Pack-rat wanting badly to change...

brugloverZ9June 14, 2008

Hi, My name is Margie and I have been looking at some of your postings over the last couple of weeks while here at GW's bathroom forum. I guess I could describe myself previously as liking the "Country Cluttered" type of look. That allowed me to collect and buy and fill my house with stuff.

Having just spent the past 2 months deciding on things to place in my newly remodeled bathroom, I decided that I really wanted to go with simple, clean lines with no clutter. No unnecessary things out on the counters.

Now, spending time in my new bathroom I realized I feel so good while in it that I want the rest of my house to be just like it.

I am reading so many good things here, like how to figure out what is keeping me from doing the things I don't like to do to changing my way of thinking about needing to posess everything that I like to look at. Thank you all for your input.

I do know that I feel very good when I recently gave away a few boxes and things that I no longer use. I would like to keep it up and reach my goal. Any help you could give me I would really appreciate.


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I think it might be helpful first to decide specifically what your goal is...for instance, do you want to get rid of most of the clutter, or might you just want to put most of it behind closed doors, just to change your look? In that case, storage walls and cabinets with doors instead of open shelves and things like that might be your first goal.
Another thing that can help when you are changing from one look to another is to identify all the categories of things that work with the old look but not the new, and then systematically get rid of each group, one at a time. If you are changing from country clutter to sleek classic, for instance, start by spending one day getting rid of dried or artificial flowers, and anything with ribbons. Next, make a list of everything that has ruffles on it, get rid of the ones you can do without completely, and plan to replace the rest with simpler versions (like bedskirts and lampshades). Third, give away or consign everything that is purely decorative and doesn't actually do anything. See what I mean? Once you get a system going, you can make big strides.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2008 at 11:23PM
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Congratulations Margie! It sounds to me like you have taken the first & most important step on the journey to being clutter free--you have experienced the joy of it! You speak of rethinking "needing to possess everything that I like to look at." You have tasted really appreciating the beauty of things when you don't need to acquire them, but "just" simply enjoy them. Of course, sometimes you will still want to acquire something new. That is fine, as now you will be more selective, perhaps you may wait a few days or a week after seeing something that struck you before you actually purchase. The desire for it may competely evaporate! In other words, swear off impulse buying & you will probably only bring home items that will truly contibute to the beauty or function of your environment. Also, when you bring something new in, find something to let go of, to give away. This way you are making room for the new, letting go of what you really don't need, & you are staying clutter free!

We don't get much support in this culture of conspicuous comsumption to buy less & enjoy & be satisfied w/what we have! Pat yourself on the back for turning your back on the message that more is better. Most of the time, more is just more! Go to the library or bookstore & read anything you can get your hands on about "Wabi Sabi" the Japanese approach to design (and life) that emphasizes quality, beauty & imperfection (yes imperfection) in all things. Also read Elaine St. James' books on will love them. Best wishes! Stinky

    Bookmark   June 14, 2008 at 11:46PM
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Thank you both for answering my questions so quickly. I have printed out your posts and will study them more carefully. I can see so many good ideas to assist me.

I should have said in my post that one of the reasons for the country cluttered look is that all of my storage spaces and closets and drawers are filled with other "stuff" I could not before get rid of, thus the over-flow to the living spaces. I think I was being kind to myself calling it "country clutter" although I really did think I felt better with the look.

So no. one for me is to make space...I know I will have to start small because the whole job is just so over-whelming to me to even consider. Maybe set small goals like one bag or box a week to good-will or another donation. I have a feeling once I get rolling I will want to get rid of more and more.

Second is what stinky impulse buying. This has been one of my big problems...buying things that I am attracted to and don't truely need.
Third I will look for the simplicity and Wabi Sabi books, at the library for one of my loves is books and I would look for any reason to BUY a new book and sit and read instead of sorting though my "stuff" and getting rid of it.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2008 at 2:00PM
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Unable to find a book at the library for the topic you mentioned, but this looks like a good link...I am printing it out right now.
I did find the book on Simplicity and have it on hold at my library.
Also went out to the garage and filled a large box of china and things from my husbands mother that I don't even like! Someone else may as well benefit from them. Tomorrow I will drop them off at the Unicorn shop that collects for emotionally disturbed children therapy.
My "feel good" for today!
Thank you both again for all of your help! Margie

