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August 24, 2006

Clean up in aisle four please!

I loved all the responses to yesterday's ditty about Jack and Diane and oh, yeah, my eleventeen tons of junk. Unfortunately, I spent nine hours in an off-site meeting so I couldn't respond until late last night and by then I was maybe too tired and cabernet to make any sense. However, I picked out a couple of things to follow up on today and if ya'll have advice you want to share on how you find inspiration and motivation to declutter, please spill it!

I love to talk about decluttering way more than I love to do it, but I find it inspires me enough to keep trudging through.


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June wants to know: "So... are you throwing away? Donating? Yard sale?"

I am throwing away the junk I don't need (Goodbye, ValPack mailer from four months ago!) and donating some things and then having a yard sale with the rest. The books go to Dutton's Used Book Store for credit. I do tend to buy books both for myself and as gifts for others, so this one makes sense for me. My goal isn't to live a monastic life with zero posessions, it's merely to have less volume, so I am sure I will still buy books and continue the cycle of accumulate-declutter until I up and croak.

Selling things on ebay and amazon works for a lot of people, but if you are maybe one of the kind folks still waiting for me to send you something I promised back in, uh, April? 2005? Yes. You know why these options don't seem very logical for me, She Who Mails Infrequently.

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Mia says: "Norton's? NO NO NO NO You are not allowed to throw that out. It contains the best bits of our language. Just joyfully enjoy your stuff. Isn't that enough?"

I love the idea of joyfully appreciating my things.

I used to think that if my life's posessions could just anchor me to this world a little longer, I'd be so thankful. I felt a comfort and peace in being surrounded by my stuff, and I loved the weight of it all. Maybe that's why I accumulated so much? Maybe that's why I shopped when I was lonely, and Mr. X and I moved to a bigger house every few years, ready to be filled with even more stuff. As if it could hold us to a promise.

Somewhere along the line, though, something changed.

Maybe I reached Maximum Stuff Capacity, or maybe I got less sad inside, or maybe I just got old and lazy, or maybe I just had TOO MUCH STUFF but I am no longer enjoying it. I want my life to be lighter. I'm not passing judgement, Mia. I know what works for me doesn't work for you, or maybe anyone, but I really need this right now, to be a little lighter, a little freer. Mostly, I want less stuff to maintain, clean, repair, dry clean, hem, dust, and wash. I want to keep the lovely things that I cherish, but I also want to entertain visitors without having to deep clean for forty solid hours ahead of time.

I might miss Mr. Norton, true, but he and I haven't been intimate since 1992 anyway. I was such a slut back then! I was with all the Mr. Nortons. Even the poetic one -- sheesh!

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Cursingmama says: "Oooh - and do you ever watch Clean Sweep and go all crazy for like 15 minutes on something trying to get it organized and then give up and leave a bigger mess than when you started? Me neither."

Ha! You have just described an average Sunday afternoon in Chez Crazy! I do this all the time. I am a silly woman.

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I thought this was really a great way to think about de-cluttering: "I must go back to my original thought of, 'If I were to move to France (my ultimate goal) what would I have to take with me?'" That's a quote from Molly who apparently has read my mind.

I do secretly fantasize about moving to France, or Spain, or Norway, or Boston, or more specifically I fantasize about moving to Gloucester, Massachusetts and becoming the filling in a George Clooney/Mark Wahlberg/Perfect Storm sandwich.

I am not right in the head.

Yet, that is my fantasy.

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Reader "K" wants to know, "And by the way, if you have any guidelines for getting rid of things that work in the real world, would you pass them on?"

Yeeps. I think you have to find some sort of system that works for you, but here is what I have discovered is helpful for me in my ongoing Quest To Not Be Pinned Under Eight Tons Of Junk.

1) Get inspired.
This sounds dorky, but ya'll consider the source. Anyway, for inspiration I will Tivo shows about decluttering, cleaning, decorating and even travel shows (because, hey, if I had less stuff maybe I would travel more! right?). I need to see a world of possibility outside the confines of my own home and get out of my head long enough to size up the situation. My favorite source of televised inspiration these days is "Small Space, Big Style" on HGTV. I love it!

But nothing is more inspiring than a trip to the biggest bookstore nearby, where I go with the sole intent of not purchasing a single item -- but to sit on the floor surrounded with books on decorating and organizing and decluttering and cleaning and simple, gorgeous living spaces photographed in luscious color. It makes me want to go home and prettify the house in whatever way I can.

2) Inertia can be cured by doing one small thing.
I never, ever have energy for housecleaning after work. I might do a load of laundry if I'm desperate, or I might wash the cat bowl or a wine glass, but generally speaking I don't rush home after working nine hours and commuting three hours and break out the mop. (Do I even own a mop?) I will vaccuum because of the fur issue, but I like vacuuming. More correctly, I am in love with James Dyson and have been lobbying unsuccessfully for months to get the marriage laws changed so I can get hitched to my Dyson. It's purple.

So weekends are my best shot for a declutterizing frenzy. Tell that to my ass, however, which prefers to be seated comfortably on a patio chair with a book and a glass of wine. Therefore, to overcome my inertia, sometimes I pick one small task to get my declutter engine running. This has to be something VERY simple, so I don't get distracted and end up at Ikea two hours later shopping for placemats and magazine holders and a new rug. AS IF THAT WILL SOLVE THE PROBLEM.

So, pick a tiny task such as: Organize the Q-tips. Clean the silverware drawer. Throw away all socks with holes/bad elastic/that you hate. Same with underwear drawer. Something small and completely achievable, so you feel like, "Cool! Look how freaking productive I am!! I rock!! I shall go forth and conquer the vegetable crisper now!!" And you do this consistently over time and let's pray in unison it works, because I'm a work in progress myself. Amen.

3) Put it out of sight
For the first round of my decluttering, I was maybe not ready to say a permanent goodbye to things. So I packed them in boxes, placed them in the garage and wrote YARD SALE on labels for each one.

Two months passed.

Then three. And then five. Then came yard sale day and I just hauled out the boxes and let it all go. By then I had forgotten what was packed away, and since I hadn't needed it in almost six months it really had no purpose in my overstuffed life.

This works for me because I have a scary garage I rarely go into, and because packing up little bits and pieces at a time and storing them in the dark garage did the trick. Your mileage may vary. You may need to get it out of your world THIS VERY MINUTE so you don't re-hoard it.

4) Why am I doing this?
The final and most important thing for me is to remind myself this is all about having a better life, a good life, a happy and low-stress and low-maintenance life.

I will die one day. I don't want to lay in the hospital in a ratty gown with tubes in my arm and wonder if folks will be horrified by the boxes of crap in my home office. I want to pass on thinking I lived my life the best I could, and that I was free to move to Gloucester and ... uh. You know. Perfect Storm sandwich. I was free to be smooshed between George and Marky Mark because I was traveling light.

Traveling light! With a slight patina of cat hair.

That's the goal, anyway.

Posted by laurie at August 24, 2006 10:07 AM