So, remember when I went through every closet, cupboard, and drawer in my apartment this summer and decluttered/purged everything I could? Well, there were actually a few small boxes I ignored, during that process. And by ignore, I mean I literally didn’t open them. I knew what was inside and I knew I wasn’t ready to go through them, so I pushed the boxes to the back of my bedroom closet and told myself I’d deal with them at Christmas. Well, Christmas came early…
If you know me in-person, or if you’ve read my posts around Christmas time before, you know I love the holiday season. I love the cooler weather, all the lights, the smells, the traditions and the feelings of nostalgia. I loved playing Santa in our house (bringing up the gifts and putting them under the tree, when Baby Bro and Baby Sis were asleep) when I was a teenager. Now, I love seeing my “niece’s” face light up when she hears even a whisper of his name. The whole season just puts a little bit of magic into the air, and I can’t get enough of it.
One of my favourite traditions with my family is picking out a tree and decorating it together. Every year, we head down to the Braefoot Lacrosse Box in Saanich, and walk up and down the rows of real Christmas trees, until we find the perfect one for our living room. After getting it into its stand and letting the needles drop overnight, we bring it inside, string up the lights and take turns hanging ornaments. My favourite part in all of that is how each ornament causes you to reminisce, and the feeling of nostalgia that brings up.
Years ago (I’m talking 2007), after I finished college and moved out of my parents’ house, I decided I needed to decorate my apartment for the holidays. I promptly went out and bought a 4′ fake Christmas tree. I also bought white lights, some fake garland to hang over two windows and countless ornaments. I was set.
From that year on, I also began to collect penguin ornaments. I’m not entirely sure how that happened, actually, except that my friends all knew how much I loved penguins, so I started to receive these ornaments as gifts. (I forgot to move the mermaid, but she’s a keeper in this household.)
Up until Christmas 2011, I continued to collect more ornaments, accepted more white lights from a friend who didn’t want them anymore (someone else’s treasure?) and was given even more penguin decorations. (More more more!) Altogether, I ended up with three boxes of Christmas decorations…
…and I barely use any of them.
When I moved to Toronto in September 2012, I tossed my 4′ fake Christmas tree – and that was easy to do. I couldn’t, however, find it in me to open my three boxes and even consider tossing any decorations. So, I just packed them up and put them in storage (a.k.a. my parents’ basement) while I was out there.
My Christmas decorations remained boxed up and unseen for Christmas 2012, of course, because I was living in Toronto. Last year, however, I opened up the boxes and only pulled out a few things: garland and white lights to go over my fireplace, and one penguin ornament to hang from it. (I’m a dork.)
In July, when I did this massive declutter/purge, I looked at the three boxes of Christmas decorations and thought: there’s nothing to declutter in there. I need all that stuff. But why? For sentimental value? That feeling of nostalgia? What exactly was I holding onto? I finally decided to open up the boxes and find out.
What I discovered (and what you can see above) were ornaments I hadn’t hung on a tree since December 2011. Think about that: I haven’t let them serve their purpose in three years. Since I don’t plan on buying another Christmas tree anytime soon, they will continue to sit in boxes. And if I relocate again one day, I’m guessing those boxes will come with me, yet again.
As I started opening the small boxes within those bigger boxes, and unwrapping pieces of tissue paper, I found ornaments I literally couldn’t ever remember owning. (Not the penguins – I know who gave me each one of those.) Altogether, I counted out 50 items. It wasn’t easy to go through them all with my sentimental comb, but in the end I tossed (will donate) 35 and only kept 15.
I kept the garland, a string of white lights, a few decorations Mom gave me and many of the penguins – and that’s it. I filled the small brown box up 2/3 full (mostly with that garland) and put it back in the closet, then stacked up the other 35 items to go. And with that, I’ve achieved my goal of removing 50% of my belongings from my home!
Items removed: 482 (51%)
Current inventory: 472 (Probably closer to 480, as I’ve received a few free books, candles, etc.)
It’s funny… you’d think that after achieving my goal I would be done and satisfied. And I am, to some degree. I will celebrate this and call it a huge win. But when I look around my apartment, I still see more that could go. There are books and magazines I’ll donate after reading, clothes I’ll toss after they wear out, etc. I don’t have a specific number of items I’d like to get rid of, and it isn’t about that anymore. But I’d guess I could toss at least another 10-15% and be just fine.
If I felt qualified to give any piece of advice after this experience it would be this: decluttering is a never-ending process. I don’t walk around my apartment with a scary clutter stare, just looking for things to get rid of. But after taking that first step and purging so many things in the summer, I’ve continued to take notice of things I don’t actually use/love/need. It feels good to remove a few items each week, and doing that when I think of them (a.k.a. not procrastinating!) is the only way to stay organized/on top of it.
My second piece of advice: if you want to learn a lot about yourself, partner a declutter/purge with even a monthlong shopping ban. Seriously.
When was the last time you sorted through your Christmas decorations? What’s stopping you?