Thursday, 13 October 2011

The road to hell is paved with...

Good intentions. I have many of them. Like saving money. Making use of unused space. (I know, I know, why is it a good intention to use up space? Something to do with making the most of a small home... or just squeezing everything into it.)
I have some not-so-good impulses too. Like the urge to savour a Sweet and Salty bar while waiting in line at Costco.
All of which led me to discard an almost-full carton of granola bars today.
I was cleaning out the cupboard above our basement stairs, which extends far beyond my reach. With the help of 5-iron, I extracted all the balled-up grocery bags and groceries that had settled back there.
Among them, a dusty carton of granola bars. No best-before date. The dust was a clue, but I hate to throw out food so I called the manufacturer to inquire. "Um, ma'am," the rep said, "those bars were manufactured in 2009, and we like them to be consumed within 9 months, so, I'm sorry, they're just too old." She was very apologetic. "It happens to all of us," she said sympathetically. Collectively, what a waste.
Into the garbage they went, along with the unopened jar of salsa that expired in 2009(!), etc.
I wondered if I should take my chances with the microwave popcorn that expired last week, but decided to just stop poisoning my body with these chemicals anyway.
I'm somewhat perplexed by the unopened bag of oats, which I bought on sale last spring, just before summer came and I stopped eating hot cereal. Best before date now passed. Ingredients: 100% oats. Dry oats don't last forever...?
I'm coming around to the view that "storage" and "sale" are mixed blessings at best, perhaps better avoided.

Busy Bee

Oops, I haven't posted in weeks. So what have I been doing? Some serious clutter-busting! I've become a familiar face at the Salvation Army, my garbage men (so far they're all men) must hate me, and I'm still trying to make a go of consignment and on-line classifieds (hence I'm on-line).
Yesterday I bought a bottle of wine just to persuade my local liquor store to give me some of its empty boxes. Do I need to add that the wine got opened before the boxes got filled?
Anyway, no time to post -- the clutter is calling...

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Four weeks: Looking back; moving along.

Yes, I abandoned my Four Week de-clutter project. I wasn't inclined to write another post explaining why I didn't de-clutter that day. More importantly, I was spending more time blogging about de-cluttering than actually doing it. I decided that a Four Week project didn't necessarily require daily posts, but when I stopped posting daily, my motivation dropped too. So no, I didn't completely de-clutter our home in four weeks!
I did, however, do some more active de-cluttering during the Four Week period. More on that in future posts. 
In the meantime, I've noticed a change in me. De-cluttering is becoming instinctive. 
When I wear something that's uncomfortable or worn-out, it doesn't go back into the cupboard. My donation pile keeps growing, as does our garbage. It feels wasteful to get rid of usable things but it's a relief to be wearing clothes that fit, without holes or stains. I'm also less likely to bring home unsuitable things.
I keep spotting housewares that we aren't using or enjoying, and adding them to the give-away pile too. Some of these objects are sentimental. I tell myself that the memories will survive without the objects, but I wonder if that de-cluttering tenet is valid. Even if my memories remain, will I access them as frequently without these reminders? Does that matter? 
Case in point: my Pillsbury Doughboy cookie jar. Strike one: I rarely bake cookies. Strike two: it's not airtight, so I don't use it even when I do have cookies. Strike three: my kitchen counter is tiny and this is taking up valuable real estate. On the other hand, it's charming to me, and I smile when I remember that I won it in a Knights of Columbus Father-Son Golf Tournament. I'm not a father or son; I'm not even Catholic! But my father-in-law injured his shoulder and invited me to golf in his place, along with his two sons and his nephew. It was so nice to be included. And I was delighted to bring home the Doughboy cookie jar. I don't feel ready to part with it after all! Oh, dear. This is so not the purpose of my clutterbuster blog. :-)
On the other hand, it could make someone else happy, and I could add it to my 100 things we no longer have page...maybe even with a photo... How sad is it that I'm devoting this much thought to a cookie jar? 
What this thought tells me is that the cookie jar is special to me as a symbol, not an object. 
First, it's a nostalgic reminder of my childhood -- of my mother baking Pillsbury Crescent Rolls with us! How happy that made me. I feel so totally loved in that memory. (And no, I actually don't think that feeling was created by Pillsbury marketing.) Well, I don't need the jar to preserve that memory. 
Second, it reminds me how much my father-in-law matters to me. How much I want to feel included in my husband's family. That being the case, I should act accordingly. I don't need the cookie jar for that either.  

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Four weeks: Day 9 -- Sick as a dog

Now I know why I felt so unmotivated yesterday; by evening I had a nasty sore throat. Today, fever and non-stop nasal drip. Nothing like a cold during a heat wave.

Have I whined enough to account for the fact that I did no clutter-busting today? I spent the morning in bed. I spent the afternoon doing some emergency re-staking of our tomato plants; dabbing my nose; and entertaining my son with the least possible effort (we took our dog for a long, slow walk).

I did download my garage sale photos, starting with my personal favourite:

How many generations does it take to assemble a cradle?

We left these stragglers unattended
for two hours after the sale.
Nothing moved.
Then we donated them. 

After the sale, a bit more basement floor than the week before.

Formerly the 'garage sale merch' corner of our basement as seen last week.
Now, breathing space!

Finally, thanks to a great idea from Tanja Hoagland's 30 Day Clutter Bootcamp, I sold some CD's that had been taking up space. As I prepared for the garage sale, I listened to my CD's that were neither obvious keepers nor obvious tossers (I'd already donated the obvious tossers). I discovered one gem that I didn't even know I had(!), and identified about twenty that I don't enjoy anymore. I'm only a few chapters into it, but already I'm loving Tanja's book and her practical tips. 

After the CD's sold, my sister-in-law said, "you did copy them first, right?" Uh, no. I didn't think of that. And in hindsight, I'm glad I didn't. If I don't enjoy them, why waste my time or my hard-drive with them? Still, it's an option and I'll keep it in mind for those CD's with just one great song (you know who you are...). 

The best thing about parting with the CD's was seeing others smile. My brother-in-law put an old Smiths CD in his car and pumped it up in our driveway. I was immediately transported back to my late teens. It almost made me want the CD back, but not quite. I don't want to go back to my late teens in my own home! On his deck, with a beer in my hand, from time to time, sure. My very youthful seventy-something mother-in-law grabbed a handful of the CD's too. Turns out she's a Dwight Yoakam fan.

Another twenty bite the dust.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Four weeks: Day 7 - Rest; Day 8 - Restart

On Day 7 of my four week clutter-bust, I rested. I painted pictures with my son. I did a little baking with my son. And I spent a relaxing afternoon by the pool with my (husband's) family. It was all good.

Now it's already Day 8 and I find myself oddly exhausted. I dragged myself to yoga where I was irritated by my inability to stand up straight to my teacher's satisfaction. Each time he pushed my body into perfect position I forgot the position as soon as I moved. "Don't forget your pelvis," he keeps reminding me. I remember my pelvis -- I just can't remember exactly where to tilt it. Sigh. Back home and still feeling blah. Perhaps I'm feeling the effects of too many Palm Bay cocktails this weekend. Perhaps I'm just uninspired by today's task. I want to clutter-bust; but I have to clean up this place...

So, since I'm also trying to clutter-bust my mind, time for a little meditation. Then a lot of cleaning. I'm predicting that the meditation will leave me even more tempted to spend the day under the covers, but the cleaning will energize me. Time will tell!  ;-)

On the upside, I'm still really happy about the clutter-busting my progress I made last week, and can't wait to continue. My hubby told me how happy he is about our improved basement too. I'm going to post some pictures from the weekend shortly.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Four weeks: Day 6 -- Garage sale!

