Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Where are you on the hoarding scale?

Today, I found this online guide to compulsive hoarding and aquiring. There's a downloadable form you can use to rate your home.

What I found most interesting are the series of photos of living room, kitchen, and bedroom. You can click on the photos for a larger image.

What struck me is that on this scale, most of the rooms in my house are a 1 or a 2. The guest room is perhaps a 2.5 or 3 right now, as it's taken the brunt of some recent purging from other parts of the house. All of the rooms in my house are fully usable for their intended purpose. There is nothing on the beds other than bedding and pajamas. The kitchen counters have a few dirty dishes, but the sink is clear and the dishwasher is partially loaded. You can sit on the couch without moving anything, and the same for the living room chairs.

I no longer aquire things at the rate I did. It's rare for me to buy anything other than food. I guess maybe I'm getting better!

Monday, July 28, 2008

I love my new no clutter laundry room!

As I mentioned, I've been wanting to remove the console table from my laundry room and replace it with a couple of Shabby Chic style chairs I found on the side of the road, with a free sign. Today, I did it! Take a look.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Good bye old refrigerator!

It served us well. It was in the house when we bought it. Other than one glitch some years ago (which sweetie was able to fix) it has worked great. Like the other appliances we replaced, there was nothing "wrong" with it. It just didn't fit the kitchen I envisioned.

When I was cleaning it in preparation for its departure, I noticed the model tag. It was made in 1987. It's 21 years old. Poor old fridge.

We disposed of it using a program our power service subscribes to. They'll take away and dismantle (or donate) your old appliance when you upgrade to a more energy efficient one. And you get a check for $30.

With the old fridge gone, we were able to reclaim our dining room and living room.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Guest Post: We don't own our things, we rent them

In a message board discussion on clutter, "Crayfish" had this brilliant insight, which I've received permission to republish in this guest post. There are references to specific items; these refer to the original discussion. Substitute any item you're having trouble letting go of.
Would it help to think of it as renting stuff?

That is, very few things are bought because you're going to have them forever. Most things are bought because you have a use for them now. You're not buying the thing, you're buying the utility, the use of that thing for a specific purpose for a limited time. You're paying money for a limited period of utility. Therefore, you're essentially renting the thing.

So when you bought that eight-dollar toy, you bought a playing experience. When your mother bought you those clothes, she bought an upgrade to your interview experience.

Those experiences are past. Maybe the experience was good and the money was well spent. Maybe the experience was lousy and the money was wasted. But the experience is over, just as much as a movie or amusement park trip that you bought a ticket for is over. The physical thing left is just the "ticket". The empty shell. The remains of the experience.

A used movie ticket is not worth the sixteen dollars that you may have paid for admission and popcorn and Coke. If the experience was fabulous, the ticket isn't needed to allow you to remember it. If the experience was lousy, the ticket isn't going to enable you to get your money back. The ticket is an empty shell, the should-be-discarded "wrapper" for the experience.

The same is true of toys that aren't played with and clothes that aren't worn. Your mother loves you, and she demonstrated that love by buying you the clothes when you needed them for a specific purpose. The money was spent, for better or for worse, when that purpose was completed. You don't have to keep the "wrapper" that she once delivered her love in. Her love is just as real if you discard the wrapper. The clothes have served, or failed to serve, their purpose. They're empty now. It's time for them to go.

And, again, it's the _experience_ that matters. It's your life that matters. That means that a clean, pleasant serene home, a home where you can have happier experiences, is more important than a home full of empty shells. You can keep the memories, but keeping the shells, the wrappers, the skeletons of old experiences, will corrupt your new experiences.

You don't want to live in a museum or graveyard devoted to the past, giving up on happiness and on making good new memories because you're devoted to trying to squeeze new value out of old empty wrappers. That toy cost you eight dollars; if it and dozens others like it stay in your house, cluttering it up and making it less pleasant, then that toy is costing you more every single day.

Me again. I love this idea. It's a brilliant mental trick that can truly benefit those of us who hang onto things was a gift, we paid "good money" for it, it belonged to a loved one who has passed away, it's an antique. You name the reason for letting it hang around, just by thinking of it as rented instead of owned can be the scissors that cut the thread.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Vestfrost started it all

It's funny, and I know it's not just me. One thing, one item, can cause a chain of events. For me, it was the Vestfrost. I saw it first at my pal Aaron's place. It was a thing of beauty--shining silver and such clean simple lines, so very elegant. When I got home, I started planning long-overdue kitchen remodel, because I too wanted a Vestfrost.

