A Year of Gifts
Gift of Less
January is often the month when we feel the need to declutter. I know I do. Whether it’s one of our New Year’s resolutions to tidy up or simply the desire to take a deep breath and relax in a calm environment after all the holiday activities, some of the accumulated junk simply needs to go.
Once the festive holiday decorations are again stowed away, things look bare. I admit I miss the ambiance of sparkly lights. Christmas has come and gone but winter still has a firm grip on things around here. Since we won’t be spending much time outdoors in North Dakota anytime soon, it’s the perfect time to tame some of the messes inside.
I like to think I do a relatively good job hiding the clutter in our house. But please don’t look in my storage room, various closets, or junk drawers. Doing so will blow the facade I’ve built, pretending I don’t often feel overwhelmed with too much stuff.
I know I’m not alone in this. A few of you fortunate souls do a fabulous job keeping the nooks and crannies of your homes blissfully free of clutter. I’m jealous. But apparently not jealous enough to make any real progress with my own stuff.
Why do we have such a hard time letting go of things? And I mean literal “things”, like my kids’ grade school artwork or my high school prom dresses (yes, they are tucked away in my hope chest in the living room, right alongside my wedding dress). I blame it on sentimentality mixed in with guilt. Guilt because I spent good money on something but now I’m contemplating either throwing it away or donating it. Or even more guilt if it was a gift someone gave me. I wish I could take my emotional attachment to some of my “stuff” down a notch or two.
Keeping things because of the emotional value we attach to them can actually be counterproductive. Instead of making us feel good through the memories the item can invoke, we start to feel anxious when all the places we tuck our treasures into are stuffed full.
I had a bit of an “ah ha” moment at work this week. For years, I’ve kept three matching frames on my credenza in my office. Each year, I place a new school picture over top of the old one, starting with first grade all the way through to their high school graduation picture. The frames are compact, mini time capsules I have the opportunity to open and flip through once a year, at least until they’re out of school. Since our “baby” is a senior this year, I felt a pang in my heart when I updated her picture on Wednesday.
When I look through the pictures stored in my frames, the changes over those twelve-year spans are incredible. Some changes were subtle from year to year. Other times, there were significant changes from the previous year. Suddenly they aren’t little kids anymore. Or they started wearing glasses. The glasses are gone, replaced with contacts. There are gap toothed smiles, followed by mouths full of metal, and suddenly there is a photo where straight, pearly whites are revealed.
Hairstyles changed, ranging from short to shaggy and back to short again on our son. Our daughters sported everything from pigtails to stick straight, long hair. There was even one side ponytail. Sometimes there were bangs, sometimes not.
What seldom changed were the emotions the pictures stirred up in my heart. While I obviously know they’ve grown up, the physical changes aren’t as apparent on a day to day basis. Just like so many other things in our lives, we don’t see the evolution as it's happening. It isn’t until we look back later that we can appreciate the magnitude of the change.
So why bring up messy clutter and school pictures together? Because I feel compelled to do two things simultaneously. I would like to do a better job getting the many photographs I’ve taken over the years into a format that is easier to enjoy. Our oldest pictures are tucked into boxes in a closet upstairs (clutter) but most are digital and sitting on various forms of media all over the house. I worry many of these photos could ultimately be lost as both the tools we use to take pictures and the way we store the digital images evolves so quickly. Or what if a hard drive crashes and my half-hearted attempts at backing up my photos comes back to haunt me? Or what if I again accidentally close another laptop with my earbuds sandwiched between the screen and keyboard, rendering the computer useless? It happens folks. Don’t leave it up to chance.
I need to transform more pictures into actual physical copies. For me, I think the ideal way to do this is to use one of the online services to create photo albums. You can get an amazing number of photos on a page and into neat, compact books, unlike the older, much clunkier photo albums.
The second thing I need to work on is coming to terms with my resistance to getting rid of some of the things I haven’t been able to part with up to this point. There are so many items I’ve tucked away over the years because they were “special” but I’ve completely forgotten about them until I go digging around for something else in a crowded closet and stumble upon them.
These first few months of the year seem like the perfect time to clear away some of the inside clutter, before Mother Nature ushers in milder temperatures and we head outside again.
And if I have pictures of my then baby son or toddler daughter playing with a favorite toy or wearing that darling jacket, maybe I could let the actual toy or jacket go.
Maybe…but if I’m being honest…probably not. I’ll keep their favorites. But there are so many other things that have lost their appeal, that if I clear those items out, keeping the favorites will make me smile instead of giving me hives.
How about you? Do you struggle with too much stuff? Cleaning out closets and wading through gigabytes of pictures are probably low on your to-do lists, too, but making progress with either issue would feel so rewarding!
What if we:
I hope I’ve shared something today that will encourage you to find the time to do a bit of tidying up if clutter is leaving you stressed (unless you are one of those fortunate, neat souls without any storage issues and you’ve already made online scrapbooking your hobby). Here’s to less clutter, more picture books filled with photos of your loved ones that you can hold in your hands (and technology can’t steal away from you), and more storage space on your phones after you get all those pictures out of it!
Who’s in? Let me know!
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go clean out my front hall closet. My timer is set! Kim
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Kimberly Diede Author
Hello everyone and welcome to my blog! My name is Kimberly Diede and I'm a fiction author and family girl. When time permits, I am happiest with a great cup of coffee in one hand and a book in the other. I love to alternate between reading and writing. Winters here can be long, dark and cold. Summers are unpredictable, lovely and always too short. Every season of the year, as in every season of life, is a gift. Let's celebrate it together!