Help me begin to de-clutter

TwinkleDecember 15, 2004

Newbie to this forum needs help!!

My house has clutter everywhere. I can't seem to get a handle on it. I have a four-bedroom house with finished basement and storage room in basement. There are a total of 2 (yes only 2!) people living in my house, one of which is my child. And the other is me, of course. And we have two cats who think they are people.

My storage room is full of boxes. One of the spare bedrooms is storing my sister's furniture. The other is full of empty Christmas ornament boxes, and some home-office type furniture (it was supposed to be an office for me). My bedroom has stacks of books and magazines. The child's room is a disaster. The basement is half dumping ground, half entertainment area. The hall is full of boxes not yet unpacked from when we moved in two years ago. The garage is so full of tools, I can't get my car in there.

I think our biggest problem is figuring out where to put stuff away. We don't have any kind of organizing system, although I have bought countless plastic bins.

What should I do differently? I try to sit down and go through one pile, or one drawer. I move things, but wind up with a lot of stuff that has no home, so I just put them in the general area, thinking I will deal with them when I do that area. I spend a large chunk of time and feel like I haven't really gotten anywhere.

I really want to get the basement cleaned up before company comes for Christmas. It seems impossible. Help!

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OK, here's one possible way to handle it.

"empty Christmas ornament boxes" leaped out at me, and gave me this idea:

First go through each room--and ESPECIALLY through each cupboard, cabinet, and shelf--with a single box or bag (plus a trash can), and only one question:

*What can I get rid of?*

And then either toss it, or put it in the box and take it to the GoodWill or someplace. (be conservative--some stuff doesn't sell, and GoodWill would throw it out)

That's step one. No sense trying to organize or rearrange or even step over stuff that you *already know* shouldn't be in your house.

And that will help w/ your "before company comes for Christmas" goal. The next step is an after Christmas project, though.

Step two, I think, is infrastructure. You've got countless bins, but I think you need SHELVES.

Shelves in your bedroom for those books and even those mags (some of which should go out, btw).

Shelves in your child's bedroom for toys to go on (some of those toys are probably ready for some other, younger kid, no?).

Shelves in the basement for bins to sit on.

Shelves in the garage for tools to sit on.

In NYC, we can't spread out, so we build UP. That leaves us room to walk or drive around. I think you should build up, too. Bookcases would help you do that.

And in building that infrastructure, first stand in the room and ask yourself these questions:
"What do I, or does my child, DO in this room? (sleep, get dressed, do crafts, read books, write letters, pay bills, do homework, play w/ toys, etc.) The answers should be verbs.

What do I use when I do that? (blankets, PJs; clothes, hamper; glue, scissors, cloth, sewing machine; stationery, stamps, address book; checkbook, pen, stamps; notepaper, ruler, pencils, Spanish dictionary; Legos, cars, dolls, etc.)

Where in this room is the best place to *put* those things, and does that place exist? (nightstand drawer for PJs, or desk w/ bookshelf above it for homework w/ Spanish dictionary, etc.)

Then, everything else in your home either should go away, or it should fit into one of the VERBS you have identified, and go in the place where the stuff from that VERB has ended up.

If stuff has no obvious home, esp. once you do the exercise above, that's a very serious clue to decide whether you need it. If you do--and you might, bcs often the stuff we DON'T need is what's hogging the storage space; the stuff we need keeps getting taken out, and then there's no room to put it back.

    Bookmark   December 15, 2004 at 5:29PM
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Your problem is not lack of organization, it is TOO MUCH STUFF! The best thing you can do for immediate results is "de-trash". Go through each room, rapidly, and ask one question about each item: is this trash. Get rid of all the empty boxes, packing material, odd bits of crap, etc. Consolidate boxes of things that need to be sorted, and stack things tidily.

Then take one area at a time, anything from a bathroom to just a kitchen cabinet or drawer, and go through the items ... Remove everything, and only put back what REALLY gets used there. Whatever doesn't belong in the area gets dumped in a bin for later.

After each de-clutter episode, take the bin and drop off the items that belong elsewhere into the area (cluttered or not) where they belong. Whatever is left over is a good candidate for giving to a charity if it is immediately usable, or throwing out if it is in need of repairs that you don't have the time or skill to do. "It would be great IF" is a clue you don't really need it. If you plan to fix is "some day", you apparently don't need it bad enough to bother fixing it ... get rid of it.

Whatever areas you de-clutter, DEFEND against infiltration for a while, then tackle the next area. It didn't arrive overnight, and you can't clear it out in much less time than it took to sneak into the house.

When you sort, don't make more than one decision at a time about an entire bunch of items: it's trash or it isn't. It is in use or it isn't. It works or it doesn't. Trying to decidce between trash/fix/charity/keep is too many ways to dither.

    Bookmark   December 15, 2004 at 9:30PM
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I don't think I have all that much stuff. Maybe I'm just in denial. I've moved twice in the last five years, so I have thrown out a lot of stuff already. What I have left in storage is some boxes of stuff I want to keep for either sentimental reasons, or because it is useful. Examples: My high-school diploma, painting tools (I'm still painting my house), cat carrier (only use once a year when they go to the vet, but ya gotta have one).

I have a few extra dishes that could go to Goodwill, maybe some clothes. But not that much.

As for the empty ornament boxes, they are only empty while the ornaments are on the tree. Then the ornaments get stored in them.

I already have shelves in the storage room and garage. My child has two small clothing armoires, a bookcase, and his bed in his room and that's it. But every surface in his room is COVERED with stuff.

We have tried all the usual methods - sorting into keep/give/trash doesn't work for us. We just wind up with three big piles at the end, and then what do we do with the "keep" pile? Throw it all into a box to be sorted later. So later, we are cleaning out the closet, and there's this big box of miscellaneous stuff that takes two hours, literally, to sort through. Argh! I feel like I'm spinning my wheels and not getting anywhere.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2004 at 11:16AM
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Just so you don't think I'm a lost cause, here's what I have done in the last week or two:

Removed all magazines from living room. Put back only November and December issues, so Christmas guests have something to read. The rest went to my bedroom, some of which actually fit in the nightstand.

