Lighten Your Load – create more space for living

While staying home during the pandemic many in our consumer culture were confronted with our ludicrous amounts of accumulated possessions, prompting major decluttering projects and donations that have overwhelmed thrift stores My process started several years ago as my daughters had told me they would hire a junk hauling company to dispose of all my stuff after I was gone. A life-threatening diagnosis and my compulsion to save things from the landfill motivated me to reduce the amount that would be trashed. For 30 years of living in the same house, I was very efficient at storing things but not good at releasing much. I had done a great job of containing things to look neat and tidy, but I could rarely find something when needed. When I read Francine Jay’s quote

“Your home is living space, not storage space”

I decided that I wanted to live more, not spend my time and energy managing stuff.  I started the process on my own, but it was painfully slow. Since hiring a professional organizer I’ve made amazing progress. Rebecca Schaeffer, of Simplicity Design also offers coaching so she could help me look at why I was so attached to my belongings and reluctant to let them go. My holding on consisted mostly of books and papers – programs I’ve created, interesting articles, inspiring quotes, travel brochures, etc. One day as I was contemplating why I was so attached to these material items, I had the thought “But who would I be without them?” I recognized that my books and papers documented my interests, my creative projects and what I had done in my life and career. But what I’ve done is not who I am, and who I was then is not who I am now. Having so much stuff to manage felt like an anchor weighing me down. My decluttering mantra became the quote by Sarah Bolen:

“If it doesn’t nourish your soul get rid of it“

Researchers at UCLA’s Center on Everyday Lives and Families (CELF) have identified a direct link between clutter and high levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Decluttering is good for our mental and physical health. Letting go of physical items from the past can help us let go of emotional baggage as well, creating a sense of space in our heads, and hearts as well as our physical spaces.  And it might make us think twice before bringing more stuff home.

After donating 100 books, recycling 20 boxes of papers (paper by paper) and reducing 6 trunks of memorabilia into 2, I feel wonderfully unburdened – a bit more like the child in this blog image  and less like the older woman traveling with so much baggage!


Lighten Your Load
card by Jane Norton

“decluttering is less about tidying up and more about focusing on what really matters to you.“

Juliet Landau-Pope

  • if you have a difficult time letting go of things, ask yourself what purpose they are serving in your life, and whether that is still a fit with who you are becoming.
  • to help you make choices about what to keep and what to let go of ask “does this energize me or drain my energy?”
  • what is it you want to open the space for more of in your life?

I found that decluttering in small chunks of time was better than taking on an entire project. Try the Pomodoro Technique – a time management method that breaks a project into work and break intervals and uses a timer to keep you on track. Pomodoro means tomato in Italian; the founder, Francesco Cirillo, named it after the tomato-shaped timer he used. His timing was 25 min of work and a 5 min break, though you can use whatever timing works for you.


Rebecca Schaeffer, of Simplicity Design & Professional Organizing, LLC works in person in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area of North Carolina or virtually  anywhere in the world. She offers residential organizing, home staging and moving services and business productivity coaching. Her Simplify, Organize, Thrive framework and her insightful perspective and encouragement can transform your space and your life.