other people’s clutter

I was intrigued by the comments from people who said they wouldn’t dare declutter somebody else’s belongings.  In this family when it comes to household stuff everyone pitches in.  But the Boss really can’t be bothered with sorting out clothes.  To be honest he can’t be bothered with putting them away either.  He knows full well that a sort out is in order (just how many pairs of chinos does a man need?) but he is never going to do it himself.  Enter Super Sorter.  That would be me.

I make two piles.  Pile one is allowed back into the drawer.  Pile two is left on the floor for sorting and approval.  This he can manage.  Socks and boxers were dealt with last month (hurrah I can shut his sock drawer at last).  Yesterday it was the turn of belts,  sporrans (yes they are plural), sock garters (very plural) ties and shirts.

The most shocking were the garters and shirts.  This is the pile of  belts and garters that have not yet made it back into the drawer.  Bearing in mind they are only worn when he is wearing his kilt (plural of them too) and that is only worn occasionally, the need to own some 40 pairs of garters many of which are the same colour is quite baffling to me.

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That white packet on the right contains an unopened packet of 5 pairs of ….. garters.

The shirts were another huge problem.  This is his shirt cupboard.  I have gone through every shirt and removed those with worn cuffs or collars, stained etc.

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This is the contents of the drawer that held the as yet unworn shirts.  With a few ties on the side.

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You see my problem.  Not one single one of these shirts is worn, some of them are brand new.  Does he need all of these.  I think even the most generous of you would say no.  Part of the problem is, to be fair, of my own making.  I have let him buy shirts he doesn’t need.  He is a classic example of somebody who has so much that he can’t find what he wants so it is easier to buy a new one.  I haven’t even started on the suits, jackets and trousers yet.

So what now?  Today we will work through the piles together.  He has already acknowledged that he has far too much so step number one has been achieved, but whether the canny Scot in him will let him let go of perfectly good clothes that he doesn’t need is another question altogether.

kicking the guilt habit

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I was doing some research yesterday for a series of workshops I am planning on learning to live with less when I came across this piece of advice for identifying clutter.

“Does this item lift my energy?  Does this item give me joy?”

In a sense it is not very different from the quote by William Morris I mentioned yesterday.  However, I like it because it extends the concept of beauty.  My copy of The Poisonwood Bible is not physically beautiful and I doubt it is of any practical use unless I was transported back fifty years and sent to live with a mad missionary father in the then Belgian Congo.  However, it lifts my energy and gives  me great joy.  It is one of the last books with which I would ever part.

This criterion allows you to keep items of genuine sentimental value.  I am not advocating you keep that box full of every piece of artwork your child brought home from school.  Because, that would, certainly in my case fail this test completely.  I would hold it, and feel weighed down by the knowledge that most of it will never see the light of day again.  Hardly uplifting for my soul.  In my case I got around that by keeping a few pieces by each child, framing them and putting them up in my study.  I bought display folder (the kind sales reps use) for each child and put about 20 pieces of artwork in there.

Likewise those gifts, “heirlooms”, family knick knacks that you are keeping for sentimental reasons.  Hold them in your hands.  How do they make you feel?  In our experience we were keeping a lot of those things out of guilt, and guilt and a heavy heart was what we felt whenever we saw them (which was rarely).  By all means offer them back to your family if you are afraid that somebody will feel offended if you offload them.  But I suspect the chances are nobody else wants them either.  Something that might have been of sentimental value to one person years ago does not have to be of sentimental value to you.

Also, please don’t follow what I think is terrible advice, take a photograph of the object and then let it go. Why on earth would you substitute one piece of clutter (the item) for another piece (the photograph) which is inevitably going to remind you (should you ever look at it which I am sure you will not) that you let go of something that you found, at the time, quite hard to do?

I long gave up feeling guilty about putting gifts I did not want aside for charity or passing on to somebody I know (and you must KNOW) would want them.  Today most people know I don’t want stuff, I would rather have time, plants, a voucher, a day out so the situation doesn’t arise as often.

However, if you pick up a cracked porcelain figurine that reminds you of a loved one, that brings back wonderful memories then keep it.  By the time you have got rid of all the stuff that failed the test, that figurine will have plenty of space to shine on your mantelpiece and lift your soul on a daily basis.  Right now I would hazard a guess that you can hardly see it behind all the clutter in the way.

The egg cup at the top?  It was mine as a child and it is still in regular use.  But not only that, it makes me smile when I see it, when I use it. It passes the soul lifting test with flying colours.

decluttering with William Morris – the Pre-Raphaelite method

If you want a golden rule that will fit everybody, this is it.  Have nothing in your houses that you do  not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.

Useful and beautiful (in my eyes).

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I have always loved the Pre-Raphaelites.  If I had studied history of art it would have been a one horse race.  But it is not just their artwork which I adore.  It is the whole ethos of the Arts and Craft movement; the belief that a healthy society was one which respected craft production and did not rely entirely on division of labour and machinery for the creation of products.  The use of natural and local materials in production.  And of course William Morris’ famous quote above.

Beautiful

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I know that there is much in our house that does not meet that criterion.  From where I sit to work I can see a carving of a fish.  It is pretty, but I don’t love it and I don’t know in my heart it is beautiful.  There is an incense stick holder which has been superceded by a more beautiful (actually more simple in design) and more useful one.  In my pen holder there are two marker pens which I know don’t work.  Outside in the courtyard I can see an old bird table that has been superceded by are more practical one.  There is a glass contraption that was supposed to trap wasps but never did.  All that and I didn’t even leave my seat.

Useful

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Join me today as we walk around our homes.  Look carefully at the things around you and ask yourself if they would pass Morris’ test.  If they do not, then why are you keeping them?