We did it; we had a garage sale.
Was it worth it? Uh, no, probably not. We made just $130. The sale lasted for four hours, as planned. Plus all the prep time buying change (no, we didn't need to do that, in hindsight); buying price-tag stickers and a fat marker and foam board (could have skipped all of that); making and posting signs (probably worth doing); and setting up (unavoidable).
Dollars for time, no, it wasn't worth it.
But did it get stuff out of our basement and into the rest of the world? Yes, oh yes!
Could I have done that without the garage sale? Sure. But would I have done so at the same pace? In all honesty, probably not.
I learned a few things.
If you're going to go to the trouble to make signs, make more than 4.  More signs probably would have meant more traffic. Our traffic was pretty light. In that regard, it might have been prudent to wait until September.
I also learned that price-tags are optional.
We priced everything in advance, which took a long time. Then I spent the first two hours of the sale worrying that the prices were too high. My husband and father-in-law said no.
Then my girlfriend and my mother-in-law showed up. They told me to take the price-tags off. While my mother-in-law was speaking from her church-sale experience, where profit is not a priority, my friend had just made $300 on her garage sale. So I took the price tags off.
We did sell almost everything, within our intended four hour period. And yet, perhaps my father-in-law was right; perhaps our asking prices were not too high. After all, had we started with lower prices we would not have sold any more things -- we sold almost everything as it was. Had we started with lower prices we would almost certainly have sold for less. So in the end, perhaps our asking prices were appropriate. And yet, if I did it again I would probably skip the price-tags, if only to save time.
Of course, I probably won't do it again.
Awesome thing: almost everything went.
We are left with the two "big-ticket" items, because we didn't want to let them go for low prices. A nearly-new tent, that's now listed on-line. And a cradle which, once we reassembled it, tugged at my heartstrings until I didn't want to let it go. It was the only child-related thing in our sale, and it didn't sell.
We are also left with one burden -- a big, heavy, scratched TV stand, which we literally tried to give away.
We sold everything else except for a handful of flower pots, books, etc., which my father-in-law took away to donate to the church bazaar.
The best "sale" of the day wasn't a sale at all -- it was someone taking our tube TV after I put a big "free" sticker on it. This saved us a drive to the dump and tipping fees. Sadly there is no market for a good quality, working, tube TV. Funny how perspectives change.
I was also very happy to receive $25 for two large, heavy framed pictures, which will look pretty in someone else's home.
Best of all, there's now so much room to move in our basement. 
There's still plenty of clutter to bust, but I am definitely on a roll.
We are grateful to two good friends who helped us out. I'm grateful that my mother-in-law didn't get too upset that we sold a vase she gave me for Christmas a few years ago. And I'm hoping that I didn't alienate everyone with my garage sale angst, in which case it really wouldn't be worth it at all. Oh, dear. I think I need to take another walk in that more-spacious basement now. 

Friday, 19 August 2011

Four weeks: Day 5 -- Prep

Well, it's been a busy day with no time to post, but the neighborhood is dotted with signs advertising our sale, and the house is full of things dotted with price stickers. Yes, we're having a garage sale (carport sale?) in the morning. I'm doubtful we'll make much money, but I'm glad that so much stuff is going out tomorrow.
My four weeks of decluttering are off to a good start. There's a lot more space in our basement now. There are still lots of things to go through -- tools, photos, and papers come to mind -- but I'm eager and excited to carry on. Just three weeks left in my four-week project.
Time to rest up for tomorrow morning!

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Four weeks: Day 4 -- Oops

Yesterday I was so smug about my garage sale plans. Sigh.

My beloved (and incredibly supportive but stubborn) husband has brought me down to earth. "I'm not moving that #*?! TV up the stairs and back down again." This in response to my intention to Craig's List the TV if it doesn't sell in the garage sale. In the end, we've reached what's probably a better plan -- it's going in the garage sale, and if it doesn't sell, we're getting rid of it this weekend. He's right that I should be prepared to toss or give away everything that goes in the garage sale. All of which makes me wonder if we shouldn't just skip the garage sale and give it all away...

I took a moment to find out if the local Salvation Army store accepts donations on Saturdays -- they do, but no TV's more than 5 years old! I'm laughing out loud at myself now. That baby's going to be bargain priced if we do try to sell it. If not, straight to the dump.

Either way, I'm heading back down to the basement now, to keep culling more stuff. If nothing else, the looming garage sale deadline is motivating me to go through as much stuff as possible.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Four weeks: Day 3 -- My way

Six months ago, when I took some "before" photos of our rec room, it looked like this:
February, 2011 "before"
February, 2011 "before"

This morning, it actually looked much worse:
This morning
This morning

I've got lots of explanations and excuses, but in a nutshell, disorganized clutter looks worse than organized clutter. I seem to disperse my stuff before I finally part with it. 

That's okay -- I'm thrilled to say that after three hours of work today, there are signs of progress:
This afternoon
This afternoon  
I can see the floor again! There are more empty bins! 

Garbage out!
Best of all, I threw out two bags of garbage and a box of recyclables.

Perhaps most intriguingly, I'm building a pile of merchandise for a garage sale this Saturday.

Common wisdom seems to be that garage sales are a clutter-busting no-no. It's true that as long as it's in the house, it's still clutter. 

For me, though, the garage sale is totally motivating. Until I got started in the basement today I wasn't sure that we would have a garage sale this Saturday -- I didn't know if we'd have enough stuff to sell. But as soon as I got started, I realized that having a garage sale in three days is tremendous incentive to cull as much clutter as possible, as quickly as possible. The key is that the sale is imminent. There's nothing like a deadline.

I won't know until after the sale whether it's worth the hassle, but I'm hoping to avoid a few trips to the Goodwill and gain a little cash. I'm particularly hoping that we can sell a couple of large framed pictures and an old TV, because I don't like moving heavy glass things. 

Yes, we'll have to hang out in our driveway for the morning, but that seems a lot more fun than fielding Craig's List viewings, or hauling breakable stuff to charity. Lemonade, anyone?

It occurs to me that trash is the easiest way to clutter-bust, but my conscience isn't happy dumping useful things.

Garage sale merch
I can't wait to see how big this garage sale pile is by tomorrow afternoon.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Four weeks: Day 2 -- Bust and wash

Well, Day 2 of the great(?) four week clutter-bust was just that -- a bust. Lots of previous commitments; one trip to Walmart; no clutter-busting.

I did clean the bathroom, since it was needed. I'm often frustrated by time spent cleaning, which is so temporary, when I'd rather be making permanent changes. However, I've finally realized that there's no such thing as permanent housekeeping. Even my clutter-busting project will be useless if I can't maintain it. Cleaning is maintenance and I need to learn to embrace it.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Four weeks to more space: Day 1 -- Kickoff

It's been another month, and I'm getting geared up again.

I just spent a week visiting my father, which always makes me want to de-clutter! He's not a hoarder -- far from it -- but he's got more stuff than places to put it, and may be somewhat overwhelmed by it all. That's my story anyway, and I'll just project it onto him (sorry Dad!).

My father has been through so much in the last few years. After a brief happy retirement, my parents' focus suddenly became my mother's valiant battle with cancer. Sadly, it was not a fight she could win. I can only imagine what my father has been through. He wants to create more space in his home now, but how hard it must be to review things acquired during their life together, alone.

We came home from my father's on Saturday night and I actually managed to unpack and wash and fold (or rather my dear husband folded) all of our baggage the very next day. That's a first for me. I am usually more the throw-the-dirty-clothes-in-the-basement-and-trip-over-the-half-empty-suitcase-for-a-week kind of traveller. But now that I'm home, and our summer vacations are over, I am just itching to get at our clutter.

