This post is about losing weight. No, I’m not talking about shedding pounds of fat…I’m talking about eliminating things, junk, impulse purchases, kept out of obligation, cluttering up my life…stuff. C’mon, don’t give up now…keep reading to find out what I’ve learned. It really isn’t as painful as it seems. You can do it too!
The catalyst for all this is a cross country move we may have to pay for ourselves. The moving company charges $2.50/lb. It really puts things into perspective when you paid $10 for something that will cost $10 to ship. Is it even worth a $20 investment?
We’ve had 3 garage sales so far, and I’ve already got another corner of the basement loaded with enough for another one. Weeding out all our excess stuff is quite liberating! My motto is…keep the memory and get rid of the stuff.
Let me give you a little background so you can see where I’m coming from….
I once helped my friend, Jane, dejunk her basement. There was one particular poster of a horse her teenage daughter, Kate, didn’t want to get rid of. It was faded, stapled to cardboard, and ratty all around the edges. She just could not part with it because her aunt had given it to her. Jane told me Kate was a pack rat and the hoarder aunt was always sending junk like that over to their house instead of throwing it away. So in this situation you’re dealing with attachment issues on both ends. Kate told me her aunt made her promise to keep it and never throw it away. She kept it out of obligation to the aunt who couldn’t bear to throw anything away. A dangerous combination. I asked Kate if we could take a picture of it and get rid of it. The picture would jog her memory, bringing back the fond memories she has of her aunt, and take up less space in the house. She agreed. We took a picture of the poster and placed it in the trash. This caused Kate a little anxiety but we talked her through it. About a month later, I was at their house visiting and went out to help Jane feed the farm animals. I stepped into the feed shed and saw that ratty poster hanging on the wall above the feed barrels. I asked Jane what happened and she said Kate nearly had a panic attack after I left on the cleaning day and had to retrieve it from the trash. Jane told her to hang it in the feed shed if she wanted to keep it. I thought that was a smart compromise on Jane’s part but Kate’s emotional attachment to everything is troubling.
Emotional attachment makes it difficult to separate us from our stuff. I spent one day a week for a year helping another friend, April, clean our her mom’s house after she died of cancer. They’d always had a rocky relationship because the mom favored April’s sister when they were growing up. The mom also didn’t really throw anything away, especially papers. It was a struggle for April to throw away old resumes, report cards, and bills. One day I asked her if she would keep those papers if her mom was alive. She didn’t even have to think about it before saying no. After realizing that she was holding on to useless papers as a way of keeping her mom alive in her mind, it was much easier to clean out that office. In fact, we’d spent about 5 days grappling with it and gotten very little done. That day we were able to clean out over half of it, and the next week when I came back she had finished it on her own. The rest of the house went fairly quickly.
My stepmother is what I call a “cleanie”. She doesn’t like clutter or dirt. She only ever had one bookshelf with books on it in a house with 5 kids! I still don’t know how she managed, especially since I have 10 shelves full! She was a stark contrast to my mom who is a “messie”. My mom is a hoarder…you know…like those t.v. shows. Our closets were always on the McGee side and you didn’t dare open the door without an emergency avalanche beacon attached to your person. She never sees the dirt or clutter. I’m somewhere in the middle. My closets and drawers are organized and clean. The rest of the house is a healthy clean, but not spotless or immaculate by any means. I still struggle with owning too much stuff, but not anywhere close to having hoarder paths.
I’ve decided my creative brain and my family’s sentimental habits is the cause of our plight. My eyes are bigger than my crafting time allows. I have more projects lined up than I can reasonably finish in a year. But now that I’ve recognized it, it’s easier to pare down.
Here’s the steps I’m taking….We’ve been focusing on assigning the proper value to the things we want to keep. In deciding what to get rid of, I ask several questions…..
1. Is this something I love or just like?
2. Does this item get used on a regular basis and/or is it on display where I can enjoy it daily?(Things that are packed away for long periods of time are probably not really that important since I haven’t made an effort to have them out and useful.)
3. If I only had 1 large box to pack everything I want to keep, would this be in the box? (This does not count utility items like towels, dishes, and other things we use to live on a regular basis. These are only things that would be dear to me, or are part of my hobbies…keepsakes, letters, pictures, craft items, knick knacks etc.)
4. Can I keep the memory without keeping the item? (Taking a photo of you and the item, or just the item is a good way to jog your memory.)
5. Are my kids going to be burdened with having to dispose of this item when I die of old age?
6. Is this item in good condition? If clothes, shoes, books, toys, etc. are broken, stained, or ratty to the point I wouldn’t give them to a friend, why do I keep them for my family?
7. Can I borrow something similar from a friend, rent it at a store, replace it inexpensively, or make do without it if I need it in the future? For me this includes extra pie plates and muffin pans, expensive automotive and/or woodworking tools & gardening equipment, carpet shampooer, sewing machine, etc.. Of course, you should own these items if you use them a lot. I don’t use muffin tins often so I keep one and bake in several batches or borrow and extra one from the neighbor. I do use my sewing machine all the time but if you don’t, it doesn’t make sense to own one. Gather all your mending together and use someone else’s every few months. Rototillers, table saws and other woodworking tools are expensive and bulky. It makes more sense to buy one together with several neighbors or family members and take turns storing and maintaining them.
8. Do I really want to clean, maintain, and shuffle this around anymore?
9. In the case of books, movies, music, and computer/video/board games….can I get this at the library, on t.v., netflix, hulu, or some other source easily? (I will keep books and movies that I reference or love, but aren’t popular with mainstream society. There are books from our childhoods, movies that are hard to find, reference materials for homeschooling, etc. that I’ll hold on to…at least for now.)
10. Can I keep part of this item and get rid of the rest? IE: I had a gift bag that someone had made. There was a piece on the front with a stamped/embossed/jeweled lady’s shoe that I liked and wanted to keep for reference. I pulled the piece off the bag to add to my idea file and threw the bag away. I also had a cookie press gadget that I’ve ever only used half the parts for. After having the thing for 10+ years, I can safely say I will not be using those extra parts any time soon. I got rid of them and just kept the parts I use. Lord McCormick has a gazillion t-shirts from various races he’s run in. He loves those t-shirts, but doesn’t wear most of them. He prefers technical shirts over cotton T’s. I suggested we cut out the front of the shirts (with the race logo) and stitch them together to create a blanket top. He agreed and it freed up an entire dresser drawer(and a big box in the closet).
I’m being diligent in not just shuffling the stuff around. If I decide to get rid of something I might ask the other family members if they have a special attachment or use for it. If they can justify it we’ll keep it. In these cases, we have to sort out why they want to keep it, where they’re going to store it, who’s responsible for cleaning/maintaining it, and what they’re willing to give up to add it to their “stuff”. I’m starting to like the whole “get rid of something when bringing something new in” philosophy.
We’ll have another garage sale. Any high quality items that don’t sell will go to the consignment store, craigslist, or ebay. Unsold books will be taken to Half Price Books. Everything else that doesn’t sell will go straight to the thrift store. Why all the run around with the books and high end stuff? We’ll need the money for the move. Its worth it to me.
I still have a lot to sort through and only two weeks to get through it, but I’m feeling 50 pounds lighter already! This is the easiest weight I’ve ever lost.