I have so many big plans for the new year and it was hard to decide which post would come first. In the end, though I’ve been working on five different posts in parallel, this was the first one to cross the finish line and made it easy for me. Stay tuned for my word of the year and 21 for 2021 list as well as some looks back at 2020.
I first wrote about my 2021 Happiness Project here. For more about Gretchen Rubin’s original project and what my project is all about, head over to that post first.
The theme that I chose for my first month of the year is MAKE SPACE. Initially, it felt good to address making physical space – I always like a bit of a declutter/reorganization time early in the new year, but the more time I spent contemplating the statement, the broader the scope became. There are plenty of places where we can make space. Yes, physical space is the first thing I think of and I tend to take up a lot of it. I’m constantly amazed how quickly my things spread out in any area where I spend some time. Hotel rooms, office spaces, work stations, restaurant tables – whenever I settle in, my stuff somehow immediately creeps out far and wide around me. It doesn’t bother me, but it does baffle me. I just don’t know how it happens. But when we talk about making space, that is most often the target. Declutter, konmari, shine your sink, wherever you look, somebody is trying to tell you how to keep your house. Of course, there is room in this world for that. We live in a culture that values stuff. We pay for storage units because we don’t have the space to store all the stuff we own. We go deeply into debt to buy more. It’s a mess.
For many years, I’ve been fascinated by the cost of clutter and all the ways that our stuff impacts our lives without us even knowing it. (Check out this article about having too much stuff and how to tell.) The fact remains that having too much stuff costs us money, productivity, mental wellness and even impacts our health. I am not a minimalist and I don’t want to be. I cherish variety and change too much to give up having a selection of things. I also recognize that there is a sentimental side that sometimes gets the better of me when I’m trying to part with things that I own. This makes it a little harder for me to pare down as much as possible, but I’m getting better at it. I think there can be a fine line between having stuff and having too much and I intend to hit that sweet spot.
Just as we can have clutter in our living and work spaces, I have started to notice that the it’s the mental and emotional clutter that take up more of my psychological energy and leave me feeling run down. For me, this includes attending meetings that aren’t efficient or that have lost their meaning, maintaining relationships that I have outgrown and that no longer serve me and not speaking my truth when it comes to how I interact with others.
My steps for working toward my theme for this month are as follows:
- Declutter. This is a general goal, but on a daily basis, I’m going to dig into the old minsgame routine with getting rid of one thing on the 1st, two on the 2nd and so on. This was a project I undertook back in 2017 and again in 2019 and it’ll help to tackle the really easy, low-hanging fruit of having stuff cluttering our space.
- Simplify my calendar. When it comes to work, many of my meetings are check-ins where I meet with people I work closely with and we cover updates and paths forward. They are quite enjoyable and social in most cases and I enjoy them for the most part. I plan to revisit all of these meetings to assess and reestablish the purpose for them while instilling some structure for how they could be more productive in the future. This includes being honest and vocal about how they could better serve me and the work that I do.
- Schedule time to do the things I want to do. I’m not super (or at all) rigid when it comes to adhering to a schedule, but I have found it meaningful to schedule things that I want to remember or make time to do. People sometimes laugh about the professional and personal items that are in my calendar because they seem minor, but it is a strategy that largely works for me. (I’ll admit that I’m slightly more committed to my work calendar than my home one, but this is more that Outlook calendar works for me and I haven’t found a comparable tool for scheduling and tracking personal commitments.)
- Eliminate unnecessary commitments. If the pandemic taught me anything, it’s that I don’t have to do things that I don’t want to do (within reason.) I didn’t think I had a problem saying no to doing things that weren’t necessary, but in 2020, I learned that I had way more room for boundaries. Good thing I love them so much. It’ll give me great satisfaction to discover more opportunities to assert them.
- Do one thing at a time. This is an idea that has come up under many of my headers and across all of the pages as I planned for this project. That’s because it’s so challenging for me to execute. Trying to do more than one thing at a time is as crowded as thinking gets and I just can’t quit it. I have definitely improved over the years, but I have a long way to go. This is best approached with a plan to just keep repeating it as a mantra 50000 times each day.
- Let go. This goes for things, habits, tasks, and even people.
I chose MAKE SPACE for January because it felt like a really meaningful target to get started with. Being less bogged down with clutter (physical/emotional/psychological) will further my ability to tackle future themes and set a foundation for success in the long run.
Thanks for joining me on this journey. I’ll report back on how it went at the end of the month.
Do you worry about having too much stuff? How do you make sure to keep your belongings under control? What is the most cluttered area of your life?