Had child sort through and pull out all clothing too small. Delivered to Goodwill.

Installed extra shelf high up in the pantry to hold large platters and tupperware. Cleaned out tupperware cabinet and moved to pantry. Neatly stacked glass bowls from another overstuffed cabinet and put in tupperware cabinet.

Removed pile of bills from nightstand. Purchased a small portable letterbox to hold unpaid bills, stamps, and pens ONLY, and put the items in there.

I've made a start.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2004 at 1:45PM
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Three things jump out at me.

1 - In your first post you said you have a hallway full of boxes unpacked from when you moved in two years ago. Maybe you could get rid of some of this stuff, since you don't seem to have missed it in two years?

2 - You said in one of your last posts that you have things boxed up that are either sentimental or useful. IMO, they are not useful if they are boxed up (if they are not being used). Maybe they could be more usefule to someone else?

3 - You also said in your first post that you have bought countless plastic bins. I don't know if you are using them or not. But I would really try to come up with the storage system first and buy things (bins, etc.) later after you know what you actually NEED.

I hope you don't take this post the wrong way, but in the past few years as I clean out our house, it gets harder and harder, but the things I get rid of now I never would have considered getting rid of when I started - it happens in stages for me. I started where you are - moving things around with no real place to put them (even though I THOUGHT I had places for them). The only real way to have places for everything for me was to get rid of the things that were taking up prime storage space - most of those things were not being used as much. The most used things should have the best, most convenient storage, and if there is not room for some of the other stuff, maybe you need to rethink how important it is to keep them.

Also, I'm sure others will mention the website It is a very helpful site that you might want to check out.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2004 at 4:25PM
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empty ornament boxes: Where do they go when it's NOT Christmas? They should go back there, even if they're empty.

This is a big hot-button issue for me. Things have ONLY one place. They don't have a "summer home" while they're waiting for something. They don't sit in the extra room waiting for the ornaments to come back. They go back to wherever it is they sit when they're FULL! And then, when I need them, I know right where they are.

I say, shelves, shelves, shelves. So you can put those plastic bins ON them, and still get them out easily.

I believe everyone can still throw stuff away, but I agree w/ you on keeping the cat carrier, but not actually USING it right this minute, LOL. It needs a shelf to go on, pref. in the basement, so you can get it easily when you DO need to drag the feline to the vet.

congrats on your progress. I also just got a box to put the unpaid bills in, and have loaded it up. It's a nice thing.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2004 at 4:46PM
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Just on the category of Sentimental. Flylady says, if you save everything, nothing is special. I would go through the sentimental items and figure out, what can be framed or displayed nicely and be really special, or what deserves to be three hole punched and saved in a notebook (kid's drawings etc), and save just those things. Toss the rest.

I have started a new habit the last year thanks to this forum. I buy inexpensive photo albums at Michael's or someplace. When I get pictures developed I go through them RIGHT THEN and put the best ones in the album and throw the dogs away. The negs go into a photo storage box in the closet. If there is a school program or report card or whatever, it gets three hole punched and put in the album RIGHT THEN. This has 1) allowed me to keep a current scrapbook for the family and 2) allowed me to not have a pile of sentimental items building up.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2004 at 6:17PM
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I don't know if you have ever visited the flylady site but I would suspect you would find her philosophy and system extremely helpful. I went from living in a place that was bursting at the seams and constantly disorganized -- It was driving me crazy but I didn't know how to begin because it seemed overwhelming.

During the year or so that it took me to declutter, I also had to close down my parents' place and incorporate those items from their house that I truly wanted to keep and fight my tendencies to want to keep everything.

As others have pointed out, the more you get rid of stuff, the easier it becomes because you realize that you didn't want the stuff, don't miss it and that your life is significantly improved by not having to deal with it.

Maintenance is something one has to constantly work at -- As I sit in my place tonight it is chaotic because of the Christmas baking I've been doing -- But I know that I can get it whipped into shape in an hour or so -- using flylady's 15 minute system.

That said, I do have to say that if you are living in a four bedroom house with a basement and garage and you are overflowing with stuff, YOU HAVE TOO MUCH STUFF and you are in serious denial.

As flylady says, you can't organize clutter - I don't know that much about other people's living situations except Talley Sue's because I am an ex New Yorker who grew up in an apartment -- There is no comparison between the kind of ingenious storage solutions New Yorkers need in order to keep normal household items and what you must be attempting to hold on to.

Again, I would truly recommend flylady as she has turned my life around :)

    Bookmark   December 17, 2004 at 10:03PM
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Twinkie ...
I have a problem here. You ask for help in decluttering, and then you reject the advice, claiming it's not really clutter, minimizing the fact that stuff from a move that was TWO YEARS AGO is still sitting in the hallway.

Do you want to declutter or not? The only way to declutter is to GET RID OF STUFF!

    Bookmark   December 17, 2004 at 10:32PM
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If you actually join, expect emails. Lots of reminder emails. One every day says to shine your sink (it's part of her philosophy; read the web page). Another says to start your morning routine, another says to start your evening routine, etc., etc. I skim those and delete them, but I live for the testimonials!! She sends 1-2 testimonials every day, from real people who are using her system of babysteps and routines to get their house, and their life, in order.

Good luck and keep us posted! I've been a flybaby for months now, and I keep falling off my routines. Flylady says not to beat ourselves up for that; just jump back in where you are. I've decluttered SO MUCH STUFF. To be honest, as I write this, I can't even think of one thing I've given to Goodwill. TalleySue is right; Goodwill doesn't need to pay to get rid of someone else's junk, so I only gave things I truly couldn't use. The rest I THREW AWAY. And it didn't hurt one bit.

The peace that I feel when I see my decluttered home and light some candles in the evening is definitely worth any work I have to do to get it there!

