Spring cleaning challenge 2011 :: simplify

This season don’t just clean up — clean out!

Simplifying your home is far from easy. A few months ago when I moved from my college apartment into an intentional community in Plaza Midwood, I faced my first massive downsizing adventure. At the start, it seemed only a bleak undertaking of saying tearful farewells to my favorite things and hesitantly conceding item after item to my “get rid of” pile.

But after the first few boxes started filling up, my spirits started to lift. By the time I was dropping off my things at the Free Store in NoDa, my feelings had certainly and distinctively shifted — I felt lighter, freer, even liberated.

As relaxing as an aromatic candle: Simplifying your life and your home can make a world of difference. Photo Credit: Steven Burleson.

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It’s truly amazing how much stuff I accumulated on the basis of “need” that I rarely miss now.

There’s an old Aborigine saying that reads, “The more you know, the less you need.” Concepts of simplicity like this are difficult to process in the midst of a greed-driven economy like that in the U.S. But, despite all the constant hype of needing bigger, shinier, newer things, could it be that perhaps less really is more?

Don’t take my word for it — try it out for yourself! Start small by choosing just one room, one closet or one drawer to simplify, then go from there. Below you’ll find a few amateur tips on how to begin.

Step One :: Bite the bullet

The most difficult step in simplifying is actually getting rid of things — taking the clothes off the hanger, packing the paintings in a box. This requires a thoughtful reevaluation of needed items versus wanted extras versus superfluous desires.

A friend (or two) can be extremely helpful in this stage, offering sobering advice if you get too emotionally attached or a steady opinion if you start to get too carried away.

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With items you own in bulk, such as clothing or games, try out the “turn trick.” Simply make sure all the clothes hangers, games or any other belongings you are evaluating are facing the same way. After you use each, turn it in the other direction. Doing so will help you keep track of which items you have used and which you have not used. Once a preset amount of time has passed — two weeks, a month, six months — rid your closet or shelf of any unused items.

Step Two :: Trash, give or sell

Once you have accumulated your “get rid of” pile, begin sorting your items. Divide them into three sections: trash, give or sell. Once you’ve separated them, consider donating them to a local clothing ministry or other service like Goodwill (goodwill.org). In Charlotte, check out The Free Store (facebook.com/pages/Free-Store-Charlotte/130216280367360) and The Urban Ministry Center (urbanministrycenter.org). Each welcome your lightly-used, good condition donations.

Should you decide to go the selling route instead, team up with some friends to organize a yard sale. Or, pack up your things nicely and take them to the local Plato’s Closet to make some quick cash. Whatever you decide, the items are off your hands and into the hands of someone who needs them!

Step Three :: Lasting habits

If maintaining a sense of simplicity is of value to you, it’s important to set a few goals for yourself. First, create a way to track your purchases; keep a rough limit of purchases you can make per week or items you can have in a room to keep yourself in check. Also, keeping in touch with people in need is a powerful way to keep yourself in check, remembering first the needs of others before desires of your own.

So go on — lighten up your space, free your mind and help someone else out while you’re at it. Happy simplification! : :

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Posted by Leah Cagle

Leah Cagle is QNotes' former associate editor for arts and entertainment. You can reach editor Matt Comer via arts@goqnotes.com or editor@goqnotes.com.