I've felt pretty bad about the incredibly slow pace of my de-cluttering project. My ability to procrastinate something I've wanted to do for years has been eye-opening. I tend to do a flurry of clutter-busting just before I won't be able to do any for a while -- working to the deadline.

Several times I've questioned clutter-busting as a priority. I've felt guilty de-cluttering as opposed to, say, parenting. There are so many valuable things I could be doing with my time. That thought alone is often overwhelming.

But I want to do this, and the rewards will be huge. I remind myself that a clutter-busted home will mean more space, more time, more productivity, more peace, and therefore more happiness for our whole family.

Already there have been rewards...  My three-year-old loves the way we organized his (edited) toys into bins. He was so happy to be home yesterday and played with almost all of his toys, one bin at a time. My husband's relieved to be able to store Tupperware and pans without the use of force or puzzle-solving. Our serene guest room continues to draw friends and family.

Personally, I want my very own workspace -- as opposed to piles of books, boxes of papers, and a filing cabinet hidden behind a maze of clutter in the basement.

So, I've decided to give myself four weeks to de-clutter our house.

I started this project months ago, and I've had some successes, but my work so far has been the tiniest tip of the iceberg. Now I'm going to tackle the rest of it in a fraction of the time. Can I do it? Yes, I can!

Unfortunately these will be the last four weeks of summer, so not the best time to hunker down in the basement, but there's no time like the present. And frankly, I love autumn, so there's incentive there too -- in four short(!) weeks I'll be able to do outside projects in beautiful late September. And when winter comes, our home will be that much more of a haven.

I got started today by adding a box of clutter to the trash at the curb, just before the garbage truck rolled up.

Wish me luck...

Saturday, 16 July 2011


The last couple of weeks have been crazy busy, in a good way. I went to the Folk Festival for the first time in years, twice -- first catching up with an old friend and then introducing my son and husband to the hottest (literally), largest music festival around. We've been on staycation, welcoming another family to our town and joining in the tourist fun -- mini golf; street theatre; canoeing; Turkish spa... Staying up too late on long summer nights; even our three year old is sleeping in.

With all the fun, I haven't had much chance to write, let alone declutter. But I'm happy to say that my basement clutterbust is indeed underway. Just after my last post I went into the basement with a few black garbage bags and got to it.

I wasn't particularly methodical and I didn't have a lot of time, but I started with the first thing that caught my eye and kept going for about two hours. 

The next day I took a box and bag full of books, games, etc. to the Salvation Army store. 

The day after that a friend helped me take three garbage bags full of winter coats and other clothes to a shelter for the homeless. Or at least, that was our plan. We went in the wrong door and found ourselves standing amidst the cells of the local intoxicated persons detention facility. Yup, decluttering has driven me to the drunk tank.

It felt so good to drop off those winter coats, knowing that they'll help people stay warm this winter.

Thanks to my husband for contributing lots of his old clothes.

Finally, I filled a box with old dishes and other bits and pieces, and took it out of the house today.

I'm looking forward to resuming the basement clutterbust as soon as our vacation winds up. 

Monday, 4 July 2011

Clutter Busting with Brooks Palmer: A Trick of the Mind

On Friday, which was a holiday for us, I went into my basement to start clutterbusting. It's is our ultimate clutter repository. Everything that doesn't have a home above ground eventually ends up there (or, rarely, gets kicked out of the house). The basement looks worse than when I started clutterbusting our house. Two reasons. First, when I clutterbusted the guest-room some of the clutter ended up in the basement; not good. Second, I've successfully removed a lot of toys and clothes from the basement (and the house), but in the process the neat piles of storage bins have been disturbed. A lot of the bins are now empty but they are strewn about so it looks worse than when they were stacked full of clutter. Go figure.

Anyway, I went into the basement on Friday afternoon, armed with a garbage bag, and I got totally overwhelmed. I didn't know where to start. I didn't know where to put things. It was too late in the day (I slept in; I went for a run; we went to my parents-in-law's for a family brunch; just before we left the brunch I accepted a nice, cold beer, and then I succumbed to the need for a short nap when we got home; I put on some laundry and emptied the dishwasher and marinated some chicken for supper...).

So there I stood picking up bits of clutter and putting them back down, looking around at all the disparate bits and layers of clutter. I was overwhelmed. I came outside and sat down and said to my husband, "I can't do this."

Instead, I put my son in his Mr. Turtle pool and he splashed and slid and played with his boats and I smiled and talked with him and pulled out some weeds from between the patio slabs. And that was the right thing to do. I was happy. He was happy.

In hindsight, 4:30 p.m. on a beautiful summer day was the wrong time to start clutterbusting my basement.

That night, after my son was in bed, I read this post on one of my favourite blogs: Clutter Busting with Brooks Palmer: A Trick of the Mind. Brooks Palmer advised that, "you can be overwhelmed and clutter bust. They can happen at the same time." That resonated with me.

[I pause to note that I named my blog clutterbuster before I had ever heard of Mr. Palmer or his great book Clutter Busting. A clutterbuster was who I wanted to be, and I was happily surprised that no one had snapped up the clutterbuster name when I first signed on to blogspot. A fellow blogger, Clutterkiller, later recommended Mr. Palmer's book and blog and I am grateful.]

Rather than quote Brooks Palmer's entire post, go read it.

But this is the part that I'm going to take with me as I go down to the basement now:

"When you pick a place and start asking of each thing, 'Do I actually need you, or can I let you go?', the feelings of being stuck may still be there, but they will begin to diminish." 

That, and the idea that one can be overwhelmed and yet proceed. Because that's exactly what I need to do.

Thank you Mr. Palmer.

Friday, 1 July 2011

What not to wear

While I passed judgment on all my clothes last month, I took the time to observe what works for me and what doesn't. 

I figure that this was time well spent, since not buying something means never having to de-clutter it.

Here's my personal list of the top 5 things I should never buy again:
  1. Tops that are too low-cut. Casual low-cut tops are particularly bad, since my toddler loves to use my bra-cups as a handle, and I spend a lot of time at ground level, tying shoes, sharing hugs, and digging in sandboxes. 
  2. Tops that are too short. If it isn't cut long, it isn't going to flatter me. Between the belly and the backside, cover me up!
  3. Short pants and skirts. I'm tall. My clothes should be too.
  4. Long shorts. For some mysterious reason, long shorts look worse than short shorts. Weird.
  5. Short-sleeved golf shirts. I've only kept my favourites, but I still have more golf shirts than golf games. At least I can wear the wicking ones for running, while I dream of a golf vacation. 
    On the other hand, I can always count on:
    1. White tanks. Perfect for layering under those low-cut tops.
    2. Long, lean tops.
    3. Elbow-length sleeves. I love these. Never need to roll them up; never too short; no farmer's tan; perfect year round.
    4. Boat necks. 
    5. Knee-length skirts. 
    No wonder I have two identical long, white boatneck tees with elbow-length sleeves, and I wear them constantly. 

    Thursday, 30 June 2011

    Consigning clothes: the journey

    Contrary to conventional wisdom, I haven't tossed or given away all my old clothes. No, I've started to consign some. I say "started to" because so far consignment is a journey to an unknown destination.

    A couple of points about consigning clothes:
    1. Consignment shops are choosy. They each have their own clientele, and they select clothes that are marketable to that clientele.
    2. Consignment shops don't store anything. They don't just choose what they'll accept, they also choose when they'll accept it. That is, when it's in season, and when they have space for it.
    That's why I found myself travelling across town with bags full of clothes, and bringing half of it back home again.

