Monday, July 31, 2006

A Break from Clutter: Two Books You Should Read

I'm on the verge of finishing these two books and I've enjoyed both of them immensely. They're very different, but both focus on the issue of identity: who we are and what is our place in the world.

Baby Steps Make it Easy

Last night, I moved six boxes of books out into the garage. Thanks to last weekend's work, there is plenty of space to use the garage as a staging area. I have more room to work in my Room (i.e. the craft room, the junk room, my personal shame...whatever name floats your boat!), and putting those things in the garage is a stage on the way to saying good-bye to them.

I'll post some pictures later.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

(that witty title just slipped right out of my brain)

One thing I've been trying to do is to pass on things to others. I have, as you know, a lot of stuff. Way too much for one person. Too much, in fact, for a dozen. As I've been culling things, I have consciously tried to identify those things that I could pass onto specific new homes. That is, in addition to or as an alternative to the larger passing on that occurs when I make trips to the Goodwill or other thrift stores.

Today, I gave a knitting book to my friend Z, who is an avid knitter. I had enjoyed reading it (never actually knit any of the patterns, fancy that), and thought she might as well. Turned out she'd been wanting THAT SPECIFIC BOOK for a while! Joy!

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Emotional Check-Up: Part Two

I'm feeling very fragile today. There's a lot going on besides the clutter, but I think the clutter clearing is bringing up emotional energy that affects everything else.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Compulsive Hoarding OCD

My friend C sent me this link. It's a good overview of compulsive hoarding OCD:
"Saving the World"

Husband has occasionally told me "You don't need to be the archivist for the world!"

Books: Magic or Just Chunks of Paper

I love books. I've always loved them, and been surrounded by them. In my house growing up, we had numerous full-size bookcases full of books. My father loved them too. Our interactions involved books; going to the library or bookstore. He'd buy me just about any book I wanted, though he'd often ask me not to finish it too fast! Any psych 101 student could tell me that holding onto my books is holding onto my father.

Here's the rub, see. I could choose to keep all my books (see below for a selection, remembering that I've already culled nine banker's boxes full of them). However, by keeping them all, I would be choosing to keep clutter, dust, old memories. The books aren't my father, I know that. But my little reptile brain may not know it.

Going through the shelves in the past few days, I've found many duplicates, books I haven't read, books I didn't actually like, books I was given that I don't want to keep. Being honest let me fill those boxes up.

I have three more bookcases to go. Once they're culled, I will organize them by subject matter (fiction and non, each sorted by genre or topic). My new rule is: no double stacking. If there are so many books they don't fit, something needs to go.

This shelf, believe it or not, has been culled. Obviously, it needs another pass!

These two shelves are ones I haven't yet gone through. The boxes contain photos.

Another view of one of the shelves I have yet to tackle:

Another shelf yet to be decluttered:

The shelf on the left has been culled; the one on the right belongs to the husband, who hasn't yet tackled books.

You can find piles like these all over my house!

These are the boxes ready to go OTD (out the door, a Flyladyism)

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Tackling the Garage: Part Three

Today while I was out, that husband worked on the garage attic. He swept, shop-vac'd, and moved stuff, leaving this:

He's just left for our third dump run of this leg of the decluttering adventure. Mostly wood, with some recycling and some just plain garbage:

And here's the left bay of the garage. Ready to park a vehicle!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Letting Go: The Ebay dream

I have bins of items that I intend to sell on eBay. Now, I actually have sold items on eBay, so this isn't an impossible dream. But, I don't do it. I can't remember the last time I had items listed for sale. Frankly, I don't like doing it. It's a hassle--you have to take pictures, write descriptions, measure things, weigh them, figure out the shipping cost, and then actually type all that information into the eBay system. Major hassle, especially with small children and cats around.

So, why don't I just give it all away? (no individual item is valuable enough to take it to one of those places that sell your stuff for you, or I would do that). I hesitate because (wait for it...)...all that stuff is worth good money! I can't just give it away! I just need to (insert gung-ho adjective). But I don't, right? So, shouldn't I just let it all go? Free myself of it?

You may ask how much stuff we're talking about here. Let me show you:
This is the main stack of bins:

Smaller stack, with those culled cookbooks on top:

These bins fill a closet. Hard to see how many there are, because they're all silver:

More bins in the closet. These are different from the ones above.