There are 250,000 members of, from the US and around the world. It's free to join, and if you don't mind deleting some emails, it's a wonderful motivator.

Here is a link that might be useful: FlyLady's table of contents - check it out!

    Bookmark   December 18, 2004 at 9:51AM
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On the TV show, Mission Organization, one of the things they recommend is to take a photo of something sentimental. You can frame it or place it in a photo album and get rid of the actual item.

I'm one of the biggest culprits of keeping things too long. However, today while trying to find the nutcrackers for the mantel, I found a g'zillion things in boxes I can 86 (throw away). A few years ago, I couldn't part with them but now I can and I cannot wait until after the holidays so I can load up the car and get stuff out of here.

Things kept in a damp basement for too long are awful. Better to get rid of when you know you won't be using except once for every few years to say "awwwwwww."


    Bookmark   December 20, 2004 at 12:28AM
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I am also working on decluttering a 4 bedroom house but have lived here only 6 months. I feel like it should feel more like a home by now and that I should have a lot more done, but we've been renovating and redorating every room.
Every day I do some decluttering, can't seem to do too much at once, and when I get stuck on whether to keep something or give it away I'll sometimes call my mother or a friend and ask them what to do with it. For example, today I was going through a box of junk and I had 2 bingo dabbers, played bingo in March and haven't since. I was having a hard time deciding where to keep them so asked for advice, my mom told me to get rid of them, I probably won't play bingo again for a long time, and can buy dabbers at the dollar store any time. I have such a hard time with things that I MIGHT be able to use some time, but find if I ask someone else (NOT hubby, he wants to keep EVERYTHING) they are usually able to convince me to get rid of it.
The kitchen is looking pretty sharp right now, almost makes me want to cook! I do have a problem however with plastic containers. I don't know what to do with them all, and need a lot because I often cook and freeze large quantities of food. Maybe I could keep the extras for freezing in a plastic bin kept away from the kitchen?

    Bookmark   December 20, 2004 at 4:55AM
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You have all given me great advice. It's actually starting to sink in. It's true, I have too much stuff. It's hard to let go of some of the more expensive items, but I'm working on it. It seems to be a matter of not just a mechanical process, but changing the way I think about "stuff".

I installed a large bookshelf this weekend (6ft by 6ft) in the basement. Boxes went on to the bookshelf right away. They will get unpacked, sorted, and re-distributed after the holidays (right now we are in emergency clean-up mode for out-of-town guests). We left two open shelves for books, magazines, software, and CD's. We have been collecting those from all over the house and putting them in their new home. I haven't thrown any away yet, but it's looking better already.

And speaking of out-of-town guests, I will ask my sister while she is here for Christmas to find somewhere else to store her stuff.

I checked out flylady. Geez! Do you have to be a stay-at-home mom to do all that? I work a full-time job, homeschool my child, and spend a lot of hours gardening and doing home improvement projects. After dinner, laundry, etc. I am just too darn tired by the end of the day to clean out my sink! I did pick up a few tips though. I will keep reading flylady periodically to see how much of that I can incorporate into my day.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2004 at 8:51AM
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Rememer Twinkle, decluttering and getting rid of stuff takes a while. I've been getting rid of stuff for over a year and every time I get bolder and bolder in what I dump and every time I go thru this binge I feel so much better. One month you may not be able to get rid of something and 3 months later you may be able to dump it. It's addicting after a while. Maybe next year at this time you'll find you have some of that new shelf space empty! Sometimes you just need somebody to help you...I brought my mom here and she helped me dump and I've never missed the stuff.

As for Flylady...she works on babysteps. The basics of flylady is that you don't need to clean your entire house in one day. Set up your own schedule and if you clean one thing a day whether it be a sink or a toilet, it's still something done!

Somebody once told me that I kept stuff...just in case. Well that was true. And when I kept stuff I always felt I had to use it, so I used it even though I didn't like it. That was I dumped it....Ahhhh it felt good to dump it! :)

    Bookmark   December 20, 2004 at 10:03AM
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Twinkles - As others have pointed out, decluttering takes place over a period of time and during that time, your priorities and feelings about holding on to useless stuff changes.

Regarding flylady, it is a system of baby steps. I am a little confused by your statement regarding SAHM -- Flylady can work for anybody as one incorporates her system into one's own time frame. However, for all intents and purposes, you are a stay at home mom. In some respects, it's easier for you than for people who have to leave their home for at least 8 hours - not counting commuting etc.

However, as someone who has worked from home and worked away from home, it is sometimes difficult to impose discipline on oneself when one is working from home. That is why flylady is particularly wonderful. Per your post, you have plenty of time -- you are choosing to spend it on other priorities -- that's fine but if you would just take some time from those projects to work on the flylady system -- it shouldn't take you more than 1 hour a day for everything - you will find that your whole life works more easily.

The point of the shiny sink is that if you have one spot that looks good and you realize that it takes all of about 1 minute, you are likely to spend the 10 or 15 minutes to take care of the kitchen. Conversely, if you let your "hot spots" accumulate, it becomes psychologically difficult to see a way through beyond the dirt and clutter. As you work her system, you realize how useless things get in your way and make it more difficult to maintain order.

And of course you should get rid of your sister's clutter -- Are you her garbage pail? :)

    Bookmark   December 20, 2004 at 10:30AM
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Just to clarify, I don't work at home. I work in an office, 45 hours per week plus commute. We do homeschooling in the evenings and on the weekends, plus my son has assignments to do during the day. We have a babysitter who unloads and reloads the dishwasher, and vacuums the living room, which really helps. I have one clean room, and don't have to clear the kitchen before I cook dinner. So maybe that's my "shiny sink"? Or does it have to be something I do myself?

    Bookmark   December 20, 2004 at 11:03AM
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it's more effective if it's something you do yourself.

The idea is, you need more discipline on the home front (we all do), and enforcing one small rule like that is a way to start it.

I'm the "infrastructure lady" late--and I was reading what your son has in his room.

