Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Unutterable Lightness of Decluttering (#9 of 11)

Now that I’m somewhat recovered from the binge of exceeding my limits which I wrote about last week, I’m having a wonderful time with this surprisingly joyful project. Every time I realize there’s something I no longer need, especially if it’s something that consumes a lot of space, I feel a sense of victory over the belongings that have taken over my life.
My husband and I are longing to settle into the tidy little villa in Florida. Our newly decluttered and repainted home in Massachusetts is on the market. We have looked at everything we own and asked ourselves, “Do we really need this? The filing cabinets, the media bench, the floor lamps?” and, equally important, “Where would we put it?” (We voted to keep the media bench, live without the filing cabinets, and we’ll bring only two of the four lamps. We’re donating a lot of our clothes, especially the winter ones.)

We’ve been applying Principle #2 in Mr. Babauta’s book, “Choose what is essential.” We have given away almost all our furniture, including sofas, tables, chairs, a lovely pine desk, and two bookcases. I’ve recycled most of my books, keeping my music books and one bookcase in which to store them. My husband gladly agreed to give up his huge old vibraphone for a new compact one which will be delivered in Florida.

I have two weeks left in which to say good-bye to family and friends, see my doctors for check-ups and a flu shot, and anticipate what lies ahead: time in which to read for pleasure, stitch for relaxation, exercise for health, and meditate to quiet my mind. When we walk out of our old home for the last time, I’ll probably look at how shiny and gorgeous it looks, stripped of all the clutter and polished to please the eye of a prospective buyer, and I may wonder why I decided to give it up.

But only for a moment. I know why, and I’m elated at the prospect of living the simple life in an easier climate, and finally being fully retired. Deciding to move has made the war against clutter easier; we’re just packing the essentials and divesting ourselves of what’s left. 

A famous quote from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince left me stunned the first time I read it, hand lettered on an original painting that hung in the home of a friend:

“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye.”

Choosing what is essential goes beyond furniture, lamps, books and filing cabinets. It’s about lifestyle. Serenity is my essential goal, intangible, but unmistakable, and literally invisible to the eye.

The serenity will be in the new spaces in my life.

(To be continued next week.)  


  1. Oh, you are so inspiring! Maybe your decluttering will be contagious and I will begin doing the same. :)

    The Antoine de Saint-Exupéry quote is one of my long-time favorites too. What a pleasure to read it again.

    Linda Thomas

  2. Thanks so much, Linda. It was tough at first, but it has become a joyful practice, and I recommend it. Reading books about it helps. When the dental assistant tried to force toothbrush, sample tubes of toothpaste and little packets of floss on me to take home, last week, I thought of all the stuff I've been digging out of my drawers and felt great about declining, and coming home without more stuff to clutter up my space.

  3. Oh, if you could only give the secret of motivating others to join this campaign!

  4. The secret: 1. Get a Kindle. 2. Go to Books in Amazon.com 3. Search on "declutter simplify." 4. Download free samples. 5. Start reading. The rest will simply happen. It helps to be depressed and disgusted by the clutter in your home at the outset. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. :-)

  5. Another inspiring blog post Samantha, thank you! You've motivated me to get started on some fall cleaning despite the humid weather which is not conducive to taking on physical projects, as you're well aware. I also wanted to mention that I've been reading your wonderful book Someone To Talk To and have enjoyed it as much as your blog posts. Last night I came to the chapter at the end where you speak about starting another day coping with the fibro and had to smile picturing you sipping tea and watching old sitcoms at 3 A.M. I'm very familiar with that scene. If we lived closer, I would invite you over for tea and "Are You Being Served?" or "Leave it to Beaver," my favorite middle of the night viewing choices.

  6. Oh, Cathy, I'm sorry you're suffering, too, but also comforted to know I'm not alone. Around here, the middle-of-the-night offerings are "Golden Girls," "Cheers," "Frazier," or sometimes 2 hours of "Everybody Loves Raymond." I've seen every episode more times than I can count, but I find that if something prompts me to laugh aloud, my body relaxes significantly and I can fall asleep. Laughter is so good for the body, I need more comedy in my life! That would make a good blog or chat group topic, sources of comedy, things that can help us laugh, and relax!

  7. I love your sitcom choices also, and I absolutely agree about the comedy. It's interesting--I started out to do a serious blog and I still do cover a wide variety of topics. But I found that what people relate to most are the humorous parts of the posts and especially the mini bear who appears in the blog, so now I try to include more of those things. I think we have a lot of company out there who are also searching for some relaxing laughs and a little warm fuzzy humor,and as you said, it's nice to know we're not alone.