It's spring cleaning time at our place. Not the kind where you wash windows, sills and all the niggly, ignored crevices, but the kind where you clear out junk and even items that are still worth something.
It's empowering. Freeing. Satisfying.
In honour of daylight saving time (which starts this weekend), I'm re-discovering the garage floor. It was once so littered with stuff, I had to clear an escape path.
When we sold our home last year, we knew the next place would be smaller. I offloaded so much furniture, friends on social media asked if we were leaving the country. The kids wondered if I might sell them, too.
We purged, then dug in and purged more. You can accumulate truckloads of household goods in a few short years, especially when living in four bedrooms, three bathrooms and two lounges.
Each room had its own set of wall art collected from op shops, big box stores and clearance sections of home stores.
Our new house, the one we moved into 10 days before lockdown, is less than half the size of the old one. Even after jettisoning junk, I'm discovering we still have surplus.
Cleaning out the hall closet took five months and one hour. Five months to procrastinate. One hour to accomplish.
During my latest cleaning frenzy, I listened to a podcast called Clutterbug, where host Cassandra Aarssen (Cas) claims decluttering will change your life, bringing more happiness, less stress, more time and more money.
I shake my head as I sift through two boxes of art supplies filled with coloured pencils, new glue sticks, tubes of dried paint, rubbers and dozens of pens.
I look at the new containers I had just bought - four of them - and remembered Cas saying there's nothing you can buy to fix the problem of too much stuff. Her suggestion: grab a rubbish bag and start filling it with things you don't use or love.
Reasons we don't do this can be complex: maybe you feel bad about pitching something you hardly used; maybe you're an aspirational musician or athlete who never got around to playing guitar or surfing.
Aarssen says clutter is stealing your time "and it's stealing your space and nothing is worth that. You're blinded by crap you don't even like and shouldn't have bought in the first place."
Letting go can be scary. What if someday I need the extra kitchen utensils, the shirt I haven't worn in two years, the mystery computer cable that's been sitting in a box for nine months? We have two (non-shock) no-bark collars that never seemed to work; lice spray I pray I never need again; expired passports; and oodles of bubble wrap.
Successful decluttering requires skills like making decisions, prioritising and acting on your values.
One organising expert defines clutter as "delayed decision making".
According to Psychology Today, clutter causes stress not only because of its excessive visual stimuli but also because it tells our brain our work is never done.
That internal message creates guilt, anxiety and the feeling of being overwhelmed. As Mental Health Awareness Week ends, it's worthwhile to examine how excess stuff affects our wellbeing.
Clutter is a time suck. According to furniture giant Ikea, we spend almost 5000 hours of our lives looking for things around the home.
Many of us spent time cleaning our closets during lockdown, judging by the volume of donations that poured into charities after restrictions were eased.
Unfortunately, illegal dumping outside shops happened, too. Instead, it's worth spending $20 at the tip to ditch the broken stereo, patio umbrella with missing pole, old TV whose cord is missing and other broken bits.
Being forced to stare at surplus is a humbling reminder not to bring extra stuff home in the first place.
Op shopping and browsing sales started losing their shine when I was forced to confront the reality of storing items I no longer wanted or needed. I donated the good stuff and binned the bad.
I think about what'll happen when I die and my kids sift through my belongings. I don't want to haunt them with piles of paper and mountains of obsolete electronics.
Decluttering is about more than tidying up: it's about deciding what makes you happy, prioritising what's important and banishing the useless junk taking up space in your home and in your head.