How do you know what to keep after organizing?

anrsazJanuary 19, 2005

I've done lots of organizing. Now, I'm not sure HOW MUCH to keep. Like pillows, blankets, craft or sewing stuff, tupperware, etc. How do you know how much is too much or too little to keep?

Have you gotten rid of something that you used NEVER, only to need it in about 6 weeks? Maybe I should just wait to read Don Aslett's books???

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You need to get rid of the fear of getting rid of things.

Flylady's excellent advice is to keep only those things you use and love :)

You can box stuff up and date it -- if you havne't used it in a year, it is highly unlikely that you will need or want it again. Release stuff and bless someone else who may actually need.

How many pillows/blankets do you actually need -- those you use and enough for the spare bed or whatever. Anything else is clutter.

Regarding crafts and other projects. I have learned from flylady that there is no purpose to keep unless I am using them. Even residing on my shelf, they can fill me with a sense of unmade expectation.

There are many reasons people hoard and hold on to useless clutter -- fear that they won't be able to provide for themselves -- a sense that the stuff defines them -- guilt that they spent the money and aren't wearing/using etc.

So what if you need something in six weeks? You go out and buy it again -- Start with those objects that you are unlikely to need and only fill you with some anxiety -- everybody has the worn, the broken, the missing parts, the projects which no longer interest one.

You don't have to fling everything at once -- it's a very gradual process when one realizes releasing stuff isn't a loss but a gain.

Per flylady and she is so right as always -- YOU CAN'T ORGANIZE CLUTTER.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2005 at 11:08AM
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I get rid of it if it has absolutely no redeeming quality, or if I have plenty of it. (i.e. if you have a queensize bed, how many sheet sets do you really need? Or - if you have sheetsets that are mismatched or you hate, and never use, why keep them?)

Sentimental things are different. I keep baby gifts that my grandma gave me while I was pregnant (she passed away a week before I had my DD), and they are hard to part with. Other items, when I really look hard at them, I'm not as attached to as I thought. There is no real rule to them. Peter on Clean Sweep says, "Your memories of Grandma are not tied to those baby items". Sometimes, this is true, and sometimes it is not.

If something is dear to your heart, don't worry about keeping it. In my case, there is enough actual junk in the house I can still part with. :-)

The other side of the coin is bringing new things in. i.e. new clothes - I try not to get a new pair of shoes or outfit, unless at least one corresponding item goes to goodwill. This helps maintain the feeling of uncluttered-ness.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2005 at 11:17AM
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Some things are easy to toss; some are harder.

The hard ones for me are the stuff like extra queen-size sheets, or extra kitchen towels, all of which I actually like, but who needs 4 pairs, or more than 14 towels? Actually those aren't always that hard. But sometimes. They're still useful, in a year or two I actually will need them, even if I don't now.

I can keep myself from buying new sheets or kitchen towels, but what do I do w/ ones I already own, and KNOW I'll need to spend money on again, since it's inevitable?

Sometimes, I keep 'em. Sometimes I say to myself, "I'll pay $15 to not have to figure out what to do with this thing for the next 2 years" and I get rid of them.

I think it's gradual, also. You start out easily tossing junk--but that's not your question, right? Then, you find it easier to toss stuff that's NOT junk but that you know you don't want. Then you get to a point where you know, intellectually, that there are too many objects. But which ones to get rid of? That's the question.

So, once you've gotten to that harder spot, all the obvious stuff is gone, then start smaller. Aim lower. Realize that you will have to slow down, and ditch fewer things each time.

It's like getting juice from a lemon, or squeezing water from a washcloth--you get a big gush all at once. Then, you have to pause a moment, then squeeze a teeny bit, pause, figure out where the juice is, squeeze a little more. Refold the washcloth, roll it into a cylinder and squeeze; then squeeze a teeny bit harder, etc.

As time goes by, you may find it easier to part with that 3rd and 4th set of sheets (example only). Or you'll realize that they're not taking up more room on the shelf than set No. 2 is, it's the same footprint, so nothing else would go in that space (this is the case w/ my kitchen towels--they fit on the shelf, so they stay), so you leave 'em.

I have ditched something, and a week later said, "gee, if I had that..." But in all honesty, I might not have remembered THAT I had it, if I hadn't been decluttering and therefore seen (and tossed) it. I haven't actually had searing regrets. Mild exasperation, maybe. (guilt, w/ Hedgie, definitely)

Another question I sometimes ask is, "if I suddenly realize I need (or even just want) this after all, how upset will I be?" Some stuff is easy to replace--money's not so tight for me that I can't buy something I really *need*, and sometimes I can buy stuff I just want.

If it's really unusual, or expensive, or would take me too long to go get, I consider keeping it, because in those cases the answer to that question might be "really upset" or even (as in the case of the drill, which I use in spurts, but not every year) "really exasperated" or "unable to replace because it costs too much."