    On the up side, the shop accepted 14 things (technically 17 because 3 were sets, but who's counting?). I'll get 50% of any proceeds.

    The shop rejected the other 17 things I brought, but offered to accept 7 of them in August.  I can probably get at least $100 for those 7 things if I'm willing to store them for two months and take them back across town.

    And then there are the clothes that I didn't bother to bring with me, since I only presented the best of the bunch.

    So I still have this lovely collection of "consignable" clothes...

    What next?

    I'll follow up with another consignment shop which told me to call back next week, and I'll hold the fall clothes until August.

    As I write this it feels pretty pathetic. But I'm stubborn and curious, so I'm willing to see how it plays out.

    In the meantime, I've tossed a lot, so I've got space in my closet and empty bins in my basement, and I don't mind hanging on to these things for two more months.

    And happily, despite the shopkeepers' invitation to "look around" while she reviewed my goods, I managed to get out without buying anything new, or rather old, although I was seriously tempted by a black silk satin Tahari dress with a knock-out ruffled hem.

    Tuesday, 28 June 2011

    There's hope

    At last -- I have an appointment to bring clothes into a consignment shop tomorrow! I've picked out the best of the bunch, at least half. It's a lot of clothes. Now I have to squeeze them all into garment bags and hope that they make the grade.

    Oh dear,
    won't you sell my
    old clothes for me!

    Monday, 27 June 2011

    Stop-and-drop toy consignment

    What a weekend.

    Friday evening: hosted in-laws for supper.
    Friday night: attended party -- first non-work party without child in almost four freaking years!
    Saturday morning: worst hangover ever.
    Saturday afternoon: mommy & son time on the patio, at the grocery store, and behind the scenes at the local NHL arena -- J particularly enjoyed body-checking imaginary opponents into the boards.
    Saturday evening: hosted friends for supper.
    Saturday night: sleep, beautiful sleep.
    Sunday morning: picked up my dad at the airport.
    Sunday afternoon: hosted J's 3rd birthday party Part I (the family party).
    Sunday evening: J's birthday party continued.. Did I mention that I was still recovering from Friday night?
    Sunday night: deep, deep sleep.
    Today: up at six; golf with dad; fun with J...

    Did I mention that I'm an introvert?

    Where did I get all this energy?

    Could it be, possibly, the joy of clutterbusting?

    On Thursday afternoon I took a huge volume of toys to a consignment shop. Their stop-and-drop system rules. Basically, I dropped my toys off, no questions asked, no appointment necessary. I was in and out in five minutes.

    They promised to review my stuff within a few days and call me to pick up anything they didn't want. I figured there were bound to be a few rejects, which I would then drop in a donation bin. But no. I got a message the very next day thanking me for the great toys which will all be displayed for sale in their shop(!). I'll get 40% of any sales within the next 90 days. After 90 days anything unsold will be returned or donated. This system is a thing of beauty.

    I can't wait to see how it turns out!

    Wednesday, 22 June 2011


    No one wants to consign my clothes! They haven't even seen them.

    Apparently I'm not the only one who's been purging her wardrobe around here. The local consignment stores are full...

    "Call me in two weeks."
    "Call me in August"
    "... in September"


    Monday, 20 June 2011

    Still playing with clothes...

    I was pretty disappointed with the prospect of returning two big bins of clothes to the basement, so I gave them another look. 

    I realized that there's room for my off-season, business, and too-small clothes in three small, recently-emptied, drawers in the guest-room closet. 

    I'm much happier with this, because I did not want to put any clothes back in the basement. When it comes to clutter, out of sight isn't out of mind.

    Then I turned to the "rags" bin. 

    Since I wanted to keep a painting outfit, I put a pair of jeans and a couple of tops back in my closet. Better to keep them with the rest of my clothes, instead of hidden away in a (packed) basement. 

    I took the wearable "rags" out of the house and dropped them in a donation bin. Getting them out of the house felt great.

    Now, instead of two full bins going back into the basement, I have just a dozen rags. 

    This feels much better.

    On the consignment front, I discovered that the local consignment boutique isn't taking anything until August. What a drag. I've got call in to two other shops.

    Saturday, 18 June 2011

    Now what do I do with it?

    I finally finished going through my clothes yesterday. 

    started last weekran out of time, and then took a break.

    When I returned to the task, I was a lot faster.

    In the meantime, I'd been to a business-social function. In the past, this would have meant lots of outfits on, outfits off, and general angst. This time, I was able to see everything in my closet knowing that it all fit me. I picked out my clothes and got dressed in less than five minutes. This was great motivation.

    Here's how I tackled my clothes.

    I dragged all my clothes out of the bedroom closet, the armoire, the laundry area, and two bins and a portable "closet" in our basement. I hadn't really noticed before how many places I had clothes stashed away.

    I gathered it all in our guest room.

    Then I went through everything and put it into one of these categories:
    1. Garbage. (I put these things directly into my son's diaper bin, for obvious reasons.)
    2. Give away or sell. (Initially these were separate categories, but I kept getting caught up trying to decide whether to give away or sell.)
    3. Keep and mend. ("Do you want it enough to actually mend it?") (Nothing went into this category!)
    4. Keep and store -- Halloween. (Two things: a black silk skirt that would make a great Batman cape; a black velvet tunic.)
    5. Keep and store -- business clothes. 
    6. Keep and store -- off-season clothes.
    7. Keep and store -- too small. (Wear-dated for one year.) 
    8. Keep and store -- too big. (In the end I kept just one thing in this category. A pair of gorgeous black wool pants with a black satin stripe down the outer seams. I should ditch these because I don't ever want them to fit again, but they are really great, flattering pants...when I was two sizes bigger than I am now. Hmm.)
    9. Keep and wear now.
    I went as fast as possible and tried to imagine myself shopping. I'm a slow shopper, so I asked myself, "Do you love it?" "Does it make you feel good?" Also, "Do you ever put this on only to take it off because you don't feel good in any way?" That's an easy good-bye.

    I did 5 loads of laundry at the same time. Distracting but surprisingly effective. Every time I ran to the basement to switch loads, I witnessed the incredible amount of crap down there.

    As contemplated, my remaining too-small clothes are now in a wear-dated bag. It's practically a minimalist's closet: three pairs of pants; shorts; a turtleneck; a cardigan; and ten pairs of new cotton undies, which I look forward to wearing five pounds from now. 

    If these clothes don't fit in a year, I'll throw in a t-shirt and eBay the lot under the heading "Complete Minimalist Wardrobe".

    My own wardrobe is far from minimalist, but it's much trimmer now and it fits me.

    I still have a bin that holds off-season and business clothes (unworn since I quit my job but definitely keepers), along with the wear-dated bag.

    Although I threw out lots of other clothes, I kept a bin of "rags". That is, clothes I'd be happy to rip up or paint in. Why, oh why? Possibly because my hubby recently bought a 10 lb. bag of rags!  I'd rather toss those purchased rags and use my own. And I'd like to have something I can wear to paint a room...

    I just realized that "rags" was not one of my nine categories. How did this happen? This bin is pretty much as-is. I guess I got lazy. Or rushed. Added a label and felt good about it. Fell for the organization trap.

    Clearly, I have more culling to do there. And apparently writing about this process has some use for me. In the meantime...

    ... I now have all of these clothes that I've decided to sell or give away!
    Going Soon
    Yes, this picture makes me smile. 

    I'll be even happier when it's gone. It's all in good condition, since the worn stuff either went out in the garbage or into that "rags" bin. The easy thing would be to put it all in donation bags and be done with it. But I like the idea of a little cash in my pocket. While I'm tempted to Craig's List it, I'll probably compromise and consign it. I won't get as much for it, but I'll be able to get rid of it quickly.

