Tuesday, 27 March 2012

"certainty and elation is the measuring stick for something being a part of her life."

If you have clutter, you should read Brooks Palmer. His book Clutter Busting isn't really about stuff; it's about us. He has a new book coming soon called, not surprisingly, Clutter Busting Your Life. I don't know this man. I just like his book and his blog.

Anyway, today a paragraph in Brooks's post Clutter Busting with Brooks Palmer: Permission to Let Go jumped out at me.

He was writing about a lady who had some papers in her kitchen. The papers were problematic, but she was resistant to dealing with them.

"I knew she had cats," he wrote, "so I asked if she liked her cats. She exclaimed, 'Yes, I love my cats!' I said that certainty and elation is the measuring stick for something being a part of her life. I pointed out that when she talked about the papers, she sounded depressed and exhausted. I said nothing is of value to someone when it takes their vitality."

This paragraph echoes something that my psychologist said recently. We weren't talking about clutter. We were talking about my life.

In particular, we had been talking about some courses I was thinking of taking. After a while, I told her that I actually have a dream. Not a sleeping dream. A crazy fantasy but-who-do-I-think-I-am kind of dream. Dr. V practically jumped out of her chair. You know that jumping move that you make when you're watching a sporting event and your team has a scoring opportunity? My psychologist did that.

So I told her about my dream. She categorically stated that she did not think it was crazy to pursue my dream.

Later, she elicited the fact that pursuing my dream made me feel, in my words, "elated, happy, excited." She said that those feelings are cues -- cues that I am making the right decision.

Monday, 26 March 2012


How to delegate a clutter-bust (hint: it helps to have a willing victim).
Me, standing in the bedroom closet: "Can I borrow you for five minutes?"
My husband, coming into the room and sitting down on the bed with a smile: "That's four more than you usually get."
Me: "Ha ha. If you sit way over there it'll take at least 10 minutes."
He gets up and walks into the closet, unsuspecting. Kiss.
Me: "Can you go through your clothes and pull out everything you don't wear?"
Five minutes later there's a pile of clean clothes on the bed.
[That sentence would be so much more fun if it said, "Five minutes later there's a pile of dirty clothes on the bed." But no, this is a clutterbusting post! No nudity. The only clothes on the bed were the ones that he pulled out of the closet.]
Suddenly I'm the one objecting to the purge. "This is brand new! I just bought you that! That's your Norwegian sweater!" (In-joke. "Two Canadians walk into a bar in North Dakota...")
After he left the room I tried on two of his rejects and put them back on my side of the closet. (I also took two of his rejects and put them back on his side! Shhh...)
I put the rest of the pile into a huge, ugly Christmas gift bag, added a few rarely used clothes of my own (amazing how you can always find more), and put it in the back of my car to be dropped off in a donation bin later.
The next day I stopped at a consignment store to pick up a cheque and discovered that they sell men's clothes. Who knew? So now my husband's purged clothes are for sale.
And I have been loving my two "new" sweaters which look a lot better on me than they did cluttering up his side of the closet. Go figure.
Easiest clutter-bust ever.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Status report

I feel oddly compelled to report (to whom and for what reason I do not know) that I eventually attained the objectives set out in my Coming clean: Go! post last week... That is, all of the boxes are gone from my dining room and my bed room (yayyyy!!!!!!!!!!) and my office is much, much clearer. Our house looks bigger and emptier. I also made some donations to the thrift shop.
I feel kind of sheepish posting this on my so-called clutter buster blog though; it was more of a reorganization.
I really don't know why I worry about such things. It's not like anyone reads this!
Anyway, I got my house cleaned up last week, and my good friend Q came for the weekend, and we went out to a pub on St. Patrick's Day and drank many pints of beer, and all is good.
On Sunday she commented, "I noticed that you don't have a log of knickknacks and stuff on display. Where do you put it all?" This after she had fully toured our house, including the entire basement. I guess I have gotten rid of a lot of stuff.
One day my house may be the way I'd like it to be.
In the meantime, I have a long list of other things to work on. For starters, spring is here already, and the garden is calling! This spring I'm going to enjoy my garden and work in it.
This post seems to be writing itself and it seems to be leading to the conclusion that I am about to take a(nother) break from clutterbusting, the blog, and possibly also clutter-busting, the verb. Or rathe, it's time to clutter-bust my paperwork, clutter-bust my finances, clutter-bust my garden, possibly even clutter-bust my figure and my diet if I can stretch this metaphor to the very edge of reason.
Happy Clutter-Busting, wherever it may take you!

Thursday, 15 March 2012


Good-bye dark and dreary Contarini Palace poster! Your lender doesn't want you back, and I don't want you either.

Good-bye trio of Target lampshades, still in the bag, that don't fit my lamps. I made a mistake when I bought you, but I don't have to keep you. (I won't drive three hours to return you.)

Good-bye fascinating books that I'm unlikely to re-read. May you enlighten someone else.

Hello space and serenity.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Coming clean: Stop

Today I emptied 9 boxes, including all my books and CD's, and created 1 box of give-aways in the process.
1 box is not a lot but I've purged boxes of books and CD's over the past several months, so I'm happy that I was able to cull 1 more box today. I'm also working my way through another stack of questionable CD's with a critical ear. It's kind of fun to hear an annoying song, press eject, and toss the CD into a cardboard box!
De-cluttering comes in layers, as I realize how little I miss the things I've purged, how much I enjoy the space I've created, and as my needs change.
Today I'm parting with all my infertility books and What to Expect When You're Expecting -- I don't expect to need it, and if I unexpectedly do get pregnant again, I know what to expect. There's always another copy in the second-hand shop anyway.