The bag has packing peanuts and other shipping supplies:

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

A Very Special Post: The Wood Stove

Back in 1996 or so, when we bought our house, we had the wood stove insert that was in the fireplace removed. Where did we have it removed to, you may ask? The garage. Why? Because we 'might want it someday'. Yup, really. So, there it sat, for ten years. We made a couple of attempts to sell it (no luck) or give it away (again, no luck). Finally, with this burst of cleaning energy that arrived, it made sense for the wood stove to finally go. The problem? Where to take it. A few moments of thought, and I remembered a place that recycles metal. One quick phone call later, and the wood stove had a new home, provided we deliver it there.

And here's the story. Our driveway is sloped toward the garage. The wood stove was in the far rear of the garage. While I was tackling bookshelves inside and herding the small children, my sweet, ingenious husband decided to tackle the woodstove. First, he somehow moved it onto a dolly. Then, again, SOMEHOW, he hauled it up to the sidewalk, where the slope begins. Then, he put his truck into place at the bottom of the slope and constructed a ramp. My job was supposed to be to drive my car and use it as a brake to keep the dolly'ed wood stove from soaring down the hill. Luckily, the hauling attachment wouldn't fit on my car, and even more luckily, a friend dropped by at just the right time that he got to be the lucky driver. I documented the scene for you, you lucky dogs!

The stove at the top of the driveway slope:

The stove at the base of the ramp:

Now, it's actually on the ramp:

Moving along:

Into the truck:

In the truck!

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Emotional Check-Up

The outdoor changes are easy. The things stored in the garage are mostly either damaged by being stored there or are not my things. There's not a lot of emotional attachment there. It's just relief at seeing broken, useless things carted away. It's a good feelng, a lightness. But also, there's this nagging 'why did I/we wait so long?' Why did we live with this junk for so long? Why was its toxic presence allowed?

My father used to spend Sundays 'working' in our garage. I use quotation marks because really, he just moved things around a little, and more often, added more stuff. Our garage was full. Literally full. The door barely opened--you had to heave on it and force it. Nothing in it was really organized. Boxes and bags, all piled atop each other. Old clothes, books, magazines, furniture, tools & nails, you name it, it was in there. My dad was very protective of it; we kids liked to play in it because there were all sorts of interesting things to be found, but he didn't want us in there without him. Of course, there were practical reasons for that. It was quite dangerous, and there were, let's call them rodents. And spiders. Lots of spiders.

In case you couldn't tell, my dad was a hoarder. He was a young man during the Great Depression, which doubtless affected him. He also had jobs that put him in proximity to a lot of stuff--he worked as a longshoreman and for a salvage company. Really, that's like an alcoholic working in a bar. Or a gambler living on the Las Vegas strip.

Tackling the Garage: Part Two

I'll post some pictures this afternoon, but for now, here's a brief update.

This morning, we got up early (it's horribly, awfully, ickily, stickily hot here), around 7 a.m. to load up the truck. We had to remove the canopy to fit everything in. The destination? The Dump (aka the Transfer Station). The Load? A dryer, a water heater, an old icky couch, three bags of trash, a broken gas grill, an old art project, the blinds that were installed when we moved in (ten years ago, and they've been in the garage for almost that long), misc bits of metal, wood, and other garbage.

What a relief to have all that drive off! The bill was less than $40; why did we wait so long to get rid of all that junk? How much of our time has been wasted by it--moving it, avoiding it, just seeing it taking up space?

We took a break, then moved on to the garage attic, which is full of strange junk left by the previous owners. We found many parts of projects--cut sheetrock, boards, plywood, broken flourescent tubes, a mouse's nest, empty anti-breeze bottles, bits of metal, an old medicine cabinet, cardboard boxes, parts to an old wooden boat, two ancient captain's chairs and I'm sure I'm forgetting something. Oh, we also found a really cute white wood child's twin size bed. All parts are there, and it's in nice shape.

Craig's List came in handy again. We sold our Yakima bicycle car rack (made to fit a car with rain gutters...we haven't owned a car with rain gutters for over ten years). We considered selling a computer desk, but we'd have to put it together to make it look presentable for a photo and it doesn't feel worth it. We'll try donating it, then another trip to the dump if that fails.

