Living Small: responsible decluttering

 

As previously mentioned my closet is bursting.  It’s filled to the brim and holds more clothes than I remember purchasing. When deciding to slim down my closet there are two main reasons for it: one, there’s the simplicity of maintaining and utilizing a lighter closet and two, it’s more environmentally sustainable to adopt good practices within your shopping habits.

Part of this simplification will require getting rid of a lot of older or underused pieces. I’m slowly making several passes over my closet and each time removing the things that I barely wear, that don’t match other things in my closet, that no longer fit properly, or that I simply don’t feel a strong attachment too. I tried to Konmari method, but if I’m being honest, a lot of my closet sparks joy, but I’m working on it. I’m slowly removing more and more and have a feeling that if I keep this up I’ll have the closet I want in a few short weeks.

Once I’ve decided what to remove it gets into the topic of how to remove. While the simplest way of doing this is a few trips to my trash chute, I would rather my old pieces be recycled or reused. Only 20% of discarded clothing items are reused (only around 1% are recycled). That’s staggering when you consider that in the US alone we send 21 billion pounds of textiles to landfills each year. A few of the options I’m exercising.

 

Resell

For a few of my more expensive pieces I’ve opted to sell them on Poshmark as a way to recoup some expense of purchasing them in the first place. This is also a get way to ensure that they are getting a second life with someone.

 

Donate

Specific to NYC there are several groups to donate clothes to. For all my professional attire that I don’t wear anymore, I’m donating to Dress for Success, an “international not-for-profit organization that empowers women to achieve economic independence by providing a network of support, professional attire and the development tools to help women thrive in work and in life”.

 

Thrift

This is similar to donating as I’m being very selective about where I donate my clothes to. I want to avoid the trendy spots as a lot of those places have high turnover and will toss any clothes that haven’t sold in their first few weeks on the shelf. Thrift stores like Housing Works and Cure Thrift Shop sell clothes, not for profit, but to fund lifesaving services for low-income people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS and to fund Type 1 diabetes research and advocacy, respectively.

 

“Dump”

Not into a landfill, but into one of the large recycle bins located around the city. Using this map I’m finding one in my neighborhood. This is the last resort as personally I find it to be the laziest and before reaching this stage I’d like to dole out clothes as responsibly as possible (ex: giving professional attire to Dress for Success).

On My Mind: releasing past patterns

 

I’ve always been a things person. I like things, I surround myself with them and growing up in a large home in the country facilitated this. I grew up on over 10 acres of land, consistently surrounded by both nature and things. There’s a comfortability in it. I’m used to seeing a full basement of bits and bobs that my dad could use to solve any problem around the house. Or a full closet of treasures and memories that my mom could assemble into a last-minute Halloween costume, fix a busted seam, or turn into a new game.

At some point, I began to equate things with capability and comfortability. Things became a toolbox that I could use to solve my little problems here and there. Getting rid of them meant that I may need to repurchase in the future.

Moving to NYC a year ago begged me to reconsider this collecting mentality. I simply don’t have space. I cut my closet in half and was still bursting. I take up 2/3 of the closet shared with a partner (his patience with me continues to have limits I’ve yet to find) and have drawers stuffed with tees, tanks, bits and bobs. I’ve tried to move things here and there, reorganize, to no avail. I Marie Kondo’ed my home and still see the dreaded things everywhere. There’s only so much organizing can do for you when your home is bursting at the seams. I’ve decided that a sincere slim-down is in order. My closet, my home, the entire ASH is on a little diet.

This isn’t intended to be a New Year’s Resolution (as I truly don’t believe in them, which you can read about here) but there’s something about the end of a year — end of a decade — that begs us to reconsider decisions or lack thereof. I’ve managed to justify my consumerist behavior with the fact that I resell and donate my old bits, or hidden it underlayers of support for other global issues. “Maybe I over-shop, but I don’t use single-use plastic.” As if one can balance the other?

It can feel like living ethically is walking a tightrope, always someone to offend or some small action you’ve done incorrectly. I’ve watched people online be ripped apart in posts supporting a marginalized group with comments like “what about this group?” or “if you really believe that you wouldn’t have done X”. People make mistakes, grow, and learn, but the internet doesn’t like us to do that. We are constantly recorded and past actions held up like exhibits in a courtroom, by armchair social justice advocates. Even if you are looking to do the right thing, and move forward.

That being said, the fear of failure has never been something to hold me back from being boldly audacious in my goals. So a closet slim-down, swapping quantity for quality, is a movement I’m happy to take part in. There are a few things I have at the top of my to-do list.

 

take my grandfather’s old coat to a tailor to make it wearable for me.

investigate my tee shirt collection and aim to donate anything unworn in the past year.

take inventory of the storage closet & shelves.

slim down the storage unit, move the bikes into the apartment, and close the lease.

 

One by one I plan to cross them off and create a very different situation at ASH.

In My Home: Smudging, Saging, and Cleansing

My First Time

Sage is all the rage. In the world of holistic and internal wellness, burning sage is quite literally in Vogue. I purchased my first bundle over two years ago and trust me, it was 90% sticks. Knowing absolutely nothing about the practice of smudging, I lit my twig bundle, ran around my house, and *surprise* felt no effects. To be honest, my apartment was feeling more ashy than spiritually cleansed.

