The Freedom Of Decluttering

Show Notes

Jill asks the company to empty out their entire closet at home and only put back in those items which bring joy. Thank you, Marie Kondos, for the inspiration!
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Audio Transcription

Jill Donovan:
Do you ever feel like you’re building an arc with only the instructions for a canoe? If so, you’re not alone. Welcome to CEO-ish where we’ll discuss traveling the path of the unknown while making it your own. I’m Jill Donovan, CEO-ish of Rustic Cuff bracelets and with me today, again, is Kelly Smith.

Kelly Smith:
Hi. Thanks for having me back.

Jill Donovan:
Hi, Kelly. Thank you. Well, you keep coming back.

Kelly Smith:
I know. I just keep showing up so you keep letting me sit down.

Jill Donovan:
I love having you next to me. Today, we are going to talk about clutter.

Kelly Smith:
Oh, I hate clutter.

Jill Donovan:
I do too. And how clutter is the enemy of clarity.

Kelly Smith:
Oh, that’s good.

Jill Donovan:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Kelly Smith:
Did you make that up?

Jill Donovan:
I did as soon as I searched for a quote about clutter.

Kelly Smith:
That is a good one though.

Jill Donovan:
It is a good one.

Kelly Smith:
You should steal it for a little bit.

Jill Donovan:
My family, we went on a vacation about a month ago, and we were in San Francisco. A lot of times, you have no idea by looking at a website or bracelets how big or small hotel room is going to be or just get a general feel of the hotel. So we booked this hotel, and the bathroom in the room and the beds were miniature. It is a great hotel, but it’s a very, very old hotel. There’s something amazing that happens to your family when you are in a very small place together.

Kelly Smith:
Is it amazing that happens?

Jill Donovan:
Well.

Kelly Smith:
Sometimes it’s amazing.

Jill Donovan:
You don’t realize it’s amazing until much later and you look back, sort of like having a baby, you forget about the pain.

Kelly Smith:
That’s true.

Jill Donovan:
Yeah. You look back, you’re like, “That really brought us close together.” But beyond that, what I realized is that I was able to live out of a very small space with very little for a week, and I loved every second of it because I only had a few things to wear, not many choices.

Kelly Smith:
Don’t need a lot of things to wear.

Jill Donovan:
I didn’t. I brought the three books I wanted to read, and I brought some art supplies and not an entire craft room filled with bracelets supplies that I’m never even sure anymore what I want to create bracelets because there’s too many, an entire library of books, which there’s so many choices you can’t even choose. Do you know what I’m talking about?

Kelly Smith:
Yes. But if it begins to feel like a weight after awhile.

Jill Donovan:
Yes, instead of a joy because you have so many things, it begins to feel like a weight. So I had this epiphany on vacation, and I had so much freedom and felt so decluttered that I was actually able to create bracelets, and write, and think with such clarity that when you go back to my home, even though my home is clean, it has so much stuff that I don’t need. So what I think this epiphany was, I realized how very little that we need.

Kelly Smith:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Right. I sometimes go through this scenario in my mind, this is maybe a little negative so forgive me, but if your house burned down and you’d think, “What would you grab? What is absolutely irreplaceable to me?” The answer in my mind for years and years has always been photos. But even now, the photos are all in the cloud and they’re not even-

Jill Donovan:
What would you grab, by the way? Your children.

Kelly Smith:
Well, of course, children and the dog, those are the given.

Jill Donovan:
Well, then maybe your husband.

Kelly Smith:
Oh yeah, he can come to. No, no, he’s helping me carry all that stuff out. But aside from a few sentimental pieces like something my mom gave me, like my wedding ring, I mean, there’s not a lot. The clothes in my closet that I think are so important and so great and I’ve had them for years and years and it’s like I have an emotional attachment to him, really, it would almost be like a blessing just to restart and just get rid of all of it and just restart. You know what I mean?

Jill Donovan:
Yes. This is why I love going to places away from my home and I just have a suitcase full of things that I like, obviously, I packed them. But the choices are so few that it actually gives me freedom. You think more choices gives you more freedom but less gives you more.

Kelly Smith:
True and I’m an over-packer.

Jill Donovan:
Yeah.