    So, next steps:

    1. Divide it into three sets -- dressier consignment; casual consignment (for a different consignment store); charity.
    2. Move it on out.
    3. Do something about that "rags" bin...

    Thursday, 16 June 2011

    Freezer burn

    So mundane, but I finally emptied out my freezer today. Somehow it seemed easier to buy more meat than to reach into that cold, cold box. I finally took the plunge.

    It's surprising how quickly frozen food spoils. I'm throwing out expired mini waffles, mini pizzas, and a Lean Cuisine entree; two mostly-empty freezer-burned tubs of ice cream; a piece of breaded fish in an unmarked baggie; and a half-full bag of frozen beans that tasted like dust.

    Happy discovery: a bag of Mediterranean mixed veggies that I must have bought when I wanted to spoil myself. Perfect for tonight's supper.

    To ensure that we eat all of this soon I'm making an inventory to print and post on the freezer door:

    • Ground beef (2 unlabelled freezer bags, about 3 pounds total).
    • Stir-fry beef strips (2 packages each >1 pound).
    • Rib roast.
    • Boneless pork chops (5).
    • Bone-in pork chops (2).
    • Pork roast.
    • Boneless chicken breasts (6).
    • Mini hamburger buns (11).
    • Regular hamburger buns (4).
    • Mini hotdog buns (10).
    • Regular hotdog buns (6).
    • Bagels (5).
    • Waffles (4 2).
    • Lean Cuisine entree (1).
    • Pie shell (1).
    • Mini tart shells (12).
    • Vanilla ice cream (unopened).
    • A tiny amount A full container of my husband's favourite ice cream.
    • Homemade beef stock (4 x 2 cups).
    • Cooked pasta for J's lunches (5 x 2 cups).
    • Chopped spinach (500 g and 300 g).
    • Peas (about 500 g).
    • French fries (about 300 g).
    • Blueberries (about 300 g).
    An embarrassment of riches in our kitchen. Looks like it's burger time.

    Thursday, 9 June 2011

    Nancy Drew's shoes

    We interrupt this week's clothing clutter-bust to bring you an extra-large bag of clutter hauled out of the basement today.

    Contains three large stuffed dogs, one promotional monkey, and one stuffed bunny with x-shaped eyes that recites "Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep..." in the creepiest voice imaginable.

    Yes, I'm throwing out five of my son's toys. He has lots more. As a precautionary measure, and due to lack of space, I've stored them in the basement for the past few months, without complaint.

    I'm also throwing out a pair of incredibly comfortable mid-heeled patent leather pumps, which would have been perfect for the original Nancy Drew, until the leather got scraped. I wish I could say they got scraped in an old mine shaft, but it was probably just a parking lot.

    Also five empty shirt-boxes. "What if I need to gift-wrap a shirt?" protests my clutter voice. I'll wrap it without a box, that's what. Check out Clutterkiller's piece on The "What If's?". I took her advice and moved quickly when I got the urge to toss these boxes.

    I'm pretty sure that I put a couple of other things in the garbage bag that I've already forgotten. Amazing how that happens.

    Now it's all on the curb with the rest of our garbage and recycling, waiting for the garbage and recycling trucks...

    In the meantime, I'm resisting the urge to run outside and retrieve the pumps to make a kick-ass Nancy Drew Halloween costume. As if I could pass for a teen-aged crime-stopper anymore. As if I even go to Halloween parties anymore! But maybe when Nancy grew up she became a clutter-buster, hm?

    Wednesday, 8 June 2011

    I'm doing it!

    Clothes are hard to purge. Aside from the emotional reasons (see previous post), clothes are hard to purge because:
    1. Evening clothes, though rarely worn, are expensive and hard to buy when needed (e.g. "babe, did I mention that client dinner at the Swanky Hotel on Thursday?"). Of course it's been more than a year since I wore most of them, but I'm keeping my favourites. 
    2. Clothes that aren't useful today might be in future. Case in point: hundreds of dollars worth of suits, untouched since I quit my job a few months ago. I'll work again one day. I might even wear suits again. I'm keeping my favourites.
    3. Clothes that are too small today might fit in the future. While conventionally regarded as a delusion, I believe this to be true. I remember a day when I pulled on some old jeans and they fit again. What a great feeling! Admittedly, I had just reached bridal weight, and they stopped fitting again shortly after the honeymoon. But now I've started jogging and yoga, and I'm no longer trapped in an office self-medicating with Peanut M&M's. Fitness could happen! Many would scoff, but if I truly love it, and if I would actually wear it if it fit, I'll keep it -- in one specially-marked bin labelled "Too Small -- Wear or Toss by June 8, 2012". 
    4. Clothes that are too big today might fit in the future. It's surprisingly hard to part with ultra-flattering fat pants. But that's the wrong attitude isn't it? Good riddance fat pants! I'm glad not to need you anymore.
    Well, despite these little obstacles, I'm thrilled to say that the purge is on!

    I'm not finished yet, but I've made a lot of progress today. I've thrown out several things and set aside a few piles of outgoing clothes, so far. My husband has his half of the closet back (I can't wait to get at his stuff too, but that's another story). I'm motivated and I'm going to continue tomorrow.

    Clutter runs deep

    I've often wondered why it is that I have such a strong desire to get rid of clutter, yet so little success at doing so.
    Today I set aside the whole day to make a dent in my clutter. At some point I will go for a run (more of a walk/run because I'm new at this), because that's important to me too, and at some point I will make supper, because that's important to my family, but I have a big chunk of time here.
    I decided to start with my clothes.
    I feel so anxious about de-cluttering my clothes that I almost talked myself into de-cluttering more toiletries as a "warm up" to the clothes.
    I can see now that starting with toiletries would just be procrastinating the clothes. I am very averse to this. I am afraid of it.
    I decided to start by meditating, both because I'm trying to make a habit of it and because I thought it would help me get into a better space for this.
    Not so much. I didn't find any peace, but I discovered something.
    I realized that I have a lot of guilt. Well, I knew that, but I realized that I have even more guilt!
    Almost two years ago, my mother died. This has been very hard for me. In lots of ways. Mostly, I miss her. A lot. Also, I feel a lot of guilt. Guilt about not being a better daughter. Guilt about wasted time. Guilt about not showing her how much I loved her. Guilt about being critical of her.
    Among other things, I was critical of the way that she held onto things. I tried to help her, but in doing so I was critical of her.
    One time I even went so far as to intentionally break a teapot right in front of her. She had received it as a gift but she did not like it. I was trying to show her that it was okay to get rid of an unwanted gift. I took the teapot and wrapped it in newspaper, and dropped it on her kitchen floor. It shattered. She started to cry. She tried to laugh, but I could see that she was very hurt. It was incredibly stupid of me. I feel like a monster. A cold, insensitive bully. I was really trying to help her. I thought that she would find it liberating. She didn't, of course. I've regretted it ever since, and yet I never brought it up again. I wonder if she was able to forgive me, or if she just felt horribly rejected by me, by this heartless creature that she had nurtured.
    My mom also kept clothes. In my late teens I pulled out some clothes I was no longer wearing, to give to charity. My mom squeezed them into her dresser and continued to wear them. I found this embarrassing at the time, as any eighteen-year-old probably would. If those clothes weren't good enough for me, my mom deserved better too! But she didn't see it that way. She saw that they were wearable and it would be wasteful to give them away.
    Now I feel that purging my own clothes would be a betrayal of my mom.
    This is not easy.
    I already feel that I was not a good enough daughter when she was alive. Can I get of my clothes while I feel that she's watching, and is disappointed in me?
    I remind myself that feelings aren't facts, but I want to believe that she is watching. I want to believe that she is still with me.
    I wish that she would forgive me and tell me that it's okay to do this.
    I am amazed that my father has apparently been making some progress de-cluttering his home. And yet, he gave me bins of her clothes that I will eventually go through.
    Maybe I will start with those easy toiletries after all.
    I wish that I didn't feel that getting rid of clothes that don't serve me was betraying my mom. Let me start with that thought. I feel that it's a betrayal. Is it? It's not what she would do. Therefore in doing so I feel that I am rejecting her. Yet I don't love her any less. Is it possible to act differently from one's parent without rejecting them? I am rejecting her beliefs in this one area. Those beliefs were part of her frugality. For most of my life I have been anything but frugal. Very recently, I've become more frugal. Mom, you set a good example for me there, and I'm finally embracing it. But keeping clothes that don't fit, that don't suit me, that I don't want to wear, is not helping me. It's taking up space. It's wasting time. It isn't saving me any money. The money isn't spent, and if I'm not wearing these clothes then they aren't doing any good at all. I'm not criticizing your habits -- you actually wore your clothes! I'm just trying to make some changes in my life. To free up some space for me. I hope you understand.
    I can see that I need to find a way to accept myself, to forgive myself.  She isn't here to hear my apology, or to forgive me, and I can't seem to accept that. Yet. I hope.
    I suppose that my mom got her frugality from her own mom, another absolutely amazing woman. My Oma dismissed any thought of waste with the phrase, "During the war..." She would say this while brushing the visible mould off a blueberry muffin and handing it to me. I will never forget the taste of mouldy blueberry muffin, because I enjoyed it several times. It's hard to argue with someone who raised two kids in an occupied country, her husband hidden from the enemy under the dining room floor. My Oma lived until she was 93 and none of us ever got food poisoning. Two generations later, I still feel a little bit under siege. I just can't identify the enemy.

