Some people (okay, me) love to label things, measure, weigh and calculate statistics. We measure the moon cycles, the seasons, the years. We label them with names and dates and numbers and tick them off in days, hours and seconds.
Without fail, a number of us (okay, me again) take stock of things on or around that day labeled New Year’s. We reset the annual chronometer to 01/01 (and in this case 01/01/11, rather cool, eh?), and we can’t resist the thought of starting fresh. We eagerly usher in a new year that makes us (yeah, me again) giddy with possibility and positivity.
Of course, to achieve true giddiness, we need to cast off any negativity that weighted us down in 2010. Like those unwanted extra pounds we gained at the holidays, little things tend to accumulate around our homes over time. It happens so slowly, they become invisible to us.
I first became aware of this phenomenon when I went through a five-year period in my life where I moved seven times. Nothing like packing up my entire life annually (or more) to make me realize all the unnecessary clutter I’d gathered. I couldn’t even tell you where half the stuff came from. I just knew I wasn’t packing and moving it so I could unpack it and try to figure out what to do with it.
I haven’t moved since 2006 (thankfully), but I haven’t forgotten the lessons I learned during “the mobile years.” I now use New Year’s as my excuse to cull, donate, toss and destroy the numerous things I find in my home in an attempt to also cut loose the old year’s invisible negativity. Lighter-minded and more centered, I approach the new year ready to soar with all my goals and resolutions.
I’ll quickly outline my process for any who may wish to try this one day.
1. I tell everyone I know not to have expectations of me on New Year’s Day. It’s my day.
2. I buy a bottle of nice wine, a baguette, brie cheese, some almonds and a little fruit. I also splurge on a couple bottles of Fiji water so I feel really pampered.
3. After turning on the stereo system, I start the day in my home office, usually by mid-morning with a pot of coffee and a box of trash bags.
4. I clear everything off my desk—actually, off of every surface. Nothing goes back onto a surface unless it’s absolutely vital. This includes the desk lamp, the computer and the phone. I then argue with the cats about whether the cat bed on my desk is absolutely vital.
5. Historically, having lost the argument with the cats, the cat bed goes back on the desk. About now, I open the bottle of wine.
6. I clean out my filing cabinet. This has files of bills from the past year, insurance documents, paycheck stubs, and lots of other things. I go through file by file and pull anything that isn’t necessary. Water bill from March 2010? Shredder. Privacy Notification mailer from I don’t even remember who? Paper recycling. Homeowner Assoc. Letter with gate codes from July 2010? Shredder. You get the idea.
7. I clean out every drawer in the office. Oy, this includes tossing the bottle of dried up white out from 2006 (the one I couldn’t bring myself to pitch the last four years), cutting up expired credit cards, reviewing five versions of an unsold manuscript and asking whether I’m ever going to really write that book on the revision process. I find birthday cards from last year—most I toss, but a few I may file (now that there’s room in the filing cabinet). If I haven’t done so already, I start nibbling bread and cheese.
8. I work through the office closet. This means reviewing the binders and tossing old calendars, planning sheets, info from conferences, old magazines, and reminding myself of the sewing projects I have stuffed in there.
9. I cull through my books. Anything here to donate to the annual library sale?
10. I redo my bulletin board with fresh pictures, quotes, and my 2011 goals.
At the end of the day (and it’s usually a long day because of the reminiscence factor), I have a (mostly) empty bottle of wine, a (mostly) full bag of trash, a bag (or more) of shredded paper, a bag (or more) of books to donate, and a cleaner, more organized closet, drawers and filing cabinet.
I feel loads lighter. While I hadn’t noticed most of this clutter for months, it had slowly been growing in my office, like vines or weeds choking the roots of my concentration until my work had slowed to a standstill.
I feel centered because I’ve reviewed much of what I’ve done. I’ve taken time to look at things and decide what’s important and what’s not. What should be archived and what should be thrown away and what should be shredded beyond recognition.
This has become my New Year’s ritual, and I look forward to it with fervor by the time Thanksgiving rolls around every year. Being the type of person who tends to hold onto to things, it’s important for me to, at least once a year, openly battle my pack-rat tendencies. This year’s I-better-keep-that-just-in-case could very possibly be next year’s what-the-heck-am-I-keeping-that-for?
And I’m doubly giddy this year. Because it’s a full holiday weekend, I plan to take January 2nd and clean out my clothes closet, too!
Confession time: are you a “collector?” (i.e. Pack-rat?) Are you a believer in the concepts of Feng Shui? Are you organized by nature, or do you get overwhelmed when things start to pile up?