Can you think of a time when one item, on piece of art, one book, a phrase or a song, started you on a journey of discovery? It's like magic, a talisman, a stone cairn that leads the way.

Every day, I look at my lovely kitchen, and I thank my Vestfrost for starting it all.

The Financial Side of Clutter

As many of you know, I enjoy reading the personal finance blogs. My favorites are listed in the right sidebar, check them out if you're interested in personal finance.

Retail therapy is a common practice here in the U.S. It probably is in other countries as well. So many of us shop for the sake of shopping, buying new things to cheer us up or to give us a little thrill. I can attest to the reality of that thrill--it's literally like a high, a hit of endorphin to the system. Some people can become addicted to that high--see this recent story on The Consumerist for more.

Times are a bit harder these days, and still, retail therapy occurs. I read the paper, and every day there are articles about shopping habits and how little they've changed despite the slowing economy.

When I started my decluttering journey, I knew that retail therapy had to end. I was never profligate (although, yes, there were some incidents involving scrapbooking supplies--long story), but I bought items we as a family didn't actually need. Now need is an interesting word. What do we really need? Food, shelter, some would say love. Dozens of episodes of old TV shows on DVD? Kid clothes from anywhere but the thrift store? Books the library has? Barbie dolls? Not needs. Wants. Wishes. Hopes for a different life or a better tomorrow.

I don't shop anymore. I do sometimes browse, and I've found that when I walk into a shop not intending to buy anything and being clear to myself on that, I can browse and be inspired by the items that catch my eye. Perhaps there's a color that calls to me. I can examine why that is, remember it, and consider it for a home decorating idea in the future. It doesn't mean I need to own that item right now.

Books, ah books. Used to be I couldn't leave a bookstore without buying something. The other day, I explored a lovely used bookstore. Amazing stock, the place was a maze of shelves, all carefully labeled, with that wonderful smell of old books. Saw many books that, even two years ago, I would have bought. I left with the title of one book in my head so I could put it on hold at the library. Didn't buy a thing. It felt like a victory.

My home is on a journey that will likely never end. I try to enjoy the journey itself, for that is where the learning happens.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Too much stuff

I guess I just have too much stuff. Still, still, after actively working on it for over two years, I just have too much stuff. Clutter clutter everywhere. Surfaces covered. No flat expanse of space unfilled.

Just needed to gripe a little.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Friendly Amazon Reminder

Just a friendly reminder, if you shop at Amazon, go through the links on my blog. I get some credit, and folks think I'm big time. Can't hurt, eh?

Friday, July 11, 2008

I love my Vestfrost!

I have to tell you how much I am loving having a small fridge! I've wanted a freezer on the bottom style of fridge for a long time, and having the whole thing be so small is such a bonus.
Here's the width of the old fridge, for comparison.And here, the slender Vestfrost.
Here are some views of the interior. I like it when the fridge is not too full. I like being able to see most of what I have in it.

We're a family of four--two adults, an eight year old and a five year old. We have two cats. Do you think our fridge looks empty? Full? How does it compare to yours?

We don't drink soda. Sometimes when we're out or for a special treat at home we might have root beer floats. We don't drink cow's milk, though we do use it as an ingredient. We don't regularly drink juice. I don't like icy cold water, so I don't keep a Brita filter pitcher in the fridge.

We do have a separate upright freezer, in the basement. The Vestfrost actually has a lot of freezer space. It has three drawers in the freezer, and a narrow slot for ice cube trays (it came with three, they're shallower than standard American). Still, I like being able to use the upstairs freezer for frequently used items and the basement one for storage. I buy our meat in bulk at Costco and freeze it in meal-size portions.

Donations! More Clutter Gone!

I didn't intend a donation run, but somehow, the car is packed with eight bags of clutter for the charity shops. I'll take some to St. Vincent de Paul (a favourite charity of mine), some to the local, small, City of Hope cancer fund raising charity shop and perhaps some to Goodwill.

I also arranged to bring a baby carrier I've had no luck selling on Craigslist to a consignment shop. Don't know why I didn't think of that sooner.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Tea Clutter

This is a box of tea. Mystery tea. Old tea. Newish tea. Good tea. Tea that no one likes. Tea.

