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Courage, change and clutter.

Posted by lilydilly (My Page) on
Thu, May 15, 08 at 0:05

Sorry, I didn't know what to call this thread (obviously!:))but I just found this forum yesterday, and I've already read the first 6 months of posts from Sept 04.
One thing I've been really aware of as I've been on a simplifying, de-cluttering "journey", since moving to our new home 2 years ago, is the change in my attitude to so many things. Some of this change was deliberate and some I wasn't even aware of until I look back and see what I used to have and do.
Probably the hardest thing for me to let go of has been the fear of what others think, especially when what I'm letting go is the "standard" practice among my contemporaries. But I have found that most times, my friends and rellies, while they are at first surprised and a bit bemused, many of them have either followed suit, or wish they could. Eg, When my Mum asked me where I would be putting our china cabinet in our new home, she was genuinely shocked when I told her I'd sold it. When I explained that I no longer needed it, as I no longer had any knick knacks, ornaments and collections to display, because I'd sold them also, she looked truly confused. Then she said, "But EVERYone has to have a china cabinet..... don't they?" But when she came to visit later, she looked around our house, and commented, "This is perfect.. you don't need knick knacks at all. Don't add any will you?"

The biggest change is that where once I thought there was value in tangible "things", now I'm realising more and more that it is the intangibles that are of lasting value.
I always bought people gifts that would last! Anything else seemed a waste. Now I give ONLY what won't last..either eaten, used up or enjoyed with nothing left to show but a wonderful memory and feeling of having been cared about.
Records, photos, keepsakes etc. I have learnt that I don't need to record every event, person, growth stage etc. Eg, our grandkids, we enjoy being with them, whether they're newborn or school age, and I don't need to record what they were like at every stage. Don't get me wrong. We have photos and home videos and love them, but it's no longer a burdensome obligation to take and keep photos. I guess that's me learning to live in the moment.

This change in my thinking has had a ripple effect on so many areas of our lives now, from Xmas cards to holidays, to shopping and eating, to how we live and how we spend our time.
When I see some of my dearest friends living stressed, burdened and chaotic lives, all in the name of enjoying "stuff", it makes me feel guilty... as though I have been given the key to a wonderful huge secret. Yet it really just stems back to my having read once that it was perfectly ok to get rid of what I no longer used or loved. As simple as that. And I'm finding that I love less and less "stuff" and love life itself more and more.
I'd love to hear of other's experiences in how they've changed, because that was what gave me the courage to begin to let go.
Sorry for such a long post, but I hope you'll make allowances for the fact that I'm brand new here, and brimming over with enthusiasm for having found a place where I can express these feelings.
I'm ready to listen now, and then I'll head back to October 2004 and read some more archives from this forum.:)


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Courage, change and clutter.

Welcome Lilly,

Reading your post gave me inspiration for the day. Thanks for sharing!

Maria in Athens, Greece


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RE: Courage, change and clutter.

Welcome Lily, and thank you for such a thoughtful post.

It is interesting to read about someone else's personal epiphany - the lightbulb going on in the head - about how they want to live life. May I ask how old you are? And did you go from being an active collector to a minimalist - or did you always lean towards not a lot of stuff?


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RE: Courage, change and clutter.

What an inspiring set of revelations!

You must feel so energized, so focused.

And now, I'm feeling more focused, just from reading your thought processes, so I'm grateful that you shared them.

(speaking as an old, old timer, this forum gets SUCH a shot in the arm when new folks pop up and tell about their successes, or even their struggles)

It is funny, isn't it, how people simply assume that some things are standard fixtures? Like china cabinets, DR tables, coffee tables, even sofas. Often they're useful, sometimes they're beautiful, but always, actually, they're optional.

Now the TOILET, that's probably not optional. And the kitchen sink would be really hard to do without.


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RE: Courage, change and clutter.

Great observation TS!

I'm keeping my kitchen sink and my wonderful 1.6 gpf toilet -- DH still oohs and ahs at its great engineering (and the fact it hasn't needed a plunger in the 3 years we've had it).

In our house, we're trying to seriously cut back on horizontal surfaces, which are magnets for clutter. Example -- I had DH sell his coffee table before we combined households. We set up nice wooden TV trays if we need to hold food or drinks. Most of the time, they are neatly stowed and we have uncluttered space in the living room. It's very welcoming to guests.


