Looking back, I think the first time I experienced that sense of lightness and freedom instilled by decluttering (at least in this present residence) was when I decided to do away with the full-blown tree for Yule. At the point of dispensing with the floor-to-ceiling tree, I also consolidated several boxes of ornaments into one and tossed out the trashy ones that held no significance to us.
In the past, that stupid, traditional tree would sometimes stay up until March. NO ONE wanted to deal with it once the holiday was over. I began to hate that miserable, pyramidal collection of dusty gewgaws. I so much like our current system better. I purchased a wrought-iron ornament stand to set on the piano, and we thoughtfully select only our favorite ornaments to display. The process and custom of hanging the ornaments has become, once again, an enjoyable ritual that Al and I do together, now with music on our vintage stereo and glasses of wine. We don't fuss with assembling the bulky tree (or watering it in the case of a live one, heaven forbid), and I don't have to haul out all those boxes of lights and balls, sort them, and haul them back out of the way temporarily only to carry them all back up the stairs and down/out again at the end. What a pain that was, and I haven't even mentioned the fact that no one enjoyed stringing the lights so we each rather waited on the other, hoping it would get done so we could plow through to the fun (easier) part, hanging the ornaments. Somehow, through seeming whims with no deep thought on my part, I've managed to preserve the sentimental ritual with its accompanying journeys down memory lane through holidays bygone, the aspect we like, and eliminate the work we don't like.
Admittedly, I haven't completed this purge. The tree is packed away in its box in the barn, and it is accompanied by some boxes that haven't been sorted, but they don't come into the house. My greatest stumbling block to the purge proved to be when I started to throw out the tree in its box. It's not a very old item, and it's in perfect condition. Besides my regret at its value as an object, I experienced pangs of fear that I might want to use it in the future. What if there comes a time I have a change of heart and want to invest in the laborious enactment of a vintage celebration? That's the decision I have to make before I remove the tree, and I think, after writing this has prompted me to think it through, that I've made that decision.
If I ever want to do that, go all-out, there will be a classier, more meaningful, way to do it than with an artificial tree, and I won't need all those boxes in the corner, the ones filled with...not sure what's in there, but certainly not very much of value or I would be missing it. Someone else can benefit from my tree. I still can't throw it in the dumpster, but I can drive it to Goodwill with the next load and, when I get a chance, I'll go through the boxes, too.
Phew! So glad that's settled!