Kelly Smith:
I lean towards over packing because I’m like, “Oh, just in case. Oh, just in case.” I never use them and I end up paying the overage on the bag because I had to just in case it. I don’t need any of this stuff.

Jill Donovan:
Amen. I realize also the other epiphany was that the decluttering of things physically, like your closet or your books, goes a long way to then decluttering the relationships and the things in your mind. Because you feel cleaned out in your closet, it’s the beginning of feeling that, “Hey, if this gave me freedom, then there needs to be some decluttering in other areas of my life.” So, as you know, when I came back from this vacation, we had a Monday morning bracelets meeting. Simultaneously, by the way, I must tell you, I was reading the book Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. I’ve never seen her show.

Kelly Smith:
That’s like the perfect storm right there.

Jill Donovan:
Have you seen the show?

Kelly Smith:
Yes.

Jill Donovan:
Okay. So you’re right, it is the perfect storm to be in a place where you have very little and are completely free.

Kelly Smith:
And your Marie Kondoing in yourself?

Jill Donovan:
Yes. I was reading the book. I’d had it for two years and just picked it up, came back to our Monday morning meeting, and I told everybody that on that Friday that the hours that they would be working at work, I wanted every one of them to stay home and take out every single thing from your closet.

Kelly Smith:
Right. You have to explain, for those that don’t know what Marie Kondoing is, it starts with literally every single piece from your closet, your drawers-

Jill Donovan:
Everything.

Kelly Smith:
… all dumped on your bed. That’s how it starts because you want to start with a clean slate. Right there, that’s a very sobering sight.

Jill Donovan:
Well, you could finally find the things that you’ve lost, that you’ve stuffed underneath or in some shoes. And then the second step that she says is to pick up every single piece and ask the question… What’s the question?

Kelly Smith:
Does this bring me joy?

Jill Donovan:
Does this bring me joy? Every single piece. And if it doesn’t bring you joy, what do you say to it?

Kelly Smith:
You thank it for its service, I think.

Jill Donovan:
Which sounds odd but it’s cathartic actually.

Kelly Smith:
And you throw it in the giveaway pile. If it brings you joy, you put it back in your things.

Jill Donovan:
You put it back. So the way that I had cleaned my closet and probably you as well up to this point, I would just do it in bracelets sections. I would pull it out if I didn’t like it. It never really changed. It still looked full. Even though my giveaway pile was big, my closet still looked full. I realized it was because I didn’t experience the feeling of a completely empty closet. When you completely clean something out, you are so careful about what you put back.

Kelly Smith:
Yeah, I would agree. That’s the piece of it that I wasn’t doing before.

Jill Donovan:
Yes.

Kelly Smith:
Because then once you even start putting some things back in, you’re like, “Oh, it’s so nice and open. I really want to be careful about what I’m adding because I like the open feeling.”

Jill Donovan:
Yes. Have you ever had a colonic?

Kelly Smith:
No, but this is a great rabbit trail.

Jill Donovan:
Okay. No, this isn’t a rabbit trail.

Kelly Smith:
Oh, I’m sorry. Yes, I have.

Jill Donovan:
You have?

Kelly Smith:
Yes.

Jill Donovan:
You just now remembered that you had a colonic?

Kelly Smith:
No, no. It’s because I had a colonoscopy.

Jill Donovan:
Okay. And they do the same thing as a colonic?

Kelly Smith:
Yes. Yeah.

Jill Donovan:
Am I saying that right, the colonic? Okay. So you completely get yourself-

Kelly Smith:
And then you tell yourself, “I’m only eating fruits and vegetables and organic foods from here on in.”

Jill Donovan:
Yes. You don’t always stick to that for long but for a while, you don’t want to tarnish that which is now clean.

Kelly Smith:
Yes.

Jill Donovan:
And that’s the whole point of cleaning everything out of your closet as opposed to just pulling things out. So I had everybody on that Monday. I made them all promise, there were about 75 of you in there, to spend the time on Friday that you would be at work and put everything on your bracelets bed. On that Friday, you had to take a picture and send it to me. You did it.

Kelly Smith:
I think I’d sent a picture of the hangers.