No closet, hence the two clothing armoires? one bookshelf? Where does he store his toys? Since he spends all day at home, he'll use them more than kids who are away from home at school during the day. So be sure he has a place to PUT them.

(and be ruthless about those books. There is NO NO NO reason to keep magazines more than 6 months. And even that might be too long. If you flip through them are aren't pulled into reading a story, then toss the magazine)

    Bookmark   December 20, 2004 at 11:54AM
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I'm here to tell you that homeschoolers have real problems with clutter. Many think they need everything in order to properly educate their child(ren). I homeschooled for years and amassed a frightening amount of stuff I neither needed or used. I was surprised when my children went to school to find that the class rooms actually have less stuff than I had. I'm still trying to get rid of my homeschool trappings. It's hard, because homeschooling stuff is wonderful material and often very expensive as well. If you look at the curriculums designed for oversees missionaries, which is bare bones but rich nevertheless, you'll see that you don't need a lot of extra stuff for homeschool.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2004 at 2:00PM
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I agree, my son's room is short on infrastructure. He's 12 years old, so he doesn't have a lot of toys to store. But he does have electronic "stuff" which we try to keep in the TV area in the basement. His books go on his bookshelf, so no problem there. The tops of the armoires (they are short) are display areas for rocks and other treasures. There's a large bulletin board for any paper items he wants to display.

He has a closet to store Legos and a few other toys that he still plays with, but that doesn't seem to be working. He doesn't hang any clothes in there. Shelves would probably be helpful.

I've tried to clear out his room as much as possible, because when he had everything in there, it was always messy. So we moved his desk to the office area, hang dress clothes and coats in a spare bedroom closet, keep the video games downstairs, and dirty laundry in the washer/dryer area, which is between his bedroom and the bathroom.

But it's still always a mess! Amazing how a handful of objects can be spread out all over an entire room. But I do agree, he can't put things away unless I provide a place to put them. OK, got to deal with that.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2004 at 2:22PM
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I work outside the home (two jobs) and flylady works for me. Her main point is it's not about being *perfect*, it's about doing *something*. You can read the emails and delete them, or just read the titles and delete them. The testimonials are really inspirational for me. The step-by-step things are good for me, too. Sometimes I am sitting on my butt at the computer surfing my favorite forums, and her email comes and tells me to spend 15 minutes cleaning something. Those 15 minutes add up, and it gets me up and away from the computer.

My grandmother always used to say "a place for everything and everything in its place." Her house was always a peaceful retreat for me. My trouble is - establishing that *place* right away when I bring something home: Where does it Live? It can be a challenge. Keep at it, you'll get there.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2004 at 8:30PM
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I've been following this post very carefully and thinking about some of the other posts as well. I'm going to share my typical for me long winded opinion.

I think it really is all about perception and priorities and routines.

As my husband and I were fussing at each other the other night I said- 'until you do this... there will always be a problem' and he said "I don't see the problem". My perception is there is a problem and his- no problem, I'm just over reacting.

I think the same is true here on this forum.

We read a post and say - woah! That is a lot of clutter. That is our perception based on a post. The same original poster (twinkle in this case) comes back and says 'no not a lot of clutter, just no place to put what we have in our home.' It really is a matter of perception.

My mother in law percieves herself as being very organized and very clean because she is always cleaning. I want to reach out and shake her and say- moving a pile from one spot to the other is not cleaning. Get rid of stuff, find a place for what you have... the clutter is taking over. She comes to my house and says 'wow, you have nothing on the counters, it's a very barren look'. Perception.

I think what is most important is that you, Twinkle, find a place for everything. If having boxes in the hall is fine for you, then it is fine for us too. (Let me not speak for everyone- it's fine for me too!)

However, this obviously doesn't seem to be working for you or you would not have put out a plea for help. So now is the time to make this- organizing your home a priority.

For my MIL and my husband saving is a priority. Never going without, always being able to have on hand anything you might ever possibly maybe sort of want in the future is more of a priority than neat and clean. For myself, neat and clean is a priority. Hence- my husband has saved two thousand pens many of them that don't work and I have found a place for those pens (In the garbage, in pencil holders, under his side of the bed, etc).

Add the saving with their peception of what is neat and clean and you have one heck of a cluttered house.

I am a homeschooler mom and a stay at home mother of three who does a lot of government work in the evenings. (Elected official! Ugh). I am a former teacher. I am married to a saver of the extreme sort. I have made it a priority to have a neat and clean house, a retreat, a calm place for everyone, a safe place that people would like to visit.

We pay a price for the priorities we choose. You mentioned you garden and home improvement. I garden very little and am thrilled that my dad helped my kids plant a garden this year. I would love to have a show case yard, I don't. I won't this year nor will I have one next year. I work on it almost daily in the summer but with an acre to care for and the many other things I want to do- it's not a priority over a clean and neat house and taking care of my children.

I have built some routines in place that help me keep my house clean and neat and still spend time on my garden and the hobbies I have and so on. Routines help take the work and make it a habit that becomes easier as time passes. They help you maintain the work you have done in the first place.

You can have all the infrastructure you want- if you don't have the routine of putting the book on the shelf when you are through reading it, the bookshelves won't help you. As one of many side notes the same holds true with the plastic bins. They won't help you if you are merely moving a pile out of a cardboard box in the hall to a plastic box in the study room. Nor will they help you if you won't use them or they don't store what you want them to store.

So I guess what I am saying is you need to do some searious thinking about all of this instead of just jumping in head first.
1. Set some priorities- is the house a priority at all or is this just a panic my sister is coming reaction? Decide what your priorities are and decide the price you are willing to pay for those priorities.
2. Set some goals- what is the end you want. Set some small goals as well as the big sweeping one of being organized. Set some small daily goals.
3. Set some routines- begin every morning by spending fifteen minutes picking up, or end the evening by spending an hour going through a box. whatever- you get the idea.
4. Lastly begin to worry about what you need to store your stuff. As you toss out books you will see you needs fewer bookshelves or you might want more bookshelves in one room over another. Spend some time thinking about what you need and where.

