So I took a long (no, a really long) break from blogging. No good reason – just life getting in the way, relationships, family, complacency – the usual. But the big news is that I’ve spent the last couple of months decluttering my life and home in preparation for my third move in three years. (You know you move too much, when your mover remembers exactly who you are :P) And today I feel good about having fewer things for a simpler life and about the acts of charity. Here are some of my personal experiences and simple steps one can take to declutter one’s life and/or home while helping those in need.
The Minimizing Exercise
- The One-Year Test – If you’re looking at something wondering if it stays or goes, think of the last time you used it or even looked at it. If you haven’t set your eyes or hands on it for over a year, just take my word – You are likely not going to use it! This test works beautifully for minimizing your closet too. And if the “What if I need it?” question pops in your head, just know that you will come up with an alternative if (a very big IF) and when the situation arises. In short, we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it 🙂 .
- How does it make you feel? – Decluttering is not only about having fewer things but also about feeling better. Any item, piece of clothing, picture – anything – that brings about negative vibes does not deserve to have a place in your life.
- Let go!! Your friends will love you even if you no longer have their gifts – Your best friend bought a memento from her trip to Europe in 1998. Chances are she has probably already forgotten about that. If it didn’t pass the one-year test but passed the “feel good” test, it doesn’t mean you keep it. I promise – your family and friends will love you just the same regardless of what you do with their gifts. Afterall, it’s the thought that counts, right?
- The split-second decision – This is one of my favorites. Ask yourself if you really need something and if you love something. Then make a split-second decision. If you hesitated for even a moment then it’s got to go. I got rid of two garbage bags of clothes and 5 pairs of shoes by doing just this and today I don’t even miss them.
Donate, Fundraise, Give Away
After I went through the minimization exercise, I was tempted to grab a bunch of garbage bags and drop all this STUFF down the chute because it was just so easy. But I spent the week before my move asking around at work, family and friends to see if they had a use for any of the items. This is where they ended up:
For most of us, books that we’ve already read become an item for decorating a piece of furniture called “book shelf”. But do we have any intention of reading those books again? Probably not. I decided to donate four shelves worth of books to those who will actually read them. Public libraries are the most obvious place to donate books, albeit, I find those in Toronto are laden with books. I asked around and learnt of a charitable library in Kenya that was founded by a colleague’s cousin. It’s amazing to know that your books (the ones that you will never read again) are a primary means of education in some countries. Once again, ask around.
UPDATE: The library is called “Elizabeth Wambui Muchemi Library” – named after founder Deborah’s mother. They are currently working on their website and options to receive donations. Meanwhile, if you wish to donate any books, computers, laptops, iPads, etc. to the library, please get in touch with me directly. Good work Deborah!
Bridal wear, for most of us women, is something we are all mushy and sentimental about. A lot of dreams are tied to these apparel. I was holding on to two pieces of bridal wear, each weighing 7 to 10 kilos, that were taking up precious real estate in my closet. Whether you are married, separated or will never marry again – it’s fair to assume that you will never wear your Bridal Dress again! Unless, of course, you were smart enough to shop for something more cocktail-like that you could wear at a formal occasion – I know at least one such person. And if you are thinking that you will pass it down to your daughter, daughter-in-law, niece, god-daughter, THINK AGAIN! My bridal wear from my first marriage was ethnic, which posed some interesting challenges. I asked around again and found this wonderful Toronto-based organization called The Bride’s Project that accept pre-owned wedding dresses for donations and the proceeds from their sales go towards charities that help children with cancer. I spoke with Helen Sweet (the founder) to see if she will be willing to accept my ethnic lehenga-choli and she was thrilled to. Helen and Dorothy are two wonderful women that make a bride’s dream come true within their budget while still fighting cancer one dress at a time. I walked out of their quaint little store on Broadview feeling A.W.E.S.O.M.E!
Furniture, Kitchen items and other nik-naks:
And then I was left with small furniture items like the book shelf (that I won’t need anymore), a media unit, an ironing board, some office supplies, a dinner set (because who needs two, really?), some brand-new-in-box feminine products that I received in a loot bag at a conference, and bath coordinates, etc. In one of my internet searches, I stumbled upon Eva’s Initiatives, which works with and offers shelter to homeless and at-risk youth aged 16 to 24 to get them off the streets permanently, find housing and community supports, and begin to rebuild their futures. They accept in-kind donations in the form of food, furniture, new clothing, winter outer wear, sports equipment, house wears, and toiletries to save the organization from spending scarce resources. A complete list of items they accept can be found here. You can also mail a list of items you are looking to give away to Robert Hurd at email@example.com – he was extremely helpful and a delight to correspond with.
By the end of it all, I think I ended up throwing out (and recycled where I could) just a couple bags of garbage. So I don’t feel as guilty. This minimization exercise coupled with charity has definitely helped me learn more about what I need (no, I mean what I really need) to live a comfortable life. And a little bit of karma doesn’t hurt either – if anything you just feel good about yourself. Once again, any and all feedback/suggestions are always appreciated.