Jill Donovan:
The hangers

Kelly Smith:
It was like a graveyard of hangers on the floor of my room. That was a large task. I thought, “Oh, I’ll clean it out for a couple hours.” It took me the whole day to do it because-

Jill Donovan:
“Thank you. Goodbye. Thank you. Goodbye.”

Kelly Smith:
I kept saying, “Thank you for your service. Thank you for your service. Thank you for your service.”

Jill Donovan:
But you might not have done that if you just went in your closet and took out piece by piece.

Kelly Smith:
No. I think that I always rationalize, “Oh, I might use this. I might…” Then really when I just saw it empty, I think that was the kicker for me. It was like going, “Do I really…” You know how you keep putting clothes on and then every time you try it on you go, “Oh, this feels weird. I might use it for something else.” And then you put it back in.

Jill Donovan:
Yes. You put it back in, and you won’t use it.

Kelly Smith:
I don’t because it doesn’t feel good on. It doesn’t fit. It’s too tight. It’s old. It’s stretched out around the neck. Whatever it is, I kept it.

Jill Donovan:
Yeah. And then you think, “I spent so much money on this, I don’t want…” But I think that it’s not a waste of money when you give it away. It’s a waste of money when you bought it.

Kelly Smith:
True.

Jill Donovan:
Yeah. The thing is that after I had everybody do this and everybody texted their pictures and then the before and the after picture, there was nobody that did not do this. If they did, they are not here with us any longer. But we got almost 400 bags to give away.

Kelly Smith:
That’s crazy.

Jill Donovan:
This was just clothes. This was not any toys. This was not anything else in the entire house, no books, just clothes. So twofold, you have a lot of people that feel decluttered in this area of their life and now it gets to bless a lot of other people. I started to think, “Okay, it feels like such a waste that I bought this and this and this, now I’m giving thousands of dollars of clothes.” But it begins to change your life and not just your closet.

Kelly Smith:
For sure.

Jill Donovan:
Did you start feeling that after… How many bags did you get total?

Kelly Smith:
I had the big 33-gallon bags, so I think I had four giant bags of stuff.

Jill Donovan:
Just your closet, not your kids? They tell you don’t go do your kids.

Kelly Smith:
Just mine. I should be a little embarrassed, I think, about what I was… I don’t know why I was holding onto it. When I finally got rid of it, more than even getting rid of that stuff, seeing my closet kind of just pared down to what I use or what I like has been such a joy to get ready.

Jill Donovan:
Yeah. Yes.

Kelly Smith:
Instead of having 40 tank tops, I’ve got 15 but I like all of them so I can pull them out, put them on. It’s been great. I have to just tell you that if I’m going to join you on this podcast, occasionally-

Jill Donovan:
You need wardrobe? Wardrobe.

Kelly Smith:
Yes. Can somebody find my bags? No. I was going to say-

Jill Donovan:
Actually, we haven’t given the bags away yet. We’re getting ready to. Why don’t you go find somebody your size, ask them which bags were there’s, and look through their bags?

Kelly Smith:
I could put them on for the podcast.

Jill Donovan:
And then put them back in the bag. That’s what we should do.

Kelly Smith:
Okay, next time.

Jill Donovan:
Okay.

Kelly Smith:
What I was going to say was that my mom always had these little like bracelets nuggets of wisdom all throughout my life. My mother is, well, I grew up in New Jersey so she’s from New Jersey.

Jill Donovan:
Everything’s legal in New Jersey. That’s in Hamilton.

Kelly Smith:
Really?

Jill Donovan:
Yeah. Have you not seen Hamilton?

Kelly Smith:
No, but I’m going to like it.

Jill Donovan:
That’s in Hamilton.

Kelly Smith:
Anyway, my mother talks like this. Well, she’s in heaven now, but she used to talk like this.

Jill Donovan:
I hope she still talks like that in heaven.

Kelly Smith:
She totally talks like this in heaven. Are you kidding? “Kell, Oh my gosh with all the talking, stop with the talking.” This is a nugget from my mother.

Jill Donovan:
But in that voice.

