Cleaning out, letting go, starting fresh

By Carol / January 4, 2016 /
Photo courtesy of:

My office bookshelves were nearly this bad. Photo courtesy of:

I ended the old year as I often do – by cleaning out my office. This December gave me an even better opportunity to clean out, though, since my husband and I agreed to tackle remodeling my office – the last room in our house to get a new ceiling, new flooring, new paint. Since every surface would be new, every single thing had to come out before we could begin.

Touching every item twice – going out and going back in – as well as the weeks when boxes filled our bedroom and furniture distributed through the rest of the house, gave me ample opportunity to consider what was there and how much of it I really needed.

It also allowed an opportunity to look at my life and how it has changed – or stayed the same – over time. From this exercise I observed:

Letting go takes time. When my mother passed away in 2007, many of her things came into my office. Everything from memory books to hats to estate documents. For the first time, looking at these things, touching them, remembering, did not leave me in tears. I was able, finally, to give away, to throw out, or to consolidate the memories to a couple of small boxes. There may be a time to let even these go. Maybe in another 10 years.

The same could be said for the books and files from my 30-year career in public relations consulting. I finally admitted that if I hadn’t looked in these files for 14 years, it was unlikely I ever would. Out they went.

Themes arise. I found no fewer than 10 sketch pads of various sizes, each with less than a dozen pages used. Since childhood, I have yearned to draw. I hadn’t realized how persistent that yearning has been over the years. It may be time to act on this interest in a more purposeful way. Drawing and writing are not far apart, I think.

I kept all of the sketch pads and all of the drawing materials, consolidating them into one place. I should not have to buy new when I take up drawing again.

Losing pounds. Like many, I often think about losing a few pounds at the end of the year, though I commit to that idea about as well as most and with less vigor each year. In December, I succeeded in spades. I estimate I shed a good 50 pounds, probably more, of books and files. knickknacks and gifts never given. I was stern with myself, and I think I did a pretty good job. Not the pounds I usually think of shedding, but even so, I now walk into my office feeling ‘lighter’ with all the clean, open space. It cheers my mind to realize that I know what I have and where everything is.

I spent almost no time at all writing in December, giving myself over happily to the holidays and family and remodeling the office. Now I start the new year fresh, with a new coat of paint, new clarity, and new purpose. I hope last year ended as well for you and that you, too, look forward to 2016 with optimism.

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  1. Shirley Hershey Showalter on January 4, 2016 at 1:39 pm

    Love how you think of de-cluttering as shedding pounds. I need to do the same. Maybe dragging books to the local Gift and Thrift will help me shed both. 🙂

    The holidays won’t be over for me until three more entertaining events ending on Jan. 13. I love the feeling that comes with more space for the new in my life and no place for the old that doesn’t inspire.

    Your letting go gradually of your mother’s things makes a lot of sense to me. Your inner griever will know when and how to do it.

    To a light and bright New Year!

    • Carol Bodensteiner on January 6, 2016 at 9:38 am

      You bring up something I should have mentioned, Shirley – “Meaningful divesting.” It isn’t just about throwing away, but also about moving things on to the right home. In addition to the bags that went in the burn barrel, I had things in piles that I gave my son first crack at. I have boxes ready for DAV. I gifted some things to friends. It feels good to find good homes for things. Maybe I also lost a few pounds getting up and down off the floor so often. Wouldn’t that be a treat?

      All the best to you in the New year, too.

  2. mary gottschalk on January 5, 2016 at 7:43 am

    Carol … I share your delight in shedding the extra pounds of “stuff” that no longer has any meaningful significance, but must be dusted or stored or somehow managed. I have been shedding weight since I went sailing 30 years ago … and there is still more that has to go. Good work!

    • Carol Bodensteiner on January 6, 2016 at 9:40 am

      You are a model of streamlined living for me, Mary. Though I find that I am often the recipient of your shedding. 😉 One woman’s trash … There is always something to move along.

  3. Joan Z. Rough on January 5, 2016 at 11:46 am

    Carol, I never feel lighter than when I shed pounds of belongings that I no longer need. This is exactly what I am planning to do this month. I find it difficult to do any work when clutter has outlived its necessity.

    • Carol Bodensteiner on January 6, 2016 at 9:42 am

      I’m with you, Joan. Clutter stands in the way of my getting work done, too. Yet, I recognize it is my nature to ‘file in piles.’ When the piles start tipping over, then I must act. Here’s to de-cluttering and a productive work/living space in 2016.

  4. Elfrieda Neufeld Schroeder on January 6, 2016 at 12:49 am

    Carol, I think you’re right about writing and drawing having a connection. At least, for me they do too. I’ve often thought it would be nice to take an art class or two, but have never done it. Congrats on getting your office spiffed up. Mine sure needs it, especially after the Christmas madness. Everything kind of landed in there!

    • Carol Bodensteiner on January 6, 2016 at 9:47 am

      Creativity finds its way through us and out in many ways. If we are open to that possibility. I have taken a few drawing classes from the Des Moines Art Center and loved each one, but once the class was over I let that experience lag. It’s time, I think, to take the learning of the classes and launch something that is my own. I encourage you to give drawing classes a try, Elfrieda. I bet you’d enjoy stretching your creative energy in a new way.

  5. Barbara Drewry on January 11, 2016 at 12:29 am

    In the space of time leading up to Thanksgiving and Christmas (2015), I gave away 40 things a day for 40 days. I took photos of each group of things and posted them on Facebook. And while this project did not complete my decluttering by any means, still, 1,600 things is quite a few things that are no longer here! It always helps me to have guidelines like this (another time I gave away 30 things a day for 30 days….), as it motivates me to continue when I grow tired of the project! 🙂

    • Carol Bodensteiner on February 2, 2016 at 5:23 pm

      Wow, Barbara. That is some accomplishment. As soon as I read your approach, my mind began to churn on how I could do something similar. I love a good goal and setting even a smaller goal – 10 things a day for 10 days – could have dramatic results. Thanks for sharing.

  6. mary gottschalk on February 16, 2016 at 3:34 pm

    Letting go is the operative term. In my latest round of dispossession, I sent my gorgeous Nepali pillows to my niece. I got them in Kathmandu in 1989, and have carted them around the world with me ever since. I will miss … but not that much.

    • Carol Bodensteiner on February 16, 2016 at 3:37 pm

      Letting go of something that carries such a wealth of memories is perhaps the hardest, Mary. I’m glad you were able to keep them in the family. Now you’ll have another reason to visit your niece.

  7. Marian Beaman on June 8, 2016 at 9:03 am

    Thank you for linking me to this post. I relate to every word, every emotion. Kondo’s book connects lightening our load of possessions with losing physical weight.

    Somehow I remember your intention to pursue art, perhaps in a conversation in Chincoteague. Write on, Carol!

    • Carol Bodensteiner on June 8, 2016 at 9:53 am

      Thanks for stopping by, Marian. I’ve only read reviews and interviews of Kondo and her book. Sounds as though I intuitively tapped into some of her thinking during my process. Yes, I think we did talk about art in general at Chincoteague. I see both writing and drawing in my future.

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