I have this dream of having a perfectly organized home. Not just normal person decently organized, but completely, ridiculously, systematically organized. Before I scare you away, don’t worry… I’ve never come CLOSE to succeeding. But doesn’t it just sound amazing? I enjoy my home so much more when it’s clean and organized, but keeping it that way always proves a challenge.
The biggest obstacle: we have way too much stuff. This is me:
Well, at least that’s me trying to wrangle too much stuff into our small, poorly designed, storage areas. (Seriously, who designs a front hall closet in an acute triangle so that you can’t mount a bar to hang coats?)
But the truth is, I am too sentimental, my husband inherited his mom’s pack rat mentality, and we have both moved things from place to place, time and again, without ever taking the time to really stop and think “why am I packing this?” Instead, it just gets dumped in a box.
I’ve said before that I just want time to go through everything, but I always make excuses for why I can’t. EVERYTHING is a big project. It’s too daunting to know where to begin. But with a sudden dose of inspiration, one afternoon I opened the closet in our living room, and I just started. I found hand warmers that expired in 2005. I’ve moved them to four apartments since then. I had to keep going… this needed to be done.
The hardest part has been convincing myself not to cheat. No box goes unopened. No “I’ll come back to this later.” Just step by step, moving through the whole apartment. No drawer unturned!
I moved on to my bathroom drawers. Who knew they could accumulate so much junk? Abandoned half empty bottles, black lipstick from halloween two years ago… I’m pretty sure I had eyeshadow from before I knew how to properly apply eyeshadow. It was time to get rid of it all. The days of experimenting with random products has long passed. I use the same handful of products every day, and the rest were just clutter.
The bedroom closet came next. That was a full day event. Most of my clothes never even made it into the overstuffed closet, they just got plopped on the couch (never put a couch in your bedroom… it’s just asking to become a dump zone). Turns out the dress I wore for my high school graduation had somehow made it through college, post college, and law school without being discovered in the back. Sad, but true. Two big bags were donated, three went straight into the dumpster. But suddenly, our bedroom was spotless, organized, and a lot less chaotic.
In the linen closet I found extra long twin sheets from my freshman year of college, bedding for beds in sizes we don’t own anymore, and an accumulation of gifts from my mother in law, including a large pastel easter tablecloth with a bunny on it. With my husband’s blessing, those got donated too.
The worst was definitely our guest room. It’s really more of a half office/ half random dumping ground, with a bed in it. And that is where most of my stuff had landed when I moved in. Art supplies, office supplies, notebooks and journals half full of writing… I started considering just giving up. I’d done a lot. That was worth something, right? But guilt kicked in, and I finally, begrudgingly, returned to work.
It turns out the hardest part was actually the most fun after I got started. The boxes of memorabilia I had collected over the last 26 years made for a sweet stroll down memory lane once I got into it. A lot if it had to go… I didn’t need that many random birthday cards saved. But the one from my sweet sixteen with a note from my best friend that made me cry when I re-read it? That stayed. There was a lot of tickets and brochures, things I’d picked up traveling that never made it into a scrapbook, things from old boyfriends that don’t matter to me anymore. But there were also some things I’d forgotten about; things I’d always meant to frame, journals from my teenage years, things I’ll want to show my kids someday. Reducing the pile made it all that much more meaningful.
I had just finished this last room when I went to pick up Gretchen Rubin’s new book yesterday, Happier At Home.
Ironically, her first month? Possessions. A lot of what she said rang true with my own recent experience in clearing clutter and getting rid of the extra stuff that weighs us down. But she also had a piece of research that really struck me: the people who are most insistent that possessions don’t matter at all, only people do, are typically the most isolated and lonely. And in a weird way, it makes sense. The stuff that was hard to get rid of, the stuff I kept even though I don’t need it… it has meaning to me for a reason. And it has nothing to do with the value of the item itself. It’s the things that remind you of moments and people that are hard to part with. And why not clutter your home of those… they’re what home is about.
Step one of the big organization product is finished… And it feels amazing. I’d love to hear about your adventures in trying to clutter!