“My place is a mess with all this stuff lying around. Stuff I don’t even…”
What am I doing with all this stuff? Stuff I think I want but don’t use. Some of it I’d even forgotten about.
I don’t need even half of it. Not even a quarter of it. Maybe none.
Aha. What I’ll do is move some of it out to the garage. Maybe rent a storage facility. Maybe put it all in the…
No. I’ll still have the responsibility of it, won’t I?
I have to rehome it.
Let’s get hold of three boxes or containers. Big ones.
We will label them:
Let’s think this through before we start:
“Toss” is a euphemism for “goes in the garbage.”
The “KEEP” box will later be divided into (1) hand down to kids(s)/whomever; (2) keep (because I need it); and (3) dayum, I can’t decide where this one goes.
Suggestions for the DONATE Box
Special stores in almost every community now sell used household goods and clothing that people have donated. The Salvation Army is only one. Any synagogue/church/mosque will gladly act as go between for getting household goods to those in need of them. There are donation boxes specifically for clothing here and there in most cities and towns.
One of the lesser-realized places to donate things—anything—is to women’s shelters. Many of these women have nothing but the clothes on their backs, literally, when they arrive at one of these shelters. (I was luckier.* Much luckier. In many, many ways.)
When I was in the women’s shelter back in 2005, the house I was in would often call us down to the office to announce that someone had just donated a box of items. During my six weeks there, I was able to get started with the basics: a set of ancient Corelle dishes, for one. They also took us to a special clothing store where I got a winter coat.
These items were anything from blankets to spatulas. Things we never realize we need until we open the kitchen drawer in our new digs expecting, out of habit, to find one. (I still have the blanket. A comforter. A comforter in more ways than one.)
Men and women in halfway houses also need pretty much every single thing all of us old ladies have doubles and triples of, too. Do we actually use all those sheets and pillowcases from when the kids had bunk beds? How long ago was that?
Donating is a bonus in all directions. They get to start stocking their new residences. We get to help them do that. Nothing in good condition needs to go to waste.
Right now, let’s choose a cupboard shelf or a drawer we hardly ever go into and let’s just get at it.
One shelf or one drawer to start. This has to be a pleasant first time. Do one. Stop. I repeat: Do one. Stop. Why? Psychologically, when we stop in the middle of something we like doing, or before we get tired, we want to get back to it as soon as possible. Like, tomorrow first thing.
Set up the boxes close by and sit on the floor. (I don’t have trouble sitting on the floor, it’s trying to get back up that’s an issue. But this, too, can be accomplished with determination and mostly the will to survive.)
Using your own determination and will, take everything out of that drawer or off that shelf and put each thing into its respective box: KEEP, TOSS, DONATE.
Get yourself up off the floor. Grab a garbage bag. (You know exactly where you put those last time, right?)
Empty the TOSS box into it. Try to do this with neither regret nor flinching. Tie the top of the garbage bag and immediately march with pride to the garbage chute or garbage pail and let it slip from your fingers.
You did it! Woohoo. Yay!
Everything in the KEEP box goes back into that first drawer or onto that first shelf. (Bear with me.)
We will do nothing with the DONATE box right now.
Close the lids on the three boxes and stack them up somewhere for the next time. Tomorrow. Yes? First thing.
Walk away and forget about them. Go watch TV. Have a tea. Go for a walk.
“Tomorrow” Has Arrived
Get into position next to the second shelf (or drawer) and put everything there into its respective boxes.
The TOSS box gets emptied into another garbage bag and taken out. Immediately, right?
This time, the KEEP box’s contents get put onto the first shelf/drawer with yesterday’s things. There’s room now, isn’t there?
The DONATE box is starting to fill up.
The second shelf is empty. No kidding!
We will keep going like this until we’ve gone through every bureau/dresser/cupboard in our home.
When the first original shelf is full, start to fill up the second one. Then the third, etc.
We will keep using this same cupboard until all its shelves are full of our KEEP stuff. We’ll deal with it soon, don’t worry. We haven’t been using any of this stuff anyway, have we?
Each time the DONATE box gets full, we will donate its contents and start filling it again.
It won’t be long before our original bureau/dresser/cupboard is full but by then, we’ll probably have another bureau/dresser/cupboard empty. Start filling up its drawers now. One at a time only!
Eventually, we’ll realize that we have empty furniture and cupboards and storage units all over the place.
We’ll also realize that we have accomplished an amazing feat. We have decluttered our home from objects we didn’t need, use or want anymore and we have probably made some woman or man’s life easier by doing it. Our own, for one.
Let’s start over with the first shelf that contains our KEEPs.
We will re-label the three boxes:
Using the same technique, we will go through everything again.
We will decide also, where our extra bureaus and bookcases will be going. We definitely need some of these. Yes, we do. But not all. This is another set of keep, toss, donate decisions.
Let’s organize what’s left using logic. If we don’t know where everything is, what was the point of doing all this work in the first place? And from now on, we will put everything back where we got it from immediately after we use it. Immediately after we use it.
Look at all the room I have. I can even dance around or do my Tai Chi without smashing my knee or my little toe on anything.
I have reorganized all my shelves and drawers and bookcases and I know exactly where everything is. I have just accomplished something impossibly amazing.
Today’s tip: Life is all about choices.
Until next time.
*When I left my situation, I was lucky enough to be able to get some of my stuff into storage. My hundreds of books for one. But not much of my hundreds of dollars’ worth of kitchen equipment and other things that I had brought into the situation in the first place (like a bed). Something to sleep on (my couch doubled as sofa and bed for quite some time) was more important than a mixer or a blender. That donated spatula was appreciated to no end. Books? More about my books in another post.
DISCLAIMER: This post is not intended to address hoarding. Hoarding requires professional attention. Hoarding is caused by as many reasons as there are hoarders.
Illustrations from https://www.needpix.com/
Photos by Sherrill Wark
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