Here's the computer desk. The charity *did* take it and even helped unload.

This is the current junk heap--the cardboard is headed for recycling, the foam thingy and bits of wood for the dump on our next dump load.

A view of the garage attic. We've been removing junk that two (possibly more) previous owners accumulated. Once it's cleaned out, it'll hold those empty boxes that you need to hold onto--computer, tv, etc.

Here's the free pile as of early afternoon yesterday. Since then, the fireplace accessory and the pot plants have gone.

The heaviest item to leave the premises!

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Tackling the Garage: Part One

I've got my husband on board. He's one of those types who can be tidy or cluttery depending on who he's around. Well, he's been around me for twenty years, so guess what he is? Anyway, he's been reading Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui, and is now ready to declutter with me.

We got some serious news the other day. Our older daughter (six) has been having snuffles, sneezing, snoring & trouble sleeping for a while now. We decided to have her allergy tested. She's allergic to...cats (and dogs, but less so). We have two cats who've been with us for eight years. They're beautiful Siamese boys and part of the family. Now, they may need to leave us. But, we have a chance. IF, that is a big IF, we can declutter enough so that the house can be kept very very tidy. As I said, a big IF. But worth a try, don't you think?

Here're some photos of the garage in progress. One of our very tidy friends (you know who you are, if you're reading:-), suggested we make better use of our two-car garage. Currently, my husband does park his small truck in one bay, but the other was just a wasteland of empty boxes, old furniture, just plain junk and decent stuff that needs a new home.

So far, we've put a number of pieces of furniture to the curb with a free sign, listed an item on Craig's List, and generated two boxes of donations. I also have three boxes of books to go to the Library for their twice-a-year book sale.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Keeping the Momentum

Well, hello friends;

I've finished Karen Kingston's wonderful little book, Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui, and have started reading it again. My dear husband has also started reading it. He's enthusiastic about clutter clearing, but for some reason, his enthusiasm brings up feelngs of ... struggle, resistance...what else? in me. I have to think on that one.

The past few days I've been battling vertigo (dizziness mostly, no nausea this time). It came on the day after we returned from a nice, refreshing trip. I was away for four nights. When the attack came on, it felt like it was the house, that I was in a toxic environment and it was making me sick. My first feelings on re-entering the house after being gone were: disgust, disbelief, fear, anger, hatred, abhorance.

So, I took action. Despite my vertigo, I took care of the jars (see below for proof). Today, I worked on my cookbook shelves. I love cookbooks, I have many of them. Now, twenty are stacked on the kitchen counter, waiting for a box to take them away. Of course, part of me will want to sell them. But I also want to just give them away and let them bless someone else. I'll tell you what I decide.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Progress: The Jars

Well, I did it. Thanks for the encouragement; it must have helped. I just dumped the mysterious contents into the compost and the jars are ready to be rinsed and run through the dishwasher. Then, I'll pass them on to my friend Z, who cans and passes on her creations to others. She'll trade me the dozen jars for a jar of triple berry jam for my toast. All will be well.

Here's a photo, proof that I did the deed:

Friday, July 14, 2006

Feng Shui

I believe in feng shui. It resonates, it makes sense (yes, some aspects are a little kooky, and some really only apply if you are actually Chinese and living in China, Taiwan or Hong Kong...Maylasia...etc.)

My current favourite feng shui book also deals with clutter.

This book is short and to the point: clutter can harm your life energy, ruin relationships and career and shorten your life. How's that for nasty? Karen Kington's clear explanations and matter of fact writing style make one want to drop the book and start filling boxes to get out the door.

I've read this book twice. I now own my own copy. Perhaps I'm ready to start following her suggestions?

Monday, July 10, 2006

I keep trying tools, but nothing works

So, here are some of the tools and devices I've tried:
Rubbermaid Bins
IKEA organizing items
Banker's Boxes
Clear Totes
Feng Shui books
Clutter control books
Time management books and guides

Nothing has worked. I wonder why?

Here are some more 'tools' I have tried:


Those haven't helped much either.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

What's the real problem?

Lately, my husband and I have been feeling that our house is too small. Well, it *is* small. It's about 800 sq ft on the main level, with close to that in the finished basement. We'd each like our own space, and we'd like our two young children to each have their space. Sounds reasonable on the face of it. But take a look around our house...and you'll see that while more space might be nice, it wouldn't fix the problem.