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RE: Courage, change and clutter.

I know many people like coffee tables, and I will confess that once every now and then (oh, every 2.5 years) I think "this would be a good time for a coffee table, so people can set their drinks down.

But once I had a roommate who bought a huge coffee table (that came all the way to the floor, no place for toes to go when you walked around it, ouch!), and I swore I would never own one.

I have really been glad--I have so much more room to walk around.

I do have a china closet--but it's not a breakfront, despite the fact that my MIL, and numerous aunts, all said, Oh, yes, you need a china cabinet! and pointed to THEIR breakfronts.

I think those pieces of furniture, though beautiful, aren't particularly practical for storage; they look kinda messy and bad when there's more than a little in the display section.

Mine is a big rectangular wall unit. Of course, it still looks a BIT messy, but since it's so rectangular, you can pack it full of stacks of plates and row of glasses, and it looks fine. Plus, I can put books, and other non-dish stuff there without it looking funny.


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RE: Courage, change and clutter.

Maria, Thank you for the welcome from Athens! My DS and DIL are touring Europe, and emailed us from Athens last night, so that gave me a little thrill to hear from you. :)

Graywings, Quote "May I ask how old you are? And did you go from being an active collector to a minimalist - or did you always lean towards not a lot of stuff?"
You may ask LOL. I'm 52, and I wish I'd known what I do now at 22! Some of the change has come about as a natural prgression from having had 4 sons, 3 of whom are now married, to having just 1 teen at home. From a busy family of 6 to a quieter number of 3, from a big old family house to a smallish home that we built just how we wanted, from running our own business to semi-retirement, well, the time was right to downsize and eliminate. I've never been a real "clutterbug", but I did have a lot of "stuff". At the time it didn't seem like I did, but now I see it as such. I wasn't an avid collector, but I was given a lot of stuff as gifts, and it was just the done thing to put things "out" on display. When we were buidling our home, I decided I'd simply had enough of dusting, arranging, cleaning etc, so we planned our house that way.
Parrot Phan, we built with just that in mind, to reduce the horizontal surfaces, and to keep the ones we use free to use, rather than to put stuff on.
I can remember so clearly having our first big garage sale before we shifted, and seeing my "house decor" things all put together on tables in our garage. I stood there one day and looked at all these knick knacks, crafty things, ornaments, cutesy wall hangings, plaques, etc etc, and realised that most of it had been gifts, and that it wasn't even to my taste, and suddenly it just seemed like a lot of "junk".

I've always loved the serene look of Eastern temples, and natural materials, and here I'd been living among china flowers, synthetic sayings, porcelain animals, furry cushions, just because it was how we all lived. Friends do still give me things, but gradually it's wearing off LOL. PLease don't get me wrong, I'm not knocking crafty cutesy things, they're just not me. My DS has a lovely home and it's full of velvet, silk, chinaware etc, and it's not clutter, because it is totally her choice, and she truly loves that look, and it's not a burden to her.
And I'm not truly minimalist, though my friends think I am. I really do love only having what we love and use in our home, and i just love having things put away out of sight, because I don't love housework.
TallySue, I don't have a china cabinet, but I do have a coffee table LOL. And I do have a lot of dinnerware that I really love, because that is one thing I enjoy, having friends and the family over, and eating off nice stuff. Well, we do that for ourselves too. Gone are the days when I kept the "good" stuff for special occasions and visitors. I figure every day is a special occasion now, even for just DH DS and myself.
And oh yes, I would never part with my dishwasher, my glassware, my jugs, my pottery bowls, my vintage nightgowns, my Teresa Cutter cookbooks, my coffee-scented candles. But if I no longer love them one day, they'll go.
I guess to sum it up, on my previous glass coffee table, you'd have found a stack of craft magazines, a bowl of floating candles, 2 ornamental seagulls, a crystal dolphin, and a vase of flowers.... all neatly arranged and dusted on 2 doileys.
Now we have a natural timber coffee table with 2 drawers, holding a scrabble set, 2 library books, and a rug, but you wouldn't see them, because they're in the drawers. All you'd see is a candle and favourite carved wooden bowl on top.
Oops, and right now, a cup of half drunk coffee! LOL.
Thanks for the welcome. I'm off to read another batch of archived posts. I really love what I've read on this forum.. and I love the dynamics, the different personalities, the support and encouragement, the sparks that fly sometimes, the debates, the help, the common interests and the varied ones, and the genuine care. All in all, it reminds me of our own family, so I'm really glad I found you all.
Lily


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RE: Courage, change and clutter.

