This is part 3 of my 10 part Life Lessons Series, where each week I will be taking a lesson (in random order) from 10 Life Lessons From 30 Years, sharing my own personal experiences with that lesson, and expanding it into a more detailed post. This week, Life Lesson Number 4:
Live Light. Declutter at least once a year. Don’t let the weight of years slowly accumulate until one day you wake up to find yourself buried under the weight of your past.
Why You Should Always Declutter
Obviously we are traveling for the next 2 years so we don’t have a home to currently apply this to, but that doesn’t make this lesson any less important to me. The older I get, the more I believe in decluttering. I am definitely one of those people who derives an almost fetishistic satisfaction from a beautiful, organized space. I enjoyed reading Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and I regularly search Pinterest and Instagram for before and after declutter and organization photo porn. I don’t have a label maker (and didn’t before we sold everything), and I suck at filing, but I deeply believe in a bi-yearly massive clean and declutter and love the feeling I get once it’s completed.
It’s All In The Family
My own personal reasons for why I’m such a declutter freak go beyond the usual Type A perfectionism. Growing up, I’ve witnessed the toll of bankruptcy, foreclosure, and the resulting forcible downsizing. I’ve seen how utterly paralyzing it can be for someone to face and process the remaining mountain of belongings.
It’s fallen to me over the last few years to try and process and get rid of it all, and in a lot of ways it has felt like processing the collective family pain. Pain I just don’t know why we’ve held on to for so long. It took us over a decade to get through just the things my grandmother left when she passed. And when my father, a man who was the antithesis of organized and clutter free, died in 2015, it was up to me once again to go through and get rid of all his stuff. So I have witnessed first hand the toll the weight of years can have, both on oneself and one’s family.
Another reason I’m such a big proponent of living light is that I’ve had to. Since leaving home for college over a decade ago, the longest I ever lived in any one place, in any one apartment, has been two and half years, and that was only recently. In the decade from 18-28 the longest I lived in one place was 15 months. This continual moving around has meant that I’ve been trained to declutter and let go of belongings. In the last 5 years, between my life changing journey to India and now with our two year round the world adventure, I’ve twice sold almost everything I own. My entire wardrobe, including shoes and purses, fits into two suitcases.
This doesn’t mean that I don’t have emotional attachments to things. On the contrary, I’m very attached to beautiful and sentimental things. Otherwise I wouldn’t have 10 boxes of books and art and my father’s Eames chair sitting in storage right now. But what I don’t do is hold onto things just in case, or out of a feeling of obligation.
Lightness Of Being
Because however woo woo it sounds, the things we own do have a weight and an energy that take up space in our lives. By making ourselves periodically re-evaluate the things we own, we are forced to confront and process the emotions associated with those things– the things we carry. It is effectively a form of therapy, not just for your house, but for your soul. So that you never wake up one day so weighted down by the sheer volume of things, that to dig your way out seems an impossible feat. Instead, constantly processing and letting go of your past so you can live unburdened in the present, and free to move towards your future.
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Carina Covella is a writer and currently working on her forthcoming memoir, Love Dogs, detailing her six month transformational journey from Hollywood through India. Carina graduated from Barnard College, Columbia University cum laude with a degree in Art History. She also attended the Sorbonne in Paris and studied opera at the Manhattan School of Music through the university exchange programs. Until recently she lived in Mill Valley, California with her wonderful Welsh boyfriend Anthony in a house nestled in the trees, but now they’re off on a two year adventure around the world. When she’s not writing or traveling, she loves to cook for her friends and family.