It sounds like you set your priorities at one point in your life and are now looking at your house, which maybe wasnt a priority and are saying- oh my now what.

Now what is you begin setting some routines up. And as you do this you need to start finding a place for everything and getting rid of what you can. You have been given some great helps here on this forum. Start using these ideas and developing your own ideas and get a move on. Winter is the perfect time for a gardener to do the inside of the house as there is less to do in the garden.

May I suggest that you begin with your room and work your way out. Or do as fly lady suggests and work your way through your house.

As a side note- I don't do flylady. I don't need someone imposing routines on myself. I'm pretty organize with my time and I can set up my own routine and time lines. I also don't do the 15 minutes except if it is something I hate- then I can start with the end in sight. When I'm organizing though- I do it with an end in mind. I might say I'll reline these cupboards and organize the top shelves today and the bottom tomorrow. I set goals for myself that I can meet in a day.

I also don't do the three box method. I do the keep it or toss it method. I touch things once if I can and twice if I have to but rarely more that that. I get mail, I toss the junk right then- I don't put it on the counter for later, when it is in my hand it is tossed. I put the bills in my bill pile in my study right away. When I am cleaning out a drawer I follow the same method- when I touch something if it belongs in another room I walk in the other room and put it up right then. I don't care if this means I have ten trips back and forth, I take care of that thing I'm touching right then. I make decisions as I am touching it, if the decision is to keep it- I find it a place for it right then.

You talk about that yourself in your emails- you end with a box of keep items but the keep items never get put up in the end. That was my problem exactly. SO I stopped doing it that way.

You, Twinkle, needs to do what works for you in a way that you can live with in the end. I am merely sharing what works for me.

An added thought about all of this and tying in everything I've been talking about- perception, routines, priorities.
TS used to talk about delegating to your future self. THis is a huge point for me nad I am still trying to get my husband to understand it. HE is a big one for putting things down 'here, for now' or saying 'I'll do it later'. If you put something down 'here for now' the perception you leave yourself with is that you will get back to it. The reality is my husband doesn't get back to it or by the time he gets back to it, it (whatever it is) is covered by all the other 'here for now items'. If he had the perception based on reality that he doesn't have time to do it all and that later never comes then he would stop that. He would make it a priority to put things up when he touches them. He would make it a part of his routine when he came home from the store, he would not put the glue 'here for now'- his priority and routine would be to put the glue in it's spot until he can use it.

I don't know if this helps. I think often time us on this forum get tied up in the how to organize and forget all the why and whatfors that go along with organizing. We all organize for a reason and those reasons vary. We also organize differently and have a different set of standards of what is organized. You are going to reach that point that you can discuss what you are doing and why. I hope all of this helps and gives you a perspective on things. Good Luck and keep us informed as you work on your home.


P.S. Your son is more than old enough, just based on his age, that he could certainly do a lot to help you. Make it part of his assignment while you are gone from the house- He will empty one box and make some decisions about the items in the box. Whatever. Just a suggestion.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2004 at 4:46PM
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Wow Ginger! That's a lot of pens? Did you just chuck them or did you go through and write with all them to see if they work? I'da done the latter......HEEHAAHEEHAA

    Bookmark   December 22, 2004 at 6:26PM
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What a wonderful and thoughtful post.

I have spent three years traveling the road of the clutterer to my uneasy truce with my natural proclivities.

Before I could even begin the journey, I found some excellent articles and books on the psychology of cluttering/hoarding. I was lucky enough to locate flylady who my "behavioral modification therapist'.

Many of flylady's practical solutions are rooted in the disfunctional psychological reasons people can't let go of things and wind up living with clutter

Clutter is fascinating as it defies logic -- People can live in huge houses and still have clutter while others can manage to sustain serene non-cluttered existences in relatively small living spaces. However, realistically, if you've got a large space, it's going to be easier to pare down your belongings so that they work within one's living space.

The world is divided into born organizers and those who need help to cut through the clutter. It's of course a continuum from people who have the normal messies to people with severe emotional disoders whose homes have desceneded into conditions unfit for animals -- you can google websites and Oprah had a woman like that on recently -- It's almost like the ghosts of Christmas future -- left completely to run riot, how bad could my place get :)

I do think (at least for me) the initial step was realizing that my former behavior was very counter-productive and I wanted to live in a home where messes and clutter didn't assault my senses even though it had become almost unconscious as I didn't "see" it anymore.

I learned that I didn't need the stuff to define my existence -- all those books, records, mementos, journals, projects from my past etc. I still have way too much stuff -- don't get me wrong -- but I've spent three years purging and as others point out -- the more you do it, the easier it gets as you realize releasing the stuff makes you feel better. I can't recall a single thing that I wish I hadn't let go.

My mindset has changed -- If I open a storage area (drawer, shelf,) I will often think about why I am still holding on to things. I don't buy heaps of books anymore. I read magazines once and they are out of the house when the next issue arrives.

Clutter will expand to fit the infrastructure and space provided for it and in the end it is still clutter :)

    Bookmark   December 24, 2004 at 10:36AM
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Wow, Ginger. You have given me a lot to think about.

Today, as part of my son's to-do list, he will be clearing out a small area where he keeps some of his games. Great idea. He is certainly old enough to organize his own stuff. So that will become part of his daily routine.

You are right, the house has not been a priority lately. But the clutter has been taking time away from other priorities. For example, the time I spent searching for a receipt last night could have been spent with my son instead.

Last night, I cleaned out a notebook I used to keep. It was kind of like Flylady's control manual. I kept grocery lists, to-do lists, appointment cards, etc. all in one place. I am going to put that back into my routine, so I will not spend all night searching for a slip of paper.