Boy, do these resonate:

I'm 52, and I wish I'd known what I do now at 22!
I'm 47, and I wish the same thing. But in fact, I don't think it's possible.

I wasn't an avid collector, but I was given a lot of stuff as gifts, and it was just the done thing to put things "out" on display.
I "collect" penguins (not a ton, but I buy ones that please my eye). People give them to me. So, well, I put them on the mantel, and never thought about them. Then, I cleaned off the mantel bcs the apt. was on the market, and suddenly I could breathe! So I gave away the ones I didn't love.

Like you, I have a bit of a revelation: Just because someone gave it to me, doesn't mean I must keep it! (now, sometimes, I don't even take them out of the box before giving them away)

things all put together on tables in our garage. I stood there one day and looked at all these knick knacks, crafty things, ornaments, cutesy wall hangings, plaques, etc etc, and realised that most of it had been gifts, and that it wasn't even to my taste, and suddenly it just seemed like a lot of "junk".
My church had a rummage sale. I'd gotten rid of lots of my own stuff, so didn't have a lot to contribute. But I looked at everyone ELSE's stuff, and thought, "Nobody ever needed or even really wanted those things."

(this is VERY politically incorrect, and I apologize sincerely to anyone whose feelings I hurt, but I have this same reaction at crafts shows)

Oops, and right now, a cup of half drunk coffee! LOL.
THIS is what a coffee table is for, right?


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RE: Courage, change and clutter.

I love what you all said about taking a dispassionate look at all that stuff, and thinking, whew, junk! But we have to be careful singing the praises of decluttering, or who will buy all the junk we are trying to get rid of???? LOL

My husband took a job in another city that we don't much like, but it was an offer too good to refuse, so we sold our big house on a big lot, where I had designed the kitchen and a full basement full of great storage, and where we had an attic and a garage and and and... We took a small apartment in the new city, and moved to a town house built in 1896 in our city with no closets to speak of, an impossibly small, dark, hard-to-reach attic, and porches but no yard, and we go back and forth from time to time. And despite what I thought was a Herculean effort, I didn't cut deeply enough!! So I have to do it again.
I would love your advice about what to do with things that have value, but that we no longer want. I don't have time to do eBay, and I can't stand to lose all the investment in the good things. My daughter and her husband just bought their first house, so that took care of the yard equipment and most of the tools and all the stuff they actually wanted. But I still have a modest pile of good things that I no longer want - porcelain, and some silver, and a few paintings, and some interesting things that came from my grandparents' travels in Europe and Asia when the world was still authentic...stuff like that. I know how lucky I am to have them, but it's time for them to go.
What do you recommend??
Thanks!


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RE: Courage, change and clutter.

Bronwynsmom, I was exactly like yourself, when you say "despite what I thought was a Herculean effort, I didn't cut deeply enough!! So I have to do it again."

I don't feel at all qualified to give advice, and there are experienced experts on here, who can offer terrific wisdom about all this. I can only share my own experience with this.
I've only recently gone through the transition of downsizing, so it's all relatively new for me.
But one thing I can say without reserve. I have never ever regretted getting rid of anything.
For items like the ones you mentioned, the art pieces, silver, "good things", we have a very handy business here in Australia, which I don't know if you have over there or not.
They're a franchised business of "Tender Centres", and they sell your goods by silent auction... they take out a commission if they sell, but don't take anything if they don't. You can place a reserve on items if you like, and whatever doesn't sell, you either pick up after 2 sales, or they send it on to charity.
Some stuff doesn't make much, but other things, I got far more than I dreamt I would, so it balances out. It is just so easy, to drop your stuff off, and they do all the work. It's a lot of commission, but they attract a crowd of people at the sales, and a lot of antique dealers and collectors tend to go there too. For me it's worth every bit of the commission they charge, for the simple convenience of it.
I did have a big garage sale when we sold our previous home, and for a week's hard work I didn't make as much as I got for a few loads at the Tender Centre. I also found that good really valuable items simply didn't sell at the garage sale.