(note that this doesn't mean I keep stuff just because I spent money on it)

    Bookmark   January 19, 2005 at 12:55PM
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I find that when I put all I have of a category in a pile, it is pretty easy to see which ones are the best, which ones I use, etc. At that point, I ask how many of these do I need. I did this with sheets, and ended up with 2 sets for each bed. I don't need or use more than that, so why keep them? I agree with Talley Sue that I'm not as likely to throw things out if they are in a spot where it wouldn't matter because I would not fill the extra space, anyways. But very often I can move things around and use that newfound space for something else and put the old pile in a new, smaller spot.

As for crafts, I read Flylady's commentary on those and had to agree for the most part that the undone crafts were making me feel more guilty than happy, and then it was really easy to pass them on to other people. If I really want to do something, I would finish it, so why spend any time finishing something I really don't want?

I think the actual number is something you have to decide for yourself, but really looking at all you have and thinking about if you use it all and if you LIKE to use it all will help make that decision. There are some things that were useful, but didn't like to use them. When I thought about why I didn't like to use them, they were gone with no hard feelings at all. I really can't think of too much I have gotten rid of, except for things I really was glad to get rid of.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2005 at 1:35PM
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You've all given excellent advice.

Like Tally Sue said...I've tossed out the obvious and now I know there are still too many problem...I like to redecorate.

So help me please....I have 2 rather pricey, beautiful quilts that fit a bed being stored. (It is stored because I needed the spare bedroom for my office...another story.) I also have a quilt my dh's sister made for a king bed, but we don't really use it (and I can not give away), I have a travel trailer that bulk items went into my 3rd and 4th set of pillows (ugh)..those stay in there. In fact my travel trailer has it's own set of everything.

Like RJVT I have craft stuff making me feel more guilty than happy, but...I also would like to have something on hand if i get the urge to stamp my wall or do something decorative. If I have to drive a gazillion miles to get the "stuff", then I've lost interest (we live out in the middle of nowhere.) I have craft paint...some scrapbooking stuff (limited) "in case" we want to make Grandma or anybody something like a card or whatever. I'll be I keep this crap or dump it? I think I can use it for homeschooling or can I...I'm new to homeschooling and just beginning.

Then there's the excess towels (bathrooms are easy to redorate) the travel trailer for some..and excess, well, we swim, we have muddy dogs, large Great Dane mud, etc. So there's that 3rd spot for the towels...

The office story...we have our own business and our office is in the problem... Then, I pulled my dd out of preschool and now she's home w/me. I can't leave her to do work in the garage, so the spare bedroom had to go and my office is in the house, and the main office must be outside (for my dh to work in peace). So more storing...the bed (2 years brand new for company). Our travel trailer is, well, old...another to-do list on repairs and cosmetic work, but now a good place to put visitors.

We're pretty lucky moneywise too I can rebuy, but I surely don't want to throw away money either.

I'd love to dump it all, but I know I'll probably regret some of it when I want my dd to make Grandma a quickie card or something. Ahhhh....I would like to use it all, but I don't have the time or energy to think about what I would do with it, unlike when I was pre-kid.

Yes...I'm looking for you to tell me I'm crazy.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2005 at 1:58PM
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I think the only thing that jumps out at me is the pillows. An extra set or two for company is great, and understandable. But 3 or 4 extra sets might mean you need to re-evaluate all of them, and only keep the ones that are good quality enough to keep.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2005 at 2:58PM
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can you store those quilts with the bed? If the mattress is safe, the quilts should be safe. And they'd be together.

I dread the idea of someone making something and giving it to me. Because then I feel crummy if I decide I don't need it or want it.

It's one thing to keep craft supplies, in properly labeled bins, etc. It's another thing to keep partly done projects.

Do your kitchen supplies make you feel guilty? Just because you haven't used the broiler in six months, do you feel bad? I don't. So I don't feel bad because I own a pressing ham (for sewing) either. I *do* feel bad because I still have a vest that I cut out and never sewed.

It's the projects that make me feel crummy, not the tools.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2005 at 3:03PM
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I agree with the above replies, guilt is a terrible reason to keep something, no matter where it originates. I have the flag from my grandfather's coffin (WWI soldier) and I just don't know what to do with it. It's huge and it's still in the triangle that my precious grandmother gave to my mother about 30 years ago. Now I have it. I guess I need to just buy one of those cases for memorial flags, but then I have to explain to my dear brothers and sisters why I ended up with this family heirloom. Oh well. Since its stored in a closet, I'm not worried about it yet. But I need to deal with it at some point....

    Bookmark   January 19, 2005 at 4:04PM
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I agree a couple extra pillows are a must for company, etc. but beyond that, I would get rid of the others. The quilt is sort of a "must keep" as this relative put in countless hours into it. It needs to be kept for sentimental and "not worth insulting the family" reasons. Perhaps you could display it on a wall quilt rack somewhere in the house, or even draped at the foot of a bed, over the back of a sofa, etc.

