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Downsizing 102: Who made this mess?

First, I should point out that when one is clearing clutter or weeding out belongings, whether it is in preparation of a move or not, it's rarely a neat, streamlined process. It is, in fact, a mess, both physically and metaphorically. Here's why:

It's a nonlinear process

By definition, you have to cull through things. But you can't really plow straight through. Sometimes you have to clean first. And, of course, you get rid of the stuff that is trash as you go.

Let's all imagine the same space for a minute, okay? Let's imagine my garage, the way it started out. It is attached to (technically included within the boundaries of) my house. It has an automatic garage door opener, and a door into the front hall of my house. I have never parked my car/van inside this garage because there simply hasn't been room. This garage is used for storage space. It had an old crib (in pieces) and bed frame (same) stored against the back wall. Three sets of golf clubs and two pull-carts for same in a corner. Four old computers (two towers and monitors, two heavy, bulky old-school laptops with dial-up capability) stashed about. A bookcase against the right wall holding a set of dishes and some painting supplies. A massive box in the center of the room plus a big red & green bin holding bits of a faux Christmas tree. A standing rack (roughly 2 x 4 feet) holding shovels and picks and such; another standing rack of similar size holding sports equipment of the non-golfing variety. Shelving mounted to the walls or suspended from the ceiling all around the edges of the room, holding paint supplies and extra asbestos shingles for the side of the house and extra roof tiles and materials bought to redo the upstairs bathroom which never got redone. And tins for cookie storage. And boxes full of wine and champagne glasses. And an old roaster. And another set of shelves holding hand tools (saws and sanders and drills and hammers and such). And a wreath holder. And a wreath, not in the holder. And half-empty birdseed bags that critters have gotten into and dragged all over the place. And boxes of LPs and boxes of dishes and boxes of who-knows-what here and there. Plus the cat carrier, vacuum cleaner, a storage cart full of drawers, and some items that belonged to my ex-husband. And there was more.

The first pass, although time-consuming, was full of easy decisions. Throw out the birdseed stuff and clean it up. Ditch anything that was broken or no longer needed. Drop the old computers off at the electronics collection place once the hard drives were removed. Put the crib and bed out for the trash pickers. Clear space. Put things away. Get my ex-husband to take his belongings.

It was messy (literally) and untidy and frankly, dirty and disgusting, and it took A LOT of time for my sweetheart and me, but while the labor was hard(ish), the decisions were simple.

To sum up: hard work, easy decisions, completely nonlinear, since you had to muck out a section at a time to get to the next area.

It's a multi-layered process

Kind of like archaeology, really, when you think about it. First you dig out a bunch of dirt that's on top of the area, then you have to slow down and start paying attention. Only thankfully, small hand tools and wee brushes and strainers aren't usually required.

Once you have a clean, semi-organized space, it's easier to assess what you have and what you need to make decisions about.

Take my garage. (Please.) There still isn't space to park my car, but at least we can walk around in there now without tripping over something every few feet. And I mean that we were literally tripping over stuff before, and now there is room to spin around here and there. But still, not LOTS of room. I still have to get rid of more things, and these decisions range from easy to barely into the mid-range of difficulty: box up and get rid of all dishes out there. Get rid of the (broken, plus it belonged to my first ex-husband) bookshelf. Get rid of the remaining two sets of golf clubs and cart, sports equipment and rack. Get rid of any shovels, rakes, picks, etc. that we aren't going to move and the rack it's in. Get rid of the Christmas tree (after this year's holiday), because both sweetheart and I are Jewish anyhow, and there's no room to store it at his house. Get rid of the old roasting pan.

A lot of that is going to happen this month, because I wrote it on my timeline. (Christmas tree excepted.)

There will still be one more pass, at the very least. And the next pass will be harder, because it will involve decisions about what to do about the items to re-do a bathroom (donate them? leave them? move them?), three boxes of wine & champagne glasses (how many to keep? what to do with the others?), and hand tools. Perhaps this sounds silly to you, but I have sentimental attachments to some of my tools. Like my hammers. I own three. I really like two of them. One was a gift from my brother, and the other is a light-weight little thing that some people might mock for being useless, but it's perfect for hanging pictures and things requiring a bit of a delicate tap.

You get the idea.

Each pass creates its own mess

Literally. The stuff that was put away on that first or second pass gets hauled out so it can be packed off somewhere. Some of the stuff that escaped the first cut turns out to be broken or useless and has to be put in the trash after all. Sometimes, even, things fall down or spill.

It creates its own mess of decisions, too. Do I donate the dishes or try to sell them somewhere? If I want to sell them, how do I go about it? Find a consignment shop? List stuff on Craigslist? Take it to an auction house? Etc. For me, the answer is pretty much "donate it" for most everything because I don't really want to be bothered doing the legwork involved in selling it, but now that I'm getting to items that might mean actual money, it's harder to just let them go.

Again, you get the idea. And this is a process that repeats itself at some level for every single space you are working on decluttering/downsizing. (In my house, three bedrooms, two and a half baths, front hall, living room, dining room, family room, and kitchen, plus a basement, attic, and garage.) Every time we succeed in clearing a space, it gets invaded by the overflow from somewhere else.

My bright idea

What has helped me a bit is to make sure there's one clear, clean space in each room. Beds in the bedrooms (they're the biggest territory), a counter or table in the kitchen and dining room, etc. Just one place you can rest your eye in each room without cringing is the minimum required to keep me from going bonkers about the mess.

How 'bout you?

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( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Oct. 24th, 2013 03:01 pm (UTC)
I'm so glad you had some time to go through things and eliminate some of the sources of stress in your life. (What are unwanted documents in piles except stress, right?)
(Deleted comment)
Oct. 24th, 2013 03:08 pm (UTC)
I believe a well-organized garage needs shelving units or shelves of some sort. At my sweetheart's house, where we recently redid his garage (added wallboard to what was open beams and insulation, plus new paint for everything), there is an eight foot wide by four foot high section of pegboard mounted on a frame we constructed that is about halfway up the wall, with two shelves mounted on the wall beneath it. That's for all of the tools. There is a free-standing shelving unit (metal with particle board shelves) that holds all the gardening supplies, plus two more that hold things like cleaning supplies. There WILL be a six-foot section that holds pantry items like paper towels, toilet tissue, and things that don't need to be in a temperature-controlled environment. Plus he hung up his weed whacker, blower, etc., on hooks, as well as his bike. It's all pretty organized, but couldn't have been organized without the shelving and such.
Oct. 22nd, 2013 10:53 pm (UTC)
Great post! I, too, am decluttering and getting rid of things. It feels so good!
Oct. 24th, 2013 03:10 pm (UTC)
It really does feel great - sometimes during the process, but always afterwards. It's the constant decision-making that gets wearing, though, and the being overrun by stacks/piles/boxes/bags of things that haven't yet made it to Goodwill or wherever they're headed!
Oct. 24th, 2013 09:47 pm (UTC)
Yep, I am doing much the same thing, only in my case it's inside the house, as I lack a garage. My biggest issue is paper. My family are natural information hoarders, and I have years of pre-internet research stored up in boxes and such, plus all of the "don't want to deal with it right now" piles.

My solution is to move most of it to digital storage, sorting and keeping all of the "actually do HAVE to deal with this right now" into a physical single file. I have two 2-drawer file cabinets where anything else I am keeping hard copies of has to fit, because if it doesn't, there's still more to get rid of.

Then I get to move on to my sewing and crafting supplies.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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