Sunday, June 20, 2010

Too much STUFF

I'm a fan of Clean House.  This show is like Hoarders Lite:  they come into a home overwhelmed with clutter, help the household let go of stuff and have a yard sale.  The proceeds go to redecorate and organize their now clutter-free home.  The Clean House team also tries to help the household with any issues that are causing them to cling to possessions.

This probably explains the anti-clutter run I've been on the last little while.  That might seem counter to my Transfer Site haunting, and is why I have the one-week rule about bringing home reusables - I have one week to find a place or purpose for whatever it is, or it goes back.

It seems to me when you're broke you tend to hang on to everything.  Waste not not!  You might need it!  And you might not be able to afford it when you do!  Well, if you're not using it, you're wasting it.  Here's some rules for getting rid of stuff.  You'll probably have exceptions to these rules (I know I do).
  1. When did you use it last? Have you used it in the last year?  What's it for - do you even DO that any more?  If you can't even recall the last time you used it, it can go.  
  2. When was that last in style, 1992?  When did you wear it last?  Does it even fit any more?  Is it appropriate for your life now?  If it's been hanging in the back of the closet forever, it can go.
  3. Does it have a purpose?  Does it have a place?  If it's something you never actually use and you just keep moving from place to place because it's in the way, it can go.
  4. How many do you have?  Do you need that many?  Can you use more than one at a time?  Pick one, maybe two - the rest can go.
  5. Is it sentimental?  Do you need a thing to validate a memory?  There's nothing wrong with keepsakes, but if you're buried in them remember:  stuff isn't memories.  Memories are in your heart, and you'll have them whether there is stuff or not.
  6. Is it broken?  How long has it been broken?  When can you get it fixed?  Do you know how?  How much will it cost?  If it's been sitting there broken a long time chances are it's not getting fixed any time soon.
It all sounds really good, but in practice it's very hard.  I give myself and my family a little lattitude because we have a crawl space for storage.  We're allowed to box stuff up, label and date it, and revisit it later.  But this spring I went down there and looked at my 30-ish boxes of books, boxes of stuff from my divorce in the late 90's, and boxes of handmedowns and decided it was time.

It's amazing what was no longer important to me.  I made a Precious Things container for items I have no where to display or can't actually use right now like Great-great-great-great Grandma's tea cup and the kangaroo fur platypus toy Dad brought me from TDY in Australia when he was in Viet Nam.  Hubby's Precious Things box includes memorabilia from his father and uncle.

The stuffed animal box I've drug around since I was 16?  Two toys remain.  The box of stuff from my study back when I got divorced?  Three things stayed, including my mother's metronome.  The books?  I've been through about 20 cases, and of those 20 boxes four boxes remain (and they'll get another going through).
The surround sound system we haven't turned on in five years because the speakers are too large (and the sound is too big) for our tiny place?  Gone.  My espresso machine that's been in storage because my kitchen is too small?  Okay, I kept the espresso machine. One day I hope to have a kitchen it will fit in.

So what do you do with all your stuff?  Half the battle for me is I cannot stand to throw away perfectly good stuff because it's not garbage, it still has plenty of use in it.  Fortunately, you don't have to just toss it.
  1. Sell it!  Have a yard sale.  With four households contributing we made $300 in one day at a yard sale (alas, our second day was rained out).  Try E-Bay or Craig's List.  Check around for consignment shops, or even pawn shops. 
  2. Donate it!  There are lots of charity organizations that will take your donations. and have lists of places which will happily find a place or purpose for your discards. Look for a Really Really Free Market.  Here you can also leave it at the Transfer Site reuse pads. Our yard sale remainders went to the local woman's shelter, which also passes donations to two other organizations. 
  3. Spread it around!  This is especially good with memorabilia or heirlooms.  I had a black peignoir that belonged to my Nana that had been in storage forever.  I called everyone in the family that might be interested in it in the family before I put it in the yard sale.  Most of the family has furniture my grandfather made, and you bet the family is always called before someone gets rid of a piece.  You may not need or have room for it, but your siblings might love to have it.
  4. When in doubt, trash it.  Seriously, 286 parts?  Garbage.  Rusty fishing poles?  Garbage. That VCR that broke that you always meant to fix?  Garbage.
So, how much clutter did we eliminate?  Well, we figure we sold half our stuff at the yard sale and the remainders filled up two Aveos to the brim (you can pack a LOT into a Chevy Aveo!).  In my case much of this was from storage and didn't make a big impact on our living space.  But I am already eying the living room and thinking toward a sale next summer.

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