It’s astonishing how quickly our lives can become filled with clutter. Cluttered homes. Cluttered calendars. Cluttered desks at the office. We live in such a culture of excess, that it has become almost the norm to surround ourselves with far more than we need. We love to accumulate, but we hate to throw things away. I may need this someday, we convince ourselves. I may return to that hobby I abandoned. I may get around to reading that pile of books again. I may actually throw a party and use that never-touched fondue pot.
A few nights ago, I had the most random dream (as most dreams are), in which I was helping to declutter a friend’s house. I kept repeating these three questions – questions which I’m sure I heard once in some reality TV show, but apparently made a huge impact on my subconscious.
Do you need it?
Do you love it?
Does it help you to earn money?
It’s that simple. If you can’t answer with a firm “yes” to one of the above questions, then it doesn’t belong in your life. Get rid of it! Toss it out! Give it away! (NOTE: This does not apply to pets, kids, friends, etc.)
It’s been around a year and a half since I began a new life as a single mom. My three kids and I spent a few months intensely decluttering before moving to our new home. It was a shock to realize how much stuff we had accumulated during those sixteen years of marriage – clothes which had gone out of style before the year 2000, VHS movies, tents without poles, dusty stacks of books, tools that had gone missing and long-since been replaced, and boxes and boxes of mostly-useless junk. Did I need those things? No. Did I love them? Not exactly, though the books had been well-loved at some point. Did they help me to earn money? Absolutely not. So we hauled piles of items to the thrift store. We held a garage sale. We donated hundreds of books to the local library. And I learned to do something that used to be very difficult – I threw many things in the garbage. Yes, the garbage. Crazy, I know.
But here’s the cool thing. When my kids and I moved into our new home, everything fit neatly in its own place. Our books were not spilling out of bookshelves and onto the floor. The kitchen cabinets were not so overloaded that I couldn’t find pots or appliances. The only clothes hanging in our closets were the clothes we always wore. It was freeing. It was clean. Becoming organized made life much simpler.
It is funny that those three questions came to me in a dream so recently. The end of the year is approaching, and although I am not a fan of New Year Resolutions, there is something about the approaching New Year that makes me want to reevaluate the clutter which I have allowed to accumulate during the year. Time to sweep out the old junk and make room for the new. Funny how in just one year, a family can build up so much clutter – outgrown toys, worn-out clothing, shoes without mates (How in the world does that happen so often in our house? Where do the mates go?). But as we ring in the New Year, I will surely begin the purging process, sorting through the stacks and piles and asking the same three simple questions.