I just started homeschooling, but my older sister did it the whole way through with her now grown children. In my opinion she majorly overbought and most went unused. In the public school your kids get one book for each subject, no more. So why we seem to think we need so much more really doesn't make sense. My son is doing weekly book reports, but for that and future term papers we use the library. Be careful when you go to the homeschooling conferences. There are a lot of people there selling their books. It is easy to get caught up in it. While most are great, do you really need 10 great books on the same subject?! Ask yourself honestly, am I really going to do all these experiments in this "Experiments From Your Kitchen" book, etc. For me being honest and knowing I am not going to do most of that has kept me from overbuying.

I guess the same rule applys in so many areas. Before you buy another craft project, ask yourself, am I really going to make it? Before you keep the craft projects you have, ask yourself the same thing.

Before you keep that extra garlic press, ask why on earth anyone needs more than one. For me, going through and eliminating duplicates made a huge difference. I couldn't believe how many kitchen gadgets I had!

I think organizing and sorting is always an on-going project. Sometimes I will keep something believing I will use it. A year or so later, reality sets in and I realize it will always just sit there, so I get rid of it. Kind of like my food dehydrator. Sounded like a good idea, but I never used it! It went away in last years garage sale.

Best of luck. Remember, other than sentimental stuff, anything can be re-bought, but re-buying your sanity from a home out of control isn't as easy!


    Bookmark   January 19, 2005 at 4:05PM
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cup, do you think that flag would work for a school, or a church, or something? Surely those organizations need to replace their flags now and then.

Would his grade school, high school, town hall, whatever, be able to use it? Then it could get tattered, etc., and you wouldn't have to deal w/ throwing it out. But you could pretend they were honoring him by flying his flag. (maybe they really *would* be honoring him by flying his flag)

    Bookmark   January 19, 2005 at 4:06PM
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I don't know what the situation is with the travel trailer, is it near your house or far away? It sounds like it's functioning mainly as a guest room. Do you actually have guests very often? I guess what I'm thinking is, a guest room is kind of like a dining room. If you only give it one use, and the use doesn't come up very often, the space kind of gets wasted.

Could the trailer be the place to store certain things like craft supplies between guest visits?


    Bookmark   January 19, 2005 at 7:18PM
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The flag is not a flying flag because it's sized to drape over a coffin, so it's extremely long. But what a good point! Can I trim a flag with scissors?


When I got my children into school after homeschooling for many years, I realized that the teachers at school have very little storage for the eight subjects they teach the children (P.E., Music, and art have their own classrooms). There are an overwhelming number of homeschooling families who make their living selling homeschooling stuff and these materials are fabulous. But you don't need them. You're wise to recognize this now. Good luck!

    Bookmark   January 20, 2005 at 10:44AM
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Erica, this is funny: I was going to post and say maybe she was storing TOO MUCH in that travel trailer--that it was becoming a place to stash stuff, and that this might not be good. (she'll have to clean it out when she wants to use it, and it might encourage her to keep stuff she really ought to get rid of)

CUP totally OT from the original, but if I ran a VFW post, I'd offer to fly those flags! (you might ask a VFW post if they've got any ideas for you) I'd mount an extra-high flagpole, and I'd put up a sign (that you could change) to tell whose flag it was, and when they served, etc. (I thought flags were all the same proportion--that it's not really "the" flag if it's different.

And I would DEFINITELY consider shortening it, and flying it at home! That could be really neat! Maybe get an upholsterer to help you shorten it, bcs I'm guessing it's pretty thick and might be hard to sew at home.

Of course, one day it'll wear out, and then you can take it to the VFW hall, and ask them to reverently dispose of it for you!

So the REST of us could remember them!

    Bookmark   January 20, 2005 at 12:17PM
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You can't trim an American flag as it's considered a desecration by the way.

Regarding getting rid of stuff, flylady's 27 flings are based on a Suze Orman exercise -- By gettting rid of things, it forces one to confront how one really wants to spend money.

The more I've flung, the less I want to spend on things that are only going to create clutter or that I don't really need. I know how hard it is to get rid of stuff once it's home -- whatever the specific rationalization or justification. Whenever i think about buying sheets, I realize that I am perfectly happy with the two sets I have -- one to put on the bed and one to wash.

As you weed through the obvioius, things become harder and easier. I've been at this for about three years and I am still getting rid of layers of clutter that I thought I absolutely needed or caused me anxiety about releasing --

    Bookmark   January 20, 2005 at 9:30PM
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I've recently bought a whole bunch of zippered clear plastic storage bags for blankets and comforters and pillows; I found that when I was deciding what to put in them, I had to decide if the item was "worthy" of having a designated plastic cover for it; a whole pile of stuff got donated because I could not justify giving them a proper home for
"in case" storage.
Piles of bedlinens that go unused for years get musty smelling and are not appealing to use anyway.

One bad habit I have is keeping tons of old facecloths, rags, tea towels in a separate basket to use as rags; then I turn around and buy dozens of miracle cloths and use only those.....

    Bookmark   January 31, 2005 at 6:44AM
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