Chris DeLine

Cedar Rapids, IA

A Journey Into Declutterization: Part One

Published in Blog.

“Other people’s stuff is shit, but your shit is stuff.” -George Carlin

The past few months have been, to say the least, interesting for me. I gained some of that “life-experience” stuff I’ve heard so much about, and accompanying it has been a perspective leading me towards a stronger sense of what is honestly important to me. But as the saying goes, “When people see some things as good, other things become bad.” When I started to examine what’s now important in my life, the stuff that was becoming unimportant began to reveal itself at an alarming rate. And not to say that I’ve given up on having physical stuff, but spending a month and a half away from much of civilization (and the internet) gave me the distance I needed to see that in reality, as George Carlin might have said, my stuff was shit. Furthermore, the majority of that stuff was beginning to mean shit-all to me. It was time to do a bit of spring late-summer cleaning.

My return to the internet was welcomed by a number of articles and suggestions that focused on the topic of decluttering one’s life. Time detailed Dave Bruno’s extreme course of action against the unnecessary which he labeled the “100 Thing Challenge.” Bruno’s goal being to, fittingly, narrow the scope of what he owned down to 100 things. Then Lifehacker pointed out a Get Rich Slowly article entitled “Simplify Your Life with a Stuff Replacement Fund.” The focus of this article being to sell your unused stuff so that when you want to get more stuff you’ll have a bit of extra cash ready and able to help you make the purchase. Additionally, Zen HabitsInternet Duct Tape and many other resources all offered great decluttering tips. It was Cindy Loughridge’s recollection that really nailed the point home for me however. In her article Loughridge explains her three month trip to India and the experience of being removed from her stuff, all of which lead her to question exactly how much stuff she really needed. It was around the time that I read this article that I knew my Quebec Nordiques banner, which I had been holding onto for all these years – waiting for the right moment to break it out, was no longer valuable to me. And the flag was not alone.

After referencing a number of online how-to resources I started to identify the best way to go about my declutterization. I found a lot of great examples, tips and processes used, including reducing one zone of your stuff at a time, using lists to identify which stuff is no longer valuable, creating piles for stuff that you want to get rid of in designated areas of your home, reducing stuff by eliminating things you have multiples of…and the list goes on. But defining my goals before getting too deep into the process seemed like a good place to begin, and paring down to as close a fresh start as possible seems like something I’d like to work towards at this stage in my life. That may sound overly ambitious, and it might be, but for too long I’ve been dissatisfied with the way I’ve been living – continually trying to find my happiness in external stuff. It’s a strange feeling to be happy, genuinely happy, without having to look for that feeling in something (or someone) else – and through this process I hope to upgrade my life by downsizing and simplifying much of all the stuff in it.

As I’ve branded this “Part One” of my experimentation with declutterizing, my goal is still far off in the distance – something I’m working towards… but the fact remains that I am working towards it. After roughly two weeks of assessing everything I’ve been left with feelings of hope and happiness – but occasionally sadness as well. As my personal cleansing commenced it became evident that it’s a tough realization to find out that the things I once placed so much emphasis in no longer reflect what I want in life. And while the online examples of decluttering one’s life are all helpful when the goal is to eliminate physical stuff – typically things you own – my goal is as much to mentally declutter as it is physically declutter. While the effect of eliminating gross levels of unnecessary possessions will hopefully give me, as Loughridge said, “peace of mind, clarity and liberty,” I’m focusing on ridding myself of destructive mental stuff to help me increase my quality of life. And as saddening as it is to realize that most everything around me, the things afforded by “slaving the wage,” held little to no personal value – it’s inversely uplifting to realize that things can change. And they are changing.

Since returning home I’ve stepped away from my job, realizing that the work environment would be wholly detrimental to me had I gone back to it. I’m calling it a day with the vehicle I’ve owned for the better part of a decade and the condo I moved into earlier this year as they both represent a goal with which I can no longer identify. I’m trying to let damaging relationships go, and build new ones on honest terms. Most of all – I’m trying to free myself from so many things in my life that are simply unnecessary… hopefully “Part Two” will detail some positive results from this journey through declutterization.