40 Days of Discovery

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Lent is over and Easter has come and gone, so this year’s Lent challenge is technically over as well. How did it go? Well, about the same way many other things in life go: good and bad.

The Good

At the beginning of March when I challenged myself to follow the 40 Bags in 40 Days decluttering and simplifying Lent challenge, I was definitely up for the task. For one, I was getting tired of still living out of boxes after moving nine months earlier. And since I hadn’t really minimalized when we moved, I knew the challenge was far overdue. So the first couple weeks were great! I jumped right into cleaning out and tossing stuff. Things were finally finding their permanent home and the organization process was well under way. Then I started the office. This was a dumping ground from day one and nothing had been touched, unless we needed an item out of one of the many boxes, meaning we would shift, dig, and move things until we found what we needed and then left everything in shambles.

The Bad

The office is what did me in. I should’ve left it for last but charged in about halfway through the 40 Days. It sucked me in like bog mud and took all of my ambition and threw it out the window. Not because it was overwhelming necessarily, but because I had no direction, no vision for the space or the crap in it. I could’ve just bagged everything up and thrown it out and been done. I thought about it. But a lot of the stuff we actually use and need, hence the occasional rifling through boxes for that one item that should’ve been unpacked months ago.

So the room still sits, a mess that I don’t even want to deal with anymore. I did move on from there and accomplished other things like the bedrooms and the dining room closets. And I managed to get rid of a lot of crap, with a lot more to go.

The Discovery

Even with the goal of 40 bags not reached (yet), I feel pretty proud of completing the challenge. Go ahead and argue that I didn’t complete it because I didn’t get 40 bags filled and out of the house. I already acknowledged that. But the 40 Days ended and I feel like I did finish because I discovered so much during the 40 days.

  • We, as money-making consumers, amass way more stuff than we need. The whole idea of minimal living is to have what you need and not more. But we are always wanting more. That was apparent from the 50+ tank tops I found while cleaning out the dresser!
  • Paper is the devil. Between mail, bills, taxes, recipes, info sheets, letters, memos, birthday cards, newspaper clippings, and the endless list of other crinkly tree-derived items that seem to grow and multiply, I filled about a dozen boxes and bags with paper that was tossed. And there’s still more. It’s ridiculous how much paper a person can collect and let sit around. It’s also sad to think of the trees wasted on something that ends up doing just that, sitting around.
  • If you can’t keep up with the small stuff, like paper, you may be doomed. I felt the most depressed when I looked at a box of old paperwork or a drawer full of T-shirts. Once I took care of the box and the drawer, I was fine, but it’s the initial “crap, why is there so much and what am I going to do with this” thought that catches you and can knock you to the ground. Like the office. To get to the other side, you have to climb that mountain and get it over with or you will be stuck. And doomed. I should take my own advice on this one!
  • I can’t believe the stuff I saved so I could “remember” something. This ranged from old concert schedules and play programs to uncompleted Bible studies and cleaning how-to’s. I keep forgetting that just about everything can quickly be found on the Internet. And memories don’t stick to a saved memo or token. Most of the mementos I found, I remembered the event but not exactly what happened at the event.
  • Cleaning, decluttering, and organizing is a continuous process. I’m not sure how people can claim they touched it once and never had to do anything with it again. Apparently they don’t have children and a husband that constantly move things and add to the chaos.

So even though my 40 days didn’t go the way I wanted it to, or the way I thought it would, I was able to accomplish a fair amount of organizing and minimalizing. I turned the nursery into a huge walk-in closet, finally moved the boys to their own room, and rearranged the master bedroom. Plus, you know, burned box after box after box of paper.

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