Coming clean: Slow

A few comments mid-way, because de-cluttering is lonely work and writing, or should I say bitching, is more fun:
  1. I have a lot of books.
  2. They are heavy.
  3. My back will make me pay for this later. 
  4. My husband just called to say he's going to drop in to pick something up. Dilemma. Drop everything and get semi-nude. Or go like mad and surprise him with my progress. Seeing as my nose won't stop dripping, and he is in the middle of his workday, and, oh yeah, I'm trying to accomplish something here, I'm going to keep at it. Sheesh.

Coming clean: Go!

Late last summer I started my Four Weeks clutterbusting project. It soon became clear that I'd make time to clutter-bust or to write about it, but not both. I did make a lot of progress during those four weeks, but I abandoned this blog in the process. Oops.
Around the end of the four weeks, we decided to gut and renovate our basement, with just two weeks notice. I had just two weeks to empty the basement, finalize the basement plan I'd been fantasizing about for years, and select every fixture and finish on a tiny budget. Two extremely busy but fun weeks, followed by months of the same as the walls came down and the basement was transformed (more on that someday!).
Imminent demolition was the ultimate de-cluttering incentive, and I purged a ton of stuff before storing the rest. Driven by necessity we emptied the basement completely, but much of the stuff that came out of the basement for the renovation had to go somewhere else. We didn't just throw everything out (although we did purge a lot!). Where did it go? Some got squeezed into the main floor of our house. The rest went into two storage containers. When the storage containers were emptied, we gave away a truck-load and the rest came back into the house. If there's an upside to moving stuff repeatedly, it's that eventually more and more gets given away.
To this point, this post has been a hurried attempt to summarize months of transition.
Bringing it up to the moment, this is what our bedroom, dining room, and office (formerly the guest room) look like right now:

Boxes, boxes, everywhere. Let's see how much I can do with these boxes in the next two hours... I probably won't make much of a dent on the office, which needs some full-scale filing and organizing. My goal is to get all of the boxes out of the dining room and most of the boxes out of the bedroom, and to purge along the way.

Monday, 12 March 2012


I've come pretty close to closing down my clutter busting blog. The last few posts are embarrassing to me. I mean, who cares how I sorted through all my baby stuff? And the sea of linens... I'm without words.
I started this blog to motivate me, and it has done that. I guess I like to see my progress. I stopped maintaining my 100 things we no longer have page a long time ago, which is kind of a shame, because it is really amazing how much we've ditched and how little we miss it! Far more than 100 things.

One of the things I love most about clutterbusting is that it's habit-forming. The more I toss, the more I want to toss. Unlike some other habits, it has no negative side-effects. In fact, it helps to counter another less-healthy habit, shopping. Clutterbusting reminds me of how little we need, and discourages me from wasting money on stuff that will eventually become clutter.


Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Four Weeks: Baby Clutter

Baby clutter was a real challenge for me, because I've been trying to have a second baby for more than three years.
On one hand, I wasn't ready to give it away because I hoped to use it again.
On the other hand, it was a constant reminder of our unsuccessful attempts to conceive again. Or, as it struck me each time, the child who wasn't. Exhale.
I eventually came up with a baby-clutter solution that worked for me. Baby clutter has been my biggest clutter-busting challenge, and I broke some "rules" to overcome it.

I was faced with a landscape of baby things that my son had outgrown. Bins, bins, bins, strollers, swing, 'saucer...
The tower of baby-gear.
More before.
Still more before:
Baby-clutter, etc.

The quantity was shocking considering that we'd been shipping clothes and other things to my nephews since they were conceived in 2010, and had consigned some toys too.
It was overwhelming, but I had to start somewhere. I needed a plan. I came up with 3 categories of baby-clutter and suddenly the job was do-able:
  1. Keepsakes: Things I'd keep even if we never have another child.
  2. Toss-ables: Things I wouldn't miss even if we do have another one.
  3. Store-ables: Things worth storing just in case we do (for now).
Keepsakes are self-explanatory. We now have one sweet bin of tiny sleepers, itsy-bitsy Sorels, and other treasures. I invited my husband to select items for this bin too. It isn't about having another baby; it's about our perfect son. I'm grateful that my mom kept a similar selection from my babyhood, and I'm happy to keep these for us and for J.
Toss-ables are clearly clutter. Baby clothes that looked itchy; toys that were ignored; duplicates; etc. I took a few of these to a consignment store and I gave the rest to charity, along with some maternity clothes I never wore. We also sold J's beautiful but unnecessary cradle on-line for $100 ($25 more than we paid for it!). It didn't sell in our garage sale.
Store-ables is the rule-breaking category that got me over the emotional baby-clutter barrier. I didn't want to give it away -- I didn't want to look at it -- so I stored it. Storage may be taboo in clutter-busting circles, but it worked for me here. Similar to my little bag of wear-dated clothes, but much, much bigger. The key is, I only stored things I'd actually use if I have another child, and would ditch if I don't. In other words, this stash is keepsake-free. I didn't want to have to go through it again before purging it. Also, it's temporary and off-site. I'm indebted to my mother-in-law who graciously agreed to store this stuff in her garage-attic. (She's hoping for another grandchild.)
Left: Toss-ables. Now in better homes.
Right: Store-ables (plus strollers, swing, and Exersaucer).
As a result we now have just one blue bin of baby gear (keepsakes) in our home! Yaaaayy!!!
A few months have passed and today, perhaps in part because I'm no longer tripping over baby gear, I'm at peace with our family of three. We're no longer trying to conceive another child.
Last week I gave away J's playpen and playpen sheets.
My parents-in-law are away for three weeks and I'm thinking about purging all the "store-ables" from their garage before they get back... Their next vacation will be in July. Hmmm...