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Decluttering the Nest

We all know the feeling. You open your front door and immediately want to close it as it feels like moving would be easier than reestablishing order over the chaos that has slowly, yet slyly and steadily, taken over. Well nestlings, sometimes we must first ruffle some feathers to get the look we’re after. There are a lot of different approaches you can take on home organization. And I have tried many of them. Before my move-before-last I listened to Gail Blanke’s Throw Out Fifty Things: Clear the Clutter, Find Your Life. For my most recent move, I listened to an audiobook version of The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. A friend from college has devoted next month to the 30 day Minimalist Challenge – plus the challenges visualized in this calendar to the right created by Into-Mind – and it brought the whole decluttering concept back to the front burner of my thoughts.

It can sound negative to say that this work that is never done, but I’ll go ahead and say it anyway: this work is never done. So I think the answer lies in reframing how we view the tasks associated with “tidying up” because we always get some much-needed joy and productive energy from the result. Think of it as an extension of the time-tested PSA “the more you know…” attitude. Decluttering is not just a random rainy Saturday morning activity. It’s a lifelong project that goes well beyond our physical nests to the metaphysical nests we all maintain to varying degrees of tidiness in our hearts and minds, and yes, even our souls. It’s continual- a constant- but we can find ways to make it more manageable.

On my childhood soundtrack, one invariable is my mom’s sayings. “Don’t put it down, put it up.” “A place for everything and everything in its place.” “Less is more.” While I will confess, I have rolled my eyes on more than one (hundred thousand) occasion(s) at these mantras growing up, when I actually apply them in my adult life I feel happier, more unencumbered, and function much more efficiently & effectively. Whether by reconfiguring a closet or mudroom by adding hooks or shelves or containers to give everything a place and thus make it easier to put things up, or by lightening the load by tossing (or donating or selling) items no longer needed or used, these repetitive processes help me “take back my house”- and my life. We all know there are so many things we can’t control that can cause intense anxiety, but our nests don’t have to be one of those things. When we reach past our physical nests to those metaphysical spaces, we find that there are also many things that impact mental clarity, emotional stability, and spiritual health that we can control and declutter. We just have to take the time to see the trees through the forest- and when necessary do some clearing for erosion-prevention! I don’t know of a decluttering plan for a home or personal growth that doesn’t involve letting go of or removing things that hold you back or make you feel closed in or simply don’t get utilized any longer.

In her famed editorial Wear Sunscreen, Mary Schmich advises to “Keep your old love letters. Throw away your old bank statements.” So my feathered friends, I want to hear your inspiring suggestions. What is your advice on decluttering? How do you tackle the clutter in your life? What do you know now about tidying up that you wish you knew at 20 or 40?