While many people are putting away Christmas decorations on January 1, I’m ringing in the new year by ridding my home of 365 items. I’m making way for a new year by eliminating those possessions I no longer use which liberates me to focus on what’s really important in my life. I began this tradition a few years ago. I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, but I was looking for a change. I came up with the idea of removing one item for each day of the year, and now it’s a challenge to meet this goal by going through rooms, closets, cabinets, drawers, files and even my pencil holders. It’s amazing how long I will hold onto dried out pens and markers – actually no longer than a year but still. My haul includes clothing no longer worn, the previous year’s calendar, books not perused in years, and those miscellaneous bread ties or plastic containers which at one time I thought would be useful.
Why do I think this decluttering is important, and what does it have to do with learning? Being organized does not come naturally to most of us. Several minutes of many tutoring sessions have been consumed as students search through different notebooks and piles of papers to locate the assignment with which they need help. When I taught history, on the first day of class, I always gave a list of suggestions for doing well in the course. One suggestion was to be organized. The first step to organization is to eliminate those possessions we no longer use. For me, there is also a release of mental stress every time, I remove clutter from my life. The more relaxed I am, the better I learn. I believe the effect will be similar for you and your child.
Also letting go of physical things allows me to let go of guilt. A perfect example is an electronic keyboard which my mom gave me many Christmases ago. I had taken a few piano lessons and because I was moving from season to season looking for permanent work, the keyboard was a great gift. However, it turns out that I liked the idea of playing more than I actually liked to practice. So even though I would take it out every year or so, it sat in my closet in its original box for more years than I’ll admit here. I actually tried to sell it last year, but there were no takers. A few months ago, I offered it to the music teacher at a local elementary school. She seemed delighted to have it, and it no longer takes up space in my home or in my mind. Plus, I’m happy knowing the keyboard is now being put to good use.
An added benefit to this annual purging is that I’m more aware of what I now allow in my house. I make better purchases knowing which items will make my life better or bring me joy. I find it easier to live by the mantra, bring something in, take something out. When I recently purchased much needed sandals, I stopped at the trash can outside the store, pulled off the old sandals and threw them away, then continued with my errands wearing the new shoes.
So use this as an opportunity to clean out your home as well as bookbags and notebooks. Donate or recycle as much as possible. Here a partial list of stuff I’ve collected for 2019:
38 books (I have already donated 19 to local friends of the library, the remainder are children’s books I’ll offer to a teacher, as well as other miscellaneous teaching supplies)
1 unopened bottle of cough syrup (throw away, it expired three years ago)
1 sewing machine (my niece wants this)
1 mini food chopper, 1 Tupperware container, 1 VCR, 1 video cassette rewinder,1 DVD (to be donated to a charity thrift store)
44 clothing items and counting (some are in bad condition, but the local Salvation Army collects used clothing for recycling)