I am trying to do something each day. It is so helpful for me to list what I am doing here, so that you all can come back and say "Hey, did you get that done?" It makes me accountable and keeps me going. I'm trying so many different ideas out, it's good to have them all in one spot (this forum) so I can go back and see what I have forgotten.

Blazedog, I wish I could say "I don't need stuff to define my existence". I'm certainly not there. How can you read a magazine once and toss it? Don't you ever want to read an article again? Do you absorb all of that information in just one reading? Or is it for sheer entertainment only? I'm not trying to be critical, I'm really interested in figuring out how to let go.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2004 at 9:57AM
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There are some books that I found helpful when I started the journey as I posted -- I also found reading the testimonials from other flybabies extremely helpful. All of this washes over you and becomes internalized gradually.

One realizes that stuff is a problem. There are some excellent articles on why people keep stuff -- fear of letting go, false sentiment, fear they won't be able to take care of themselves (what if they need it); guilt over having spent the money and now not using it; guilt over having gained weight -- it really boils down into about 5 uber justifications.

Regarding magazines -- I go through the magazine once. If there is a long article that I think I might read but don't have time for at the moment, I rip it out, staple it and put it in a large envelope I keep in the car for those moments when I am waiting somewhere -- easy to put in article in my purse or pocket and then toss the article when it is done.

Why would I want to read an article again -- what was in the article that needed to be read again? If it truly was absolutely important data, I would either scan the article or make a note of the data I wanted to keep. I'm not sure how I would locate an article that I "might" want to read in a sea of magazines going back many years. How do you find that article?

Any information in a magazine is easily available without keeping the magazine - in the library or even better on the internet. If you are keeping magazines after a month, try to analyze why -- if you really can't read them, cancel the subscription.

Magazines are a small part of clutter -- I have a small basket near the sofa -- every month as part of a flylady zone, I go through it and weed out those which I haven't already weeded out. I generally "bless" others with them -- either friends or my hairdresser.

It's really a journey which I am certainly still on as I have too much of stuff but I have gotten rid of scads of stuff

books, magazines, records. Those records and tapes I never played didn't preserve the past -- books I bought I didn't read and had no intention of reading -- clutter. Bad pictures, pictures of people I couldn't give a hoot about; pictures of scenery and buildings -- clutter and all gone.

Gifts from people -- gone if I didn't like the object -- I don't need the object to remind me of the person. People aren't in the objects.

As I posted I took your post literally -- you are living in a 4 bedroom house with only one other person and yet your place is cluttered and you are unhappy about that. You have boxes in the hall from a move several years ago -- why would you think you needed stuff that was still boxed a year ago -- a standard suggestion for people who have trouble getting rid of thiings is to box them up -- if you haven't missed them after 1 year, you get rid of the box -- this covers any seasonal stuff.

Change is hard -- for people who are afraid to let go of objects, it's traumatic. I know this because I still am someone who fights an impulse to keep things. However, for many (for whatever reason) one realizes that it's better to change and get rid of thiings because the clutter is making one unhappier than the change would be.

As others have posted, the more one declutters, the easier it becomes. That's why many find flylady so helpful in the process. You start with one of her 26 object flings or hit the hot spots and you realize that letting go of things makes one feel better -- that a cluttered house is difficult to take care of, difficult to find things in, difficult to clean -- all of this takes time and requires emotional energy. Much better to take 15 minute spurts and get rid of the stuff - it also puts one in a mindset where one doesn't want to accumulate stuff -- Now I always think before I purchase something -- do I really need it; is it going to require space to store, create visual clutter. What should I get rid of?

Back to your original question -- magazines are such an easy place to begin -- they have little value and generally aren't invested in great psychological significance. Again, question why you are afraid to get rid of them -- what is the worst thing that could happen if you got rid of a magazine?

    Bookmark   December 28, 2004 at 10:30AM
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I have worked on consumer magazines for most of my 21-year career in publishing, except for the 4 years I worked on a trade magazine (for the IT world).

I can tell you, there is very little in any magazine that is worth rereading. There is very little that is particularly profound. There is very little that won't eventually be found again more easily somewhere else. Health info? I agree that women's service magazines can be a great source for keeping up to date on general trends. But if you ever need to truly research a specific medical condition, go to the library.

I don't subscribe to magazines at all. I read one every month, several times over, so I don't really want to read others. Or, if I get a subscription, I ditch it before the next one comes.

I will say one other thought I had this morning, specifically with Twinkle in mind. Well, no, specifically w/ ME in mind, but Twinkle as an add-on. Purging thoroughly is something that folks like me (and prob. Twinkle) *have* to do in increments.

For one thing, there's just not enough time to go from my current state to having very little in the house. Not unless I truly get a Dumpster (as a woman visiting my house once suggested, thereby severely damaging our friendship--you notice I didn't say "a friend once suggested") and throw it out wholesale.

But emotionally, mentally--I can't do that. I have to go in stages. There are sections of my life in which I'm further along than others. The kitchen--I'm pretty far along. The decorative dishes, I'm not quite as far. The kids' toys, I'm even less far along. My closet--I'm emotionally ready to get rid of it all, but physically need to set aside time (unless I get fed up and throw stuff in the garbage).

    Bookmark   December 28, 2004 at 3:15PM
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Wow I just reread what I posted and it was long, but I think I even impressed myself with that post. LOL.

RE: The pens- if I pick up a pen and it doesn't work I toss it. I don't keep using it or put it on the side 'for now'. It goes straight in the garbage. I have plenty in my house so there you go. As far as coming across a baggie full of pens-- I threw them away with out trying them. Done.

I am wondering how you are doing?
What your immediate goals are?
How is your son doing on organizing things?

Start a new thread and keep us updated.


    Bookmark   December 30, 2004 at 11:25PM
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Thank you, Ginger, for your kind interest. I have stalled for now. The last two nights, I have been so tired after coming home from work. I wanted to get the unused Christmas decorations sorted out before taking down the rest, but it has seemed like an overwhelming task. I'll start fresh on Saturday morning. After getting the Christmas things put away, I'll get back to the rest of the house.

