Monday, July 13, 2009

Project Purge

It's time to help a sister out.

No, I have not reverted back to morning sickness, as the title might suggest, but I have taken to getting rid of my crap. My mounds and mounds of lovingly collected crap. I am a certified pat rack, which doesn't bode well for someone who moves often. I come about it naturally. My Dad (who is 74, good natured, but has always been a notch beyond quirky) collects random stuff, wraps it in plastic, and stores it in the garage, never to be seen again. Stuff like figurines and styrofoam containers. Ok, did I say a notch beyond? Let's add a few notches to that belt, shall we? While I don't go quite as far as he does, in many respects, you can still say that I am truly my Father's daughter.

So here I sit, FINALLY with a good reason to convert that guest room/junk collection room into something else and yet I'm faced with these questions:

Where will I put every single card I've received over the last 25 years?
Where will my electric bills from 1999 go now?
Where will the multiple instruments (including a banjo and a fiddle) go that we were so compelled to have but never learned to play?
And most notably, where will the last 4 sizes of clothes I've steadily passed by in these last few years go?

So much for parking in the garage.

I have never been naturally organized and I admire, no, I look adoringly up at those who manage to pull it off. How do you do it? Perhaps you possess the ability to let go of things tangible, something I sorely lack? My first echoing thought is always, 'what if I need it one day?' How do you possibly get that out of your head? Don't get me wrong. My walls are not lined with stacks of paper or knick knacks. A quick walk through my house would not reveal my compulsion, but for the love of God, do not, I repeat, DO NOT open the closet doors.

So I stand here today, asking for guidance. I am a girl who keeps movie tickets from 1998 and a paper shredder that just isn't up for that type of challenge. Where do I begin and will you help me get there? Tell me about your clutter free life so I can drool in envy and perhaps learn a lesson or two.


Mr. Shelby said...

For the love of God, I beg you, burn it all!

Your Clutter Hating Husband

S said...

Before I offer any advice, I want to tell you that you are not alone in holding onto things. This area is something I struggle with myself. (And, like you, I have a clutter-hating husband.) I would not consider myself a true pack rat, but up until a year ago, I still had every card and letter I had received since junior high school, and I still have clothing in the next two sizes down from where I am currently.

Have you ever checked out Her whole website is dedicated to eliminating clutter and developing routines. I subscribed to her emails for a while and made a lot of progress when I actually followed her advice. She talks a lot about the feelings involved with not wanting to release your clutter, too, like the ones you mentioned in your post.

One of Flylady's sayings is "you can't organize clutter," and I have found it to be true. The only time I've ever organized a room was when I get ready of every unnecessary thing in it.

Good luck. I know that de-cluttering gives me such a good feeling of freedom.

Kacy said...

Where will I put every single card I've received over the last 25 years? - In the garbage.

Where will my electric bills from 1999 go now? - In the garbage.

Where will the multiple instruments (including a banjo and a fiddle) go that we were so compelled to have but never learned to play? - Donate them to a school.

And most notably, where will the last 4 sizes of clothes I've steadily passed by in these last few years go? - Donate them while the style is still in fashion and someone else can wear them. Besides you get a tax deduction.

And lastly, from the neat-freak, obsessive complusive type, "If you haven't used it in a year, you don't really need it and can give it away." The law in which I live by.

Mr. Shelby said...

Kacy - I love the idea of donating our (sadly) unused musical great to schools. Thank you!

To be fair to Mrs. S, I'm guilty of hording electronics and computer cables from years gone by.

Also (throwing out an idea to Shelby), if there are cards you want to remember, but not keep, we can scan them in full color/high resolution. I know it's not the same, but maybe it's a compromise.

Lorraine said...

This is a constant battle in our house, too. My husband has boxes marked 1989 that he hasn't even opened since I have known him. And we live in a small California bungalow with a one-car garage. It drives me crazy.

I keep all of our bills and statements in one of those multi-tabbed accordion folders. We have to do corporate and individual taxes, so I try to organize receipts and deductibles as we go, and then I take the accordion folders to the accountant. I think the requirement for auditing is 7 years, so we keep the folders in a cabinet in the garage until they expire. Then I shred everything. Get a heavy duty shredder with no plastic parts. Oil it often.

BE SURE TO KEEP ANY RECEIPTS RELATED TO PERMANENT IMPROVEMENTS TO YOUR HOUSE - I think you do own your house, and you will need these for your housing basis when/if you sell.

Other than that, I find that the only way out of clutter is real spring cleaning. Take everything out of your closet (or whatever area) and only put back what you truly think you'll use. If you have fantastic clothes that may be good for post-baby or finally-recuperated-from-baby, put them in one of those giant vacuum ziplocs and store them. Put like items/sizes together. Slide a note in (type side out) with an itemized list of the contents. Otherwise, if you think someone else might really like an item that you are just keeping around as a maybe, donate it.

I think it's okay to keep some sentimental things if you have room and store them in a very organized way. Archival boxes are great for old letters and photos, and if you can condense them into a few categories you can probably tuck them on the back of a closet shelf in a space you wouldn't use anyway. My friend recently gave me a birthday card which was made out of one I gave her in high school - she scanned it in and wrote a new note below the old one. I'm glad she kept it all these years, and I am NEVER getting rid of it!

Anyway, not sure if any of that will actually help, but good luck! Does this mean you're nesting?

Shelby said...