    Monday, 6 June 2011

    100 things I no longer have

    Since I'll never be the "100 things" type, I decided to count the departed things instead. I just created a page to list the stuff that I've dispatched. 

    I wonder if it's wrong to track busted clutter. Will this list be an ongoing tie to the clutter? I just read it and it doesn't feel good. Can I get away with just adding to the list without reviewing it?

    When I am all done, if there is such a thing, I will click delete and celebrate. I am looking forward to that.

    In the meantime, there is far more clutter in the house than on the list, so I have lots of work to do.

    So far, the list is inspiring just because it is embarrassingly short...

    Friday, 3 June 2011

    Food clutter

    Sometimes I do the stupidest things.

    I had a full day of tasks ahead of me. The first was grocery shopping. I got that far.

    But when I started to put the groceries away I had a sudden urge to clean the fridge. And I listened to this urge, even as I knew that it would derail my other plans.

    Of course I told myself it wouldn't take long. Of course I knew that everything takes longer than I expect. And this took even longer than that!

    Once I got into it I had a lengthy conversation with myself about my bad habits. I mean, who cares if the inside of the fridge is dirty? I didn't.

    But when chilled food covers every inch of counter-top, and half the fridge-racks are washed and drying in the sun, there's nowhere to go but onwards.

    The only point at which I thought that cleaning the fridge might have been a good idea was when I found a dead mosquito in there.

    Anyway, my fridge is now sparkling, my to do list is barely off the ground, and (silver lining!) I've continued my small steps de-cluttering.

    There weren't many expired things in the fridge, which is good news, but they're gone now.

    Then our junk-food bin caught my de-clutterring eye. Yes, we had run out of room in our cupboards and started storing junk-food in a bin on top of the fridge.

    This got inconvenient when my husband brought home a vat of protein powder with nowhere to go but on top of the junk-food bin. It's hard to enjoy good chocolate when you have to lift a vat of protein powder to get at it.

    So, I am happy to say that the junk-food bin is now history! I started by tossing all the leftover Easter, Christmas, and yes, Halloween candy. This left nothing in the bin but pumpkin seeds and chocolate-covered almonds (his fixes) and dark chocolate bars (mine). And then I realized, there's room for those in the kitchen cupboards. Bye-bye junk-food bin!

    Next stop, clothes...

    Thursday, 2 June 2011

    The plastic drawer

    Today's de-clutter turned out to be more of a re-organization than a purge. It wasn't sexy but it did lighten our load a little bit.
    As often happens, our big drawer of plastic food-storage containers would not close today.
    As rarely happens, I decided to respond without the use of force.
    1. I spread a clean blanket on the floor, and emptied the drawer onto the blanket. 
    2. I picked out the containers that belong to my mother-in-law and moved them to the front entry.
    3. I picked out the things that belong elsewhere and put them away.
    4. I picked out the broken and orphaned pieces and recycled them.
    5. I tried to find other pieces to recycle, and realized that we do use most of this stuff. So, I picked out three containers that don't stack, and grouped them at the back of the drawer. If we don't use them in the next month then I'll give them away. 
    6. I put everything back neatly and found I had room to add our Pyrex food-storage containers to the same drawer. Having all the food-storage containers in one organized place will make them easier to find and might even reduce the number we need. 
    As soon as I was done our dog Charley moved in and enjoyed a nap on the empty blanket. Sorry, no pictures of drawer or dog.

    Wednesday, 1 June 2011

    One thing at a time

    Without a lot of time for de-cluttering, I'm keeping my momentum going by tossing things as I encounter them.
    One day it was toiletries we were never going to use, like the body scrub that made us itchy.
    Another day it was the potty-training toilet-seat insert that shifted precariously when my son sat on it -- I don't think anyone could pee sitting on that thing!
    Another day it was a bunch of old, stretched out underwear that I was keeping "just in case" -- just in case I ran out of clean underwear; just in case I needed a reason to drive extra-carefully to avoid ending up in a hospital gown in faded panties.
    Odd series of items. Anyway, I'm glad to be rid of them.

    Thursday, 26 May 2011

    One box at a time

    Yesterday I took this box of toys to the post office and shipped it to my eight-month-old nephews. 

    Do I feel good about this? 

    I feel good imagining their faces when they open up an entire box of new toys! I feel good that my two-year-old participated in selecting the toys to send to his cousins and came to the post office with me ("I don't want to go to the post office!"). 

    I feel a little bit good that they're out of our house.

    But mostly I feel bad about all the clutter that's here. I feel bad that my house remains full of other toys. I feel bad that toys are the least of my worries.

    How about clothes, mountains of clothes...

    Papers, stacks of papers...

    How is it that I want to get rid of all this stuff and I sit here not doing it?

    I am overwhelmed. I am afraid to dive in. And I am also trying to make other changes too -- daily meditation and exercise and adequate sleep.

    So I am posting this little box of toys to stay focused on the positive. To remind myself that things are moving out, even if they're moving at an incredibly slow trickle.

    Yes, it's just a box. But it's moving in the right direction.

    Saturday, 21 May 2011

    A red-hot bundle of clutter

    Yesterday I started reading Brooks Palmer's book Clutter Busting: Letting Go of What's Holding You Back. It's hard to put down.

    I was inspired to get rid of a small but emotionally powerful bundle of clutter.

    For several years, I've had a scrapbook hidden in the back of an armoire, wrapped in a shopping bag, and sealed with packing tape.

    The scrapbook contained photos and notes from some parties I hosted with a former boyfriend a long, long time ago. In a way, those were good times, at least on Saturday nights. We got together with friends, conversed, turned up the music, and danced. But those good times were a distraction from the fact that I was in a terrible relationship. The good times prolonged the relationship. And, ultimately, the good times emphasized the fact that the relationship was not good.

