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OK to throw it away - thank you

Posted by jenswrens (My Page) on
Sat, May 14, 11 at 16:22

This is a really old thread (linked below), but it has been a godsend for me this weekend, especially the advice from Talley Sue.

I have a disgusting hoard in my basement that we've been meaning to go through for years. The basement has become a catch-all for things that I want immediately out of the "living" part of the house but don't know what to do with.

Yesterday just thinking about what all had to be done - sorting, organizing, finding places to recycle and donate things and thinking about driving stuff there, setting up consignment accounts, fitting it into my schedule, etc - made me so depressed I could barely move all day.

So I came here for inspiration and found it in this thread. Permission to just "throw it away." Thank god.

I also saw photos of someone else's basement that were pretty uninspiring to me because what she thought was unorganized and cluttered was nothing - laughable even - compared to what I'm facing down there. At least in her basement, there was room for someone to walk around. A few toys scattered in the middle of the clean floor. Mine is ... well, something else entirely. I would like to post photos but I'm really much too embarrassed. It is mortifying beyond words.

This morning, we attacked one wall - a small 3x8 foot area, less than 5% of the whole area - and I was amazed at all the crap. That tiny area when all spread out filled our 10x30 deck. We made a small pile of things to freecycle (about 3-4 things). We kept about 25% of the rest.

Without having the psychological carte blanche to "just throw it away" I never could have done this. So I'm thankful to everyone here who said, "It's OK." What a difference this has made in my life today. Thank you.

Here is a link that might be useful: When is it OK to throw it away?


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: OK to throw it away - thank you

I've also heard this permission to throw away stuff called "amnesty" with clutter. If you can't use something, and can't find a recipient for it, it is all right to throw out something perfectly "good". Like magazines. Or toys. Or tools. r hobby supplies. Or anything you no longer want in your house. Remember your home is not a storage bin for the future. It is the place you live in right now.


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RE: OK to throw it away - thank you

I'm glad you're making progress.

And I'm glad that *feeling free* to toss stuff was the thing that got you started.

(and hey, look--you aren't actually throwing it ALL out. Proof that it is not, actually, a bad thing to start your task thinking you'll toss it all.)

And it's surprising how much of your stuff really isn't worth donating, when you actually LOOK at it.


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RE: OK to throw it away - thank you

I had a bunch of baby and toddler toys and books I was saving for future "grandchildren." But my house is small and I really didn't want to keep the stuff for twenty or more years. so i decided to give as much as possible to children in my family. I have one boy (a cousin's grandson, now age 6) and three girls (niece had 3 daughters out of wedlock). Then tragedy struck. The niece lost custody of her children after a big physical fight with her live-in boyfriend (father of all 3). So now I have only one child to give to-the 6 year old boy cousin. So it seems keeping for the future is now more of an option. I plan to go thru everything I have left (mostly books) and keep ONLY the best stuff, favorites like Clifford the Big Red Dog. The rest will be donated to a local child day care center. I've given myself permission to give most of the stuff away. It won't go in the garbage but I'm heartbroken about my niece's daughters not getting any of it.


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RE: OK to throw it away - thank you

I have to tell you that once it's gone, you won't torment yourself any longer and in fact you will feel a sense of relief. It's a good thing that you want your donations to benefit others, but letting go is a very cathartic experience that you deserve for yourself. Been there.


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RE: OK to throw it away - thank you

While cleaning a closet, I encountered a box of neatly packed bags of several types of fancy potpourri. A lot of seasonal themes: pine cones and orange slices, small corncobs and tiny pumpkins. I stewed over that collection, considering what I'd probably invested in it and how I had admired the large decorative elements, arranged artfully in a bowl.

Yet here it all was, in a box in a closet. Not in a bowl and not arranged. I sniffed each bag, searching for a delightful fragrance but found that much of the scent had faded. I acknowledged to myself that I currently have my bowls filled with more interesting objects and faded potpourri now seemed like a colorful dust collector, rather than an wonderful accessory for my home.

I considered making sachet bags of the stuff, but again, the aroma was hardly potent, and not only am I not a seamstress, I have plenty of other projects on my to-do list already. I didn't need to assign myself a new task, which would realistically remain uncompleted. Besides, keeping the box meant I would still have to store it.

So I'm taking the box to Goodwill and smiling at the thought of someone gleefully taking it home and arranging the somewhat fragrant potpourri in their bowls (artfully, of course).

It's easy to keep stuff. The real work is letting go. But the result is oh so satisfying.


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RE: OK to throw it away - thank you

"Remember your home is not a storage bin for the future." Jannie, how true!! I am married to Mr. We Might Need It Someday...... Drives me nuts.

