Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Spring Cleaning

The first flowers of spring.
It has been raining most days so far this April, delaying some big projects and moving some activities indoors, with the promise of an abundance of May flowers to show for it all!

The rain makes it the perfect opportunity to indulge in that very necessary spring ritual: spring cleaning!

While it sometimes seems daunting, there is nothing like the renewal that happens when you get behind furniture and into crevices we don't normally touch during our daily cleaning routines, get rid of excess clutter, and reorganize our homes into a more functional and inviting space.   It can be as simple as cleaning out a closet that's been bugging us or a complete top-to-bottom streamlining of our entire living space, but spring cleaning has a way of uplifting us and clearing the air.

It seems like storing and storage has been a recurring theme (and issue) in my life.  I seem to accumulate things at a rather alarming rate, and quickly overflow my storage capacity.  While I know this is true for many people, there are times when things definitely get out of control.

Reading magazines (another thing that seems to accumulate quickly, since I don't often take the time to read each new magazine that comes in from cover-to-cover in a timely manner) many years ago, I had been sold on the brilliant idea of flat storage bins that could be tucked under the bed.  "Great idea," I thought!  "An under-utilized space being put to good use."  Soon, besides storage bins full of shoes and purses, there was luggage and whatever else I could slide beneath the bed.

It seemed to work, for awhile.  Until I forgot all about these items.  Lovely evening bags and neglected shoes stored in bins under the bed, never to be seen again.  So, one year, I decided that it wasn't working for me after all, and it all had to come back out into the light of day where I could actually see what I own.  In fact, rather than being stored away, they would need to be on display instead, where I could see them and actually use them.  That worked out a lot better.

Items packed up for donation.
But something else happened, as well.  Clearing out the space beneath my bed seemed to make the entire room feel different.  Freshly cleaned and windows open, I slept in that room the night after the transformation, and realized the air currents circulated under and around me, seeming to re-energize and lighten the room.  All this weight had been moved out from beneath the bed, and the room absolutely felt lighter.  I never questioned the benefits of clearing my space again!

Fast forward to 2015, and much to my chagrin, clutter is still in my life.  I had a few things to deal with last year, which ended up meaning items were moved from one room to another temporarily.  Unable to deal with things as they came up, stuff got delegated to these impromptu storage areas for me to deal with later.  Later has arrived.

The most egregious of these being the basement.  As a good friend of mine pointed out, "It must be so easy to throw things down there and just close the door."  Later is always the enemy of decluttering.

This is a tiny amount of leftover boxes.
But the worst thing of all was a collection of cardboard boxes stacked against one wall.  I had literally been collecting these boxes for over 20 years.  Any time I saw a box that was "a good size," or "an unusual shape," or that could come in handy for packing and shipping or storage, I would save it.  It's funny how you don't really pay attention or notice something for years, and then one day you look at it and are completely horrified.  I had to finally admit that I was a box hoarder, and it was pretty terrifying.

It all came to a head a couple of weekends ago.  I had scheduled some work to be done in my basement, and the boxes had to go.  I was under a deadline.  I figured I could take care of them in a day.  Luckily my family descended upon my house to help me.  Thank goodness, because it took 4 of us the entire day to break-down all of the boxes, bring them upstairs, load them in the back of my SUV, and drive them over to the recycle center.  Imagine a mid-size SUV with the backseats folded down, loaded down with flattened boxes, and filling it to capacity.  Twice.  I don't know how many boxes that was, but I cringe at the thought.  We're talking hundreds.

But I had comforted myself all of these years with the thought that one of those boxes may come in handy one day!  Classic thought-pattern of a hoarder.

Turning over a new leaf.

No, this has to stop.  This cannot be allowed to continue.  While hoarders feel a sense of anxiety when they are forced to clear the clutter, I felt absolutely relieved and unburdened.  I no longer have to be the keeper of the boxes.  My soul has been freed.  In fact, I wouldn't mind never seeing another cardboard box again in my life.

Okay, I still have a stack of them in the dining room and in my study, but I promise you they are only there waiting for the decluttering to begin in those rooms.  Boxes of donated items filled my SUV again the day after.  My trash bin has also been filled to capacity for the last three cycles.  I am in a spring cleaning frenzy!  And there is still so much more to do.

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up
Clutter can take over our lives if we're not watching.  My friend, who always seems to be in sync with what's going on in my life (and who laughed when I told her about the box collection), had been telling me about a Japanese book she had been reading on decluttering called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.  She highly recommends it.  She says it helps you think about your possessions in a totally different way.  I think I may need that ... it sounds like good therapy.

My friend said it was freeing to round up the things she no longer wanted and to let them go.  My sister affirmed that we were making room for new things to come into our lives.  (Hopefully not in the form of "stuff" ... kind of over it.)  It is good to keep the things that add to our lives, and to get rid of things that seem to diminish it.

I may not be an organizational guru (yet), but I'm working on it.  At least, I do think that I'm a recovered cardboard box collector.  Never again.  I still have quite a bit of decluttering and spring cleaning to do around here, but I'm looking forward to enjoying a peaceful cup of tea in my newly cleared space once I am done, and listening to the soothing rain.

Spring brings renewal, and my home is already so much lighter.  So is my soul.

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