Before we shifted, I took several boxes of valuable stuff to the second hand dealers, and she offered me a price for the lot.

I found that I had to forget the original "value" of things I wanted to part with, and just be glad to pass it on for whatever I could get at the time. I had a lot of Royal Albert dinnerware, which I sold to the dealer for a low price, and I've seen it since on Ebay for 10 times what I got. But I just decided I need to value my time, my life, and my peace as priceless, and forget the monetary value of the "stuff".
When it comes to practical things like linen, clothes, toys, kitchenware.... useful "good" things, I donated these things. I figured that people who are struggling would be glad to get good wool blankets for nothing, whereas someone who wanted my Venetian glass urn, would be someone who could afford to pay a bit for it. So that's how I do it now as I come across or am given the odd item I want to purge... give away the useful, and drop off the purely "decor" stuff at the tender centre.
Our married kids always get first choice. When I come across something I no longer want, I simply email a photo to my 2 DIL's, and ask, "Want this or not?".

I battled at first with trying to gain back something for the lost "investment" in the good things, but now, I truly am learning that unless these things have a place in my life, they have no value. If I was to offer any advice at all, and I do this only because it's been my own experience, not because of any "should" or "ought to", it would be this. If you can't sell your good stuff, or can't get back what you think it's worth, don't hang onto it because it is too valuable to let go. I hope you don't mind if I quote you, (being new on here, and not too familiar with computer-speak, I'm deadly scared I'll offend someone by speaking out of turn, so please take this in the spirit it's offered?) You say, "it's time for them to go", and "good things that I no longer want". For me, these days, that means that they no longer have value to me.
I'm going through this now with an antique water jug that was given to me when I was a teenager, and that has had been on display in our homes since I was married. It is huge, ornate and very fagile, and I've always treasured it, and loved it. It doesn't suit our current home, we have no place for it, and our kids have lived with it for 30+ years and think it's hideous. It's been carefully stored for 2 years, out of sight. I know it's worth a lot of money, but it's too fragile and big to post on Ebay. And it's not worth anything stored away in a cupboard out of sight, so I've decided it's really of no value to me, it's time to say goodbye, and let it re-gain it's value in someone else's hands. (sigh)
Ah well, it's just a bunch of molecules, in the shape of a jug.


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RE: Courage, change and clutter.

Bronwynsmom, hang in there. It is not going to be easy. You will have to discover something about yourself during the process.

For me, it comes down to this: Do you really feel that you need to receive money in exchange for parting with this valuable (but useless to you) stuff? Are you willing to wait and wait and wait until you can get the full value back out of it? Are you willing and able to do the required work to get the value back out of the item? If not, then you are its SLAVE. I do not intend to sound harsh, but that is how it boils down, from my perspective. Slavery to stuff.

If it is not sentimental and precious enough to keep in storage until you once again have a place for it in your home, then perhaps you just want it to go to someone who would appreciate it -- for FREE, if necessary.

Do not allow that stuff to weigh you down any longer than necessary. It will only delay the wonderful feeling of freedom that comes when you eliminate the clutter. And it is up to you alone to decide what is and is not clutter in your life.

Visit Freecycle.org


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RE: Courage, change and clutter.

Dear lilydilly and maryliz,
You are exactly right. Forget the money. I realized as I read your thoughtful and dead honest comments that my local consignment shop ought to just have all of it. They will price it low enough to sell, I'll get a little something out of it, and I can take pleasure in knowing that somebody on a really tight budget will get a great deal on something really good. Maryliz, when you said "Are you willing to wait and wait and wait until you can get the full value back out of it? Are you willing and able to do the required work to get the value back out of the item? If not, then you are its SLAVE.", the light finally went on in my head.
Thank you both for your directness, and your wisdom!


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RE: Courage, change and clutter.

Does the "consignment" shop work in a similar way to the tender centres we have over here? If it doesn't selll, do they give it away to a charity?


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RE: Courage, change and clutter.

