One of our SBO Partners, Erin Barbot, of Erin Barbot & Co in Silver Springs, MD, just completed a yearlong decluttering project in her own home, and documented her progress on Instagram for all of us to see. I was so impressed with this simple, yet effective approach, that I asked her to write about her experience. You can also listen to our conversation on my podcast, This ORGANIZED Life.
Here is Erin’s story:
If you followed me on Instagram or Facebook in 2017, you know that I created a project for myself that I called #365letgo. Even though I pride myself on decluttering on a regular basis, and have even made a career out of helping others do the same, I found myself encountering possessions around my house that no longer served a purpose or brought me joy. I decided to make my purge a daily habit for an entire year, and document my choices online to share what I learned and to keep myself honest :).
The idea was simple: each day, I let go of at least one item and documented what it was, why it no longer served me, and how I planned on getting it out of my house. Needless to say, this disciplined process of letting go proved to be quite a journey and learning experience for me, and I hope all of you who followed me throughout the year got some inspiration along the way.
Erin’s Takeaways from her year-long experiment:
1. Hiding in plain sight. Even though I edit our home on a regular basis, to my surprise, we still had a lot of stuff that we didn’t use, we didn’t need, we didn’t like, or was in bad shape and needed to be replaced with something higher-quality and longer-lasting. Every day we came across things we had overlooked, and the discipline helped carry us through the few days when we thought we’d finally run out of stuff to let go of!
2. Flexibility is key. I originally set out to not only get rid of one item a day, but to also get rid of something additional if I made a purchase (one in/one out). I quickly realized this was not attainable for us. It was too much to keep track of and took the pleasure out of getting anything new, even if it was important or necessary. While I believe we need to be thoughtful about our purchases, the act of bringing something new into our homes should still bring us joy and not feel like a chore or some kind of karmic burden.
3. We didn’t regret a single thing we got rid of. Sure there are a couple items that pull at my heartstrings a little to think about, but I still wouldn’t bring them back into our house.
4. I knew this from helping sell my clients’ stuff, but learned it more acutely when it was my own: unless you have a ton of spare time, selling your stuff is not often worth the effort. If you assign your own time with a dollar amount (easy to do if you have your own business) and think through the time it takes you to post, manage responses, package, and ship your stuff, it’s rarely worth your while. Exceptions include brand new items or high-end name-brand pieces that are in great condition.
5. Getting rid of small items that fill up drawers and bottoms of bins and baskets, like hundreds of paper clips or rubber bands, gave me the most satisfaction. Sometimes this stuff can be the most tiring and tedious to go through, but it really adds up to clutter and gets in the way of finding and enjoying what you have.
6. It was both harder and easier than I thought to work with my 3-year-old on letting go of some of her things. Some items I just got rid of without a word and she didn’t notice or care. On occasion, she asked me where some other items were, and I had to tell her that we gave them to someone else who doesn’t have as many toys as she does. A couple of times she got upset, others she didn’t. I will admit this got in my head a little and I had to stay committed to my goal and not let her potentially getting upset distract me. At the end of the day, I know that her not being overwhelmed with tons of toys is better for her and our family, so I just had to keep reminding myself of that. As a side note, I did have to get sneaky with where I put the donation pile, because once she saw something in there, she would take it out again.
7. Make a list of where you like to take things: charities, neighbors and family members, hazardous materials dump, technology recycling, etc. Knowing in advance where you want things to end up will make it much easier to get started.
8. Designate a space in your home where you keep donations before you are able to handle their disposal. In other words, you don’t need to drive to the Goodwill every day, but you should physically move the items you want to let go out of your daily living space and into a designated container or area of a less used room (laundry room, basement, shed, or garage, for example).
9. Biggest reminder and lesson: This process never ends. If you go through a decluttering project and then a year later are frustrated that you have too much stuff again, note the last time you really took a look at what you’re keeping. With stuff constantly coming in, wear and tear, and tastes changing, the passage of things through your life truly needs to use a revolving door.
Thank you again to everyone who followed along and supported me. It was a really fun project and I’m excited to keep the process going on my end. Happy new year, and happy editing!