This post is about getting rid of things in exchange for a better life. I live this every day, folks. I lived an especially tough version of this recently with our baby's nursery. Her room had always been "my room." I stored crafts in there, as well as a makeup station, and a large computer where I used to do photo work and spend quality time on facebook. I spent hours in that room watching tweens on Youtube condescendingly tell me how to apply eyeliner for a sophisticated party look. Those were the days. It was basically a room to store my passing interests. Between us friends, it was a packed room that became easily cluttered and often caused me anxiety.
Last year we were staring down the arrival of our first child, Harriet. This indulgent room turned giant closet was to be her room. Here are some steps I took to steadily make progress on sorting through years of my past hobbies, memories, cool furniture pieces, party dresses, etc.
Imagine the life you want to lead Who do you want to be in your house? I knew in this room I wanted to be a calm, smart, funny mom to a tiny, often screaming person. This room needed to radiate calm and remind my husband and I why we jumped into the adventure of parenthood. (There's lots to say about my hopes for what this room would mean to the baby, but let's leave that for another post.)
If you really give yourself a vision for the life you'll lead in a room, then you can use that as motivation. As I wallowed through organizing, I kept reminding myself that these details were things that would help me be the person I wanted to be. I couldn't quickly and joyfully pick out clothes for my baby in a closet shoved full of the art supplies of my youth. The unused excess had to go for my vision to be possible. A vision that meant and means so much to me–being a calm presence for Harriet.
Make a list of the things you'll need to accomplish in this space For me–patiently rocking, feeding, diapering, playing with, napping, and dressing a small human. That's it. Those are the essential tasks. These are what you prioritize when deciding what stays. Adult hipsters that we are, we wanted to have a record player in the baby room. Ultimately we determined this would not function well as Harriet grew capable of grabbing things. Music now plays on a small bluetooth speaker, and we use the shelf space that she cannot reach for things like diaper cream–not nearly as sexy as vinyl, but very important. Could we have added another bookcase or table for a record player? Yes, but we would have had furniture lining the walls. No thank you.
Live in the space you have This is simply a reiteration of the above note. We all only own so much living space. My husband cleared out space in the back room (his music room) for me to put some of my things. I needed to downsize a room of stuff into a half of a decently large, but shallow closet. This meant getting real with myself. I hadn't touched my oil paints in years, and as my hubs pointed out, if I wanted to start painting again, I could always get new paint. Painting things went to a better place where they would be used to make beautiful art, and I saved my sewing supplies because I've been nerding out on them the past few years. I also made some room for my current sewing projects in my dining room credenza because that is where I now do crafts. I chose to get rid of a lot of leftover party supplies and whittle down my tablecloth selection to serve my wish to sew easily. And I even got rid of more things in the credenza to open up a drawer for Harriet's diaper bag and supplies, so that was able to be put away cleanly. Getting rid of things doesn't mean the end of a part of us, it just means respecting who we currently are and who we want to be. Carefully setting up your space supports success in your various life roles.
Bring in someone to help Have someone sit with you while you go through things. Arm them with your priorities for the room. An outsider is less sentimental, and they can cheer you on. Ryan chatted with me while I was elbow deep in Ashley Daly memorabilia, and he helped the situation stay light and not sad. Reminding me that stuff is stuff, and living life well is more important than stuff.
I also brought in Ashley Palmer toward the end. I had put out all the things I'd hoped would go in the room, and she helped me see what fit my goals and what didn't. I was holding onto this amazing peachy pink ceramic lamp (At the time I am writing this, the lamp is still at the shop. Please someone go buy it, it's amazing!), and Ash pointed out that I'd have to sit it on one of my side tables where Harriet would be able to easily pull cords. I didn't have a good piece of furniture for a table lamp to safely be. My glorious lamp was sacrificed for my even more lovely hopes for our family. At the time, I just hoped the baby would be worth it (she is!).
Leave out inspiration As soon as I could, I cleared out a small corner to curate a collection of things I planned to put in the room–rug, blanket, lamp, wall-hanging. While struggling through the monumental task of cleaning out a room, I kept peaking over at my pretty pile and remembering what I was working for.
What I tell myself to get psyched about getting rid of things:
- Hey Ashley, just because you like it doesn't mean it works in your home.
- Maybe someone else would cherish this more and give it a better life.
- It's stuff. Just stuff.
- Don't you want to live life on a beautiful background, have a space that supports living the life you want?
I'm working on a tour of the nursery. I hope to get it up before my baby turns one. I have two months left. Spoiler, all the work of cleaning out made the canvas for a room that we love.
Meanwhile, cheers to all of us having our homes serve us and who we hope to be each day. Waking up to a supportive space is a great start.