Every holiday season, I pull out boxes of decorations that bring liveliness and joy to my home and our office at Apositiva. Lately I’ve noticed that there’s much more in those boxes than what I need to decorate these spaces. Things change: we no longer have the upstairs part of the Apositiva office, my son Rick isn’t around as much to help with decorating, and wonderful new gifts keep showing up all the time. This year, I’ve been facing the fact that I simply don’t use all that I have, and holiday decorations are just one of the areas in my life that could use a good decluttering.

How about you? Accumulating too much stuff is such a big part of our culture that we’ve dedicated entire TV shows to helping people downsize. Maybe you’ve heard of the benefits of a minimalist lifestyle and want to try it out. There are countless gurus offering advice, like the KonMari Method of taking each object you own in your hands and asking, “does this bring me joy?” If you’re like me, that question can be hard to answer, and our minds find all sorts of reasons to keep things that don’t spark joy. Each object is imbued with memories and meaning which are hard to let go.

Ultimately, we can’t keep everything or stop the flow of new stuff that keeps showing up. Trying to consider everything all at once is overwhelming. So start easy. What do you see in your environment that can go directly into the trash or recycling, with no questions asked? Take care of that and then take a moment to celebrate this accomplishment. It feels nice, a bit more spacious. What do you see that could be of use to someone else, that could bring them genuine joy? Collect some things that could be donated, put them in a box, and give yourself time to decide if you’re really ready to give them up. If they’re still in that box in a week, a month, or a year, chances are you won’t miss them.

Of course, strict minimalism isn’t for everyone. Thomas Edison famously said, “To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.” Collage artists need their piles of magazines, and old journals could be invaluable material for the book you’ll write someday. That tool you only use once or twice a year might not bring much joy right now but you’ll be glad to have it when you need it. Striking the right balance, however, will require taking a risk that we’ll later miss something we’ve let go. Without taking that risk, we’ll never find that intangible object we might be missing out on: the freedom and clarity that comes with making space in our lives.

I’d love to hear your story about stuff, whether it’s the overwhelming mountain you’re facing or the success you’ve had in downsizing. Write me back or call Apositiva at (503) 525-0595.

With peace and light,