Jenswrens - Kudos for the progress you've made! It's like saying "no". The first time is so hard, but it does get easier :-) And so it is with purging. When you are finished, and you will get it done, you will love having that open space.


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RE: OK to throw it away - thank you

Books are one of the things that are so hard for me. We read a lot and I love books, but I just have no place to keep them. Many years ago, we thankfully discovered we have a fabulous public library system in our county, and instead of buying books, we use the local library. The library is great because not only can you get a book from one of dozens of libraries in surrounding towns via Inter Library Loan, they will also special order almost any new book we'd want and then add it to their collection. We stopped spending so much $$ on books and also didn't have to worry about storing them. Bonus.

Now in addition to using the library, we have Kindles for the books we want to buy.

But it is still so hard for me to let go of the real books I do have. I feel like I spent so much $ on them, and I also feel like someone else should want them. The library is very picky about donations and will hardly take anything. So I have boxes and boxes of books, waiting for that future library room in my future giant house, or waiting for someone to take them off my hands. It feels sacrilege to throw them out.

But this weekend, I DID throw a lot of them away (mostly paperbacks). Maybe I should've sent them to recycling, but again, our town doesn't do curbside recycling. We have to go to the recycling center, and it's only open for a few hours on Wed morning or one Saturday a month. So yeah, I tossed them. It was liberating.


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I'm also amazed at some of the things people post on Freecycle. 12 empty baby food jars, 5 pieces of yellow printer paper, 4 seed packets, a bag of used plastic grocery bags. Really? Really? This is stuff for the recycling bin or the garbage can - not Freecycle. Just as I cannot bring myself to drive all over the county trying to find places to donate my leftovers, I cannot imagine driving further than my next-door neighbor's house to pick up 12 empty baby food jars or 5 pieces of paper. My time and my gas money are worth so much more.

I am all for recycling good serious current or valuable things when it's convenient and easy. And I've always been an environmental advocate. I now realize that this ideal is what has been stalling me all these years, forcing me to live in the chaos I do. But I've had a major major tectonic shift in my global and personal perspective this week. An epiphany. I cannot save the world. But maybe I can save myself and my house and family. The garbage can is my new friend.

skywatcher - The process you described in how you were finally able to let go of the potpourri hits close to home, and it's where I was before I read the "throw it out" thread. I would have dutifully stored that little box, moved it around my house to multiple places multiple times, maybe it eventually would've reached my car - but more likely it would have just stopped at the back porch to become part of my public and visible clutter (ugh) - all with my wonderful intent of maybe someday getting it to the Goodwill (we have none convenient here) for that imaginary someone who will "love" it.

However, after my new enlightenment this weekend, I read your post completely with new eyes. And this is what I see... YOU have gone through the process of all the reasons this potpourri is no longer "good" and I think I would have reached a different decision than you today. It doesn't smell nice anymore, and it's out of style, so I would "throw it out" - yes, in the trash. Way too much trouble for me to find a place to "recycle" it. And it seems to me if you reached these conclusions, then why wouldn't someone else reach the same conclusion? It seems they would. I am not saying you are wrong to donate it, if that's what works for you. I am just saying that it doesn't work for me anymore.


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RE: OK to throw it away - thank you

"So I'm taking the box to Goodwill and smiling at the thought of someone gleefully taking it home and arranging the somewhat fragrant potpourri in their bowls (artfully, of course)."

Skywatcher, I think you should be throwing that defective potpourri away. In the garbage, or in a compost somewhere.

What would there be to smile about if someone takes the box home and discovers that it has very little scent left? And why would they be gleeful about opening the box to find that the scent if nearly gone? Why would THEY want to *pay money* (no matter how little) to use potpourri that *you* wouldn't use even when it was free?

It's worn out--toss it.

I *am* saying that I think you are wrong to donate it. I still believe that most of what we think is "still good" isn't really. And that's why I'm such a fan of throwing things out.


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RE: OK to throw it away - thank you

Jenswrens and talleysue, thank you for your insight. I didn't make it clear that some of those bags have never been opened and are still full-scented. But I don't have a place for them in my home anymore. However, instead of donating the whole collection (I was thinking that someone might appreciate the decorative aspect, even if the smell was slightly faded), I will sort though the different bags and determine which are just done and should be tossed.

I so love the idea that an item that has lost value to me might be recycled and appreciated by someone else. The ol' "one man's trash is another man's treasure" concept. But I also know that sometimes "one man's trash" is just that. Trash.

Jenswren, I know exactly how you feel about books. I had accumulated so many books I found I had little room for new books. Getting rid of any seemed drastic, but I started by pulling out the "one-time" reads--the mysteries. I gave several boxes of them to my mother-in-law, who is also an avid reader. She told me she passed them around to her book-ish friends and she also was able to trade them at her local bookstore.

