It’s time for spring cleaning, and that means de-cluttering our homes, but what if we go further and de-clutter the rest of our lives too? You undoubtedly have too much stuff. But are you cramming too many activities into each day as well? And are you spending too much of your life looking at a screen instead of doing things with living, breathing people?
We all want to reclaim control of our lives and the 101 stories in the new book, Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Joy of Less, which I coauthored with Brooke Burke-Charvet, provide plenty of inspiration and great advice to help you do that. These five tips, from five stories in the book, will help you get started!
- Don’t hold onto stuff that could be someone else’s blessing. The question Jeanie Jacobson always asks when helping her friends organize and de-clutter is: “Are you holding onto someone else’s blessing?” It changed one friend’s whole perspective. The idea of holding onto someone else’s blessing had her gleefully cleaning out her house. “I’d never seen anyone part so willingly with so many useful goods,” Jeanie said of her friend. That inspired Jeanie to turn the question on herself when she got home. She saw dust-covered gym equipment, packed closets and full hampers of clothes. “Why did I have all this lying around when there were so many people in need?” she writes. “I grabbed the phone and called my favorite secondhand shop.” Jeanie had a lot of blessings to donate.
- Your memories live in your head, not in your possessions. As Amelia Hollingsworth packed up her young family’s home for a cross-country move, she had a hard time letting go. So much of their furniture held special memories for her, but not everything would fit in their POD or their new, smaller home. She couldn’t decide what to take and what to leave until her mother put it all in perspective. “The stuff isn’t the memories,” Amelia’s mother told her. “And you don’t have to worry about losing the memories when you leave your stuff behind. Those you take with you.” And she was right. Even though Amelia had to leave a lot of items with sentimental value behind, she doesn’t miss them. “We have not lost the happy memories of our old home,” she shares. “Those came with us, and they were the only things we never had to box up or unpack.”
- It’s okay to say “no.” The “should monster,” as Sydney Logan called it, ran her life. She “should” always volunteer to help; she “should” pick out the perfect birthday, or graduation or wedding gift and happily attend those events. “Frazzled isn’t just a state of mind,” Sydney says. “It’s a reality.” With help from her therapist, she learned it was okay to say no to things she didn’t want to do. “In fact, it’s a necessity, because the truth is we can’t do it all,” she writes. “Not if we want to keep our sanity.” Now, she volunteers only for the things she wants to and not out of obligation. “It’s not always easy, and I still struggle with feeling selfish from time to time,” she says, “but I’m a happier, calmer person. And that’s the way it should be.”
- Sometimes doing nothing is everything. When Sally Friedman saw how exhausted her two granddaughters looked when they came for an overnight, she and her husband scratched everything they had planned. “We would do… nothing. Absolutely nothing,” Sally writes. “At least it would be a novelty.” They lounged in pajamas and played cards. After dinner, they sat around the table telling silly stories. “I didn’t rush to clean up because I’ve finally learned that the dishes can wait—but kids sometimes can’t,” Sally says. At the end of the weekend, the girls didn’t want to leave. “And I think they understood,” she writes, “perhaps for the first time, that doing nothing is actually… quite something.”
- Get unplugged to plug back into real life. After avoiding Facebook for years, Kate Lemery finally joined and quickly became addicted. She would get lost within other people’s Facebook lives, comparing herself to them. And it started to affect her personal interactions. “I got grumpy with my family for no reason other than I’d been feeling bad about things I’d read on Facebook,” Kate shares. “Everyone on Facebook seemed to be having more fun than me.” Lunch with a friend one day made her realize how much time she’d been wasting on Facebook, time taken away from her family. “That night I changed my personal Facebook policy,” Kate says. “I now limit myself to fifteen minutes a week. If anyone has anything important to say, they can tell me personally.” Now she reads more books, watches more movies and takes joy in spending time with her family. “To paraphrase the great humorist Erma Bombeck,” Kate says, “I now cry and laugh less on Facebook—and more while living life.”
“Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Joy of Less” goes on sale April 19, 2016