My son has been assigned an organizing task each day, and has done a mediocre job. He and I will develop this habit together.

This saga will be continued in a new post after the New Year.

Happy New Year's Eve everyone!

    Bookmark   December 31, 2004 at 8:26AM
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Just popping this back to the top of the threads. Summer is here and many of us may be trying to declutter, so I thought this would be good reading eveen though I don't see many of these names posting anymore.


    Bookmark   May 29, 2006 at 1:43AM
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Thanks, Gloria. I've reread every post and have gotten myself "entergized" all over again! LOL

    Bookmark   May 29, 2006 at 12:50PM
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This wonderful thread is the first place I heard about Flylady. Way back in 2004 and I am still fluttering! I will never forget Blazedog's quote from FL, "You Can't Organize Clutter."

There are many excellent posts on this thread. I'm grateful that it's still here. A classic, so to speak. I wonder how Twinkle, Blazedog, apoem and the rest are doing?

    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 1:08PM
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A classic indeed; it's nice to see you here. This forum is always an inspiration and I refer to it from time to time.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2012 at 9:20AM
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Now that it's Black Friday and I am vowing to stay out of stores for this weekend, I will start my annual Christmas clean-up. De-cluttering as I go, making way for Christmas decorations, the tree and all those gifts. I have plenty of energy thanks to all the eating yesterday and 2 cups of coffee today. I started my day by filling the dishwasher with all the pots and bowls I stacked in the kitchen during yesterday's cooking frenzy.

    Bookmark   November 23, 2012 at 8:37AM
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I also plan to stay home all weekend, except a trip to the hardware store for supplies. I have a couple of home improvement jobs where I'm 90% done. I want to get both done before next Saturday.

I ordered a live Xmas tree from a local charity. It will be ready for pick up next Saturday. I want to have my new fireplace surround/mantle done (I need to do some drywall work around it), and my new trim in the LR/DR archway sanded and painted.

And, of course, I want to keep organizing and decluttering!

    Bookmark   November 23, 2012 at 9:16AM
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I love this old thread!
I don't think I ever posted in it but I've read it several times over the years and have always found it to work as a kick in the pants when I need jump started.

I am doing nothing at all on this Black Friday- my Christmas shopping is done and my house is still spotless from the pre-holiday 'Kill the Clutter-Vanquish the Dust Bunnies' campaign. I have no chores pressing and I'm having leftovers and yummy cheesecake for breakfast :)
I might even do nothing all day long except curl up with a book in my hand to nap away the day.
And knowing me this means I'll probably clean out my garage.
Or not :)

    Bookmark   November 23, 2012 at 10:54AM
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the best way to de clutter your home is to go vertical... utilize the vertical space available in your rooms... develop cabinets and shelves against the walls... it will help you in reducing 80 percent of your room clutter... you may develop it in attractive designs like triagular etc....
another way is to purchase multi-functioning items that have hidden storage spaces in it. for example stool with storage, mirror with storage, bed with storage, sofa with storae and many more....

    Bookmark   December 12, 2012 at 6:22AM
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Well, I'm inspired! For years I thought (hoped) I would someday write for a living. I bought books on writing and publishing and still have them -- many of them unread. Tomorrow they go to the library for their sale. And to keep them company will be the almost complete set of Dick Francis books and others I'll never read again.

When my aunt died, she left a three story house full of stuff. The living areas were always neat and organized, but if one happened to look under beds or in the pantry. . . She had dishes from her mother, grandmother, cousin. She owned 4 complete sets of sterling silver and lots of extra pieces. Not to mention the attic full. And I do mean full. We (my cousin, sister-in-law and nephew) spent three weeks clearing out. The dumpster was filled and emptyed three times. And that was to get rid of the things she treasured and we considered junk. Then there were the things which were not junk.

So after bellyaching about all her stuff, what did we do with the good things? Took them home with us. So now I have tons of bedding (including quilts made by my grandma), a huge amount of books, two sets of sterling flatware, about 15 platters, sets of pretty dishes which belonged to my aunt, my mother, my grandmothers, great grandmothers, etc.

It deserves better than being thrown away (which is possibly what my kids would do with a lot of it). Salvation Army? Resale shops? Ebay? I don't know anyone to give it to and my kids do not want them.

Holy moly, what we do to ourselves!

    Bookmark   December 15, 2012 at 10:13PM
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Sometimes I watch those "Hoarding" shows on TV. First off, they are like a train wreck. You can't help but look. I watch and feel so superior-my house is messy but nowhere near that level! Last week I took out all my Christmas decorations and piled them in my dining room. I went through every single piece, either put it up on display or put it in a bag to throw away. I couldn't believe what I found- a few stale M and M candies , a broken Halloween decoration, lots of just junk. I did find a few nice things-some "collectible" Hallmark ornaments. But I about those "Hoarding" shows- how you see broken useless stuff in a pile and think "How could that happen? Why do they save all that junk? " Well, the broken Halloween decoration and a lot of the miscellaneous Christmas items are now in my trashcan!

    Bookmark   December 15, 2012 at 11:03PM
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I can't watch most of the hoarding shows- many of the people in those dire situations are mentally ill and I find it difficult to watch them struggle.
It's so sad to see them clutching at garbage to try and hold on to the past or to be shown the little space they huddle in to sleep. IMO the shows are produced 99% to serve the network and about 1% to help the person in need.

Whomever is producing the shows should include at least one years worth of counseling to the subject as payment for them opening up their lives to our voyeurism.
Anything less is exploitation IMO.
Watching mentally ill people on reality teevee has become a national obsession IMO.

Like anyone asked what I thought :)

    Bookmark   December 16, 2012 at 10:08AM
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Actually counseling IS provided... but the person has to want to accept it.
Many don't.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2012 at 12:20PM
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norar - Maybe a local charity, if they hold auctions and don't just slap the prices on it.

