De-cluttering brings on decision fatigue. If you want a headache, backache, and a pain in the neck — all at the same time — decide to sell your house!
Purging, de-cluttering, organizing, and cleaning are all necessary to prepare a house for sale.
Since early January, we’ve been clearing ‘stuff’ from the basement. We began in the basement as it contained most of the clutter in our house. The finished area of the basement had become a catch-all after our son moved away. The unfinished area housing the furnace, deep freezer, water heater, and many storage units was the real disaster area.
The process has been arduous and painful. It seems that every seldomly-used possession collected during almost 50 years of marriage and 25 years of living here found some spot in the basement. When placed in the basement, the item was out of sight and easy to ignore or forget!
Over the years, we organized, cleaned, and kept building more storage as collections grew. There were shelves of flowerpots, vases, baskets, candles, small appliances, pots, pans, coffee makers, and sports shoes. There were paint cans with bits of paint, partly used aerosol spray cans, insecticides, fishing gear, various tools and, horror of horrors, boxes of things we brought when we moved here 25 years ago! Its amazing how much useless stuff two people own.
We aren’t buying another house until this one sells, so we don’t know the kind or amount of storage space that will be available. Thus, the decision to toss or donate most of the things in the basement.
Emotional attachment to ‘stuff’
Despite this resolve, I still find myself handling stuff and not tossing. The extent of emotional attachment to things that I don’t use, things that don’t really matter to me, and things that don’t really make me happy has been a surprise.
Sometimes the feelings are sentimental because I’m looking at an item that was a gift or something handed down from my mother.
Sometimes the feelings are materialistic especially when I paid a lot of money for something that I ‘had to have’ but didn’t use. It seems wasteful to dispose of such items until I remind myself that letting things go is part of down-sizing.
What if I need it?
The question of whether I may need something arises frequently. I find myself estimating the cost to keep, store, and move the item relative to its value.
Cost may include storage containers, closet space, book shelf space, or extra square footage.
Cost may also involve space in my cluttered brain. In the process of purging, I’ve found many items I don’t remember owning.
In terms of sentiment, owning something for a long time sometimes means it’s value increases. I’ve often looked fondly at something (a sign of emotional attachment) and tried to rationalize that I could need it soon (a sign that I’m holding on).
Perhaps there is a mathematical equation showing that emotional attachment — and not need — increases by the number of years owned.
To date, sorting books and sending them out has been the most difficult in terms of decision fatigue. Both my husband and I accumulated many professional and clinical books during 40 plus years as helping and management professionals.
Having a library in the basement provided quick reference sources before the internet. Each of us had favourite books that represented landmarks in our careers, difficult graduate courses, or source material for a presentation or achievement.
Because the library represented the security of a professional designation, tossing the books somehow meant another, more final good-bye to an important part of life. Last week, at http://postworksavvy.com/saying-good-bye-to-favourite-books/ I wrote about the feelings around disposal of books.
The purging and de-cluttering for the past five weeks has resulted in severe decision fatigue.
Every week, on garbage day, we haul bags and bags of stuff to the curb. I’m waiting for the feeling of ‘lightness’ that getting rid of things should promote; instead, it’s mostly exhaustion and stress.
Sorting brings tension between what is necessary and the childish urge to hold on. I know these conflicted feelings come from overwhelming decision fatigue. It’s easier to talk about or think about de-cluttering than to do it!
For encouragement, I’ve read a current New York Times best seller by Marie Kondo, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Kondo makes excellent recommendations discarding things. Often I worry that I’m discarding things that should be kept or that I’m not sufficiently ruthless.
To cope with decision fatigue, anxiety, and physical exhaustion I’ve been using simple coping strategies.
- Taking breaks. Sometimes a cup of tea or some goof off time brings new energy.
- Keeping the end goal in mind. The decision to down-size is right for us at this stage of our lives.
- Staying focused. When overwhelmed with memories or the sheer amount of stuff, it’s good to remember the progress made.
- Setting time limits. I use a 60 minute rule as a starter especially on the days when I feel that I can’t face more sorting. The time limit usually results in momentum to keep going.
- Practising forgiveness. As I move along I try to forgive myself for over-buying stuff and allowing excess to accumulate. When I’m tired, I remind myself that I can’t work as long or as hard as I did 10 or 20 years ago.
Ultimately, our de-cluttering process comes down to keeping things we love. These things will help us to create a living space that suits our needs at this stage of our lives. We’ve lived the other chapters fully. Now it’s time to let go and move on.