‘Tis the Throw Away Season!

Posted by Lisa_Hidgon_Professional_Organizer on October 05, 2012  /   Posted in Blog

Funny how something that seems inconsequential at the time can be life changing. About thirty years ago I read a magazine article in the break room at work which turned out to be very influential in my attitude towards organizing and purging, simplifying, etc. It was called, “The Throw Away Lent.” Lent is a season preparation observed by some Christians for the forty days before Easter. It’s a preparation time of fasting, prayer, self denial, and repentance. Many people will “give something up” for Lent, like dessert or television.

The author of “The Throw Away Lent” told about when she decided to get rid of one thing each day for each of the forty days. She had a bag for give away and throw away, and I think that she also gave herself permission for a “maybe” pile.  The author’s purpose was to clear out and simplify her home. She was surprised by the unexpected benefit of emotional weight being lifted from her shoulders when she wasn’t bogged down by so much STUFF.

This appealed to me so tried it. She was right. It was freeing. I’m sure this experience is what inspired my business tag line, “Clear your space. Clear your mind.” I continued the habit after the forty day experiment. I became really good at getting rid of stuff. This was very helpful, as we lived in seven places during our first seven years of marriage. Unfortunately, after one lives in the same house for twelve years and adds a few kids, it is easy to get off track.

Right now we are having work done in the house. It has involved clearing out our kitchen, basement, and bedroom closet. What a wake up call! There is nothing like being forced to move things around to remind you how much stuff you have. I could argue that it barely counts as clutter, because it is organized and not really in the way. But consider the things that I have organized in the back room of the basement. Why was I keeping paint from three wall colors ago? And tiny baseball gloves from Little League? And worn out sleeping bags? I guarantee that you, like me,  have too much unnecessary stuff.

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This is a great time of year for a planned purge. The weather is not too hot or too cold, and it’s before the holiday season. Whether you decide to do the closets, the kitchen, the linens, or the toy room, you can create your own “throw away” time period. We have seven weeks until Thanksgiving. Could you get rid of one thing a day until then? The beauty is that it is not a goal which requires you to finish something. If you “throw away” once a day, you have met your goal. You will begin to see results well before the end of your chosen time period.

A few suggestions:

Make this about “stuff” – not papers. Getting rid of objects will feel like a more concrete accomplishment.

Create places for things you want to give away. I have a box for charity items, a box for an after school art program, and a place for things I’m giving to friends and family. Be careful of that one. Don’t make your junk someone else’s.

Give away the “give away” items! When things are still in the house, it’s very easy to change your mind and keep them; or to end up storing the give away boxes – which is really still stuff cluttering up your house.

It’s okay if you get inspired to throw out two or three things at one time, but resist the urge tackle a whole space in a day. The beauty of the one item a day experience is that it’s very manageable. You can choose to concentrate on one space for the whole time if you want. You’ll see great results without overwhelming yourself.

Most importantly keep track of your progress. Check off each day on a calendar that you can see. This visual reminder will keep you going. Don’t give up if you miss a day.

I wish I still had that magazine article. I’ve done online searches for it with no luck. I’d really like to give the author the proper credit – and my thanks. But I will honor her by participating in this for pre-holiday 2012. I hope you’ll join me. Forty-nine days. Ready….. GO!

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