September 2nd, 2015
Or Why I Had to Halt the Decluttering
It’s time to get real here. This is an authentic post. I am a professional organizer. I love having a place for everything and everything in its place. I also hoard things.
I’ve mentioned it before on my blog, but I really think that one of the reasons I love organization so much is because when you keep everything, you really need a good system to keep track of it all.
Many of you know (and participated with me) in a declutter challenge in August. For me, it was time to tackle Project Closet – the main namesake of this blog. Truthfully, when I started on the 1st of August, I was pretty sure that I would need until the end of the year to really get it all out. I really astounded myself with how quickly it all went once I got started.
It was just like my favorite snowball analogy – once I got started with it, I kept rolling down hill and making tremendous progress. I tackled every single item and box in the closet. It went in stages. I took a ton of pictures. I cleared a lot of things out.
Then there was a void.
This is something I haven’t heard many (any) people talk about before, but for me it was so real that I absolutely have to share it with you. See, as a hoarder, there is an emotional attachment to those objects. Even though I know they are just things and at the end of the day they aren’t “important” they are meaningful to me.
I often wondered how after my team would organize true hoarder homes and create a sparkling “new” home with a place for everything and systems that were created especially for the client, we would show up 6 months later and the house would be in worse condition than it was before. It took 20 years to get to the initial point we had worked on, so how did it only take 6 months to get back there?
This question was the impetus for me to start my own company. I no longer go into people’s homes and whirlwind their space into a clean one. We work together, step by step and piece by piece. Only now am I starting to realize how truly important that is.
For me, it was not my whole home. It was only a closet, but the void is real.
Throughout the challenge my coach would ask us how we were feeling. I always thought she expected us to say that we were feeling great and some days I truly did feel great. After a day of dropping things off at donation or recycling I would feel light and free and happy.
At the end of the challenge the dark days came. The void.
Even though I felt like I was mentally ready to part with these things, it was still hard because I had held on to them for so long. It almost felt like I was supposed to hold on to them and an interesting conundrum presented itself: If I should get rid of these things now because they no longer serve me, then WHY did I hold on to them so long? If it was okay to hold on to them for so long, then WHY am I getting rid of them now?
It seemed that either way I thought about the issue brought me sadness. The weekend after I completed the clearing of Project Closet, I sat with my girlfriend and talked about how it really made me sad and I couldn’t put my finger on why.
Yesterday, when talking to my business thought partner, I heard her say a word to describe it that summed everything up – VOID. I was (and still am) feeling a little bit of a void. These things took up a physical space and now that space is empty. I believe that your physical space is a reflection of your mental space and vice versa. So this void I am experiencing is more than just an empty closet.
In this life, I am committed to focusing on solutions. So, I have come up with some solutions to fill the void. The first, was a compromise. I have a Coca-Cola collection that I have had for decades. It has over 80 collectible pieces and although I no longer want them, I do want to remember them. As part of the declutter challenge, I took pictures of each item individually. I was going to sell the collection and make a photo book of it later, but I have decided to do the opposite. I am working on a photo book now. I plan to order it and have it in my hands before passing on the physical collection to someone else.
My friend is hosting a monthly art party this weekend and that’s what I plan to do – create an amazing Coca-Cola collection photo book. For me, it is a great compromise. I can fill the mental piece of the void while clearing the physical clutter.
The main thing I learned from this, the main solution I am taking away, is to take it piece by piece. Attack huge clearing projects like this step by step and constantly check in with yourself to see how you are actually feeling. Don’t assume you should feel one way or the other. See how you really feel. As you go along, come up with compromises for yourself. Create ways to remember your past while clearing a path for your future