Organizing is often thought of as a regimented activity, something tedious; a pastime only beloved by boring squares and obsessive-compulsives. But organizing can be an incredibly creative endeavor. If you are feeling stuck in your work, relationships, health, finances or artistic pursuits, examining your stuff can be a huge part of releasing those blocks.
We get used to the white noise of our stuff. It’s a fact of fast paced California life that you probably don’t have copious free time to devote to going through your book collection or kitchen cupboards to shake up the situation and create a fresh perspective. But carving out chunks of time for organizing can reap lasting dividends. If you set aside two hours a week to go through a category of stuff—gardening tools, old DVDs, make-up, dry goods in the pantry—I’m confident you will be amazed at the new possibilities that suddenly occur to you or the new opportunities that will crop up, seemingly out of nowhere.
The change of the seasons is a great time to take a look at the category usually ascribed to that season. Right now it’s summer, which means you could examine your outdoor furniture, cushions, pool toys, sporting goods, swim suits and beach towels and decide afresh what you would like to live with this year. Maybe it’s time for the super faded cushions and baggy butt bikini to go and something fresh and inspiring to come in to rotation. How could you do summer differently this year with regards to your stuff? Maybe you create an amazing coffee table out of that old surfboard you haven’t used since “Help Me Rhonda” was in heavy play on AM radio.
Did you store the stuff properly? Or are the beach towels gnawed by mice who took advantage of the situation and did some nesting in your garage? Make a list of things you need so that come fall you have the bags and containers required to store things so that they are fresh for next year. Labeled containers, empty of their contents, hold space on your shelves so that there is no tempting emptiness for other stuff to find a perch. Putting things away at the end of a season is a non-issue if you don’t have to reconfigure the shelf space every time.
With home and garden décor, stuff examination can give you an immediate boost and be very inspiring, whereas examining a book or CD collection is a deeper, more difficult process. Books and music are essentially memorabilia—they signal specific times in our lives and we can become quite attached. That’s why it can be so freeing to take a fresh look at these categories.
Once you decide to look at your libraries, you might be surprised at how easy it is to let go of a whole category of books or music. One client was finally ready to let go of all of the books on child bearing and rearing she read diligently throughout her pregnancies and children’s early years. Another had no problem getting rid of all of her Sheryl Crow CDs (they reminded her of a break-up) and not long after donated her entire CD collection. After all, we can listen to anything anywhere now via a streaming music service. When cars are no longer even made with CD players, it’s time to move on from the old technology, though it can seem painfully wasteful.
There’s a saying that you are the sum of the five people with whom you spend the most time. It’s the same with your stuff. If you’re surrounded by stale stuff, stuff that has negative memories associated with it, stuff that you’ve outgrown, or stuff that you are numb to, take the time to notice it, move it around, give it a proverbial fresh coat of paint. If it still doesn’t suit, let it go.
If something is broken, throw it out or get it fixed. I have always believed that broken things around the house lead to feeling “broke” and sometimes that feeling becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Some stuff you don’t want or need still has value. You may not get as much as you think the item is worth if you sell it on Craig’s List or eBay, but consider the fact that the real estate, physical and psychological, unwanted possessions take up has value too. When you sell something, you can decide if you want to enjoy the space or want to put the money toward something that really inspires you now,