October 23, 2016

Use the Love Test to Get Rid of Clutter.

clutter free home

Purging stuff in your house is kind of like falling in love with someone.

You can have a nice, rational list about the qualities you want in your partner and then boom, you meet someone who makes your heart sing, and maybe they don’t have all of those qualities on your list.

It’s not rational. But your heart knows. So when you go through your stuff, keep what you truly love, even if it doesn’t make sense, and get rid of the stuff you don’t love, even if you should.

Here’s my own love story.

About 10 years ago, I bought a banjo because I am a huge bluegrass music fan. I imagined how fun it would be to be able to play banjo and join music jams and stuff. I took about two lessons and then life got in the way. Years passed, and I never picked up my banjo.

But I also never tried to sell it. Nor did I fall out of love with bluegrass music.

More years passed. The banjo was getting in my way and collecting dust.

Finally I told myself it was time to sell my banjo.

I took it to a great place that sells used musical instruments.

I put the banjo on the counter while the store owner took a look, turning it around, plucking the strings, pondering whether it was something he could sell. I hoped he’d say yes.

“I’ll take it,” he said, and told me how much he’d pay me. I was delighted. He began writing up a sales slip.

I couldn’t let go!

My heart started flipping around. I said, “So, how many lessons would I need to be able to play a tune or two?”

“Just a couple and you can start playing around,” he responded.

“Only two lessons?” I thought to myself.

He finished writing the sales slip and I signed it. My heart was sinking as I took the money and stuffed it in my wallet.

I looked at the banjo and felt a lot of sadness coming over me.

“Uh. Can I change my mind? I’m so sorry! Here you’ve gone to all this trouble, but I don’t think I want to sell it!”

“That’s okay,” he said. “It happens.”

Give yourself a time limit.

I started breathing again. I pulled the money out of my wallet. The sadness lifted. I decided to give myself six months and if I hadn’t touched my banjo by then, I’d bring it back to the store.

My banjo represents a dream—a lifestyle of hanging out on the front porch strumming, or joining a jam session, and, well, most importantly, the banjo represents the simple, joyful life to me.

It makes no rational sense, but I wasn’t ready to let go of my dream just yet.

Get out of your head and make decisions.

It’s a first-hand lesson for how to discern what to keep, and what to let go of.

Just feel your feelings and make decisions. Get out of your head and into your heart and soul. Do not rationalize. Do not keep stuff because you “should” like it or you paid so much money for the thing you “should” keep it or it’s so trendy cool you “ought to” like it and so on.

But if it’s a situation like mine—a banjo I haven’t touched for 10 years—give yourself a time limit like I’m doing. If I don’t touch it for six months, then it doesn’t make sense to keep it. Someone else should enjoy it.

Because I don’t want you to go around your house telling yourself that everything has an emotional component and therefore you should keep all of it. What I’m telling you only applies to stuff you aren’t using regularly, like my banjo. If you’re using something regularly, or wearing something regularly, what I’m saying does not apply.

What about sports equipment?

For these items, set time limits like I’ve done. Say it’s camping or hiking or ski gear. You used to camp, ski and hike but haven’t in 10 years. Give yourself six months, a year at most, and let it go if you still don’t use it. Because just as important as it is for you to discern with your heart, it’s also vitally important that you don’t keep a bunch of stuff you’re not using.

You don’t want to be overwhelmed by clutter and stuff. You don’t want your house and garage full of stuff you should use, but for whatever reason, you’re not using.

Here’s how it works:

Go through your house and for everything you’re not using regularly, give it the emotional test. How do you feel when looking at it, touching it?

Get rid of everything that doesn’t make your heart sing at least at little.

For the stuff that makes your heart sing but you’re not using, like my banjo, give yourself six months to use it. Find a new home for it if you haven’t used for six months.

And this is how you lighten your emotional life, and keep your house clutter free.


Author: Janet Luhrs

Image: Joseph Albanese/Unsplash 

Editor: Catherine Monkman


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Janet Luhrs

Janet Luhrs has shared her passion for simplicity on Oprah and in the New York Times, as well as on NPR, World News Tonight and countless others. She is author of the best-selling, The Simple Living Guide, which is often called “the bible of the simplicity movement, and her follow-up book on intimate relationships, Simple Loving. 

When Janet discovered simplicity, her life was busy and chaotic. But as she eagerly applied the tools she was learning, both her her family’s lives began to transform into more ease and joy. She knew she was on to something huge, and started her newsletter, Simple Living, to share what she was learning. Her newsletter has morphed into a blog and website.

The way Janet sees it, we all get one beautiful life here on this earth. We have just so many minutes, so many hours and so many days. How are we going to spend it? How will you spend it? Will we spend this precious time buried in stuff, stressed out by debt and frustrated that our lives feel like they belong to everyone but us?

If, like Janet, you know there’s something more for your life—something easier and sweeter—then subscribe to her blog or jump in and sign up for one of her classes. Connect with Janet on Facebook or Twitter. When you sign up for her blog, you’ll get her free ebook, Top 3 Money Mistakes Women Make and How to Correct Them.