Every January you think about a personal make-over, sometimes one that lasts past the 31st, but isn't it about time you dealt with that other problem?
I ignore all the resolution making, diet fads and gym invitations of January. Habits taken up in the middle of winter seldom stick. There's too little distraction and too much of a temptation to sit at home, eat carbs, and blame your already too low self-esteem for making you such a failure when you should be laughing with a salad.
A much better use of your time would be un-cluttering your place and your life.
It always seems a gargantuan task: the whole of our western culture is weighted toward making you want to BUY STUFF (those words ought to be written in neon, because that's how your brain sees them anyway). Lose your job? Buy chocolate. Lose your house? Splurge on a spa. Break up with someone? Buy ice cream, chocolate and a some kind of kitchen gadget you will never use because a) it reminds you of that person and b) you pretty much live on chocolate, ice cream and brie.
The "new" digital culture is your friend and can help you with this task just as much as the old weather encourages you to stay indoors. The internet is your friend and can help you find people who want your stuff, give you encouragement to stay on track, and give you an arena to celebrate your success. But how to begin?
1) Take pictures: this simple step will give you incentive to change and provide tangible evidence of your growing success. If you have a blog, post pictures there. You can use pictures of specific items for your sales on eBay or Craig's List.
2) Start small: don't try to do everything in one marathon session. Pull out your calendar and set up a schedule. "Small" means choosing one bookcase to sort through, not all your books. If you have something monumental like an attic or basement, break it into sections. Better to have a space you can deal with in a single session than a task that overwhelms you.
3) Sentimental value: there are things you will keep. There are things that you will regret throwing away. However, there are things that a picture or video can capture because you don't need the thing itself. Grandmother's moss-covered three-handled family credenza may remind you of her, but so does that picture of her with it in the old house where it fit much better. Maybe you don't need both. Plus you can use the solarium again.
4) Re-gift: It's a perfectly lovely gravy boat/brass lamp/leopard head. You never wanted it and you keep moving it from cupboard to cupboard, because it's "perfectly good" or "brand new": just give it away. Maybe a friend's always admired it; strike now, before she changes her mind. She was only being polite? Well, once it's out of your house, that's not your problem. Donate, donate, donate: the best re-gifting you can do, especially with new things that you never needed in the first place.
5) Keep a log: it's another great way to see your progress. Every item you sell, give away or throw out gets written down and savoured. In concert with the pictures that show your uncluttering vividly, the log fulfils a satisfying need to record that you probably have if you were enough of a pack rat to keep everything in the first place.
6) Celebrate: in your calendar of cleaning, add specific milestones, such as when you finish clearing out a room or get rid of X number of books/CDs/clothes. Live it up with a meal out on the money you earned or roll around in the open spaces you have created shouting "Hallelujah!" Make it an event and feel that warm glow of pride.
Then get started on your computer…
K. A. Laity writes so much that she had to create some pseudonyms to keep her colleagues from thoughts of murder. A tenured medievalist at a small liberal arts college, she mostly tries to find ways to avoid meetings in order to write more . Find her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter to hear the latest news.
Image via See-ming Lee's Flickr