I drink tea. Once in a while. I prefer coffee in the morning. Sweetie drinks tea every day, but he's quite particular about what he'll drink, and the teas that he likes are in his tea cupboard in the kitchen. This box of teas has been sitting in the basement since March, when I removed everything from the cupboards.

Some of the teas are ones I thought I should like (aspirational teas if you will), some just plain looked good but didn't taste as good as I had hoped.

Why do I keep them? Because I paid good money for them! Because they're perfectly good! Because because because!!!

They can go on Freecycle. Perhaps I'll list them today...

Book Clutter: It came from the library!

This bench is my next big target. It used to be half of the seating at our dining room table, prior to the kitchen remodel which necessitated moving the dining room table into the living room to make way for the fridge. Ahem.

I'm a stacker. I like nice flat surfaces because they are so good for stacking things. It's very hard in my house to keep a flat surface clear. The kitchen is easiest for some reason. The bathroom simply doesn't have many flat surfaces so it's never cluttered.

Those books are from the library. Underneath the bench are shoes. In the bench's cubbies...gee, I don't think you want to know. Scary stuff. I'll go through it soon, and show you the after, promise.

I'd like to keep that bench there even after we move the table back. If you're wondering what's holding us up in moving the table, the old fridge is still there! It's going away on the 23rd, to a local company that works with utilities to encourage folks to retire their old energy-guzzling appliances. They take the old, we get a check for $30.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Food Clutter: It came from the garage

We still have boxes of food in the garage. It's mostly clutter, in that it's not stuff we use or need. Some is stuff I wasn't sure what to do with. That big bottle of almond extract from Smart & Final...expired years ago, but still smelled good last time I checked. Well, it's gone now. I took a look out there and grabbed a box of bottles, mostly sauces and vinegars, and checked dates, did the sniff test and the look test.

Kahlua liquer from a trip to 1997. That bottle of almond extract went down the drain. I noticed that the plastic of the bottle had started to discolour. Old vinegars, bought who knows when, rarely used. A bottle of dry sherry--I didn't know if it was still good because I don't drink dry sherry, but it did not smell appetizing. A bottle of a favourite seasoning sauce that was out of date and just looked off. I suspect it had gotten lost in the cupboard, since there was a new bottle in another box of the garage.

Yes, it is wasteful. I know that. I like to cook and experiment, and that means trying new things. What I need to learn is that if we try a new seasoning and no one likes it, to toss it right away. Or offer it on Freecyle. Whatever, just get it out of the house. It's not going to get tastier sitting around in the cupboard. My new kitchen feels quite spare compared to the old, and I really like that feeling. I'm still cooking dinners every night, and the family is enjoying them. This is good. This is enough.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Repurposing: Partylite candle holder into ...

a fruit plate! I had this Partylite three-wick pillar holder on my mantle. I burned down the one three wick candle I still owned (sold/gave away the others long ago) and decided to give it a new use.

Cookbook Clutter: Update

I've been pondering the cookbook situation. As Clutter Buddy pointed out, most of us use only a few of our cookbooks. This is true for me, that's for sure. But, I like cookbooks as literature, as inspiration. I just don't want to have as many of them as I currently own.

Recall I did cull cookbooks a while ago. I sold about two dozen of them, ones I rarely even looked at for ideas. What I need to do next is to cull the remaining books, and be ruthless. I have designated ONE spot for cookbooks, and it's not huge.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Paperwork Sorting is Done!

Finally, after several years of staring at those clear bins, they're now empty. A lot of the contents went into recycling. I found some really odd things, including high school notes (about five pages, torn from a notebook), lots of old show & movie tickets, old address books, hundreds of letters, index cards with notes on furniture needed for our new house--those were from 1996 or so. Found the younger one's original Social Security card, my first passport, my law school student ID, and my temporary student ID from a summer at a law school program in Shanghai.

Here's the end result. One of the boxes is full of paperwork that needed to be kept--banking, mortgage-related, tax-related. The other is about 3/4 full of letters and cards.

So much of this clutter truly was the result of procrastination--I clearly remember building stacks of papers on my old desk and chucking them into boxes and bags, because I couldn't decide what to do with them. Clutter is unmade decisions. Clutter is indeciciveness. Clutter is the visible incarnation of the mind's inability to made a choice.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Happy Birthday to my Little Canada Day Girl!

My younger daughter, Miss A., turns 5 today. She was born after a quick few intense hours of labour, about 20 minutes after the midwife arrived. Born in water, at home, with her big sister present.