good life with mel carruthers
Part of cultivating a good life is to make space for what really matters.
It’s well and truly spring time here, and spring cleaning is underway. It’s a busy time of year. I am a professional organizer and am currently helping my clients to declutter their homes and donate their unwanted items. This afternoon I took two large trash bags of toys to the local toy store where they are collecting toys for Syrian refugee children. As I hauled my clients’ toy donations through one of the world’s biggest malls, I attracted strange looks from the throng of tourists and shoppers. “Why is that crazy lady taking toys to the toy store?” I’m sure they were wondering.
To be honest, it got me thinking too. How much of the world’s precious resources were used to make those toys, to transport them across the world to the store? How much money did they cost? How much storage space did they take up in playrooms? How much of the mothers’ emotional energy did it take to declutter and donate? How much is enough? Does the average Western child really need over 200 toys each, when they only ever truly play with a handful?
Decluttering as a word has entered common usage, thanks in part to Marie Kondo and her organizing guide The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Professional organizers, organizing product retailers, and self-storage facilities are big business. When did we get to having so much stuff that we needed whole industries, professionals, and stores to help us look after our own belongings?
I decided some time ago to take a step back, to really examine the true cost of the items that we own and to make more space in our lives for what really matters. With our little boy growing up fast, space was at a premium and I didn’t want him to be stifled by other people’s books, belongings, and memories. So we took steps towards owning less. We donated 90% of our library and started using e-readers instead. We donated our CD and DVD collections and went digital there too. With the guidance of Project 333 (Google it!) I pared down my closet to 33 items, which I review every 3 months. I took everything out of our kitchen and only put back what I knew we would really use – including the beautiful flatware set that my grandparents gave us as a wedding gift. The everyday sets were donated. (What is the point of saving the best “for best” when you can use it every day and enjoy it?)
The key to keeping our home organized and clutter-free has been to consider the true cost of an item before we purchase. Not only the price but the space it will take up in our home, the resources required to make it and transport it to the store, the maintenance and repair it will need, the length of its useful lifetime, and the options for disposal once we have finished with it. We are starting to have some interesting conversations with our son about conserving the world’s limited resources, more mindful purchasing habits, and the cost of all the stuff that the marketers want us to buy.
Our home could never be called minimalist, but it is more peaceful and relaxing than ever before. I only want to be surrounded by the items I truly love so that the people I love have more space to connect, explore, and thrive. I am spending less time on housekeeping and more time having fun as a family. Less time cleaning, more time pursuing my interests. Less time shopping and more time creating. We have made space in our lives for what really matters! What steps can you take to make more space in yours?
Mel Carruthers is a part of our Creative Team using the physical product. Mel currently resides in Dubai and her family consists of her husband Chris and 5-year-old son Finn.