ROOM TO BREATHE – Andrea Marais, Spring 2023

A Ripple Spring 2023 article

Transitioning. Simplifying. Choosing.

These are words that may evoke a mixture of emotions among those who understand the profound undertaking of packing up a cherished home filled with a lifetime of memories – and stuff. This task inevitably beckons. The perennial questions persist: where do I start? How do I choose what stays and goes? Whether scaling down or not, all of us can benefit from the process of uncluttering our lives and keeping things simple.

Andrea Marais, founder of an organizing company in Cape Town, called Room to Breathe, has us covered with a wealth of advice. “As someone who has embarked on this journey first-hand, having navigated six moves over the past five years – including helping my parents transition from a 25-year homestead to a serene retirement enclave, I’m intimately acquainted with the challenges,” says Andrea.

Uncluttering one’s life is no simple feat. However, with strategic planning, steadfast guidelines, and an intentional mindset, letting go of things you no longer need or hold an attachment to can alleviate stress. The first step is to start small.

Begin with a manageable space, like a drawer or a kitchen cabinet. Divide your belongings into five categories: KEEP, DONATE, SELL, TOSS, and UNDECIDED. To prevent yourself from spinning wheels over items causing indecision, don’t even look at the last box. Start simply and know that you’ll get to that box when you’re ready. Remember, precious items that aren’t practical to keep can be offered to friends and family. That way you can still view them from time to time. A space free of clutter has a positive effect on the mind.

Delve into your collections, keeping only the treasures that really resonate with you. This is the moment to evaluate possessions like photos, kitchenware, books, electronics, valuables, papers, clothing, shoes, and finally, furniture. Scrutinize and consider the value each piece adds to your next chapter. Gather sentiments, weigh necessity, and be ruthless in deciding whether it aligns with your future lifestyle.

Examine your floor space, take physical measurements of the things you plan to keep or buy and visualize how these will feel in your space. It’s often the overlooked niches that could be a perfect enclave for cherished items.

Infuse your abode with a sense of order. Start with thinking about the placement of the largest furniture and work your way down to the smallest items. Remember, less is more for a contemporary and uncluttered lifestyle.

Uncluttering isn’t exclusively confined to moving homes; it extends its benefits to all of us, wherever we are. It’s about cultivating spaces free from clutter, fostering focus, and nurturing tranquility.

If the path feels overwhelming, consider engaging a professional organizer who can guide you through this personal process. And remember, when deliberating the fate of your possessions, ask yourself: Is it personally relevant? Will it be missed? Does it possess lasting value? Is it replaceable? Could a family member appreciate or utilize it better? Does it truly suit my space and its purpose? Does it mirror my current life stage and style?

“All of us are prone to collecting items in our homes that serve no purpose, leading to a cluttered and visually unappealing environment. This accumulation can result in feelings of stress, irritability, and claustrophobia, acting as emotional burdens that hinder clear thinking,” says Andrea.

Ultimately, possessions are merely artifacts. They embellish our lives, yet we retain the power to decide what we hold dear. While sentimental attachments are valid, the uncluttering journey is about elevating your lifestyle, cultivating an environment you adore, and safeguarding your well-being.

By: Andrea Marais Founder, Room to Breathe