    When I finally ended the relationship, I kept the scrapbook. The scrapbook wasn't about the relationship; it was about a circle of friends. But breaking up the relationship broke the circle. Today, I'm in regular contact with just one of those people. 

    My life changed dramatically, and the scrapbook became a reminder of an unhappy chapter in my past. I felt some attachment to that part of my life, but I wanted to distance myself from it too. I remember thinking that I didn't know why I was keeping the scrapbook, even as I sealed it up and tucked it away. Today I realized that it was clutter and I decided to let it go. 

    I started by re-reading the scrapbook. I laughed at a quote or two, remembered some songs I haven't heard in a while (whatever happened to Natalie Imbruglia?), and studied the snapshots. Tucked inside, I found a Valentine's Day card from the ex-boyfriend in question. 

    I threw out the photos. Then I crumpled up the scrapbook pages, tossed them in the fireplace, and lit a match.

    When the flames burned out, I realized that I'd overlooked the card. I tossed it onto the ashes and waited. Eventually it caught fire and burned just like a letter in a soap opera fireplace. First a few black spots emerged around the edges. Then the cover lifted opened a little, revealing an orange glow inside. Finally the lavender heart on the cover turned red-hot as flames burst through its centre and engulfed the card. It was so amusingly picture-perfect that I kind of wished I had a video-camera in hand. "Cut!" I would say,  "That's a wrap."

    Who knew that burning an old valentine could make me feel lighter? I mean no disrespect to the person who gave it to me, but it is a relief to part with the past. To make room for the present and future.

    I feel happy, and a little bit freer. 

    The only page of the scrapbook I kept is a garden sketch I drew back then, an unusual and inspiring burst of creative energy that's full of ideas I can use today.

    Friday, 20 May 2011

    Backyard 'bust

    Despite the tremendous motivational boost of last weekend's giveaway day, I haven't been doing any clutterbusting this week. The urge to purge is there, but I'm trying to focus on one thing at a time, and this week it's my garden.
    This afternoon is all about my very favourite kind of purging: pruning. Time stands still for me when I'm wielding my pruning shears. It's like alchemy, sculpting an overgrown bush into an elegant shrub with space to breathe, space to grow, space to blossom. I love it.
    On a related note, less of an art, less of a joy, but definitely all about the purge: weeding. I don't love that at all, but there's a little bit of satisfaction in the results.

    Tuesday, 17 May 2011

    Giveaway Day Revisited

    In the paper today, a columnist complains that for some people our local giveaway day was, "more about greed than about need." In his opinion, those people are a little too zealous and indiscriminate when picking up others' giveaways.
    The people who pick things up on giveaway day are doing the rest of us a favour! They're keeping stuff out of the landfill and keeping clutter out of our homes.
    If anything, I felt guilty offering my clutter to others. It felt a little like kicking a bad habit and giving the leftovers to someone else. Of course, I still have a long way to go before I get to the bottom of my clutter habit.
    In the meantime, it feels so good to be rid of a bit of it!

    Monday, 16 May 2011

    Giveaway Day: Snoopy bye-bye

    I did it! I finally ditched some stuff!

    Clutterbusting (or the lack thereof) is bringing home some ugly truths. Like the fact that I have next to no internal motivation. It's not so much that I procrastinate, as that I have a million things to do at the same time. Yes, I want to be able to see across my basement. But first I should put in this load of laundry, buy some groceries, pay some bills, cook some supper, play hockey with my son, read, write, and, um, anything's more urgent than going through my stuff. 

    Anyway, thanks to our city's semi-annual giveaway day, I was motivated to get rid of a pile of it.  

    On this important day in our civic calendar, citizens are invited to put out unwanted items for one another. I'd love to see satellite imagery of this event, but from the ground it goes something like this. Shortly after dawn, people scurry between house and curb, furtively dragging debris to the edge of the road. Then, the vehicles come. Streets are clogged with minivans, drivers scanning anxiously, children dispatched from rear seats to retrieve treasures from the roadsides, ugly sofas wedged in back. As evening nears, the scavengers dwindle. By nightfall the curbs are picked clean. Any items set out after the giveaway day will remain, untouched, until garbage day; apparently it's no longer socially acceptable to pick up trash in the absence of a special picking event.

    This was my first participation in giveaway day.

    Preparation began on Friday, when I gathered dozens of unused items and gathered them on the dining room table, for a final viewing. 

    On Saturday morning, I spread an old sheet next to the road and arranged an armful of old dishes. I felt like a fool. As I walked back to my door I thought, "This is pathetic. I'll be putting this stuff in the garbage on Sunday. Who would want this crap?" Just then, two cars stopped and their drivers began to review my offerings. I felt shame, rejection.

    Returning to the sheet with another load of stuff, I was shocked to discover that some of the dishes were gone! Even more amazing, the first dishes to go were the ones that I had made myself.

    By the end of the day, there was nothing left in front of our house. 

    The easiest piece to part with was the "brie baker" I got for Christmas. It turns out that a brie baker is just a pot. A pot that's exactly the same size as one we already had. 

    The hardest thing for me to part with was a broken Snoopy mug captioned, "No one understands my generation either." An uncle gave this to me in the 1970's, when I was perhaps five years old. I remember my mother trying to explain to me what a generation was. It had something to do with people born at the same time, she said, so why were my baby brother and I part of the same generation? This was mind-boggling. The handle broke off the mug almost as soon as I received it, was repaired, and broke again shortly thereafter. But I couldn't part with the mug until now.

    I feel sad as I reflect upon this... I have to remind myself that losing the mug doesn't change the past. That if I could go back in time, my mother and I would still be there, in that room, having that conversation. I'm not sure why this is so hard to believe, but perhaps it's because she's gone. Having that mug wouldn't bring her any closer.

    Maybe down the street another child is having a conversation with his or her mom about the mug. I like to think so. Even if that mom is encouraging her child to throw that broken mug away! 

    Monday, 2 May 2011

    Clutter Busting with Brooks Palmer: Lighten Up

    Brooks Palmer writes in his blog Clutter Busting with Brooks Palmer: Lighten Up: "It's impossible to relax in a room that is filled with clutter. No matter how nicely you arrange or hide things."

    So, so true. This describes my whole home. Occasionally surface-tidy; turmoil behind closed doors. 

    Brooks Palmer goes on to say, "I try and find the clutter hiding places first because they cause so much psychic disruption, that if they are dealt with, the rest of the clutter goes quickly."

    If you build it they will come.

    I was motivated to de-clutter our guest room by the impending arrival of our friend S, who left a week ago. Now my aunt J arrives this evening, and yet another guest will arrive the day after she leaves. Good news travels fast.

    Since we are between guests, this seems a good time to take some "after" photos of my de-cluttered guest room. Yeah, yeah, it's my only de-cluttered room. Clutterbuster's motivation is building slowly.

    First, here's a "before" shot:

    And here are the "after" shots:

    This room is about a million times more flowery than the rest of our house. But that's okay. What I like about it is that it gives me a spot to use some sentimental things that don't fit into our daily life.

    Like my grandmother's antique blanket which I love.

    My favourite things in the room are my vintage wall-vases. I collected them over a ten year span, until I had all three colours, only to leave them in a pile of unopened eBay purchases in the back of my closet. (Gasp!)

    I'm so glad to have them up on the wall, where I can see their happy colours.

    And now that I've opened all those eBay boxes, and thrown out a ton of styrofoam peanuts and bubble-wrap, I can see that there are some that I will use and some that I will resell. Alan Compton-collectors get ready to bid and bid high! I've never sold on eBay before and I'm excited about getting rid of things and getting something for it.

    In the course of finishing this room, I had to dig out some pillow-forms for my great-aunt's needlepoint pillows. I knew that I had some, because I remember buying them when I was in university. That was in the 1990's.

