The Causes of Clutter

My fiancé and I are preparing for a future consolidation of our two houses. After 50 plus years of separate accumulation, needless to say, clutter has been on my mind quite a bit of late.

I think the mistake I’ve been making with my clutter is assuming that it’s all due to an overwhelming amount of laziness and an utter lack of organization. I’ve always felt that if I could get off my behind and just get with the program, all my clutter problems would be solved. Well, after a fair amount of internet searching about clutter and it’s causes, I now think a lot differently about my stuff.

In particular, I found this short video, entitled THE two things that cause ALL clutter to be most helpful indeed. Basically, it demonstrates that there are two reasons for clutter: Deferred Decisions and Incomplete Actions.

Some examples of Deferred Decisions are:

  • I am keeping this item because I might use it as xyz. Or maybe I’ll just throw it away. I haven’t decided.

  • These clothes don’t fit me. I don’t know whether to keep them in hopes that I lose weight, or give them away.

  • This is a pile of books I will probably never read. But you never know.

Some examples of Incomplete Actions are:

  • I’ve been meaning to give this to my sister, but I haven’t gotten around to it.

  • I put that there to do something with, and I forgot all about it.

  • I plan to sell this, but I haven’t posted it on Craig’s List yet.

  • I have these craft supplies because I plan to make something with them, but I haven’t found the time.

  • I’ve been meaning to sort through these obsolete phones and computers and get rid of them, but I haven’t taken the time.

  • I’ve been meaning to transfer these photos/Cassette recordings to digital to create more space. One of these days.

Once you look at things from the lens of Delayed Decisions and Incomplete Actions, it’s a lot easier to get moving on them. With the former: Make your decision! Don’t put it off. There’s no time like the present. With the latter: complete that action. Just do it.

Easier said than done, I know. But what I’m finding is that it’s a lot simpler to follow through on this stuff if my fiancé is present. He doesn’t judge. He just acts as a logical sounding board, and points out the obvious.

“Are you really ever going to play that ukulele again?” “Even if you fit into those clothes again, are they your style anymore?” “I know a great place where you can have your cassettes digitized. Let’s consolidate them into one box and do that on Wednesday.” “Do you really need 8 garlic presses?” “If that has sentimental value, maybe you should keep it. Or maybe you should take a picture of it to keep, and then pass it on to someone who could use it.”

I’ve made more progress with his help in the past few weeks than in all the time I’ve tried to tackle it alone. When I die, whoever has the unenviable task of sorting through my personal effects will want to kiss him on the lips.

Another thing that has incentivized me is that my neighborhood is planning a community garage sale later this month. That would be a great opportunity to try to sell stuff. But anything that doesn’t go will NOT go back into the house. Period. It will either go to Goodwill or I will put it on Craig’s List for sale THAT DAY, and leave it on the back porch for a maximum of two weeks in hopes of sale.

But, back to my original argument about laziness and lack of organization. The good news is that you don’t have to get rid of everything. Thinking you do is half of what has probably caused your inaction. No, there are some things that are

Not clutter, but a mess:

  • Photos. (But do try to digitize as many of them as you can.)

  • Things that have sentimental value (and a photo won’t suffice).

  • Things you really have used within the past year.

Once you’ve gotten rid of all the other stuff, it’s time to organize the mess. But that will be a whole lot easier when you have the space. And, if you’re like me, as you make more and more progress, you’ll feel proud of your accomplishments and you’ll be energized.

Wish me luck! If I can do this, you can do this. And, like a shoe that’s two sizes too small, it’ll feel soooo good when it’s gone.

clutter

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Do You Have a History of…

Packing for a move is always an interesting experience. It gives you an opportunity to really look at all of your stuff. I often encounter things I had forgotten I have. And that makes me wonder why I still have those things. If I could live without them for this long, why am I holding on to them? The pressure is even more intense since I’m moving to a much smaller place with very little storage.

With each item, I have to ask myself, will I ever read this, wear this or use this ever again? No? Then out it goes.

Some things have sentimental value. I do have a right to a certain amount of clutter after 52 years of living. At least that’s what I tell myself.

But the things I struggle with most are the “someday” things. For example, I’ve kept that bag of printed cloth because someday I want to make a quilt. And I’ve kept my pottery tools because someday I want to take up pottery again. And that box of cables, wires, and adapters… well, you never know when they’ll come in handy.

That’s when I have to get all adult-y and say to myself, “Barb, do you have a history of quilt making? Do you see yourself with immense amounts of spare time to all of a sudden take up new hobbies? Do you have enough of a burning need for cables that their storage would offset the expense if you ever had to buy one of these obscure items?”

Adult-y Barb has allowed me to donate a lot of things to Goodwill. But I only listen to her sporadically. If you saw some of the crap I have hauled across the continent just because… well… who knows why… you’d laugh.

I have no idea why this purging of the superfluous is such a struggle for me. I know for a fact that the less junk I have surrounding me, the better I feel. What I really need is a good flame thrower. But don’t tell my homeowner’s insurance agent that I said that. And don’t get any ideas, either.

I’m about to walk into my kitchen and get rid of every single gadget I haven’t used in the past year. Because, while I’d like to imagine myself as someone who will throw dinner parties… Not so much. Wish me luck.

stuff
Kindly ignore the superfluous L.

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Emotional Spring Cleaning

Yes, it’s the first day of summer, I get that. But it’s never too late to do some spring cleaning. Spring is a state of mind; a time for things to be fresh, vital, and new.

I’ve been getting rid of a lot of stuff lately. My last relocation, of 3100 miles, pretty much burned me out on the whole concept of lugging crap from pillar to post. I want to travel light.

