"Please, just take it all!" Caroline implored. I walked away from her yard sale with hundreds of dollars’ worth of fine items, and she wouldn't take a dime. But it wasn't just me. It was an extravaganza for the entire neighborhood. Caroline and Wally were lightening their load for a move. Their driveway and yard and garage contained box after box of unsorted tawdry trash mixed with thrilling treasure. They took great pleasure in essentially giving it all away to come who may.
"How does it feel to watch us all walk away with your stuff?" I asked.
"Like barnacles off a ship," Caroline replied.
They got the job done. Caroline and Wally's decluttering plan was a good plan for them.
"I got rid of anything and everything I haven't used in two years," Victoria told me. "Even if I loved it. It feels great to have it gone."
Unlike Caroline and Wally, Victoria sorted her stuff. She applied a predetermined rule that kept her from having to think much about each piece she reviewed. Victoria got the job done. Her decluttering plan was a good plan for her, too.
It’s hard to argue with results, especially when the proponents of a method are beaming with delight at how their plan worked for them. I believe if I had applied either one, I would be clutter-free by now. But I resisted. Their plans aren't good plans for me. And before you dive in and follow someone else’s path, I encourage you to make certain their plans work for you. A good plan is hard to find.
I say that with conviction today, but yesterday I struggled with self-recrimination, frustration, and questions about what’s wrong with me that I make everything so hard that seems simple to others. Can you relate? I compared myself to others who seem to be progressing much more quickly than I am. (Ever notice how comparison seems to happen right before a breakthrough?)
I second-guessed myself. So I did what I had to do. I wrote a poem. Enjoy.
It is foolish, they say, to do it this way
When it all can be done from a script.
It takes so damn long to sing your own song,
And albums are easy to rip.
They tell me to look through a best-selling book,
And to follow steps A, B and C.
They think it a waste to not copy and paste,
And there’s no need for learning to see.
It is foolish, they claim, to play your own game,
When games can be bought in a store.
Why make it so hard and mine my own yard?
Is my own gold so worth digging for?
It is foolish, I’m told, to let things unfold
They said I should follow a plan!
So the plan that I chose is to follow my nose
My nose knows to start where I am.
A good plan is hard to find. But it can unwind, unfold and reveal itself if you follow your own nose and pay attention to your own experience.
Imagine yourself doing what Caroline and Wally did. Could you follow their plan? Why, or why not?
Now imagine doing things Victoria’s way. Is her method a good one for you? Why or why not?
Perhaps you’re not sure. I seldom know right away why I resist seeming good advice. In this case, I knew their plans weren’t good plans for me, but not why. And since I didn’t know what was, shouldn’t I just bite the bullet and do it a proven way?
I fumbled a bit, trying this approach and that one. The discovery process is like that. Then I remembered what created a breakthrough in decorating for me one. It was the idea of creating groupings within a room that each had their own integrity and worked with the whole room as well.
So I went to my closet and started assembling outfits by one, pulling basic pieces and accessories together. What fun! Today I paired a top I’ve had for a decade and never wore with a jacket that is a very different color and a scarf that brings the two together. It looks sensational!
Then a light-bulb illuminated. In that moment I discovered what is missing for me in my friend’s plans. Their methods focus on what they don’t want. Caroline and Wally’s purge was like a fire sale. Victoria didn’t want anything that was over two years old.
My new approach focuses on what I do want. For example, I do want to reach in my closet and have choices of outfits for hiking, appointments, dance and speaking engagements that I’m excited to wear. The pull of that vision released energy and give my project momentum.
If you’re following someone else’s plan and it’s just not working for you, trust yourself. Learn from others’ plans, but keep your eyes open and… follow your nose.
Bit by bit, my closets (and systems and processes) are becoming elegantly arranged. Once I have my closets the way I want them, the excess can find new homes. Perhaps then, my neighbors will enjoy a yard-fest like Caroline’s did.
Sometimes following your own nose can take you back to exactly where you started. Or so, at least, so it may seem to the untrained eye.