    And I did find them, in the bottom bin of a stack of 4 huge bins, behind another stack of bins, in my basement. I was glad to find them, just so I could get out of my Bin Forest, but I was not glad to have stored them forever, through several changes of residence, just because they were a good deal and I thought I might need them if I ever bought cushion covers. Obviously, I did not buy cushion covers.

    As I was digging through the bins I passed some "Santa Fe"-style bedding that my hubby bought in the 1980's (I'm sure) and other goodies that will be making their way to the thrift shop.

    Just in case that wasn't enough motivation for me, here are some pictures of our basement...

    The Bin Forest (a.k.a. laundry area)

    Baby gear, anyone?

    This is where God laughs and says, "So you think you're going to be a mommy again?!?"

    On that note, perhaps I'd have more luck if I'd converted the guest room into a nursery, and tossed all this baby gear in there... Damn. That's it -- after all the guests are gone, rampant baby-making sex in the guest room!

    Stuff takes time

    The other day I spent a while just filtering and incorporating Easter gifts.

    This is not a complaint, actually. I was grateful for the gifts that we received.

    Best of all, my sister-in-law gave me a bouquet of tulips. Which I love. Which remind me of my mother. Thank you for these! Yes, they took a little bit of my time -- far less than the time she spent picking them up, I'm sure. I retrieved a vase from the basement; I chopped off the bottoms and arranged them and threw out the debris; I picked up the petals that fell off each day; and when they died I threw them out and hand-washed the vase; which I will take back to the basement. I don't have to store the flowers forever; I wish they'd lasted longer! In the process, I noticed that I have several other vases that I never use and was motivated to ditch those ones.

    My parents-in-law listened to us and gave our son things he will use -- Play Doh and sidewalk chalk. Thank you. Two packages of each, though... unless he decides to colour our entire patio, he'll be using this up for years to come. They're grandparents; they're enthusiastic; how will they know it's too much if I don't tell them? 

    My sisters-in-law gave him games. Games are good.

    I even succumbed to the family's Easter gift tradition and bought J some paints and two paint-brushes (his first).

    So I had to find places for all of this stuff. Note to self: allow room for expansion when setting up a storage system. Sure, in theory, toss an old toy to make way for a new toy. But in reality, the day we receive something is not necessarily the day we have time to purge. And a bag full of gifts with nowhere to go is annoying.

    As I said, this is not a complaint -- J received thoughtful, useful gifts; I really enjoyed the tulips.

    This is a recognition that stuff takes time; less stuff takes less time. Having a place to put it saves some of that time.

    Saturday, 30 April 2011

    Minimalist mania

    I recently discovered that there are dozens -- thousands? -- of minimalist blogs, sites, and books. This was news to me.
    The minimalist message was initially appealing, but I'll never be one. If there's one thing that I like more than space, it's beauty. Stark and minimal can absolutely be beautiful. But so can old and meaningful.
    To me, de-cluttering means getting rid of, and avoiding, useless and ugly things, and being able to find and use what we have and love.
    I recently read a post by a woman who had scanned her grandmother's letters and then discarded the originals. She was thrilled because she could now read them any where in the world. True enough, and smart to scan them. But discarding the originals? How much space could they have occupied? Perhaps her grandmother was more prolific than mine.
    Keeping my grandmother's letters is a no-brainer for me. My goal is just to gather them all into one box!
    A tougher spot for me is her chipped china. So many memories, so little use... Yes, I have a long way to go in this de-cluttering project.
    For me, arbitrary advice like, "if you haven't touched it in a year, toss it," makes de-cluttering more intimidating. I know that that rule will never work for me, so I'm tossing it!
    So far there is one guideline that does work for me, which is William Morris's advice to "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."
    That allows a pretty wide scope, which may be part of my problem. I'm going to need some more guidelines.

    Friday, 29 April 2011

    Every little bit counts -- each way

    Today I didn't (intentionally) dedicate any time to clutter-busting, but I took more stuff out of the house than I took in, so I'll call that progress.

    I started out looking for something in our over-flow kitchen cupboard (over the basement stairs), and I wound up pulling out an entire shopping bag full of expired foods.

    In the past, finding expired foods in my cupboards actually made me feel good, because I gained space. I'm still glad to get rid of useless stuff, but I was also saddened by the waste.

    Perhaps this wasteful feeling remained when I went to the grocery store, because for the first time ever, I came home with the items I intended to buy and nothing else. I came home with less than I threw out this morning.

    Having a limited budget is both a help and a hindrance when it comes to de-cluttering. The hindrance was obvious: it's harder to get rid of something that you can't afford to replace. But living on a limited budget also makes it easier to buy less, which means having less.

    In hindsight, having a job I didn't like motivated me to spend more. I felt slightly better about my job when it enabled me to buy the best for my son, for example. Buying less feels so much better.

    My new favourite source? The public library. I love returning books almost as much as we love borrowing them.

    Thursday, 28 April 2011


    I started my clutterbuster blog to track my efforts to de-clutter our home, as opposed to my OldDogBlog which is a diary of my efforts to change my life. There's more overlap than I expected.

    I haven't been making much progress on de-cluttering the house, but I'm slowly working on the bigger picture. Prioritizing is a big part of it.

    How is it that, while I have been dying to de-clutter for years, and while I finally have time to do it, and feel great doing it, I am moving so extremely slowly?

    Well, the beautiful spring weather may have a little to do with it. But probably more so some bigger questions. Like, what do I want to do with my life? What do I want to do with my day? What am I actually going to get done in this particular hour? And how can I do more of the things that are most important to me?

    Well, for the next couple of hours, the most important things are going to be making supper and then raking the back yard with my little boy who loves to help, bless his heart.


    Oh, dear. I'm not making much progress at all. I'm actually going backwards.
    We finally moved our son out of his crib and into a bed, but we kept the crib set up just in case. Just in case what?
    Of course, there was no room for all this furniture in my son's room, so we moved his dresser into... my nice empty guest room.
    He's now had five successful nights in the new bed. Time to lose the crib...

    Thursday, 21 April 2011


    Well, I did it. I cleared all of the clutter out of our guest room. It is fully functioning and even occupied by a guest (thank you Steven). The framed photos that I hid under the bed for the past couple of years are even hanging on the wall. It's all good.

    So why does it feel so anti-climactic?

    Is it because the photo wall that I finally created is not quite finished? I ran out of hooks with three photos to go. I bought more today but didn't get them up. In the meantime, I already want to re-position a few of the photos that I hung yesterday. And add more photos of friends and family. It's not just incomplete, it's bound to evolve. I think that's a good thing.

    Or maybe it's because I deferred sorting through the clothes and the boxes from my old office that I had stashed in the guest room. That was a reasonable decision, but having carved those tasks off from my guest room project, I'm both itching to get them done and dreading the process.

    Indeed, after this tip-of-the-iceberg de-clutter, I'm getting a better sense of how much lies ahead; how much slows me down; and how many other things I want to do with my time too. I see my resistance to leaving a task unfinished (like this late-night post!); procrastination; and self-doubt.

    Despite longing to de-clutter for years, today I found myself wondering whether this is a good use of my time! I believe that it is; it will simplify our lives for years to come. But "cleaning my room" (now my house) feels so childish. Is this how little progress I've made? If it remains to be done, I suppose that it remains to be done.

    Now what? Enjoy my accomplishments and make a plan. On the de-cluttering front, I'm going to tackle the closets next, to create storage spaces. More broadly, I'm going to organize my time, to better balance my priorities and values. After all, de-cluttering is a worthy objective but it's not my only priority.