The last three days have been dedicated to decluttering, beginning with the closet. One of the advantages of moving from one country to another so often is that you are forced to sort through your things on a regular basis and discard what is no longer needed, has been outgrown, or was just wasting away at the back of the closet. As a result, and I have written about this many times, I have ended up moving with the basics, whittling everything down to the bare necessities, and then some. With the divorce, everything was divided up in fair shares, and then I just retained the essentials from my parents. Whatever I knew would no longer fit, or I had no particular sentimental attachment to I disposed. This has become a yearly habit that I strictly observe and choose to do it at the end of the year as part of my retrospective rituals.
My rule of thumb for clothes (including shoes and bags) in the closet, which I picked up from a few expat friends over the years, is that anything that has not been worn in the past 12 months gets passed on or donated to charity. What is the point of hanging on to something you haven’t worn in two years? Might as well pass it on to someone in need who can make good use of it. There are so many refugee settlements in Berlin at the moment, not to mention homeless people, which results in a sudden surge of charity drop-off containers around the city. This year, I showed no mercy to my possessions and once my daughter fished out what she wanted to keep for herself, we filled up the bags and dropped them off at the Caritas bin. There is something incredibly cathartic about it. Whereas many people pride themselves in their walk-in closet or wall-to-wall wardrobes, I have learned to live on the contents of a small cabinet that takes up half my bedroom wall, and the hallway wardrobe for coats and jackets.
It is to my advantage that I have a daughter living and studying in another country, because she and her flatmate are always open to receiving donations to their kitchenware, which gives me the chance to dispose even more items, especially now that I have my wonderful new set of knives.
Creating more space in my living room and conservatory can backfire though, because it means that I also have more room for additional plants! So after moving into my apartment in May of 2017, I can proudly say that I finally achieved the jungle look I was aiming for! Not only have I propagated many of the original plants I bought and adopted, I even reached the point where I could give some away. Vegetables, however, are not something I wish to repeat next year and will attempt instead to create a floral oasis. Let’s see how that goes.
The next crucial step in decluttering has been of the digital kind. I know many whose email in-boxes are overflowing with emails over five or seven years old. Unless it is of legal or accounting nature that I might need in the next two years, I ditch most the mails from the previous year if they are no longer relevant, and the pertinent ones have been submitted to the tax accountant or lawyers already. Sentimental correspondence I store in a cloud archive and thereby free up space in my inbox and hard drive. OK, let me explain that I have different email addresses for each aspect of my life for security and organisational purposes. This way, if one email address ever gets hacked, not all the sensitive content is at risk. It also helps me sort out my clients or business partners, and don’t have to go deep diving in an inbox each time I need to find something. One tip I can share with you, is to keep an exclusive email address for online shopping and newsletter subscriptions. These are often the sources of a lot of junk and phishing mails, so never ever use the same address for online shopping and private correspondence! It goes without saying that your business correspondence should be strictly separate from the private one as well. It will make it easier to track down those important invoices and contracts!
Social media is another area where I took a good hard look and did some serious decluttering. Facebook drives me absolutely nuts with all the notifications and newsfeeds, so I have deactivated as much as I could. As a photographer I also joined several groups to give my work more exposure, which has had mixed results, to be honest, and definitely nothing viable. Twitter has given me far better results in terms of exposure as compared to Facebook, and Instagram is nothing reliable or viable either. The author and publication groups, on the other hand, are much more dynamic and the networking that takes place here is impressive, almost scary. On the whole, 2019 was my year to join, network, and showcase, but 2020 will be the year to grow, specialise and leave indelible marks.
Last but not least, emotional decluttering. This is not something I do overnight, but have been in the process the entire year. Many of you have followed my journey and know the assorted low points that I crawled through, but Destiny has been kind to me and given me incredible highs that have pushed my limits and taught me to love myself a little more and be proud of my accomplishments.
2018 turned me into a survivor,
2019 into a strong woman,
and I hope that 2020 will bring the much awaited peace and aspired recognition.