It was the end of 2015, when Sane Jane proposed her New Year’s challenge to me: Every day of January get rid of one more thing from your house. On January 1st get rid of one thing, on January 2nd get rid of two things, and by the end of the month I should have freed myself of over 600 things.
A few details first — my name is Ann Goulian and at the time of this experiment I was 13 years old. I had shared with Sane Jane the state of increasing disorder in my room and she helped me understand how a chaotic, messy room could affect my school work and ability to relax. Her plan seemed drastic, but I was up for the task.
I began this challenge with enthusiasm, eager to organize and declutter my room, but when it came time to part with the many useless tschotchkes that I have accumulated over the years, I did so reluctantly. Everything suddenly seemed to have some sort of sentimental value or hidden purpose. But you know what they say “new year, new me”, and so, with only a brief bout of second-guessing, I parted with an old pair of sunglasses on January 1st, thus beginning the most productive month of my life.
The first 16 days of the challenge passed smoothly, in fact I had a list of things that I planned to get rid of over the next days. I was ahead of the game. Old trophies, gone. Ratty sweatshirts, out. Dull pencils and weak pens, bye-bye. Small clothes, good riddance!!!
Finally the hardest decision so far, what to do with my collection of American Girl Dolls? My parents had a small fortune wrapped up in those things, and I only played with them once in a blue moon… and that was years ago. I had delayed giving these away off, telling myself that someday my children would love to play with these “chic, vintage” dolls. After much deliberation, I packed up some 100 items and took them up to Asheville for my little cousins. My decision to say goodbye to Kit and Ruth and all their belongings was good for a couple of reasons. First, I do not miss them at all… and why would I, I was never attached to them. Second, it cleared up closet space, and an entire storage ottoman, perfect space to become a dumping ground for many other things!! And third, my little cousins were so excited to get a whole new set of dolls to add to their collection. That made everyone (except my cousins’ mom) including me,very happy.
So, where’s the catch you ask. This challenge cannot possibly be so easy. Welllll, you’re right. I was KILLING the challenge for the first week and a half but after that things started to slow down. I would scour my room searching for something to toss. After much deliberation I usually turned up something I could part with. Apparently, these items had such little purpose in my life, that I can’t even remember what they were.
Since I completed Sane Jane’s challenge almost six months ago now, I’ve had time to reflect on the experience and also see whether I’m able to stay on top of the clutter as it tries to reaccumulate in my space.
In retrospect, the positives of this challenge terrifically outweighed the negatives. While it is undeniably hard to say goodbye to things that have little memories or sentiment wrapped up in them, saying goodbye is an important part of life. Having more than one souvenir from my trip two summers ago, is unnecessary. Life is a never ending cycle of friends, jokes, adventures, and memories, but in order to have room for the new things in your life you have to clear out some of the old ones. This clearing is done mentally, but was greatly helped by the physical removal of old things weighing me down. Once my room was empty on January 31, I had plenty of space to fill with the souvenirs I knew I’d be collecting over this year. I look forward to repeating this process next January, to start 2017 on a clean (literally) foot.