Such great advice all around! Really, this is why I posted this topic. I need a hand to hold! When it comes to papers, I do feel that I am generally organized, all sectioned's just I have so damn many of them! I mean, if you need me to find an electric bill from 2004, I can easily do that.

I LOVE S's suggestion and especially love Lorraine's idea of taking everything out of a closet and only putting back what we use.

"If you haven't used it in a year, you don't really need it and can give it away." Genius. In fact, a genius idea that may take some time for my brain to wrap around.

Perhaps I am nesting, but the biggest thing for me is the fact that we're signing another lease to stay here (we do own, but in another state), so I know I'll be looking at this mess awhile longer and might as well do something about it!

Martha said...

Handle paper only once, let it go. Big ((Hugs)) and I send you lots of fierce nesting energy.

Michelle said...

Sort everything into keep, throw away, donate, and sell. If you have not used something in a year then you don't need it. Get rid of it. Save only the things that are dearest to you. All your precious things should be somewhere that they are kept nice (not collecting dust anywhere. Like special cards put them in a frame and display or use shadow boxes. Bills I keep for a year and then throw away. I use all my shoe boxes for sorting paper stuff. I keep all tax info for each year in one box and then every 8 years purge one. If you buy something get rid of something.

Those are some of the things that I do. I hate clutter. I get a good feeling when I get rid of something...I know weird. I know it is hard sometimes but you will feel so much better when it is all done!

Good Luck!

Me said...

I think that sentimental things, like cards (which are coincidentally, easy to store) are ok to keep. However, the rest of it, it's just stuff. My rule is, if I haven't used it in 2 years then I obviously don't need it. So out it goes.

(For the record, my mother had a cluttering propensity and by the time I moved out, she had shelves and shelves and shelves of neatly organized stuff lining every wall of the basement. Stuff she hadn't used in years. Stuff that will probably still be perfectly preserved in Tupperwares when she dies. The question though, is WHY? Why invest in the time, effort and money to organize and preserve stuff that you don't even use?)

Me said...

"BE SURE TO KEEP ANY RECEIPTS RELATED TO PERMANENT IMPROVEMENTS TO YOUR HOUSE - I think you do own your house, and you will need these for your housing basis when/if you sell."

This is not true in regards to a singular, primary residence - only investment property.

Claudia said...

I actually bought a book about this - called 'How to stay de-junked forever- and wow, I recommend it highly! It has a great chapter about why letting go of stuff feels hard but why you have to do it. About two weeks ago, I went through about seven boxes of old photos and cards and whittled it down to ONE - just kept things like wedding cards and cards with a proper letters written inside - no more 'dear friend, many happy returns, love from someone you barely remember'.

Now I rampage through the house, looking for things to throw away. It's a GREAT feeling. I've even managed to get rid of about 2/3 of my books... but I kept the de-junking book :) One warning though - once you start, it's addictive...

Sarang said...

I need to purge, too! Not for nesting reasons, but because my closets are overflowing...

I'm enjoying learning from these great comments!

Good luck, Miss Shelby!

Bon said...

hey shelbs,

i wanted you to know i moved my blog if you want to keep reading.

have fun cleaning!

Ashley said...

Shelby, I want to see come belly pics! I know this is totally unrelated to your purging, but maybe it will get your mind off that topic for a moment. HA!

Anonymous said...

Oh yeah, I have a million cards, jr. high and high school notes, movie tickets, etc. I've found some cool ideas for actually making use of them...I always look at the Pottery Barn catalogs, like the cool fabric headboard with cards/photos tucked in all around to look like cool decor. Making them myself is cheaper than the PB version, and I feel like I'm "honoring" the items instead of keeping them in a dusty box. I love the guy that goes on Oprah that talks about using and giving honor to those special items, all the other ones can be tossed.

Scanning things is another great idea. On one of those shows the woman couldn't throw away a dresser because it was her mother's, and they solved the issue by taking a picture of the dresser, framing it, and putting it on the shelf in her bedroom.

As a last resort, I've had my husband "hide" boxes from me for a year. If I don't know what's in them, and didn't need them for a year, I just have him take them away. It is brutal, but effective :)

Just think of the purging as making a loving, roomy space for your little one!! Good luck!

Anonymous said...

7 Great Tips to Help You Declutter, Part 1

I was working on adapting an article about de-cluttering that I wrote last year for a magazine, keeping my toes in the "general life coaching" waters, in between my articles on women's reproductive health, miscarriage and fertility, when I came across a blog The Great Big If, written by Shelby, asking for tips for decluttering her house. Since it got very long, I have decided to include some of it here, part 1:

This is Decluttering 101. A few months ago, I actually had a major panic over getting rid of my huge magazine collection (500+ est.)

Shelby, I think that you and I could have been separated at birth, as clutter often gets on top of me. This is the intro to my blog post, including your link. I hope some of my suggestions work for you.

Brandy said...

I am a recovering packrat. It comes from my mother being a borderline hoarder and me not having any private personal space growing up. I second the flylady suggestion, she has a lot of good ideas, the main one being, only keep something if it truly brings you JOY. When you have so much clutter you can't see the things that you truly love. It's hard, but after a while it's such a freeing feeling to get rid of stuff.

And if you really feel like you can't let go of something, but know you need to, take a picture of it. That way you can always go back and look at it.

It might feel like you're giving part of yourself away, but you'll always have the memories in your head. No one can take that away from you!