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Thoughts & Motivation for the 50 Things Challenge

This is it: the final week of the 2009 Get Rid of 50 Things Challenge! (Missed the article with information on what the Challenge is and how to participate? See the Related Links section below.)

If you're still a few things shy of the 50 mark, or if you're looking to go above and beyond and get rid of more than 50 things, now is the perfect time for a final dose of motivation and inspiration. So this week, I offer up a few simple but essential ideas on how to identify and part with the stuff in your life that's holding you back or bringing you down.

#1: Remember that every possession is a responsibility
I'm always inspired by this phrase. The gist is that everything we own requires that we care for--and about--it in some way, and that each of our possessions requires some measure of our time, energy, and attention. We need to decide what to do with our things, perhaps worry about them being broken or damaged, give some thought as to where to store them, dust them, display them, hide them, sort them. What kinds of things are lurking in your home or office that don't merit this kind of attention and care? What could you do with the time, energy, and attention you'd save if you didn't have to take responsibility for these things anymore?

#2: Strongly reconsider what deserves to take residence in your space
One of the things that tends to be most striking about hoarders is the extent to which they give over their living space--often including essential spots like bedrooms, kitchens, and bathrooms--to stuff, much of it utterly worthless. Of course, most of us don't go nearly to those extremes, but if we looked closely, we would probably realize that at least part of the space in our homes or offices is dedicated to storing stuff we don't particularly want, need, or use.

It's time to be far more selective, and to take back your space! Rather than simply focusing on the things that obviously don't deserve to live with you, look at the entire contents of one room and decide what really DOES deserve to be there. What would happen if you got rid of the stuff that didn't pass that test? You'd clear out some space (potentially a lot of it), and would very likely be better able to enjoy the stuff you actually want, need, and use.

#3: Believe that you have the capacity to get organized
Remember, the things I encourage you to get rid of during this Challenge aren't just things; they're also beliefs, ideas, and limiting thoughts that keep you from being the person you want to be and living the life you really want to live. If you've been reading the past few weeks' Tips and have thought, "Yeah, no way can I possibly get rid of 50 things. I'm just a disorganized person, and I'm terrible about making decisions about what to get rid of, and I know I'll always be this way," stop right there. Toss out those three negative beliefs and, for one, you'll only have 47 more things to get rid of.

For another, you'll also give yourself an escape hatch into a better life. Repeat after me: organizing isn't about perfection, Martha Stewart, those photos you see in Real Simple, only touching things once, never having a pile of anything ever, having a house so clean you could eat off the floor, or forcing yourself to get rid of the things that are really, really useful, important, meaningful, and special to you. None of the above. Organizing is about making room--physically and mentally--in your space and your life for what truly matters. You have the capacity to do that.

#4: Beware the "But I might need it someday!" trap
Let's be frank here: almost anything ever could potentially be useful someday. Boxes teeming with scraps of wrapping paper? Someday, maybe your kids could use them for art projects. That collection of greeting cards? Yup, someday you might start writing letters again, even if you haven't since the dawn of e-mail. That issue of Gourmet from 1992? Sure: someday you might need that one specific recipe you surely remember is in that particular magazine. The collection of career clothing you haven't worn since you left the office to be a stay-at-home parent several years ago? Maybe you'll return to the corporate world in a few years--and maybe suits from 2000 will still be in style then.

"But I might need it someday!" is hands down the #1 reason I hear from clients, friends, and family alike (and, because I'm human, too, probably the #1 excuse I use) for holding on to things that don't have any real value or function in the present. I understand the thinking behind it, and I can sympathize with the desire not to let go of stuff we might have a burning need for any day now, but it also drives me more than a little crazy. Far too often, the stuff we might need someday crowds out the stuff we actually need (use, want, and love) today. And as part 2 of its 1-2 punch, it also tends to make us feel something we'd rather not feel: guilty about not using those scrapbooking supplies we once spent a whole lot on, wistful for the days when those smaller size jeans fit, depressed by the physical reminders of things we thought we'd do or be that we're not doing or being.

In this, our final week of the 2009 50 Things Challenge, I want to ask all of us--myself included--to toss "But I might need it someday!" out along with everything else we're getting rid of. Unless what you're holding onto is truly irreplaceable, keeping it because you might maybe possibly perhaps need it someday, at some uncertain point in some hazy future, means it's probably going to be clutter until that day arrives.

Let's use this coming week to shift our focus away from what we might need down the line and toward what we need, use, love, and find beautiful right now. Because right now is where we're living.

Here's to your success in this final week of the Challenge! Remember to visit the BellaOnline Organization Forum to get support and to share your triumphs.

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