Kelly Smith:
But when my mother gives a nugget, it sounds like this, all right? I hope this doesn’t offend anyone, but my mother’s nugget of wisdom with houses, and clutter, and that was she would say, “It was a reflection of your spiritual life. Your house is a reflection of your spiritual life.” I was like, “Oh, I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not.”

Jill Donovan:
It’s so true.

Kelly Smith:
But a little bit true. Sometimes when I look at my house, this is a little revealing, but it’s tidy-ish. But then when you really get into it, you’re like, “What’s happening in this closet, and why is it so dusty in here? I’m not even wearing this stuff.” When you really delve into it, it’s kind of messy. So I always have remembered that, and that was one thing that happened when I cleaned out this closet. It was a little bit of that, “What am I doing here? Why am I holding on to all this stuff?”

Jill Donovan:
Yeah.

Kelly Smith:
I think it’s a reflection of one’s spiritual life.

Jill Donovan:
I love like that. Say it one more time in your mom’s accent.

Kelly Smith:
She would say, “The state of your house is a reflection of the state of your heart, your spiritual life.”

Jill Donovan:
Oh, I love that.

Kelly Smith:
There’ll be many more.

Jill Donovan:
I’m so glad. The thing is, I used to think, “I just have to keep…” If you write a list of things you need to do during the day, for me, the top list was organize home, spend 20 minutes organizing home. Because I wanted by December-

Kelly Smith:
Every day?

Jill Donovan:
I would put it at the top of my list because I knew if my home were organized, then I would then feel organized and then I could be more creative. So I used to think I needed to be more organized, and then I realized I just needed to start de-owning. It wasn’t the organizing of what I had, it was the getting rid of things then my choices got smaller. Do you know that for this entire year, I have worn the same outfit? I wear the same thing. It has three variations. I wore the same black shirt every day unless I’m doing a podcast, and then I go into the 400 bags of clothes. Thank you, Lisa, for this shirt.

Kelly Smith:
This is not even her shirt.

Jill Donovan:
No, it’s not. I don’t even know whose it is. I think it still has a tag on the back. I wear the same long sleeve black shirt, jean shorts, or jean skirt, or a pair of jeans. Now, bracelets and shoes is another thing and that is something I need to maybe have-

Kelly Smith:
That’s another day, another podcast.

Jill Donovan:
Yes. But everybody has something, and I do love funky shoes. But I wear the same outfit. My closet is clean. It really is clean. But it is so overpacked with things that other people could be enjoying. I walk into my closet and I think, “I don’t even know where to begin.” If I had a quarter of the things that I don’t wear, I would feel free. It’s just you cannot bring yourself to do it because you feel like it’s a waste.

Kelly Smith:
Unless your boss says to stay home, and take the day off, and do that.

Jill Donovan:
Yes.

Kelly Smith:
And then you do allow yourself the freedom. Because there’s never a time to do that.

Jill Donovan:
No. Or, you don’t want to take the time even if you have time because you want to watch TV.

Kelly Smith:
Well, that’s true.

Jill Donovan:
Yes. I want to ride my bike. So I don’t want to be cleaning my closet. If you are made and paid to clean your closet, you will. So forcing 75 people to empty the entire contents of their closet, putting it all on their bed, asking themselves questions the entire day has produced 400 bags that we get to give to people in need. That, alone right there is exciting, but to watch how everybody feels lighter.

Kelly Smith:
Well, and I do have to add to it. It was a treat to be paid to be able to do that for the day, but what it produced in me, I’m doing it on my own when I’m getting home. I looked at the books in my son’s room and I’m thinking, “What are all these books doing here?” So it just kickstarted something else. So no, you’re not paying me to stay home and do this, but it has started, “Okay. This whole closet across from the dryer has got to go. I’m not using it. There’s Play Doh in there.”

Jill Donovan:
Even though your kids will say, “Do not do this to my room,” when you do it to their room-

Kelly Smith:
They feel better.

Jill Donovan:
… they feel better. Oh, Ireland went to camp to summer for a week. She will never listen to this podcast so it doesn’t matter. Her friends may though. So she went to camp for a week, and I decided to just clean out the drawers next to her bed. I found every iPhone battery that I had been missing because she puts it in the drawer and then she put the papers on top of it. I found two pairs of AirPods. Those are not cheap.

