Saying ‘No’ To Your Stuff Could Help You Take Charge of Your Life

Eliminating the material clutter taking up space in your home can be instructive. It may just become a habit of mind and a way of being.

As it turns out, learning how to say “no” to the objects you no longer need or want is good practice for saying “no” to other aspects of your life that no longer serve you. As Barbara Hemphill puts it in her book, “Taming the Paper Tiger at Home”: “Clutter is postponed decisions.” Organizing your home by making decisions rather than postponing them can actually empower you to feel more confident taking charge and making decisions about your life.

Professional organizer and productivity consultant Monika Kristofferson of Lake Stevens-based Efficient Organization ( has created two journals for her clients to use as tools for change: “A Small Journal of BIG Goals” and “Little Book of Balance.” They are covered with inspiration. Literally. Their covers bear phrases like: Breathe deeply, embrace self-care, love yourself, dream big, set goals, and create good habits.

In fact, maybe you should pause right now and re-read that list. Take a deep breath. Now, don’t you feel inspired to begin?

In her journal, “Little Book of Balance,” Kristofferson writes, “One of the keys to living a balanced life is embracing the difficult task of saying ‘No,’ when it’s appropriate. The second key is learning to say, ‘Yes,’ when it’s appropriate.”

At the start of the year, it is a good time to reflect on what that means for you. Perhaps it means limiting interactions with a toxic friend who drains your energy. Maybe it means excusing yourselves from volunteer commitments that no longer excite you.

Just as she imparts wisdom on parting ways with stuff, Kristofferson offers tips on how to say no gracefully. Among my favorites: “Thank you, but this isn’t a good fit for me right now,” and “I would love to take that on after I drop something else from my schedule.”

Resolving to cook healthier meals, exercise more frequently, or sleep better means little if you are trying to add to your routine without making space in your schedule to accomplish these goals. Just as with managing stuff, it’s important to both add and remove things from your life for balance.

Finally, here is some practical, compassionate advice: “Remember, you don’t have to be perfect,” Kristofferson said. “Being organized is about having systems so you can restore order quickly.”

When it comes to simplifying, finding balance, and developing healthy habits, the goal is never perfection. So as you consider resolutions this New Year, resolve to make progress. And remember, often with goal setting it’s just as important to think about how you want to feel as it is to contemplate what you wish to accomplish.

With each day of the New Year, the light is returning. In the midst of fog and chilly rain it’s possible to overlook it, to miss the signs of daylight increasing by minutes as the sun rises earlier and sets later. Make this a time for reflection, and find the inspiration you need to embrace the promise of the year ahead.

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"Organizing your home by making decisions rather than postponing them can actually empower you to feel more confident taking charge and making decisions about your life."