With each load of junk that I drag to Goodwill, I feel as though I’ve lifted the equivalent amount of weight off my shoulders. And the truth is, it’s a rare occasion when I miss something after it’s gone. I hope to buy a house again eventually, and when that time comes, I want to have as little as possible to haul. That’s one of the reasons I refuse to buy a couch. It doesn’t make for comfortable social interactions, but the future me will be grateful.

Letting things go is important, and it isn’t strictly relegated to things material. It’s important to do emotional spring cleaning as well. End toxic relationships. Release grudges and resentments. Stop listening to that inner voice that is telling you that you can’t do something, and dust off those old talents that you haven’t used in a while!

Also, get rid of old e-mails that you no longer need. Delete those unfocused photographs. Remove contacts from your contact list that you know you’ll never contact again.

Lighten your load, people! You won’t regret it.

cleaning

Kitchen Gadgets

While packing up my kitchen for my upcoming move, I came across a garlic press. As much as I adore garlic, I’ve never used a garlic press in my entire life. I don’t even know where this one came from. That also goes for the electric ice cream churn an ex-boyfriend brought home. He felt all triumphant because it was on sale, but we only used it once, so that was the most expensive ice cream in the history of the world. And does anyone actually use bread makers on a regular basis? Or fondue pots?

Whenever I see one of those late night cable TV commercials that features the newest highly-specialized kitchen doodad, I shake my head sadly. People will waste their money on this stuff, and it will take up space and gather dust, and eventually be relegated to the nearest landfill. The same goes for the vast majority of exercise equipment, books and magazines, and highly trendy clothing. It’s just dead weight.

Between economic downturns, violent conflicts, increasing crime and global warming, I truly believe this planet is going to become more nomadic in nature, and all this useless crap will be an ever increasing burden. If you are forced to own a storage unit because you have no room for everything you’ve accumulated, you are doing something seriously wrong with your life. Lighten your load. That’s what I am trying to do. That garlic press is going in the Goodwill pile.

garlic press

[Image credit: bookofjoe.com]

Donating Yourself

Times are tough and there’s so much need out there that it can be overwhelming. But it’s understandable when people can’t make financial donations. I for one am struggling to make ends meet. But there are so many other ways to help.

Here are some ways you can give of yourself, show the world how wonderful you are, and improve the lives of others without spending a dime, and if you need added incentive, in many cases you can write these donations off on your taxes.

  • Become a marrow donor. If you’re between the ages of 18 and 44, a simple cheek swab will get you registered, and if you become a match it could save someone’s life. Go here to order a registration kit.
  • Become a cord blood donor. Are you pregnant? Donating your baby’s cord blood after birth does not put you or your child at risk and could save someone’s life. Talk to your doctor and find out if your hospital participates in this program before your child is born. For more information, go here.
  • Donate your used clothing and furniture. It breaks my heart to see useable items on the curb on trash day when there are so many organizations who would be happy to take them off your hands. Many will even come and pick it up from you.
  • Donate your used car. There are a lot of organizations that will take your used car. Here’s a site that can connect you to various charitable organizations, but personally, I plan to donate my car to National Public Radio when the time comes.
  • Volunteer. Many organizations in your community could use your help. Here’s a website that can help you find those opportunities.
  • Give someone a micro-loan. I can’t say enough about Kiva.org. In a nutshell, loan 25 dollars, change someone’s life, get paid back, and hopefully do it again. What have you got to lose? Not one single penny, that’s what.
  • Help a neighbor. If you have a neighbor who is sick or elderly or disabled or a single parent, they could no doubt use your help. Whether it’s shoveling snow, running an errand, doing home repair or mowing the lawn, there are any number of things you could do to make their lives easier.
  • Donate blood. Another free opportunity to save a life! Imagine that. Go here to find the blood bank nearest you.
  • Freecycle. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Rather than filling the landfill with your perfectly usable but no longer wanted items, advertise them here on your local freecycle network. This is a great way to pick up things that other people are giving away as well!
  • Spread the word. Do you know of a way for people to save money or live healthier or safer lives? Don’t keep this information to yourself. Share it. Facebook it. Tweet it. Whatever it takes to share this with others. Knowledge is power.
  • Donate your hair. Planning to cut more than 10 inches of your hair off? Don’t let it go to waste! There are organizations that will make wigs for people who have cancer or alopecia. I don’t want to give any one organization special treatment, so simply google “hair donation” and choose the one you like best.
  • Listen. Sometimes all someone needs to turn their day around is someone willing to listen to them. Really hear them. That’s a skill. Please practice it.
  • Participate in Neighborhood Watch. Help keep your neighborhood safe the RIGHT way, with an organization that does not advocate vigilante behavior. Google Neighborhood Watch to learn more.
  • Be a mentor. Share your knowledge and expertise with someone who would benefit from it. Learn more about this here.
  • Recycle. Think of this as volunteering for the planet.
  • Report abuse and other crimes when you see them. If you witness domestic violence or any other crime, speak up. That’s the only way you’ll prevent its recurrence. This is a way of doing a good turn for a future victim. Simply dial 911, or if you are outside of the United States, find out your emergency number and keep it handy.
  • Be an organ donor. Sign up to become an organ donor in your state’s organ donor registry and you will not have died in vain. For more information, go here. Also, be sure to share your wishes with your loved ones so that there’s no conflict or confusion when the time comes.

There are so many ways to make a difference in this world, and you don’t have to spend any money doing so. If you can think of any other ways that I may have overlooked, please add them to the comments section. I do 13 of the things mentioned above, but doing even one will make the world a better place. Join me, won’t you?

volunteer

Remember when you were young and willing? It’s never too late.

[Image Credit: astdtn.org]