A few years ago, my friends and I started a "Serial Killer Book Club" and every couple of months, someone would host a dinner party and we'd put our discarded paperbacks (James Patterson, Patricia Cornwell and so forth) on a table and each person would give a quick synopsis of their contribution. We'd pick up whatever interested us and either bring it back to the next "meeting" or toss it at our own discretion. Fun way to shed some books!


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RE: OK to throw it away - thank you

Jenswrens, you said "I am all for recycling good serious current or valuable things when it's convenient and easy. And I've always been an environmental advocate. I now realize that this ideal is what has been stalling me all these years, forcing me to live in the chaos I do. But I've had a major major tectonic shift in my global and personal perspective this week. An epiphany. I cannot save the world. But maybe I can save myself and my house and family. The garbage can is my new friend."

This is me, about ten years ago. I had to keep every last bit of every last toy until it could be assembled enough to give away as an intact toy, if it took fifty years to reunite the parts. Single socks? If their mates might be somewhere it n the house, I kept 'em. And then there was the very strong belief that somehow, even if they were single, I would eventually find a use for them. This was long before anyone coined the term "upcycle." I started collecting stuff to do it, and once or twice I even did! But the stuff, oh lord the stuff.

I looked around at my friends' houses, so tidy and spacious, and realized that what I was doing to avoid throwing stuff in the landfill was making a landfill out of my own house for my family to live in. I realized all they had that I didn't was the will to lift the lid on the trash can. Oh, did I mention how proud I was of the small amount of trash we generated every week? Yeah, we were living in it!

Besides trash, however, recycling has come a long way and that helps fanatics like me. Today I took some old cheap sunglasses apart with a miniscrewdriver so I could recycle the plastic, a service now available on a pay basis (for plastics that aren't accepted in our blue box). Linked below is something that some people might enjoy that don't have much local recycling service. Do a search for "recycle by mail" and there might be other options. If I couldn't recycle hard plastic yet I might still be buried in small toys.

It is still a battle - my attic is like your basement perhaps (my basement only less so as it has been DH's territory, but I too looked at that blog entry and thought "cluttered??). Good luck to us all!

KarinL

Here is a link that might be useful: Terracycle


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"I cannot save the world. But maybe I can save myself and my house and family. The garbage can is my new friend." ~karinl

Karin, you are a genius! That statement is BRILLIANT!

I was married to a full blown hoarder for 23 years. He was also uber-Environmental Man. He used "the environment" as an excuse for his hoarding. Like you, he made our house a landfill to keep things out of the real landfill. 6 months free of him and my house is finally turning into a HOME. My sons and I have room to move and really live for the first time in their lives. It's wonderful!

The trash is my best friend, too!


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RE: OK to throw it away - thank you

Credit goes to Jenswrens, but I'm glad that quoting it brought it to your attention!

I'm still working myself out of it, its not easy. But at least you need the epiphany, and unfortunately it can walk by you a hundred times without making an impact unless you come to it willingly. I think you have to have a moment where you step outside yourself and see your mess and your rationalizations through the eyes of others, unfortunately hard to do because often others are hammering you for your stuff and you're feeling defensive.

I'm sorry your husband didn't have that in time, and I have to admit my husband has been tolerant (also not blameless for other reasons, but at least tolerant).

KarinL


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The trash epiphany is such a great milestone because you realize you are in control--you don't have to exercise it if you have a good alternative destination; you can still, if you want to, think of it as your last resort, but it's there, and it can keep you from getting blocked or paralyzed on a project. Judicious use of it actually helps you keep up the energy to make other possible donations rather than reaching total overload. Plus it de-mystifies your clutter--"this is really trash!" keeps stuff in perspective.


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RE: OK to throw it away - thank you

I have spent the last 2 weeks going through my basement. It was such a mess, and sooo much laundry problems. Now, I have such a nice area that I can access my storage items, workout, let the kids play in a clean area with minimal toys, and a nice table to fold clothes. I couldn't be more thrilled! The more you work on it, the quicker you will get through it, you will love it when you are done :)


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Every summer we rented a cabin on a lake. The cabin was fully furnished and the kitchen was stocked with dishes, silverware, pots and pans. A maid came in once a day to tidy up, make the beds, and replace all towels. All we had to bring was food. And every year I loved that one week in a sparse, minimally furnished home. When I feel down about my own messy house, I think of that cabion. If I work hard enough, I could literally transform my own house into a vacation spot! "The more you work on it, the quicker you will get through it, and you will love it when you are done!" YES! I can do it!


