Creating a Positive Personal Environment
The importance of creating peace and order in your personal environment (your home and your workspace) cannot be emphasized enough. It can be a lengthy process to reach your ultimate goal, but even baby steps are the right steps. And what is the ultimate goal? To live and work only with what we:
- Love. And I do mean love.
- Need — as in “have a specific use for.”
Once one of those two requirements are met, there is one more: that we have designated space for it.
It may be that your home is perfectly organized and you already feel you’ve accomplished this step. I would suggest that, even if that is the case, revisit your space by examining each room and literally each item to see if it still serves the purpose you intend (that you either love it or need it as well as having space for it). Approach your space with fresh eyes and see what happens.
Whether you keep a tidy home and workspace or are accustomed to living with disorganization, the same principles will apply when embarking on this process. Why? Because just as we are saying “yes” and bringing a fresh perspective to our thoughts and feelings, we also need to say yes to our personal space, regardless of where we are starting from.
For most of us, this is a process that will take some time. The important thing is that we come up with a plan that works for us and then to stay focused on moving forward.
Where to Begin?
There are as many ways to approach this step as there are stars in the sky. I’m going to tell you what works for me and there are many other resources to consult for ideas. However, the most important thing is to follow your intuition more than someone else’s advice.
Before you start the process, be sure that you have some boxes handy to collect those items you’re going to let go of. And don’t forget the trash bags and recycle bin. You’re going to need them! While you may be tempted to keep items for a future garage sale, that can have a tendency to backfire. It’s easy to change your mind and keep things or worse yet, to let the leftover items sit in the garage for several more months or years after the sale. The idea is to move things out of your space that no longer serve you, and quickly! If that means making a trip every day or two to donate them, then do so.
Here’s another important tip: don’t purchase additional items during this process. Unless you really, really need some item for organization, I would avoid any purchase for the home or even an item of clothing.
Remember that through the action of clearing out, you are making space for new and wonderful things to enter your life.
A Personal Story
My experience of creating a personal environment that works for me includes the overwhelment of a tremendous downsizing from a five bedroom home to (eventually) a 800 square foot cabin with very little storage space. After initially reducing my belongings by about half in order to relocate, I discovered that I still had far too many things. Over a three year period, I continually culled belongings until I almost — almost reached my goal of having only what I loved, what I needed and what I had space for.
At the same time I’d almost reached my goal, I unexpectedly needed to return to my home city and undergo major surgery from which a long recovery took place. During that time, my possessions were in storage while I lived with a friend. A few more items went out the door, either to one of my children or sold in order to survive my health crisis. Once I was back on my feet, I moved first into an apartment and then into a small house, where I found that I actually needed to increase my belongings.
At the same time, a friend of a friend was herself downsizing and for rather unbelievably low prices, I acquired lovely, high quality pieces of furniture I would never have been able to have otherwise. The universe was definitely responding to my desire for the home I had visualized.
Still, however, there were boxes lingering that I’d not opened in a few years. There were still clothes that I hadn’t worn in ages, despite the fact that I generally went through my clothes once or twice a year for donations. In my kitchen, I used dishes and cookware that I had intended to replace for years.
Opportunity then came calling to make that final push through my belongings. I made the decision to relocate once again to be closer to my son and his family in Arizona. I was determined to sort through virtually every item I owned and only keep what truly served me. All the previous years of downsizing and then rightsizing did pay off — but it was still an arduous process. There was no one else that could do this but me, and I kept at it until the eleventh hour until I had to be out of the house.
As I write this (in January 2016) I am in Arizona where I temporarily live with my son. I brought only what I would need temporarily and the bulk of my belongings are in storage in my home city. I am at complete peace, knowing that when I am ready to move into my own new space here, I will not be shoving boxes to linger in closets, but can happily and completely unpack in my new, cleared space.
I find it most helpful to focus on one room at a time. It’s true that sometimes items may get ‘dumped’ in another room temporarily, but I always kept in mind that I was going to have to deal with them eventually, so I tried to put items away right away–and then immediately returned back to the room I focused on.
I found that when I am overwhelmed, I start with those rooms that feel most doable. For me, that is generally the smallest room — the bathroom. The idea is that there, as well as the future rooms, you will need to quite literally touch everything you own and evaluate if it still serves its purpose for you. Do you love it? Do you need it? Do you have space designated for it?
The bathroom is kind of a straightforward place to start. Toss expired products, take a fresh look at the decor. Are you sick of the shower curtain? Does any wall decor need freshening? Take it down right away, even if you are not yet sure what will replace it. The right thing will appear to you when you are ready. The important thing is to clear the space of unwanted and unneeded items and then: clean! Clean it from top to bottom as thoroughly as possible. Wipe out cabinets, clean the mirrors and fixtures and wash the floor. If you are physically able to get down on your hands and knees to scrub the floor, do so! However you do it, imagine as you are cleaning that you are washing the old away and preparing for the new. I usually finish by lighting a candle or giving the room a few spritzes of a scent that pleases me.
You’ve now got one room, fresh and clean and delightful to your senses. Take time to revel in appreciation for yourself and what you have done!
From there, plot out your plan, room by room, so you keep a direction. Don’t forget to include the common closets. Do each room completely, including the room closets. When you’re done sorting and getting items out, stop and clean the room completely. Wash the inside of the windows, dust the sills and baseboards–this is deep cleaning time.
This is the process, room by room, until you have completely finished sorting through virtually every belonging you have. When you’ve reached this step, pay attention to the larger details. Move outside to wash your exterior windows (or have them done); sweep the porch and walks; tidy the exterior of your home with the same attention to detail that you are now accustomed to having.
As you finish each space, take time to stop and appreciate what you have accomplished. Spend time in the room, relaxing and taking in how good-feeling it is. Let those good feelings sink in before you continue to the next space. And as you work through each space, remember to keep the already cleaned and organized spaces in good order.
No matter how long your process takes, as long as you are moving toward your goal of having only what you love, what you need, and what you have space for, you are making progress!