Simplifying the crap in your life takes a massive amount of effort.
Keeping it that way can take a sheer act of God.
Not acquiring even more stuff along the way that you still don't need (despite what the nice lady on television or your peers tell you), takes a deliberate effort.
Everything in our country works directly against simplification. We are raised to be consumers, instead of producers.
Consumer or a producer? This isn't the kind of question I have asked myself once. Regularly I stop and evaluate, "Which one am I, right now? Which one do I do more of with my time and my energy? When I am consuming, is it consumption of things that will disappear quickly or land in a dumpster somewhere ... or am I sucking up renewable resources like happiness and love and laughter and conversation?"
When you force yourself to work through those questions, you have set yourself up for the absolute necessity to declutter, ya' know ... if you still plan to live with yourself.
It's the sentimental items that get most people's goats. I have worked my way through most of mine, and realized I don't need 12 objects to remember one person or one event in my life. In a land of Netflix, that DVD collection is losing its significance. Most media can be digitized and even stored online.
Nancy McGivney, a professional organizer and owner of Getting Things Done, suggests taking a picture of the objects you are having a difficult time parting with. I love that idea. You can digitize it (no more wasting space) and you can pass it on to someone who needs it and will use it right now. You are letting it go physically, holding on to the visual memory, yet passing it on to better care for yourself, others and the planet. Beautiful.
SIDE NOTE: If you are going to donate your extra's, make sure you know where they are going. Be deliberate about it. Find out why some thrift stores will not send clothes to "developing nations" - for the greater good.
I have to declutter fairly often. I swear, my kids crap clutter. Even they were shocked to face the truth of how they hold on to every little thing without a thought as to how it is suffocating the entire house or family experience.
Case in point: four of the kids and I went out to tackle the minivan this week. Everyone was armed with cleaning spray, an old cloth and a trash sack. One of my son's declared, "Okay, my spot is looking good!" I suggested he might want to bend down and look under that seat. He was mortified. We were all a little nervous that we might, indeed, have another family member that we were going to unearth in the middle of all of the old crayons, trinkity toys and bits of paper from Scout meetings and long trips.
Thankfully, there were no extra humans or animals discovered in the process. Nope. But the kids discovered that they smiled more and felt a new sense of energy being surrounded by one another, instead of so much ... stuff.
Some good helps:
Fly Lady's Declutter Fly Lesson
The DeClutter Project: Heirlooms and Sentimental Items
Zen Mind: How to DeClutter
Mommy Savers discussion on decluttering sentimental items
(photo by michael lorenzo, used with permission)