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Although I try to donate or recycle what I can, sometimes there is no alternative but to admit it's trash and throw it out. And yes, it is quite liberating. However, my DH has been known to retrieve items out of the trash can, which kind of ticks me off after having made the decision to throw it away. My solution? Wrap said object in the packaging that feminine hygiene products come in. He never looks through that!


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LOL, FairOaksMom!

I have been known to deliberately ruin something beyond repair when I toss it. Underwear that's beginning to wear out? I force the incipient hole into existence.

I'm lucky--my husband doesn't sabotage me, but the kids would beg to keep things--clothes with only tiny holes, artwork that was only *slightly* rumpled. So before they ever realized I was tossing it, I made sure that its "trash-ness" was completely unambiguous.


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When I was a kid, I loved to read. As I grew, I developed some bad habits. I saved every book I ever read. I saved magazines (whole). I tried cutting and saving only important articles. I took to photocopying from books and magazines. Then I discovered several cooking websites and started printing things that looked interesting. As a result, a lot of my clutter is of the paper variety. Need to stop keeping paper. Need to donate books. Need to recycle magazines, bring to laundromat or hospital waiting room.


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RE: OK to throw it away - thank you

Jannie--can you change that to : "WANT to stop keeping paper. WANT to donate books. WANT to recycle . . ."?

Make it positive, not negative.


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RE: OK to throw it away - thank you

Or even...

I WILL stop keeping paper. I WILL donate books. I WILL recycle.


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...I HAVE stopped keeping paper. I AM donating books. I AM recycling...


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Yes, thanks for the nudge. All I need to do is bring things into the present. Instead of I want to and I will do, it becomes I do, and I be and I am. I do my sorting and recycling, and my house is clean. Yes. Thanks all!


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RE: OK to throw it away - thank you

In our area, every city library has a Friends of the Library group. They accept books and store them; once a month or more often they hold a sale, paperbacks are 25cents larger ones are 1$, hardcovers 1, 2 or more (if they are autographed)they also sell used audiobooks.
They are great for trips because I have left books in airport waiting rooms when I am through reading them, given them to people in foreign countries, left them in hospitals.
I am from California, but when I was in Denver for a week, I went to their library and they had the system there as well. I bought books in Denver and gave them mine.
If they don't have that system where you live--offer to start it up. Its a fundraiser for the library.


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RE: OK to throw it away - thank you

This is a great thread! I know my clutter keeps me from being able to fully enjoy my home. My garage becomes the dumping ground when company is coming over. Parts of my house and garage are overwhelming...... The work bench is covered with little bits that need a home; screws, washers, nails, etc. Reading this thread gives me the hope that I can decide to just junk it!

2 years ago when my son was first going off to college he told me he just couldn't bring himself to throw out all those school papers from years gone by. My advice to him was to make a stack of what he wanted to keep, scan it and throw out the paper copy. I told him that by the time he had done 10% of the stack, he would decide that about 90% of the remaining stack wasn't worth the effort to scan and would just pitch it into the recycle bin. Unfortunately, I'm not very good at following the same advice I gave him.

I want to keep tabs on this thread and continue to be inspired.


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Years ago I got interested in painting ceramics. I did literally dozens of them. Lots of Santas, which I gave as gifts. I bought many bottles of paint. And brushes of all kinds. Then I got busier with my job and kids, so I had no time for ceramics. Fifteen or 20 years ago I put everything in a box in a closet. Recently, I pulled out that box. All the paints, tho new and capped, were dried out. So it was a waste to try and save them. Taught me a lesson. When you are done with a craft, throw everything out. You'll still have the items you made and the memories of the process of doing the craft. And if you want to re-start, there are loads of stores like Michaels.


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I've had the sad and difficult task of clearing out our parents' home. The house was three stories with a wood shop and full basement (and I DO MEAN FULL)! We had a two day garage sale, but for the most part it was necessary to quickly decide "give to charity" "give to relatives" "toss" or "keep". No time to really think about it or become emotional about items, as the house was sold and we had to clear it out in two weeks. I was surprised at how detached I became in the process.
I recently had to do the same thing with DH's family home.
Now I approach my own home in somewhat the same mode, as if the stuff weren't really mine. When faced with sorting through and clearing up the garage, closet, etc. I say to myself "What would you do with this if you were clearing out someone else' stuff. And what would someone else likely do with it if they were clearing out for you? Give, toss or keep?


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RE: OK to throw it away - thank you

Recently, I pulled out that box. All the paints, tho new and capped, were dried out. So it was a waste to try and save them. Taught me a lesson. When you are done with a craft, throw everything out.

Or, another lesson: When you are done with a craft, admit it--and give the equipment & supplies away to someone who will use it. Now, while its' still good.

Trust yourself that you'll be able to buy new if you get interested in it again.


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