Here is a link that might be useful: Wabi Sabi

    Bookmark   June 15, 2008 at 3:49PM
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You are most welcome, Margie.
There is another book I would recommend to you. You sound like someone who really thinks about things, and this one is right up that street. It's "Organizing from the Inside Out," by Julie Morgenstern. She begins by explaining all the different reasons we become overwhelmed with clutter...none of which are laziness or lack of brainpower. What made me think of it for you was when you said, "all of my storage spaces and closets and drawers are filled with other "stuff" I could not before get rid of."
Morgenstern says one of the reasons we can't find room for the things in our present life is that our storage spaces are full of our past lives that we haven't realized are not part of how we live today.
I am what my DH calls a "serial career changer," and realizing that I didn't have to keep the artifacts of my past was extremely freeing. I bought four simple black filing boxes at the office supply store, and into each I put a few of the files and notes from each of my previous work lives, stacked them neatly in the back of a closet, and pitched out all the rest. And after it was gone, I was still here, and still myself. None of that stuff was who I am. Imagine that!

    Bookmark   June 15, 2008 at 4:28PM
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B's mom...Thank you for your book recommendation...I just had to check out a couple of my book shelves and there it was..."Organizing from the inside Out"! I will leave it out and read it. I bought it years ago and then put it back down. I think with the help of this forum I will be able to really get somewhere this time.
I know what you mean about keeping the past with our stuff. It took me years to get rid of my college notes, realizing I wasn't going to need or use them anymore. I really do attach so much to the memories held in objects. I am sure reading this book will help me, as I do have the time and am not lazy, just find it so, so hard to part with the memories. Even if it is a sweater or something my mother knitted, I know I will not wear it anymore (or ever) & I find it so hard, like I am throwing all of her hard work away and not appreciating it.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2008 at 5:25PM
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Here's one idea:

Try "toss ten"--every day, ten things need to leave the house.
Depending on your mood and the available time, you can define "a thing" as big or small. Ten paper clips one night when time is tight. Ten piles of paper, or ten shelves, or ten boxes, on another night when you've got energy.

Here's another idea: start w/ gifts. Go through every shelf, box, cabinet, and identify those things you were given. Can you get rid of them?

Lilydilly found that so many of the items she kept were gifts, which meant *she* didn't pick them out, and she was keeping them just because she thought she should.

Sometimes people suggest that a novice start w/ the easy stuff--like you, people find it easier to streamline in the bathroom, and this is a quick bang for the buck.

(When I worked at Weight Watchers Magazine, I was in a meeting w/ the weight-loss staff, who said they'd tweaked their diet to eliminate a lot of sodium in the early weeks (like, no ketchup or soy cause until week 3, even though it doesn't have that many calories) so that people would lose a lot of water weight and feel really motivated. Then, when week 3 came around, the calorie weight loss would kick in, they'd be all revved up to keep going, sothey could allow the water weight to normalize again--it was a mind game aimed at motivating dieters.

Can you find a similar thing? is there a specific trouble spot, or category? If you just throw out every magazine, will that make you feel energized w/ progress?

Another idea: Start w/ a trash bag, and just go through every storage space looking only for the things you know you can toss. Anything chipped (unless it was Grandma's), anything broken, anything worn or dirty and not worth cleaning. Then throw that stuff in the garbage--instant breathing room.

I really do attach so much to the memories held in objects.
A common piece of advice for folks w/ this affliction is to take a photo.

But another thought--your mom knitted you that sweater, but if you tos sie will you throw away your memories of your mom? No.

As for throwing away her hard work--well, did you EVER wear it? Then you've appreciated it. If you never wore it, never liked it, then throwing it away will actually REMOVE A CANCER that is damaging to your relationship w/ your mom.

What did she *want* to give you? More even than a sweater, she wanted to give you the feeling of being loved, of being cared for, of being indulged and pampered.

When you look at that sweater now, do you feel those things? No, you feel guilty, harassed, and a tad exasperated (probably even grumpy *at mom*), right?

By keeping that source of negative emotion, you are actually doing more than wasting her effort--you are perverting it. Throw it away, and keep only the vague sense that your mother loved you, and a general memory that she made things specifically for you.

It will be a much more honorable response to a gift than keeping it and resenting it.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   June 15, 2008 at 6:29PM
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Love your Wabi-Sabi link! Hope you find it as interesting & inspiring as I have! Glad you found Elaine's books at the library, I think you'll get a lot out of them. I'm a big library user too (every week) though I certainly own my share of books as well. A book has to really be special though, to make the "cut" as a purchase. I sensed that you were a reader, so I was glad to hear you affirm that in your post. Books enrich our lives so much, don't they? Libraries enable us to learn & enjoy w/out purchasing every book that captures our interest!
Keep up the good work! Stinky

    Bookmark   June 15, 2008 at 7:19PM
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talley many good hints for me. Thank you so much. I like your idea of tossing 10 items and also of starting in a place that I can feel good without the things meaning too much to me.
So many good points about the handmade items from my mother. Yes, she did do it for her love of me, not to have me feel guilty and resentful.

