Estimated reading time: 12 minutes
Discover how taking charge of your environment improves your life! This post provides you with practical tips to start implementing now.
Table of Contents
- Take Charge Paradigm Shift
- Short Term Change
- Mid Term Change
- Long Term Change
- Related Topics
About ten years ago, I watched a documentary about the story of stuff. My friend and I were talking about the accumulation of things in our homes, and she recommended I watch this thought-provoking film.
At around the same time, I attended a women’s entrepreneurship conference. One of the guest speakers was an organizational consultant. She opened her presentation by asking us to calculate how much of our stuff is ”homeless”. Meaning that many things in our homes don’t have a permanent place.
At the time, I thought everything had a place in our home, so when responding, I said approximately ninety percent. I didn’t want to appear too overconfident, so ninety percent seemed reasonable.
The speaker then gave us a questionnaire to complete. The questions included retracing where we drop our mail, flyers, and books and how many of the clothes in the closet or storage we consistently wear and use.
Take Charge Paradigm Shift
After her session, I left feeling a combination of embarrassment and inspiration.
I also felt enlightened and began my quest to take charge of my physical space. I decided everything that did not serve a purpose or add value to my life would be re-homed, donated, sold, or recycled.
I am embarrassed to share that I was a book hoarder. Instead of using the formal dining room area for a formal table setting in our home, we turned it into a library. Mainly because we already had an entire seating area off the kitchen in a second dining room.
In this extra room, we installed floor-to-ceiling bookshelves on each wall. We invested thousands of dollars into our reading habit. Yet, accumulating books over several decades, we kept every single one. Why?
Books in our home library were displayed like trophies. Our kids grew bored of their books over the years, as did we, and we rarely even entered this room after time. But it was an impressive room!
Improve Your Life by Taking Action
After this one-day experience of exploring stuff and uncovering why I felt I needed so many things, I created an action plan.
I wanted to liberate our family from an overwhelm of things, starting with our home library.
My family was on board, and we were all excited about the possibilities.
Improve Your Life by Paying it Forward
We had several genres of books, and all seemed so precious to discard or recycle, so I created a list of groups who may find value in our library:
- I contacted an employment program for urban indigenous learners and job seekers. They took a large portion of our nonfiction books.
- I contacted the women’s shelter and donated an SUV full of children’s books.
- I contacted elder care facilities and donated another SUV full of fiction novels.
In addition to a home library, we also had a craft room. Turning one of our extra bedrooms into a fully stocked craft room for our kids, we had shelves of paper and art supplies. Many of it was impulse purchases through phases and fads for one project.
For example, I was obsessed with scrapbooking. This room was a scrapbooker’s paradise. Another time, one of our daughters had to make a diorama for class, so many items were left over. I won’t even mention the one spring I became obsessed with creating fairy gardens. The list goes on.
Most of these items were donated to the women’s shelter, and the women and children thoroughly enjoyed countless hours of creating art.
I had kept every journal article from writing my thesis several years prior, and I never revisited them.
At one point, I took boxes of binders to the recycle bin and emptied them. I took anything that included confidential information to our fire pit and opened and dumped it sight unseen.
I called my girlfriend and told her what I was doing.
When I told her about the fire pit, she shrieked, “You did what?” I repeated, “I took one binder at a time and opened them into the burning fire.” Staring blankly at me through FaceTime, she responded, “You didn’t look first?” “Nope,” I replied.
Improve Your Life by Reinvesting
After our books were successfully re-homed with new and appreciative readers and all the paper clutter was cleared away, we listed our bookshelves for sale.
We sold them in a couple of days and used the money to re-paint our entire home and professionally clean the carpets after we were done organizing our space.
Improve Your Life by Recreating Space
The former library became a brightly colored music room with our daughter’s keyboard and the antique LP stereo cabinet my father gave me. We could hear music playing throughout our home, which was a lovely transformation.
There was also space. Space for nothing other than our home experience and movement. It was glorious. No more dusting books we never read.
Improve Your Life by Creating New Habits
We committed to a family library card to feed our love of reading.
The fee for our membership was $25.00 each year. We had access to books from across our province in the regional library network.
We would go to the library once a week and fill up to return the following week for new books, magazines, audiobooks, and learning kits.
I canceled newspaper and magazine subscriptions, and we saved roughly $300 per year.
