I know what I want. I always have. But now that I’m 40, please, hold your applause, I know you’re surprised that this is the face of a 40 year old adult grown woman. Now that I’m 40, I really, really know what I want. That means I know the kind of people I want to spend time with. That means I know what food I like to eat. That means I know what I want my home to feel like, look like, smell like. No, I don’t like gardenia candles, I know that for sure. No, I don’t enjoy washing my body with bar soap. No, I don’t like American cheese slices wrapped in plastic. I’m not an animal, for Bette Midler’s sake. I DO love goat cheese omelets and Earl Gray tea with almond milk. With age comes wisdom. And with age comes really good cheese. Back to my house…
So, it’s October and I have a lot more cozy time inside to fully evaluate my crap, I mean treasured posessions. Fall is an excellent season to look around my apartment and see what suits me for real. What do I know for sure about my things and my space? Things I enjoyed a few years ago, might no longer be “my thing.” Even though, at the time of purchase or receipt, we are very excited about a particular thing, that may no longer be the case and we need to forgive ourselves for naturally outgrowing something that we once enjoyed.
I’ve been considering replacing my 5 year old Ikea living room bookshelf with something more modern and open. Until I decide if I’m investing in that large piece of furniture, this past weekend, I took the time to purge and rearrange so I can see the situation a bit more clearly. I spent a couple of hours working my bookcase. I ALWAYS advise people to organize in a small chunk of time, not the entire life span of a weekend. It’s a good thing I absolutely love to putz around my house, I love to rearrange my things, get rid of unwanted do-dads and trinkets. This is what it looked like before I starting purging and sorting:
Generally, it looks pretty good. It’s organized and contained. There are baskets and boxes to house things I don’t want out in the open but it’s a bit overstuffed and I’m tired of looking at these things everyday. Candles and picture frames and excess books get pretty tiring after a while. I live in a small one-bedroom apartment, I can’t avoid looking at it.
For the purging process, I use the same speeches I give my organizing clients:
“That friend who gave this to you will never ask where it is.”
“You have no use for this in your current life.” I hold that thing in my hand for a minute. Give it thanks and say good-bye.
Because I do this process every six months or so (or whenever the mood strikes, really), the process was not monstrous. The cards and photos (in the organge and green boxes) took the most time because there were more of them.
Questions I asked myself as I went through the cards:
“Is this person meaningful in my life?”
“Did this person write something sweet, funny, memorable or did they just sign their name?”
“Does this card bring up yucky feelings of a past relationship?”
Those were the parameters for keeping or tossing cards. Photos were all about clarity, duplication and, again, yucky or great feelings. If I had four photos of the same church in France with nobody standing in front of it, they all got tossed. Sorry Notre Dame. If I had four photos of people from high school standing in front of that church and I don’t speak to any of those people anymore…tossed. You get the picture. Get it? Picture? This is evidence of sorting and purging in progress:
Next came the books. I already purged around 40 books in the Spring but I’m not kidding around and I purged about 35 more on Saturday. It felt awesome.
Questions to ask myself while purging books,
“Will I EVER read this thing?”
“Can this info be found online?” The answer was “yes” when I held a Suze Orman finance book in my hands. Never gonna read that thing as much as I love Suze.
“Am I keeping this for sentimental reasons that are ridiculous?”
“Can I get this book again if I truly need it?” The answer to that last question is almost always a loud YES…library and Amazon will save you if you absolutely need something you threw out.
After I put those 35 books on my building’s front stoop for looky loos and treasure finders to nab, I immediately felt like I lost 5 pounds. (Let’s just pretend that I did because that would be awesome.) I personally love to color group my books for a little bit of a visual effect. Something you can do with hardcover books is remove the book jacket and enjoy the pristine binding underneath. Book jackets can be tossed immediately. You don’t own the first copy of Moby Dick so let that sucker go. Do it.
Here’s the pared down, re-arranged but not wildly different bookcase experience:
There are fewer books which leads to more free space. Good candles are now in a closet grouped in a large Tiffany box. Mostly-used candles got tossed. A frame is now on my bedside table. The large basket that took up an entire shelf is now holding kitchen goods on top of my refrigerator. The small green box got switched for a small basket from my closet that held sunglasses. Now the green box holds the sunglasses.
I used to love lots and lots of color but now I’m veering towards Eileen Fisher neutral territory. So those orange and green boxes are going to be replaced with tan boxes in the next week or two. Is this a reveal worthy of Extreme Home Makeovers? No. But it’s a small change that makes me feel better about walking past this bookcase every day. And guess what? The whole thing cost zero dollars (until I buy the tan boxes which cost a hell of a lot less than a new bookcase). So I’ll live with this until I save up for a new piece or I’ll do some more changes. It’s really up to me. Because at the end of the day, I know what I like. And I like that I know that.
With love, light and less clutter