You have all given me wonderful ideas...I will set to work on them immediately and let you know how I make out.
BTW...This is my brand new bathroom that I can thank for starting me on the de-cluttering desire...

    Bookmark   June 15, 2008 at 9:49PM
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Margie, You're an inspiration.. could you send photos to us of each room as it goes. I just looove looking at spaces like your beautiful bathroom.
We have a small spare/guest bathroom and since we built two years ago, I've never added anything 'decorative', unless you count timber blinds, towels, and a soap dispenser.
So the other day I bought a lovely candle, with shells embedded in it... exactly the same colouring and style as the tiles in our bathroom. I put it on the vanity, thinking it would add something to the room. It did, but not in the way I thought. It just added clutter.
Every time I went into the bathroom, that candle just hit me in the eye. I put it away in the drawer, and now my bathroom looks "right" again. Once opon a time, I'd have probably added something else to make the candle blend in.. know, put a shell with it, and another candle, or a picture or some doodad, to make it blend in as part of a group. Now? I just take it away and leave beautiful nothing.
Something that really helps me to see how a room looks is to take a digital photo of it. Helps me see it as a whole, and anything tizzy or busy or cluttery really stands out then.

I also get inspired by looking at internet images, photos and adverts for retreats, health spas, resort suites etc. rather than home decorating sites. Helps me to see how they can make a room look so warm and inviting without a lot of "stuff".
Keep us posted as you go.. it's great to hear how thrilled you are with your progress.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2008 at 11:51PM
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I ditto trying not to get overwhelmed and just toss stuff out randomly. Try to identify those things, or categories, or activities, that are no longer "you" and those will be the easiest starting points. Or, pull out all the items in a certain category and, if you're like a lot of collectors, some will represent the "early" you and some will be your more advanced tastes, or better quality, or something. So some combination of approaches like that can help you get started.

Also, it's not unusual to weed out a few things at one level and then weeks or months later have the focus and confidence to go further. Give yourself time to make those discernments.

Another good approach for some people is to take everything out of the shelf, or cabenet, and then put half (or less) back. In the meantime, you don't actually ahve to toss out what you've deleted, but maybe put it in a box. Then look at it later and see if you think you really still need those things.

If the changes you're making include bringing fewer items into the house, you'll find that if you are patient and persistent, you'll make real progress and yet not feel like you might be throwing away something you really love. I actually started a thing-out, thing-in journal "list" so that I could see if I was sabotaging myself by acquiring new things as fast as I got rid of other things. It is helpful in keeping me honest about where my problems lie.

I also find some of my most satisfying de-cluttering comes at the end of an "era" or phase of project, or life--such as, as kids grow and you finally realize that certain items are now too juvenile, or when I have the guts to admit that I'm not going to actually DO a certain project or that if I ever do, I can always get the things I need then, or maybe a cooking phase that now is too complicated, or clothing styles, or whatever.

And you have to be able to realize that you may have just made some shopping mistakes, and keeping the things now out of guilt won't help you or anyone else. Forgive and move on!

    Bookmark   June 16, 2008 at 4:10PM
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lily dilly...Thank you for your compliment on my new bathroom. Actually I was going for a spa look and then slowly changed it to what it is now. I bought a small pottery hanging that said "love, live and laugh" the colors went well. When I brought it home, I decided not to hang it on the wall but instead have it standing on the bamboo tray. The addition of it on a wall just seemed like too much to me. So I know what you are saying.

I think it will be quite awhile before I can post other rooms! I will be working on it though.

Frankie...I like what you said about getting rid of things or projects that are no longer "me". I have a drawer full of fabrics from when I used to saw and make quilts. I don't think I will ever do that again, especially with my vision not being as good as it ws. If I do want to do something like that, I can also buy the fabric I need, when I need it. That will be a good start for me.
I am trying very hard not to buy and am encouraged not to right now, but if I do start again I think I will take your suggestion of a list of in and out.