Improve Your Life with a Kitchen Makeover
After finishing the library, I tackled my kitchen and pantry.
I invested in labeling gadget and containers for dry goods. Our shopping trips drastically changed from buying bulk to fill the cupboards to only purchasing what was needed to fill each container.
I also added containers in the fridge and freezer, and our grocery bills significantly decreased. Our budget was cut by almost half of what we were spending previously.
Even with purchasing the labeler and smaller storage containers, we were still spending below our regular budget.
Improve Your Life with a Bedroom Sanctuary
Next, we started on our bedroom spaces.
Sorting through clothes and personal items, we identified what we would absolutely keep, what was seasonal, and what could be donated to charity. I learned to live happily with two pairs of jeans, black pants, hoodies, etc.
We only needed one good parka, two pairs of mittens, one scarf, and one toque for winter wear. It was endless as we sorted and prioritized our belongings.
I turned the surplus of denim and flannels into beautiful quilts and gave them away for Christmas gifts. Whatever clothing items were left over went out the door.
We also removed the television in our master bedroom and canceled our satellite subscription. Our bedroom was a sanctuary for rest and peace. We didn’t need unnecessary noise and embraced changing habits for television time.
No more movies in bed with unneeded snacking.
This change landed us $150 for the television, and we saved $840 a year by canceling the satellite subscription.
Not to mention reducing risks to our health by no longer eating popcorn smothered in butter late at night.
Short Term Change
This initial process took us the better part of a month.
However, we were all committed and felt good about our accomplishments daily.
We would donate, sell and recycle anything we had not touched in six months. This was our benchmark timeline. It’s embarrassing to say some items still had price tags on them!
We had more room in our home, and room by room, we cleared out anything that did not fit our criteria for keeping.
We kept the items we needed on a regular shopping list and removed many others.
Through this process, we found enough shampoo and body wash, toothpaste, bandaids, and deodorant to last our family of four for more than a year.
Further reducing expenditures on our shopping list.
Improve Your Life by Creating Open Spaces
We also sold and donated furniture and linens and emptied storage containers.
On a side note, animal rescue charities are a great place to donate unneeded linens. They are always in need of towels for bathing and bedding.
I discovered schools, women’s shelters, and homeless shelters also need storage containers.
I removed the items from the china cabinet by our kitchen table. I turned our Royal Albert dinnerware, only used for special occasions, into our everyday dinnerware.
Can you imagine? Having dinner plates and silverware on display.
I gave away the six-foot china cabinet to friends creating more open space in our home. In the process, I learned to embrace life moment by moment and not save things for special occasions.
We only live once, and I will if I want to have my morning coffee in a $100 teacup. If it breaks, it served me well while I used it. I don’t need to replace it with a new one to ensure I have a complete set.
Mid Term Change
It took us about six months to feel the exponential changes we made in how we were living. It wasn’t easy.
We went through buyer’s remorse for how much money we spent on purchasing things we never used. But we were happy others would find value in the items we donated.
We also started to see how much money we were saving in our budget from buying less, canceling subscriptions, and combing through all the other expenses.
For example, we changed insurance, utilities, and cell phone providers and omitted many unnecessary costs from our budget.
Long Term Change
Since this experience, I have had many life changes that furthered my efforts to declutter and only keep items that add value to my life.
I’ve expanded my scope from only physical spaces to digital spaces, relationships, jobs, where I live, and what I consume.
Whether it’s what I eat, read, listen to, or watch, I am conscious of choosing things that add value to my life.
This goes for the work I do and the relationships I choose to engage with in my life.
In my experience, taking charge of your physical space empowers you to live a fulfilled life.
Clearing out the clutter allows us to focus on what is important.
This focus changes our paradigm from want to need, and ultimately, we feel happier.
Here’s a re-cap to get started:
- Decide to take charge of your physical space.
- Create an action plan with criteria for evaluating the things in your physical space.
- Think big and start small, with one room at a time.
- Give back to others. Make calls. Find out who will benefit most from your things and donate.
- Celebrate and reward yourself for your accomplishments.
Thanks for stopping by!
Until next time,
- 12 Tips for a Fulfilled Life: Personal Development Basics
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- Unlock Your Potential
- Self- Care Ideas with Powerful Self- Love Journal Prompts to Embrace Joy
The Story of Stuff. (2009, April 22). The Story of Stuff. YouTube. https://youtu.be/9GorqroigqM