The consignment shop is a bit different from the Tendre Centres you describe. It's a shop rather than a schedule of auctions. Most of them work similarly...you establish an account file with them, and bring things in according to their system. The one I use is very simple (they don't even own a computer!). They have guidelines for what they will and won't take, and how many things you may bring and at what intervals (in their case, fifteen things per trip, two trips max per week, furniture by appointment only, and six books equals one thing). They have a listing form, and each time you bring things in, you list them on a page with your code number. You can discuss price with them, but I just let them do the pricing...they put a tag with the price and your code number on everything, and record any sales. When you come in, they check your sheet, add it up, and write you a check for 65% of the sales, which in the world of consignment and auction is a pretty good percentage. Since I have become a regular customer, they will even lend me their truck if I have a piece of furniture for them. Very cozy, and very effective. And yes, if it doesn't sell, they donate it.
More than you ever wanted to know about this shop!


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RE: Courage, change and clutter.

No, thank you for explaining it. I did want to know, because there are quite a few things that are different between countries, and it's nice to understand what others are chatting about, when it's a bit clearer. For a long time I thought "Rubbermaid" containers were actually big tubs made out of rubber, and I know now that what we call "sheds" would be more like "barns" overseas, and what a lot of people in America call sheds would be more like our smaller garden sheds? At least I think I've got that right LOL.


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RE: Courage, change and clutter.

Some consignment shops will return your unsold items to you if they don't sell within the agreed-upon time frame.

In NYC, I have never seen a consignment shop.

I love the Tender Centres idea!


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RE: Courage, change and clutter.

We're gearing up for another stoop sale, and I have been ebaying/craigslisting the more valuable stuff. I got about $80 for the collectible dishes.

Talley Sue, there ARE consignment shops in NYC. Many of them are on the Upper East Side. Discount Chanel suits and Prada handbags, anyone? If any of you are planning a visit to NYC and love shopping, these would be great places to go. I went to Michael's consignment store for the first time last fall and got some terrific jewelry. As we all know, that what separates us from the animals is our unique ability to accessorize! :)

Here is a link that might be useful: NYC consignment shops


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RE: Courage, change and clutter.

I'm not sure any consignment shops on the upper east side would want anything I had to get rid of.

that's a neat list, though.


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RE: Courage, change and clutter.

Lillydilly - you have definitely re-inspired me to continue to rid my life and my home of "stuff". I have been slowly and continuously letting go of things that I just somehow always thought I needed to be the caretaker of - because they were handed down by family, or they were gifts, or because it was considered "normal" to possess them, etc. etc. etc. How easy it is, and how relieved I feel to be at that place in my head to know that it is ok to get rid of a grandmother's dishes, a mother's mink coat, half the clothes in my closet (small closet, and most didn't fit!), knick-knacks galore, which were really just dust-catchers. I give all the useful things to a church-run charity here in town that gives (GIVES) needed items to people who qualify for help, and the decorative, cluttery stuff goes to Goodwill, and such places. I did offer all my silver-plated serving pieces (wedding gifts from 40 years ago that I never used!) to a good friend, but will no longer let her know of other stuff I want to move on, as I realized she has a serious problem with hoarding, and I'm sure the pieces are still in the box she carried them out in, and somewhere in her home unused, and adding to her issues - wish I could help her with this, but know I can't. Don't want to deal with Ebay, etc. - I just want it gone. Such a freeing feeling! Now, I'm looking at my china hutch with a critical eye - - - - !


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RE: Courage, change and clutter.

Scraphappy, my very dearest and closest friend is just like your friend. She collects genuine antiques and old "meaningful" things, so as I was off loading my stuff, it was a pleasure to give her things like my 1st edition books, my little bits of "heritage", and it meant a lot to her, because it was mine once. But her collecting has become out of control now too, and it is overtaking her life and her mind and her homes. I no longer pass things on to her at all, because I too felt like I was feeding the problem.
She and her DH are very wealthy, so she tends to acquire quality pieces like art and real antiques, and having several homes, it almost seems ok, because she has room to keep it without it being obvious. However it has become compulsive now.
DH and I went to an aucion with her recently and she was just bidding and buying on stuff she has no use for, and buying it in bulk quantities, just for the sake of "getting" it. At one stage she bid on something, and then asked the auctioneer what it actually was. It was a big local community auction and most of the people there were aware that she is wealthy, and I heard a few snide comments about her "hogging" the sale, and being greedy etc. It made me so so sad, because her wealthy status has absolutely no affect on the wonderful kind, intelligent and warm person that Dh and I love so much. Someone there actually asked her if she was buying for a shop. She thought that was funny, but what actually scared me was that she didn't see the situation for what it really was. She seemed almost frenzied about the buying, and it was so obvious to me and my DH that she was on an adrenalin high... she was even trembling.
There are other areas where it is affecting her life, and I'm just hoping that as she sees me going in the opposite direction, and being so free of "stuff" and valuing it differently, that something will click for her too.
We talk a lot and confide in each other, so I just hope that I can have a gentle influence on her. I sense that there are hidden issues here that even she isn't recognizing, so I can't approach it directly. I hope she will want the same peace I'm finding, and start to reach out for it too, before she is overwhelmed totally.