We feel squeezed because there is so much in this little place that is squeezing us--layers and piles of stuff. So, shouldn't we clear out the stuff, so that we can have space to breathe? And how easy to say that, when we've live like this for years. Our friends know we have clutter (one friend has seen this side of us for over a decade and helps bring us down to earth when we suggest that perhaps we are doing better. He's honest, I respect that. But the truth is still painful).

Here's another small tour, and a problem. In one of the photos below are some canning jars, full of jam, chutney, preserves. These were gifts, and while tasty, they are much more than we can use. They are also over five years old now. I've been holding on to them, puzzling what to do. One can't give home-canned items to the food bank, they just won't take them. At this point, they're old enough so I'm not comfortable passing them on to other friends. Should they just go into the compost pile and let me move on with my life?

Saturday, July 08, 2006

About that Simplicity Movement...

So anyone who hasn't been living in a cave (and who, hence, is already on the ball) has heard about the simple living movement. On and off in various guises, with Thoreau as an early adopter, simple living seems to come up everywhere. Of course, there's that infamous magazine, Real Simple, which, in actuality, has very little to do with simplicity and a lot to do with spending one's presumably large disposable income.

A more genuine approach can be seen in books such as ; ; and .

The primary tenets of the simple living movement are to have less, use less, and want less. So many of our 'needs' are really wants in disguise. When it comes down to it, what do you really truly need? Food, shelter, clothing...not much, is it? So why is my house full of stuff? That is my question. My answers may be different than yours; we shall see.

Friday, July 07, 2006


There's a peculiar joy in watching other people purge their stuff. In the past year or so, HGTV, TLC and a few other specialty television channels have featured shows that help homeowners to purge their stuff. One show focuses on one room, and has the homeowners move all the stuff out onto their lawn and separate it into piles. Other shows have the organizer taking a larger role and making decisions for the homeowner.

While I can watch these shows, having this happen to me is a personal nightmare. I know I have too much stuff. I know a lot of it is just junk. But don't take my choice away from me. And...don't take my stuff. That's the key difference between someone with a bit of clutter and a hoarder--us hoarders get emotionally attached. We have a hard time accepting any help, because it's all just too personal.

* * *

Even my pantry suffers. My dear husband has a hard time finding anything (is it any wonder he seldom cooks???). Here's a shot of one shelf:

I just have too much! Every once in a while, I consider taking everything canned, boxed etc. to the local Food Bank. But something stops me...maybe I know I'll just fill up the space again.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

They say take it one step at a time

But if you only take small steps, while you may get somewhere, it'll take forever. Yesterday, I was able to drop off three bags of items at the local thrift store. For the first time in memory, I cleaned out my dresser, put the items I don't wear into a bag, and within only two days, took the bag away.

Don't get me wrong, I *am* able to get things out of the house (OTD, or 'out the door' as one of my favourite cleaning and recovery gurus puts it). But it's hard. And it takes me a long time to realize that something is genuinely not useful for my life, whereas someone who doesn't have a problem with hoarding can simply toss or donate what doesn', look good, what have you. That's the distinction and what part of me longs for--the ability to say goodbye with little fanfare to those excess things.

Here are some images of the things I donated.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Welcome to my Cluttered World

Many people hang onto things. Some have collections. Some know they have too much. They may use a term like 'clutterbug', 'keeper', 'collector'. When does a bit too much stuff around the house turn into a health problem? Where does one draw the line?

Like any other personal characteristic or challenge, the line comes when your life is affected adversely. It's the same way one distinguishes a social drinker from an alcoholic. Someone who just has a lot of stuff from a hoarder.

Hoarders have difficulty making decisions. It's hard for us to tell the difference between something genuinely important and something that is not. Some of us save garbage (luckily, that has not befallen me!). Some focus on the detritus of childhood. Others just save stuff. It comes into our homes with ease, but sticks around and takes up permanent residence. Evicting the excess is the goal of many hoarders in recovery.

Just as in a 12 step program like AA, admitting that one is powerless over the problem is the first step. Personally, I have been battling this problem for decades.

Here, you can join me on my quest for a cure. I am admitting I need help. Perhaps my struggles will shed some light on this problem (disease? illness? addiction?) and help others.