Unless the bedding is hand-quilted or has other special qualities, and is in good condition, a local shelter might be the best spot for it.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2012 at 8:41AM
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I just read this whole thread and am duly inspired! I have many of the usual problems: I love having supplies on hand to pursue various artsy projects, and hang on to supplies that I am somewhat likely to want in the future. I have young adult children; I find it really hard not to want to save their favorite toys and books for the potential future grandchildren. It's not so hard for me to get rid of clothes that don't fit, and books we've all read, but I do cling to tools and sporting goods and camping gear - even though the use is sporadic.

We moved to a much smaller house with no garage, so I'm forcing myself to purge, and I think this forum could be very helpful in cutting down the outside storage space I'm throwing money at!

Here's one real problem that maybe some of you have insights about: I have sold name-brand clothing on eBay, and furniture and larger things on Craigslist, so I can't shake the idea that if something I'm saving has significant value, I should sell it instead of donate. But of course the selling isn't a convenient thing; it's something I think I'll do when I have more time. How can I convince myself that it's okay to let these things go without trying to recoup their value? Don't get me wrong: I give tons of good, useable stuff to Goodwill, but I do have a harder time with more valuable items. Example: I told my daughter, who is home for the holidays, that she could decide what to do with a really splendid rocking horse I've been saving from her childhood. I know it's valuable, possibly collectible, and it would also be a really cool thing for future little ones. But it takes up a lot of space. She decided to donate it - a decision I admire and cringe at simultaneously! She's a rock, trying to lead by example :)

Anyhow, hi, and I'd be interested in your thoughts on this sell vs donate issue.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2012 at 8:19PM
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Hi, kmcg

When possible, we sell on CL, but we give away a lot of stuff to the thrift store or (if it is too big for the thrift store) via CL. Think of it this way real estate is one of your most valuable assets. Why clutter it so much that you can't enjoy it?

There is no guarantee that your daughter will have children or if they will fit into the clothes/enjoy the toys. Some people like to have new stuff. My niece was like that.

We live in a house that was built in 1938. It has three levels, but not a lot of closet space. My closet is only three feet wide (the door is two feet wide) so I have double rods; one low and one high. There is a shoe rack on the inside of the closet door. The floor of my closet is now empty except for a shoebox of old movies. I love seeing that empty floor!

After the holidays, I will work on the other closets. Little by little, it gets done.

    Bookmark   December 24, 2012 at 2:18PM
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I don't even try to sell on CL. I'm a single mom & don't want people coming to my house. I do sell books at Half Price Books, but everything else goes to the donation box at a charity thrift shop where I really believe in their cause. I have a friend whose dev disabled son got job training and a job from the charity, so I know they do great work. I get a thrill out if donating 'valuable' stuff because I know it will bring them more $ to do more good work. Can you reframe it like that in your mind to make donating easier?

    Bookmark   December 25, 2012 at 12:09AM
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It's Christmas morning. I just opened one gift, from my sister and her hubs, it's a barbecue tool set. I am going to throw out the old set. Perfectly good but a little rusty. I do not need two sets. I don't know of anyone who needs BBQ tools, and there are no charity collection bins near me. Except for clothes and shoes, charities seem to have enough "junk". I'm also reading a great book, came out about 3-4 years ago, called "The Happiness Project". It deals with a woman spending a year in introspection, carefully examining her life, setting goals and attaining them. I'll do that in 2013 as a gift to myself.

    Bookmark   December 25, 2012 at 9:38AM
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Thanks for the encouragement! The kids are off to the storage room again today, so there will be more decisions to make about purging. Maybe I need to find a charity store I care more about and begin donating things there.

We did well on not bringing more stuff into the house on Christmas. We have gotten in the habit of taking trips in December - a nice gift to the whole family.

    Bookmark   December 26, 2012 at 3:47PM
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i know this isn't a big thing, but I've found it helps if we set a timer and just pick a room and do 15 minutes at a time. It really helps keep the pace up, and you know you can do anything for 15 minutes, it's not too hard. But it's amazing what you can get done in that amount of time, especially if you have the whole family going. usually if it's more people, though, we do 15 minutes per person, and do one or two people to a room so that it goes even better.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2013 at 3:36PM
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What a nice old thread! Flylady was a wonderful help to me, and it is so true how those ideas can internalize. I'll add another technique that I've found helpful and have used with others, too:

Start with a vision of how you want your space to look and feel, and hold every future decision up to see whether keeping something is compatible with the vision.

And when you don't know where to start, and when you can't seem to decide to let go of the object in your hand, then start grouping like things together. All the books, vases, kitchen gadgets, ornaments, magazines, old letters, tools, art prints, all the stuff to do with particular hobbies/craft stuff.

Then do a reality check. Do you have enough bookcases, really? And if you don't, do you really want to sacrifice some more space and money in order to keep ALL these books? Or can you let go of the ones that you not only never read, but will probably never read? Are their favorites that you no longer go back to anymore that you can share with others? Strive to keep the best and most meaningful among what you have while letting go of the least meaningful. Decide what amount of your storage space you can allow, and pare down to that amount, if possible.

Rinse and repeat, as it were.

Sometimes it helps to see the vast amount of things we own in each category, squarely faced with the amount of space we have to store them.

Try to keep the end goal in mind - things like clear walkways, walls with pictures instead of towers of storage units looming over us, for example.

Refine your goals even more: if you really want to craft, you need to clear enough space to make it easy to both get out and put away your craft stuff. If it is a hassle to get stuff out or put it away, you are unlikely to use it, or to put it away to keep that nice, pretty space you want. So something needs to go, whether it is your dream of crafting if it isn't truly your heart's desire, or the extra furniture of Aunt Mabel's that can only live directly in front of the crafting storage area.

Keeping your end-vision in mind while realistically assessing your stuff for the best of the best AND your storage capabilities can help keep you on track....because you learn to see unnecessary things as hindrances. It is easier to let go of a hindrance than something that is "possibly useful."

    Bookmark   January 11, 2013 at 5:55PM
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