Tiny word, huge meaning. It is for me, anyway. I’ve talked about decluttering before but since then, I have to be honest, things didn’t really improve much. Especially after we bought out house and moved from a fairly large house with many rooms into a much cosier home, and then I also moved out of my teacher’s flat which meant that a whole other round of stuff got added to the mix. Two out of the three bedrooms in our house have been pretty choc-full of stuff ever since. And it’s really gotten me down. It’s a constant, mild annoyance and frustration that isn’t ever urgent enough to do something about but is always a drain and does sometimes cause real problems like not being able to find things and having to fill our bedroom with junk if we actually need to use the office or have guests stay in the spare bedroom.
And it seems to be a bit of a theme in my life. The spaces in which I work (music room, store room, desk filing cabinet) were a huge, clutter-filled mess when I arrived. The person I took over from left in rather a hurry, so much so that she hadn’t packed up any of her personal stuff and my desk was still full of her personal items (photo frames etc) for about 2 weeks after I started work! I have been slowly but surely decluttering the music room and music store room for 4 years now, but aside from the initial push to make the store room usable when I first arrived, there’s always been something else more urgent that needed to be done so it has been slow progress.
Similarly, my two personal email inboxes have been steadily filling up with newsletters and other things I’ve subscribed to for many years now. My main personal inbox (gmail) has over 1600 unread emails in it at the moment. My other almost-abandoned inbox (hotmail) had many more than that. I check the gmail very regularly and deal with anything urgent and important. The hotmail, not so much. But once a year I generally try to do a big declutter and get rid of about 1000 emails in each inbox before taking a break and not getting back to it.
Well, September has definitely been my month to declutter! I have been saying for a long time that I wanted to and in one way or another I’ve been forced to this month. It started at work, when we had to get painting and new carpeting done which meant everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) had to be moved out of the store room, music room and our staff room. This made for a huge week in the lead up to the school holidays and a massive last day of school where I clocked up 21,000 steps but it forced me to go through everything. I was able to throw a lot away and I know there will be more to do when we put everything back at the beginning of Term 4. Massive amount of work but such a great opportunity and I know that the external deadline was what made me really work hard at it.
The home front has been going in dribs and drabs over the last year. We made some small progress at home when we moved into the new house and got rid of some things and again when we had a garage sale in June. But the office was still a big problem for me as it was barely usable and that had been a huuuuuge pain to me for a while. So these holidays, I made a concerted effort to really, finally and once and for all sort my side of it out. I’ll see if I can find some pictures to emphasise how much of a difference it’s made but I’m so glad I did it. It’s not totally completed but I have cleared both my desks and done a lot of filing and even more shredding! Buying a shredder was the best decision ever because a lot of paper stuff I was holding on to only because I didn’t want to throw it out because it posed an identity fraud risk. So I got a cross-shredder. I um-ed and ah-ed about it for, well, over a year actually because I didn’t want to add yet another item to our office appliance list, plus I didn’t want to spend the money. But in the end it really wasn’t expensive (only $60) and so worth it for the amount of benefit I feel I’ve gained through using it! I have also got yet another pile of books to donate to LifeLine and almost everything has a place now, which makes me feel so calm.
These holidays have actually been really great for decluttering at home as I have also made some progress decluttering the wardrobe in our bedroom and also the kitchen and bathroom cupboards. Unfortunately the spare bedroom is still a junk room but I plan to have that sorted by Christmas. I’m on a declutter roll now, so I’ll just keep chipping away at it piece by piece!
So then today came the final lesson. Don’t they say messages come in threes? Well, I’m hearing this message loud and clear about the importance of reducing clutter in my life. Today, for the first time in ages I logged into my hotmail account. There was some pop-up message saying something about ‘Welcome to Outlook’ that I clicked past without reading it properly. And there in my inbox was one lonely email from Microsoft, welcoming me to my ‘new inbox’.
New inbox indeed.
Everything else was gone. All of my folders along the sidebar that I’d had carefully organised with different categories: gone. Every single email in my inbox that was as yet unread and unsorted: gone. Ten years worth of digital history, completely wiped out.
I tried recovering deleted emails and importing emails from other inboxes and changing my account settings and everything else my searches were telling me. But the one message in all the forums and searches that came up over and over was that once I’d done the basic recovery tactics, if they didn’t work it was all pretty much gone forever.
To say that I was shocked, angry and upset is a bit of an understatement. I really was furious and I still am a bit annoyed at the inconvenience this is going to cause. But at the same time, I feel relief and a sense of freedom. This wasn’t an email address that I used regularly but it was my main address in my early adulthood so a lot of my digital history was there. It’s the address I used to sign up to a myriad of different accounts and services, got receipts sent to and had an awful lot of personal emails in. It’s a big loss. And yet, for several years now I’d been contemplating getting rid of this email address altogether but had known it would require a bit of work to sift through everything and change accounts etc, and it wasn’t urgent so that task just kept getting put off.
Until today, when the choice was taken out of my hands. Once I’d gotten over the shock of it and after I’d ranted and raved at my husband about how unfair it is and completely stupid of Microsoft because they’ve lost my future email business (they have), I went for a long walk in the fragrant evening air and I felt….better. Free-er. Calmer. Lighter.
I’m actually kind of glad it happened! I can’t believe I’m saying that but…I kind of am! Now I can get down to the practical tasks of changing my email address in the important places and closing the account. I’ve lost a big chunk of digital past, but I feel that it’s making way for a new, better, brighter digital future.
And I feel that this will only spur my decluttering plans on for the rest of the year because reducing stuff also reduces stress and that is SO worth it.
Now it’s your turn: Can you find 25 things in your house to get rid of? You can either throw them away or donate if they are in good condition. And how is your email inbox looking? Can you declutter 25 items from there too? I promise you that you will feel lighter for it!