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RE: Courage, change and clutter.

I'm going to make a confession, because I deserve to eat humble pie.... and wear a hair shirt too! After all my spruiking above, this is what I just did:
My DS 18, is sort of middle grade messy. Enough for me to shut the door of his room most days and keep out, but not enough that I'm too concerned that he won't change once he gets out of the teenage years. He's the 4th boy, and the others were messier and now have clean tidy homes, so I just don't worry so much anymore. And there are days when his room is ... well, let's call it presentable.
However every now and then I have a bit of a blitz.
Since I've been laid up, I've been giving him a list of a few extra little chores to help out when he gets home from work and he's been happily doing them. So, I thought I'd get smart and start adding a few specific to his room.
So last night I added to the list_-"grab a bag and find 27 things in your room to throw away, because today is trash day."
I came out tonight and found a bag in the trash of real "trash", and another full box of stuff sitting on the bench.
When I asked what the box was for, he said, "Oh, it's stuff I don't need. I didn't know if I should just throw it or if Dad wants some for grease rags".
So, I started to look through and found about 8 pairs of still good jocks, and a big pile of socks, some obviously trash, but others still ok.
I showed him, and he said, "No Mum, I don't want those any more. I have enough and I don't need more. I have 7 pairs of new jocks, 7 pairs of work socks, 5 pairs of good socks...that is ALL I need. I think I've inherited some of these from the other boys when they got married or something, because they can't all be mine."
And do you know what I did? (hanging head in shame)
I offered to pack them away for when his current jocks and socks wear out, and when he said, NO I REALLY don't want them, I actually argued with him, yes I did, and said, "but you won't have to buy any when your others wear out, you can use these".
He thought that was hilarious and said, "MUM, I'm 18, and I'm hoping that by the time these jocks wear out I will be a size or two bigger than this thank you very much!!"
Well, who can argue with that LOL, so I bagged them all up and put them in the bin...every single one.
And I can hardly believe that after all I've said and done, instead of being thrilled that this kid worked this out on his own, I'm *arguing* with him.
Ok, I've made my confession, and just to show how sorry I am, I'll go and fill a bag with 27 things of my own to get rid of.
Because I think I must still have a ways to go, after all.
Much humbler Lily


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RE: Courage, change and clutter.

Oh, Lily--that's actually funny. I think we all do that.

and you should say (I bet you have or are planning to) to your boy that, now that you've actually gotten sane again, you're really proud of him for recognizing what he didn't need. I find that it helps me to apologize, or admit I was goofy or wrong, and it helps my kids as well, even if it does come later.

My sis did that once; I was helping her DD get rid of T-shirts bcs she had so many, and one of the ones in the giveaway pile was one my niece's grandmother had made for her. (we started from the "which ones do you really like, and will they fit in the drawer)

I'd pressed my niece a little bit ("you're *sure,* right?") about each one that didn't make it back in the drawer, just bcs I'm not her mom (hence, no knowledge of her tastes, or her wardrobe).

My niece was in bed when I showed DSis the stack of "to go" shirts--she went ballistic and was going to bawl my niece out for getting rid of that shirt from Grandma. I made her stop, pointed out that DNiece had the right to chose, that just bcs it came from Grandma didn't make it sacrosanct. And that scolding her wasn't fair.

If Dsis was worried that Niece would MIND, then she could ask her (and she'd need to make her pick a different one to get rid of, since the drawer was full).

It took a little firm talking, but I got my DSis to see the rightness of my point.


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