Thank you all for your advice! Margie

    Bookmark   June 16, 2008 at 6:56PM
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I awoke this morning not knowing if it was a dream or for real. I spent hours shopping and buying...I woke up thinking, I am going to have to start that "In and Out" notebook!
I am getting obsessed with this whole thing! I just have to remember to take it slow and keep it up and I am heading in the right direction. I tend to like to have everything done...yesterday!
You all have given me really great suggestions and I really appreciate it.
Off to donate another bag of clothes and box of household stuff that I never use.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2008 at 9:48AM
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Yesterday I began reading "Org. from the Inside Out" I think it is going to be very helpful to me. Reading it for me is at a good time since I now know what it is like to live with organization (my new BR). So, I get the idea of what I am aiming for.
I started a notebook to record the activities I do in each room and the equipment needed for that activity.
I also like it how she says to make the plan fit for you. Like under my computer desk is where I change my shoes, from relaxing indoors to going outside. I had tried putting plastic boxes there but it didn't work for me. Next I will try a shoe tree.

Also, a big thing for me...yesterday I dropped off my clothes and china to the Thrift store. I left my purse in the car, so I wouldn't be tempted to come away with a purchase. I did see an Amish doll that I really liked and it was only $5. I almost went and got my money, thinking I brought so much and am only leaving with one thing. Then I thought, do I really need it and it will be just one more thing to store. I left without it.

I read somewhere on this forum too that a member said thank you to the item they were giving away. I think that might work for me too. Thank them for the use they were to me, when I needed them but now it was time to part.

Before I write my own book here, I'd better stop!
Thank you all again. I hope you don't mind me giving updates, it helps me to know you have all been through the same thing and are like my cheering section.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2008 at 1:10PM
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Margie, something I've learnt to do that really stops me impulse buying, is to walk around with something for a while before I actually buy it. If I'm in a big store with trolleys, I put it on the trolley and usually by the time I'm ready to go out the checkout, the novelty of the item has worn off, and I put it back. So often I find I'm drawn to things because they're new and novel and different. A bit of familiarity soon cures me of that. If I can't walk around with it, I'll promise myself I'll come back for it later, maybe next week, even. Usually the impulse has worn off by then. If I can't stop thinking about it when I've got home, and really wish I'd bought it, I ring the shop and ask them to hold it for me. Another week sorts out the difference between want and need. Just delaying tactics, but I find now that usually I don't end up buying the thing after all, and next time I see it in the shop, it's lost its charm totally.

Pleease keep giving updates.. I'll keep checking back here, looking for some from you, and cheering you. It's a contagious kind of pleasure, so you are inspiring us with your posts.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2008 at 6:42PM
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Lilydilly (like that name!)
Thank you for cheering me on. You are right it is usually the novelty of something that makes me want to have it. I see my young grand daughter do the same thing...they will have $2. to spend at the dollar store. They fill their baskets with a dozen items and then slowly put them back as they decide they really don't need or want it or they have something like it already at home.
Today I started to "attack" my kitchen...for some reason I find it easier to get rid of things from there than my clothes and memory items.
Some time ago I bought a plastic container lazy susan with containers. I finally set it up and put it in a cab. and collected an entire plastic bin (file box size) with odd plastic containers and lids. The ones that were "saved" from margarine etc. I put into the recycle bin. I was able to move some things from my over crowded cabinets with the space I had made.
Also moved some infrequently used items into the garage storage.
And read some more of the book you is a big, big help to me.
Glad to have you cheer me on and offer suggestions as I go along. Thanks so much! Margie

    Bookmark   June 18, 2008 at 8:24PM
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I find the hardest part is just to start and you have begun. I love the 10 or 15 thing through away.

I am not much of a saver but when my rooms start looking a little cluttered to me I will take all the decorations out of the room and stick them elsewhere and put back a little at a time and place things in different spots and when I like the look I stop. Most of the time I have quite a few things left over and I will give them away or perhaps use them in another room when I take those things away and when I am done I will get rid of the left overs right away so I don't change my mind.

I have the hardest time getting rid of christmas decorations and it doesn't make sense because I only use them for a short time each year. I have so many totes that I get overwhelmed when it is time to decorate because I have so many choices so the last 2 years I go through all of the totes before the holidays and get rid of things that I haven't used in years and probably never will. It does take me 2 or 3 times going through it all but it feels so much better because when christmas time comes I can just take one tote at a time and don't have so many decisions. Then if I go to the after christmas sale I have to get rid of things before I can pack my new things away so that helps with the impluse things because I have to think about what I want to get rid of if this is going to take it's place.

My suggestion is just take it one area at a time and before you know it, it will get easier and easier.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2008 at 10:46PM
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