Sue Van Fleet: Declutter and make room for life

Sue Van Fleet

Nothing is safe from me these days. It seems that everything in my life — whether it’s a cup or a commitment — is getting a hard look, with just one question behind it: Do I want you in my life, or are you clutter that must be vanquished???I’ve grown frustrated lately with the lack of time for things that are important to me. Life today is too fast. By the time I factor in sleeping, work, eating, getting ready for work, errands and chores, there’s but a small sliver left for things like goals, family, friends and creative pursuits.

??So simplifying is my current obsession, and clutter is the enemy. To me, clutter encompasses more than the flotsam clogging my garage and home. It’s also anything I spend time on that I don’t consider important. Things like social media, e-mails, television, negative people (including myself when I’m wasting time on unproductive thoughts) and any activity that can be left undone or completed by someone else.??

Do I spend time with these things? Yes, and I’m not looking to stop completely. I happen to enjoy hanging out on Twitter, and I like to watch TV while I’m making lunch. Still, I’m quite conscious of the time I spend on these pursuits.

??Also, I’ve finally resigned my position as Earth Goddess, and I am cutting back on my flower beds and vegetable garden. I used to have six flower beds — three of them quite large — and a garden at the back of my property. Every year I would lose the battle to weeds, simply because I had neither the time nor inclination to care for everything properly.

??I got rid of the garden and one flower bed, and two of my flower beds will share space with veggies next year. Added bonus: It’s very close to my back door and my hose, so watering will be a breeze.

??I’ve also made decluttering my house a priority. My living spaces aren’t bad, but 15 years in this house has been hard on my basement, drawers and closets. Previous attempts to declutter have met with defeat. I either get overwhelmed or meet with resistance when I consider getting rid of something.

??But I’ve adopted an idea I read about in “The Power of Less” by Leo Babauta. He suggests setting a timer for 15 minutes every day and spending that time decluttering something. I don’t do it every day, but I can see the cumulative potential of doing so.

??Simplicity appeals to me on a number of levels. It involves less stuff, less noise and more time spent on important endeavors. When I think about how I would feel if I got rid of half my stuff, I envision greater calm and focus.

??Even the small step of cutting back on my gardening has made a huge difference. Having a life where I can’t keep up with everything means that everywhere I look, I see something that needs to be done. I feel relief when I go outside now, just because I don’t keep encountering another mess.??

At its core, Babauta says, simplicity involves two steps: 1) Identify the essential 2) Eliminate the rest.

??I know I’ll encounter resistance when it comes to culling my books. That’s a given. Still, I know I’ll be able to unearth plenty of things I can live without. And in cleaning out the old, I believe, you make room in your life for something new.

??Sue Van Fleet is contributing editor of Lenawee Pulse. She can be reached at 517-265-5111, ext. 259, or at This column appeared in the Fall 2010 issue of Lenawee Pulse.