 

* Click here for my how-to guide on smudging *

 

 

Fast forward several months and I decided to give it go one more time. I was at a fairly low place and looking for an experience of rebirth. Something to reinvigorate my home and spark my internal fire. To me your home is everything, it’s where you spend so much of your waking and sleeping hours. It should bring you joy, comfort, and relaxation. You should love every nook and cranny. As I started taking steps to reinvigorate my life I knew that I would need to reinvigorate my home as well, or else I would end up marinating in the same negative energy I had been putting out for weeks.

I did a little more research and ended up with a genuine bundle of dried white sage this time! Even before burning the smell was beautifully overwhelming. I wanted to make this time more ritualistic so I googled several “how-tos” lit my sage and started.

That was the first time I felt the effects of smudging. I walked around my apartment in a near-meditative state, mumbling through my mantra, and watching the curls of sage wrap around the air. I cleansed myself and the cats felt an incredible lift. After smudging every corner and crease I opened the windows and let the wind carry out all the smoke and bring in new clean air and energy.

 

 

The Ripple Effects

Immediately after smudging I felt radically calm. Like a massive weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I struggle with dust allergies and living with two cats can make it a struggle to keep the air clear of all the little bits that aggravate my symptoms. Even with an abundance of plants and an air purifier I never feel that the air is as clean as it is after I sage the apartment.

One potential explanation for why the apartment feels cleaner after sage-ing is because of ions. Burning sage emits negative ions (in the same way the running water or a salt lamp do) that can grab onto positive ions (dander, dust, allergens) and neutralize them. As you move around your home or apartment you’ll see the smoke turn from white to grey to black and back again. It’s believed that the smoke knows where to go, using positive ions like a road map to find the negative energy in the room and neutralize it. When the smoke turns black it means that it has come in contact with negative energy. There is one particular space, in my previous apartment, where the smoke would always turn black. The same corner where numerous time I would see cabinets fly open on their own.

For me, the effects of burning sage come in the form of anxiety relief. I have always struggled with anxiety and found that I prefer to treat it through modifying my environment and using coping techniques (please note that this, of course, this is not going to work for everyone’s anxiety and there is no shame in utilizing medication). One of the most intriguing things for me, in regards to burning sage, is that in some cultures white sage is used as a traditional remedy for anxiety, depression, and mood disorders.

 

 

 

Final Thoughts

Burning sage is definitely something that a lot of people put in the “hippy dippy” (as my dad would say) category. However, it is so much more than it initially seems to our Western minds. There is a deep spiritual and psychological benefit to introducing the practice into your daily rituals. Smudging is something I fall back on when I am overwhelmed with anxiety or when I am feeling clouded. It’s a ritual that brings me back to center and keeps me feeling whole and connected to my space.

The world moves incredibly fast and we are constantly looking for the next quick fix. Instead of working with our environments we work against them. Burning sage is a way to make the here and now a place you’ll want to be. It prevents us from reaching for the “grass is greener” mentality, and allows us to release negative energy and focus on all the good that’s in the present.

In My Home: Organizing a Small Space

 

Organizing your home is a dreaded task. Sometimes you come in from work and just throw clothes on the floor, bags on your desk and keys all over the place. It’s easy to do. Your desk might be organization heaven, but your home may suffer because you’re putting it off.

 

Luckily there are a few organization tips you’ll want to start right now…

 

 

Get Strategic

First thing’s first: Come up with a step by step list of what you want to organize. Bathroom vanity? Kitchen cabinet? Having this list will not only show you what needs to be done, but also helps convert a huge project into approachable tasks. This way you aren’t actually doing any tidying, just planning to tidy. Which is different.

 

Move Smallest To Largest

I find the bathroom to be the easiest place to organize because it typically is the smallest room in the house. So here’s what to do, set aside a block of 30 minutes and tackle the smallest task first. Pick up those clothes and fold them, stack your notebooks, put your pens back into the pot, fold your towels. Ta da. Then stop, do something else. You’ve already made progress.

 

Purchase Organizational Pieces

What motivates me to organize? Looking at photos of other beautifully organized homes, of course. But also, you should examine which organizational pieces you already have. Do you buy a new pair of shoes every week? Consider picking up a shoe rack. Having organizational pieces doesn’t keep you organized unless they are working for you so do some sleuthing, find what pieces you need and customize a shopping list for yourself.

 

Categorize and Start From Scratch

When I’m organizing I love to start with a blank slate. I remove every single thing in an area (bookcase, closet, etc) and divide items up into three categories: Keep, Move, Toss. “Keep” is everything that belongs in that space. “Move” is items that belong in a different area. And “Toss” is for everything that it’s time to let go of.

 

Let Go

We accumulate a lot of stuff in our lifetimes, from those gifts you meant to return to participation trophies from sixth grade, it’s easy to get bogged down year after year. When you make moves to organize consider minimizing your life a little. Sift through items carefully, ask yourself “When was the last time I really used this? Do I really need it?”

 

Organization is all about finding what works for you! Some people like to work a few minutes every day while other people, like me, are down for the three-hour organizing gauntlet. Find your rhythm and stick with it!

 

*This article was originally written for and published on Career Girl Daily. Visit the original post here.*