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Clearing the clutter at home and in mind

Thursday, January 19, 2012

With the new year comes a need to jettison things from the past that weigh you down.

For some folks, that's weight. Gym owners can attest to the January "resolutioners" who join, intent on fulfilling their New Year's resolution to shape up and lose weight.

For me, this year, that means losing some of the flotsam and jetsam of 23 years of marriage and 15 years in one house accumulates. Nothing is safe in my quest for simplification.

The impetus for the pitching frenzy is my home renovation project, which is, when I'm in an optimistic mood, in its final phases. A looming project is the demolition of my kitchen, including jam-packed 1970s-era cabinets, and the installation of my brand-spanking-new gorgeous cabinets.

I will not subject these cabinets to the leaning tower of Tupperware that I currently house.

They will not be a home to canned goods two years past their "use by" date.

Spices will be - gasp - alphabetized.

Simplifying your life requires a mindset that, once you're in it, is pretty freeing. When I was younger, I was a bit of a pack rat. I was trying to create a home for my husband and I with very little money and very little time. So auctions and close outs determined my decorating style. The "folk art" fad meant I had more gewgaws and widgets than I knew what to do with.

Since I couldn't make myself throw them away after I replaced them on my walls and counters, I stored them, in an ever-growing pile of Rubbermaid containers in my basement. Those containers are exiting my house now with alarming quickness. If I don't use it, love it, or need it, and item doesn't need to be kept.

Along with freeing up lots of room, my clean sweep is doing our son a favor. As an only child, it will be his responsibility some day to deal with the mountain of stuff his parents leave behind. I love him too much to subject him to boxes of his mother's fabric and patterns (I haven't sewed a stitch in a decade or two). He doesn't need to wade through piles of 1990s fashion mistakes.

Some of the cutting will be painful. I dread sorting through three decades of cookbooks, deciding which to keep, which to let go. But, let's face it, an entire cabinet filled with cookbooks seems silly when I can look up any recipe I want or need on my iPad, prop it up on the counter and get cooking.

I'm letting my son and nieces sort through my Christmas boxes before I send things out the door. Our small home and my love of holiday decor means the largest area of storage in the basement is dedicated to Christmas merriment. It's time some of those long-neglected, but still beautiful items see the light of day again in someone else's house.

The act of letting things go lightens me up.

It's true - clutter itself can be an enormous drain on your time and energy. Clearing out the physical space you live in can also have a positive effect on your psychological health.

My clutter-removing mania has spread, I'm afraid. My office-mates are taking advantage of the quieter, colder days of January to sort, organize and pitch. My leaning tower of terror closet in my office is marked for a major clear-out.

And, I may find those reports I've been searching for the past few weeks.



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Paula Buenger
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