Kelly Smith:
No.

Jill Donovan:
I knew that she-

Kelly Smith:
You’re making money by looking through her drawers.

Jill Donovan:
Yes, I could have a garage sale from her drawers. And then that’s the other thing is people get all this stuff and then they think, “I want to have a garage sale,” which is great because people can make definitely extra cash from doing that. But sometimes, that in and of itself-

Kelly Smith:
[crosstalk 00:17:15] Is extra.

Jill Donovan:
It’s a whole other job to do that because then you’re still left with a lot of stuff, but it definitely helps some people. So not only are you decluttering, de-owning, and freeing your life up, but you could actually get some extra cash for things, not to refill your closet but to do some things that you really want to do.

Kelly Smith:
I think we should challenge everyone who’s listening to do something.

Jill Donovan:
Yes.

Kelly Smith:
One area.

Jill Donovan:
One area. Even if it’s a drawer in your bathroom.

Kelly Smith:
Oh my gosh, just the cabinet, the medicine cabinet. Ours is above the toilet there. I went through that. I cannot believe… I have expired medicine in my cabinet.

Jill Donovan:
Ooh. Everybody okay?

Kelly Smith:
I was keeping it because, “Oh well, they had a bad cough and they might…” I would never give my child four-year-old, expired cough medicine.

Jill Donovan:
“Sweetie, this hydrocodine is from 1970 but it was good for mama. It’s going to be good for you.”

Kelly Smith:
“Let me know if you feel any weird at all, if your throat starts tickling.”

Jill Donovan:
“The hives on your left arm, mommy had that too.”

Kelly Smith:
I know what I could do. I could just get a new bottle when someone needs it.

Jill Donovan:
Do you know where you can start if you’re listening to this or watching this? This is the easiest place to start, and I promise you this one thing could be life-altering because it is so small that it could trickle into every other area.

Kelly Smith:
I can’t wait to hear.

Jill Donovan:
Okay. When you take a shower, the shower shelves, the shampoo from 1930 that you think, “My hair looked really good when I used this shampoo,” this conditioner that your friend told you that they used, five friends told you to use conditioner and then there’s three brushes in there. Do you really need three brushes and two combs?

Kelly Smith:
No.

Jill Donovan:
There’s a lot of ponytail holders in there. Now I’m getting into and just telling you about-

Kelly Smith:
Is that in your shower?

Jill Donovan:
Well, sometimes. We have a bigger shower in the master bedroom, and so sometimes it’s family shower. It’s not family shower.

Kelly Smith:
Not all at the same time.

Jill Donovan:
Can everybody-

Kelly Smith:
This is derailing.

Jill Donovan:
Sometimes our shower will get used by other members of the bracelets family, and things start to collect in there. I use one shampoo, and one conditioner, and maybe I need a brush in there, and then maybe a loofah and then… Do you use a loofah?

Kelly Smith:
No.

Jill Donovan:
Rabbit, squirrel. Is rabbit the same thing as squirrel?

Kelly Smith:
On this podcast, it is.

Jill Donovan:
So Terry does not use the same shampoo and conditioner that I use. If our children ever shower in there, they bring their own. Before you know it, you can’t even move in the shower for all the stuff in there. So if you’re listening and you family shower, if you’re listening to this, you know what I’m talking about. It is so nice to go to a hotel because they have one shampoo, one conditioner, and then a body soap. What’s that called?

Kelly Smith:
Bodywash.

Jill Donovan:
Bodywash. Three things, that’s all you need. That’s all you need. Your shower life will change. It will trickle into then your bathroom bracelets drawer life. Just start emptying out things you don’t need, everything you have. You don’t even know the freedom that you’re going to experience if you just start with your shower shelf.

Kelly Smith:
Just one thing.

Jill Donovan:
One thing.

Kelly Smith:
One thing.

Jill Donovan:
One thing. So we will end with this one thing. Don’t just declutter, de-own. Not only will you find freedom, but you will bless a lot of other people by what you can give them. We hope that you will join us next time on CEO-ish. Thank you.

Kelly Smith:
It’s going to be good.

Jill Donovan:
It’s going to be good.