing what to keep and what to throw away or donate or sell can be a difficult assessment. This past week, I decided to re-organize my office. More specifically, I removed all of the furniture and used it to update my wife’s office. In doing so, I had to sort through a lot of the assorted knick-knacks and collections that I have amassed over the years, but which my wife really does not want in her office. Some of the items I realized I had no basis for keeping as they were long past having any practical utility (a cracked coffee cup that I used in the early 1980′s) or which had no identifiable nostalgic association for me (a telescope that I still do not know how I acquired). Those things I eliminated. Other things (a toy pistol that I got as a souvenir during a trip to Disney World in 1976) I kept because, like my Dad’s sweater, they are evocative of memories that I am not willing to lose.
Every year at this time, I require my sons to do a full cleaning of their respective bedrooms. Of course, they clean their respective rooms regularly, but a full cleaning requires them to try on all of their clothes and to look at every item, and then to decide whether it is something that they really need to keep. I don’t require them to eliminate anything (other than broken items which could injure someone if used) but I remind them that whatever they do not eliminate, they will have to constantly clean around or organize throughout the year. One son embraces the annual clean up and eliminates a significant percentage of the contents of his room. Clothing that won’t fit, books that he will no longer read, games that he has outgrown and not played in years all go into his “yard sale area” (a portion of our garage in which I let him store anything he wants to sell at our community yard sale).
By getting rid of the clutter in our homes, we avoid the need for extra storage, whether that means bookcases, shelving, blanket chests or cardboard boxes. We also save effort because they less we have, the easier it is to know where everything can be found. Knowing what we need to keep, and being willing to part with what we do not need, is not always easy, but the simplification of our lives that comes from parting with the unnecessary, can make life much easier. That, of course, allows us to spend more time doing things that we find more meaningful than dealing with all of our accumulated “stuff.”
How do you decide what you need and what you do not need? Do you sell what you do not need on eBay or in yard sales? Do you donate your unwanted things to charity or simply toss your old things into the trash? As the new year begins, let us know how you deal with the things you have gathered in years past.