Decluttering now, so loved ones don't have to later
Has COVID brought out your inner Marie Kondo? Several of my clients are finding this time to be perfect to start downsizing their homes. One client continues to be VERY happy about the number of things leaving her home now, so that her son won’t have to deal with them later.
This idea of decluttering before she dies seems to be a newly popular phenomenon but has actually been around for ages.
The Swedes call it Swedish Death Cleaning and entire books have been written about it. Marie Kondo inspires it with her “Tidying Marathons” and realtors become responsible for it when homes go up for sale.
Ann Patchett recently wrote an amazing article in The New Yorker about the downsizing she went through, inspired by the death of her best friend’s beloved dad. Having to weed through his possessions inspired her to do the same in her own home of 16 years.
At one point the 56-year-old author is taking down a dozen champagne flutes from the top shelf in her kitchen (reached by getting on the top rung of a ladder) that she never used. She started acquiring the flutes very early in her life in anticipation of happily using them as an adult.
“I had miscalculated the kind of adult I would be… I had missed the mark on who I would become, but in doing so I had created a record of who I was at the time…,” Patchett says. This statement brought me to tears and made me reflect upon my own “kitchen history.”
I recall collecting in the same way when I started requesting housewares while still in high school. I knew one day I’d move out and I absolutely couldn’t do that without the Le Creuset double broiler pan my mother bought me for my 17th birthday. As high school progressed, my “adulthood” was quietly stashed away in my teenage closet. While dressing I would proudly look upon the items in anticipation of using them in my own place. (Is this very different than the champagne flutes quietly living on the top shelf of Mrs. Patchett’s cupboard? No, not really.)
So many of my clients go through this mental exercise of imaging what their adulthood will be like, and make anticipatory purchases to sustain that imagined “life.”
My husband and I LOVE to entertain and had all the accoutrements to do that. Settings for 12 including the glassware needed for a variety of drinking opportunities. (Doesn’t everyone need an aperitif before dinner?) When we moved into a big house in the foothills of Tucson, Arizona, we had an open house and invited our friends and all the new neighbors. We hosted about 100 people throughout the 4 hour party and enjoyed meeting most of our neighbors.
We had grand visions of hosting many dinner parties in the year we lived there, but alas, no one reciprocated and asked us to their home. So that dream slowly fizzled, while our brandy snifters gathered dust in the cupboard.
Then, last July we had the opportunity to move to Florida, while my boys stayed in Tucson with their dad. That dramatically reduced the amount of “things” we needed to move. So the culling process began. And COVID inspired even more culling. We knew we likely wouldn’t be entertaining at our new place in Tampa, and that helped us let go of even more items. Brandy snifters were passed along to others who WOULD use them and enjoy them.
This is how I encourage my clients to reach the point to say, “Thank you, and goodbye” to items they’re ambivalent about. It doesn’t REALLY have to do with length of time (“How long has it been since you last wore/used that?”) which is a common way to move through decluttering.
More successful is rather, to address if the item moves you toward your GOAL. What do you envision your future looking like, and does that item(s) move you toward that? Do you really need twin sheets “just in case” when you don’t even have a twin bed in the house anymore?
Still vacillating? How about, “Can you imagine someone else using that item now?” Sometimes the idea of helping others is the tipping point for my clients, to be able to let things go for good.
If you still can’t decide, dig a little deeper, and ask, “Would you want someone else to have to deal with that later?”
The most common thing my clients say after finishing a session with me is, “I feel so much lighter,” and the author echoes this sentiment as well.
“This was the practice: I was starting to get rid of my possessions, at least the useless ones, because possessions stood between me and death. They didn’t protect me from death, but they created a barrier in my understanding, like layers of bubble wrap, so that instead of thinking about what was coming and the beauty that was here now I was thinking about the piles of shiny trinkets I’d accumulated. I had begun the journey of digging out,” said Patchett.
The thing to remember about this “practice,” the tidying process, is that it’s going to get worse before it gets better. (But it WILL get better!) If you follow the 5 categories in the KonMari Method™, you’ll start by removing all your clothes from your closet and in your drawers and put them all on your bed.
Then you can look into your closet and remark, “That looks amazing!” But now turn around and look at your bed. That stuff has just been relocated and that’s what we’re going to deal with next. As you continue through this practice, in time, everything in your home will fill you with joy and (hopefully) you’ll have recovered from “Flat Surface Syndrome” as another client jokingly calls it.
My client yesterday said, “This is the first time in my life, ever, that I’ve thought about decorating my house for Me, and no one else.“
She’s almost done with the 4th category (Komono, which means miscellaneous in Japanese) and next will be addressing the 5th and last category, Sentimental. She’s looking forward to reframing her space, and vision, for her, and no one else. The new space will move her toward her goals as a Strong Successful, Businesswoman, rather than as the “doting mother who followed her son to college,” as she’d been envisioning herself.
Like Patchett says, “I didn’t need the glasses or the silver, those things that represented who I thought I would become but never did, and I didn’t need the dolls, which represented who I had been and no longer was.”
Know that you too, can reach this moment of peace and calm. You’ll feel the lightness and clarity that comes with knowing what is in every cupboard or drawer in your home, and how it moves you toward your goal.
If you'd like to lighten your emotional and physical load and find the truest version of you, give me a call or book a consultation and and we can figure out how to make that happen. Virtually, of course.
Here’s my direct scheduling link: https://shanley.zohobookings.com/#/customer/shanley
Until then, move forward with Peace & Grace!