The tide came quickly. It takes a lot of mental and physical energy to accomplish organizing an office as messy as mine. In a world of quick solutions, this project does not have one. I was overcome with mental exhaustion quickly. I soon lost focus, and worse, heart for the prize. My Genealogy Do-Over would have to wait for something miraculous which was just around the corner.
In 2016, I dipped my toe in the minimalism wave. This community of people who live with only that which gives them joy was just what I needed to accomplish some very difficult tasks that I have been delaying. Letting go of things is hard when the things evoke good memories and feelings. Sentimentality and simply not being ready to face the emotional tide I was going to experience became my prison. The guided minimalist approach I took made the chore a lot easier. The declutter categories I put into practice were:
- Trash (useless to me and others)
- Give Away (quality and useful to others)
- Maybe Keep (not sure if I want to let go)
- Keep (Joy / Value)
My home office was not the starting point for this new minimalist journey; it was the many boxes of my mother’s things that I stored after she died a few years ago. I felt guilty doing anything enjoyable in life when I knew I had this task that I kept delaying waiting for me. What I learned when opening those boxes and truly looking at the things she kept was that their value to me was not as the objects but the memories they evoked such as the smell of her many purses with the half sticks of Juicy Fruit gum in each. The purses went to a local non-profit thrift store. Mom can not use them and I would not use them. The emotional journey those purses took me on was hard but worth it.
Processing the decisions for each item with the minimalist approach made it much easier. The Maybe Keep category was the best thing I could have put into practice. I gave myself permission to keep some things. Surprisingly, I did not keep as much as I thought I would.
I then put the minimalism approach into practice throughout the rest of my home. This is not an over the weekend kind of process. Even taking a week or so to declutter a room, the process is fluid. What I loved and brought me joy one month may not the next. Setting an item aside to see if I need it in the next three months teaches me what is necessary in my life. It forces a person to ask what brings joy or value?
My home office is now finally getting the attention it needs. No longer am I feeling guilty for treating myself to an organized office. However, what a tough task it can be for a genealogist to let go of things. It takes a lot of soul searching and questioning every single item to determine if that item has value. The very definition of value has to be determined as well. What is of value to a genealogist?