When I graduated and moved after college, almost everything fit into two footlockers, except for skis and luggage stashed in the car. The minimalism didn’t last long. Despite moving on a regular basis, we quickly grew beyond that level of simplicity. And now, we’ve been settled in one place for almost eleven years, so not moving means no bi-annual evaluation. It’s up to me to determine: “Why did I think [fill in item] was so important to keep and store and unpack?”
We’re not the only ones dealing with excess. My friend, Anne, agrees: “Yes, I do need to get rid of things! I have too many things. I know it. My life of constant moving has created part of the chaos, but I own it. The easier way was to have it “packed up and put into storage”. The culling would come later. Ha, the culling would never come. The storage is still, well, in storage.”
My co-blogger and I sometimes discuss house clearing during our weekly calls. Jane recently moved, so she had an opportunity for massive sorting and purging. We joke that in our past lives, we lived in a time of deprivation and carry that Depression-mentality into our current life. Knowing what it’s like to lack essentials makes it hard to toss useful things. Our biggest reservation about the process isn’t releasing mindfully; it’s where does all of the discarded detritus go? Rather than just sending more trash to a landfill, we aim for discriminating disposal by trying to find good homes. Of course, that gets into the whole money value of time issue…
Marie Kondo has popularized crash diets for houses. And despite its many downsides, COVID has given some people more time to go through closets and drawers (and basements, boxes, etc.). A crash diet is a quick-fix solution to a long-term problem, whether restricting food to jump start weight loss or a big purge resulting in a tidy garage. Seeing fast results is satisfying. But is it sustainable for the long haul? How do you maintain the weight loss?
My preference is – do a little, a lot – spiral clearing. Do a first pass. Then, a week or month later, circle back and do it again. Each cycle helps me get clearer and closer to what I really want and need, versus what needs to move on. Questions to ask: Do I use it? Do I love it? Do I need it? A willing friend can help with discernment and tie-breaking — “No, it’s time for that jacket to find a new owner.”
Clearing is like running a marathon or writing a book. It’s too easy to freeze when a project is monumental, like composing a whole manuscript. Trying to tackle too big a project invites “hitting the wall.” Instead, set a baby-step goal — write and edit just one chapter (or blog post). The turtle approach may be slower, but the goal is finished, not fast.
Here’s some spiral clearing from recent weeks and where stuff ended up.
Two local realtors, Geva & Jane, sponsored a spring-cleaning De-Clutter Your Life event. They partnered with 123Junk because of its comprehensive Donate – Recycle – Dispose policy. This Green Initiative makes sure that all items brought to the event are evaluated:
Step 1- items in good shape are sent to find a new home through donation;
Step 2- recyclable items not suited for donation are sent for recycling
Step 3- items not suitable for donation or recycling are sent for safe disposal.
This greatly reduces landfill waste and makes sure many items find new life through the donation or recycling process. Residents were invited to bring old, unwanted items and let 123Junk sort into Donate-Recycle-Dispose. The event was FREE, but Geva and Jane requested unopened and unexpired foods donations for the Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC). A twofer: do good and less stuff.
Now that people are getting vaccinated and gathering after covid cloistering, my friend visited to evaluate my closet. Kay’s discerning eye and honest assessment helped me sort through dresses, jackets, and scarves. Our tea party wasn’t all work: “We did have some fun playing dress up today, didn’t we? And the treasures you are sending forward are going to bless many women.” Bonus: In “shopping” my closet, Kay found a jacket and scarf that look lovely on her!
The clothes were given to a local woman who collects things needed by low income, mostly single moms in Arlington. She requests clothing and shoes, home décor, housewares, linens, toiletries, outdoor sports equipment, toys, kid/baby gear, portable shopping carts, etc. Neighbors helping neighbors.
Donations of leftover, unopened infusion supplies went to the Animal Welfare League of Arlington (AWLA).
Worn-out shoes, corks, compost, ice packs and batteries ended up in the recycling bins at Mom’s Market. None of these trips were standalone. I was able to piggyback our efforts. We brought recycling and shopped at Mom’s. We went to dinner and dropped unneeded wires and cables at Best Buy. If I have glass bottles, I’ll drop them off during my morning walk. Or place books in a Little Free Library.
A big purge or spiral clearing — it can be some of both — you choose… I lightened my load and brightened someone else’s day. And, there’s more where that came from… Sometimes too much of a good thing is just too much.
Special thanks to Jane Collen, Naomi Cummings, Geva Lester, Anne Macdonald, Jane Morrison, and Kay Sempel.
© Joan S Grey, 16 April 2021 ∞
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