Neither useful nor beautiful

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I almost bought a dress

Yes, it is true.  I was seconds away from purchasing a dress that I liked, but did not need, yesterday.  I have a dress I love.  Here it is.

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It is unbelievably comfortable, it makes me feel a million dollars, it can be easily dressed up or down.  It is perfect for my lifestyle and my wardrobe.  The point is I only have one.  Now, I know I only need one, but I had a relapse.  I found myself thinking that now I had found something I loved perhaps I should have more than one.  This thought completely ignored the fact that I have six other dresses in my wardrobe of different styles that also meet the same three criteria above.  Seven dresses is quite enough.

However, the lapsed me is made of sterner stuff.  I knew I had the one in one out rule.  I earmarked the dress to go.  I sat down.  I chose the replacement and I even got as far as inputting my debit card details.

 

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Here fate intervened.  My card was refused.  I was shocked.  I had just checked my balance and knew there were not only funds available but sufficient to allow a dress purchase.  I looked more closely.  I had transposed two numbers.  I was about to correct them when I realised that although I did love the dress.  I really didn’t need it. Furthermore, once I had purchased it, however much I loved it I would know deep down that it was an unecessary purchase and that would detract from the joy I would have wearing it.

As for the dress earmarked for the charity bag.

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It has a reprieve for now.  But if I was willing to sacrifice it, perhaps I don’t really want or need it after all?

PS Yes I do have a bit of a thing for floral prints.  Apparently I am quite on trend this year!

reverse decluttering part three

Today I tackled OPQ.  Frankly the most difficult I have encountered thus far.  Considerable lateral thinking required.

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Moving backwards in an orderly alphabetical manner the first things to go were those that quacked.  Or would do if they were real.  Our real ducks have long gone and we now only have a  handful of chickens.  They not only earn their keep but are entertaining and lovely.  These plastic wotsits have been sitting on the guest bathroom shelf for years and even the youngest houseguests have never got them down.  Time to find a new home.

P is for periodicals.  In the great craft declutter I came across piles and piles of magazines.  Lovely ones like Somerset Studio, Scrapbook Trends and Legacy.  But I have been scrapping for almost 15 years and I know my style and much as these are lovely to look at, the point is I don’t look at them.  If I want inspiration I go on the net, or go for a walk or look at my journal.  Out they go.

O is for Oblong.  I really did struggle here!  Back to the great craft declutter.  Boxes and boxes of paints, embossing powders and so forth.  I don’t use them. Somebody else can.  I did think about shoe boxes, but I have already done a major shoe clear out and there isn’t much left to go there.

It’s odd, I have got rid of so much stuff.  But most of what is left does not belong to me.  The Boss has been great about decluttering outside but his wardrobe now exceeds mine and I don’t seem to be able to persuade him to move in there.  I think I might just do it for him and see what happens.  Watch this space.

the craft stuff has to go

There comes a time when even those who think they are mighty must fall.  I crumpled at the craft, well I don’t know what to call it.  “Room” gives it a gravitas it does not deserve and “Pile” fails to bring across the enormit of the job.  In 1999 I began scrapbooking.  I had always kept our photograph albums up to date and scrapbooking combined this with my love of playing with paper, pens and ink.  All went swimmingly, I created pages that were lovely to look at, that had lots of journalling so we knew who everyone was and what they were doing and everybody loved to flick through them.  Then two things happened.  Photography went digital and scrapbooking went mainstream in the UK.

Net result, too many photographs and too many materials to work with.  Once I had to buy 80% of my stock online from the States, now I could get it in TK Maxx and Tescos.  Sadly, the latter resulted in the death of practically every bricks and mortar scrapping shop and we have come full circle.  If I want anything other than twee tat, I mainly have to buy from the US.  Once again,  I digress.

I couldn’t be bothered to collate  my photographs any longer.  There were too many of them and I had too many materials.  I didn’t know where to start.  So I am going back to my roots….

I am not a tidy declutterer.  I like to get stuff out and sort it into piles or the bin.  Only when I am finished do I put it all in order.  Odd, perhaps as I am so organised elsewhere.  I think it’s because to me the declutter process has priority over the tidy process.  I just want to get it out asap.

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The desk is the “holding” area, most stuff on here will be allowed to stay.   But not necesssarily  here.  In the meantime I have emptied both the filing cabinet and the wooden chest of drawers but not done anything about the stuff that usually lives on the desk (paints and pens mainly).  Not ideal, but I’ll get there in the end.

 

Work in progress.

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Stuff to go.  First dibs go to Sunday School and Messy Church, then local crafting friends and then the good old Charity shop.

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Starting to look better.

 

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And finally, because all that was rather stressfull.  Some calming tulips.

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do not declutter this book!

 

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Yup, you read it right.  I am going to actively encourage you to make a purchase and to keep it!  My book.  It’s got nothing to do with decluttering and isn’t actively aimed at your age group (I am assuming I do not have a huge under 16 readership).  But I think it is a pretty darn good read, and believe me I have read it hundreds of times.  If you do find a mistake please let me know quietly…..

Timesmudger, a tale of murder, time-travel and friendship.  Go on you know you want to.  And I have a a family to feed so think of it as an act charity if you must.

In the manner of an Oscar winner I do have a few thank yous.  First to my family for putting up with me whilst I wrote and nagging me to keep going when I felt like giving up and to the wonderfully talented Lauren Kudo from Cozy Up Designs who is responsible for the stunning cover.

You can buy it in Kindle or paperback version on Amazon so it’s only a click away (I can’t believe I just wrote that… )