Digital De-Cluttering (Part 3)

closePlease note: This post was published over a year ago, so please be aware that its content may not be quite so accurate anymore. Also, the format of the site has changed since it was published, so please excuse any formatting issues.

I started talking about Digital De-Cluttering on Tuesday, and continued yesterday, but today I want to talk about de-cluttering in general.

Why am I suddenly on a huge de-cluttering kick? Well, I wouldn’t call it sudden. Remeber, getting caught up and staying caught up is one my new year’s resolutions! That includes getting my cluttered life in order.

With Morah and I talking about moving into a house, and even entertaining the idea of moving to a new city (yes, we’re having that conversation again), I realized just how much stuff I have. A few weeks ago, I went over to my parents’ house on a Saturday and Sunday and worked my butt off cleaning out my old closet. I had over a dozen boxes in there full of all sorts of random stuff, much of which I didn’t even remember I had. After going through every single box, I filled up a garbage bag with about a hundred pounds of stuff that I threw away, I created a pile of things to take to Goodwill, and I created a pile of stuff to sell on eBay or at a garage sale.

Part of de-cluttering, both on your computer and in your closet, involves being honest with yourself. Sure, looking through my old Hypercard stacks would probably bring a smile to my face, but as I said yesteday, I haven’t looked at them in years. What about things like old magazines that had interesting articles? When I was going through the stuff in my parents’ house, I found a big stack of old issues of Popular Science and Popular Mechanics that I had saved (I remember going through an even bigger pile before we moved to Spokane from Hawaii in 1999 and throwing out about two thirds of those). I briefly glanced through them, but couldn’t remember why I had wanted to keep them, so out they went!

And that really is the hardest part. When you save something, you usually have a reason for it. So, years later, when you open a box and find that thing you saved, you have to be honest with yourself and say, “Come on, you haven’t looked at this in years. In fact, you forgot about it completely! Do you really need something that’s just going to sit in a box for the rest of your life?” You’ll find that, more often than not, the answer is no, you don’t need something that just sits in a box and that you’ve lived without for years.

There are exceptions, however. As I was going through all of the boxes in my parents’ house, I had one sitting off to the side that I would occasionally put things in. I called it my memory box. In it, I put things that I had no reason to save, other than they represented memories that I want to keep. A perfect example of this is a small collection of die-cast cars. They’re old, beat up, and most of them don’t work properly anymore, but I remember countless hours of playing with them when I was very young. Our old house had a pool, and I would line them all up on the bottom and race them down to the deep end. So despite the fact that these toys will remain boxed up for most of the rest of my life, they’re important to me, and I feel that they’re something worth keeping.

There’s a saying that I’ve been repeating to myself a lot lately: “you can’t take it with you.” In the grand scale of things, do you really need to keep all those e-mails? Or those files you can’t access anymore? Or that issue of Cat Fancy from 1998? It doesn’t matter how much money you save up or how much stuff you accrue, the simple fact of the matter is that you’re going to die, and when you do, you can’t take any of it with you. Since I don’t believe in an after life, having the memories of a happy and fulfilling life are the most important thing I can think of. When it’s my time to go, the money I earn, the house I live in, and all the stuff I collect won’t stop me from dying. But the memories of a life well lived will help usher me out of this world with a smile on my face.

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  1. I’m am a de-clutter-er extraordinaire. I luuuuurve throwing stuff away. My hubby?? Not so much. Afrer six years of marriage, though, we’ve learned to compromise. He throws more away, I keep more. I’ve learned the value in things like your die-cast car collection. There are things that represent major happy memories, and they are good to have. 🙂

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