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Spring Cleaning and the Joy of Less

Virginia Alice, author of "HONOR ONE ANOTHER: The ABCs of Embracing Our Spirit Within," writes about social media, wellness, and writing.

Prickly Pear Cactus

Prickly Pear Cactus

Spring Cleaning and the Joy of Less

Spring is here and so is spring cleaning. Right along with singing birds and blossoming flowers comes the urge to clear clutter and clean out closets and drawers. However, letting go of stuff isn't always easy, especially when our natural tendency is to keep acquiring more.

I scold myself about this now. As I declutter areas of this dilapidated house and anticipate moving into our “little casita” (future guest cottage) this summer, I’m reminded of five years ago as I decluttered the craft room in our city home filling many boxes to donate to Goodwill. I thought then, as I do now, of all the money I’d blown on the stuff I was getting rid of and could’ve saved by being less impulsive. Thankfully, I’ve slowed down about buying every knick-knack or set of earrings I fall in love with, or every craft supply I think I might need.

Open Spaces Filled With Clutter

As I declutter today, I consider how I like seeing open space. The kitchen counter tops are always more appealing when they’re free of gadgets or cooking supplies. And my dining and kitchen tables always look more inviting when free of dirty dishes or stacks of mail.

But these spaces, and every other space, always seem to attract clutter. The counter which runs along the front of the kitchen sink, the end tables, and the bathroom counters, always hold an endless array of things – not particularly junk, but stuff that doesn’t always get used efficiently enough.

In our last home, there were also my many desks, all cluttered – not necessarily with paperwork but with lots and lots of knick-knacks. Amazingly, I had five desks set up at one time. And if I could’ve had more, I would have. I love desks. But were they organized? Some were, some not. And, incredibly, it’s the cluttered desks I used the most.

Have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.

— William Morris

When Purchasing Supplies

Many times, my husband has commented about waiting to purchase materials for projects until we’re ready to start them. I disagree yet say nothing. I prefer to get everything we need right away. You know, so we’ll be ready to start our project once time frees up for us to tackle it.

But now, I recall, as I took those filled boxes from the craft room to my truck for donating, staring at unused art supplies for projects I’d planned to make and finish years before. Some of the supplies I set aside to use later. Some I placed in the donation boxes. And yet, some I had to toss due to being dried out – such as paints, glue, and fancy colored pens and markers.

So, perhaps my husband is right about waiting to get supplies for upcoming projects until we need them. I mean, what if we change our minds? Or, what if we never do the project at all? I cringe at all the money I would’ve saved – if only I’d just waited to get the craft supplies for those long-ago craft projects until I really needed them.

Passing On Stuff

Six years ago, I tried giving a piece of fitness equipment to one of my little sisters visiting from out of town. She wouldn’t take it. She had down-sized five years before and refused to fill up her small home with unnecessary things. I pleaded with her, describing how beneficial it would be to her new fitness regime which she’d just started. But when I remarked that no matter where I put the thing that it takes up too much space in my home, well, that’s when I lost my argument.

The question of what you want to own is also the question of how you want to live your life.

— Marie Kondo

To Get Help or Not

There was the time I thought maybe I needed someone to help me part with my clutter. And so, I asked a niece to help me. She was brutal with what she tossed away, though, and proud of her endeavors. I was elated for a short while – until I needed something I’d let her talk me into parting with.

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So now, I declutter on my own, as plodding as the process can be at times.

Accumulating Too Much Over Time

When I think of how I would fill up my time with volunteering and teaching classes, I realize this may be the key to accumulating too much stuff. Not only did I not leave myself energy to tackle decluttering on a regular basis, but I also didn’t leave time to enjoy what I had purchased – or to monitor my spending habits.

So, over time, I didn’t notice the accumulation of things becoming out of control. And accumulating things, in the subtle way clutter has of sneaking up on a person, became one sneaky habit. Too tired to pick up or toss? Just close my eyes. Not enough time to decide what to keep or pass on? Just delay for another day.

Created on CANVA.

Created on CANVA.

Learning to Let Go

So, pulling up to the Goodwill drop-off area those five springs ago, and still second-guessing items – wondering if I should keep the books, was no surprise. I love books. Maybe I should keep the red dress? I might lose that extra ten pounds after all.

I closed my eyes and let the attendant take it all away. Why stress, right?

As I drove off, I fought turning around. Common sense took over, thankfully.

Knowing I’d made the right decision to let go of all that stuff, I patted myself on my back. Less is best, I told myself. Now, the challenge was to keep from replacing everything I'd just parted with.

Impressively, in recent years, I've learned, from being a writer, to let go of clutter – better. Just as I cut out unnecessary words to make an article clearer, or to meet a limited word count, I’ve started letting go of scraps when I sew and excess ingredients when I cook. Not large amounts, but those itty-bitty amounts that don’t serve any purpose except taking up space or, eventually, expiring.

I’ve learned it’s better to focus on what I need to keep versus what I want to keep. This has made letting go less ominous, less overwhelming, and more doable.

Your life is so much more than what you own.

— Melissa Camara Wilkins

Decluttering With New Insight

As I anticipate inhabiting our “little casita” soon, I’m starting to let go of things with an eye of detachment and to practice something new. For every piece of clothing, pair of shoes, jewelry item, and so on, I'm now passing on at least one maybe two items, depending. Obviously, if I let go of two pairs of shoes every time I buy a new pair, I’ll eventually only end up with one pair. But this practice is beneficial, helping me to become conscientious of needing versus wanting something.

I'm not just spring cleaning. I'm decluttering to have more open space (and less to dust), to not be weighed down by things no longer serving a purpose, and to enjoy life – again.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Virginia Alice Crawford

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