I am very excited 2016 is over and 2017 is off to a great start.
I wasn’t looking forward to the end of last year since fireworks tend to bring on a lot of anxiety for me so I started yesterday evening cleaning a part of my home that’s been driving me crazy since….oh, basically we moved in and piled crap in there. (Ok, not everything in there is crap, but I do own–as many Americans do–more things than what I truly require to get by.) I decided I would try to one up my anxiety by tackling a decluttering project shortly before the fireworks began.
Some time ago I saw The Life-Changing Art of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo at Barnes & Noble. I decided to not pick up a copy since I’m fairly certain this month I can pick up a copy at my local public library (please don’t take all available copies, ok?). Like many other Americans who feel overwhelmed by stuff after Christmas, I know it’s a good thing to take hold of motivation to tackle clutter when that motivation rolls around. For me, I tend to clean (more intently) when something brings on anxiety. It might be concern over a passing grade, work stuff, and yesterday, fireworks. Fireworks (nearby) are very stressful for me.
I know there are many things in my life that don’t bring me joy and clutter is one of those things. Clutter is constantly in my life in so many different forms: half-filled lined books, my daughter’s school papers (honestly, I’m not keeping everything she brings home), store receipts, worn out/ill-fitting clothing, my list could keep on going. Yes, I am just as vulnerable as everyone else when it comes to clutter, but I didn’t want to wait until I read Marie Kondo’s book to say I was ready to make a change.
Am I following her rules exactly? Probably not. If you want to follow her teachings, grab the book. I will probably still grab a copy as I continue on this journey, but yesterday I wanted a distraction towards a positive focus. Cleaning (and decluttering) works for me.
I’ve decluttering and downsized a lot over the years. Each move required making choices about what to keep and bring forward in my life. With military moves, my nervousness regarding staying within our allotted weight limit, approximately 9,000 lbs., was a factor. Nearly everything we own was purchased individually and/or as part of its respective set (dining sets and bedroom sets) and the weight of an item was hardly ever a factor. The weight of an item became a big deal when moving it in, out, or around the apartment and later the first home we rented, which wasn’t until our move to Wyoming. Towards the tail end of our time in Wyoming we planned to move to Okinawa, Japan and trust me, we weren’t allowed to bring 9,000 lbs. of stuff overseas. Downsizing was a necessity, especially if we decided to live out in town rather than family housing on base. Japanese housing is not built for oversized American furniture.
While the move never happened (don’t worry, we still have plans to visit Japan someday) we did eventually move again and downsizing, while less dramatic than our hasty departure with a California King bedroom set and large sofa when we desired a permanent change of station to Okinawa, helped us immensely. We fit our possessions (approximately 5,400-5,600 lbs. worth) into three storage units while living with my in-laws.
My decluttering project yesterday (and today) was more rewarding than unloading those three storage units.
We have one of those closets under the stairs and it’s become a repository for underutilized things, paper goods storage, and home to our dog’s food storage container. We have fun dreams about adding a ‘cupboard under the stairs’ sign, but it will not become a childhood hangout spot like we’ve seen in some model homes; my daughter who is an avid fan of the Harry Potter movies would love it as her spot but let’s be honest the space is needed for storage not for a fancy hangout away from mom and dad. This place is just over 1,200 sq. feet and with our triple digit summers we cannot afford to keep some things in the garage.
Decluttering this wedge shape space required some serious discarding, more than I originally thought. I know this space had some ‘junk’ issues. I expected to come across some things which would be easy to discard, i.e. perfectly usable retail store and gift bags in fun, bright colors. When I first brought those things into my home I loved the things in those bags but wanting to be sustainable, I planned a second life for them. I would later use them as gift bags for future presents. Those bags were picked up some time in late 2015 probably, moved with us in May 2016 and still were not used. Hello, recycling bin!!!
I am the sort of person who likes lists. Lists remind me I accomplished something, even if the visual results lack evidence of my labor. Below is the list of things I set aside to donate (to my local Goodwill, specifically), recycle, or discard if the item was too worn out or not appropriate for donation.
2 Pottery Barn striped Euro shams
1 United States Marine Corps lanyard
1 Devil Wears Prada dvd
1 The Family Stone dvd
1 Little Pim French language children’s dvd (unwrapped)
1 Artist ruler
1 roll Christmas fabric ribbon
1 pkg Sharpie multi-color paint markers
1 Leather iPhone holder
1 Coach leather key chain (free item, comes with purse but I never use these!)
5 pillow cases
1 white fitted sheet, full size
1 flat sheet, twin size? (I forgot to check.)
1 blue sheet, queen size
1 sheet set
1 red laptop bag
1 brown throw (from Walmart)
1 small BevMo reusable shopping bag
1 container Origami paper, multi-color
1 Monogram wax sealer (a holdover from when I was planning our wedding reception that never happened…story for another time.)
2 pkgs. red wax (for monogram sealed envelopes…see above for explanation.)
1 LeAnn Rimes “This Woman” cd (thankfully I can listen to her music digitally)
1 LeAnn Rimes “Sitting On Top of the World” cd (see above for explanation)
2 Invader Zim dvds
6 writeable dvds
1 small lined journal (gift from a former student but I already have several which suit me better)
1 Save the Last Dance dvd
1 small purse
1 set Brazil Butt Lift workout dvds (Honestly, I felt like an idiot doing these workouts back in 2011/2012 whenever I bought them and this year I’m proud to say I am doing Pauline Nordine’s Butt Bible Challenge instead to get lifelong results. She is an impressive person who I follow on Instagram and Facebook.)
36 Writeable dvds
1 Pizza Math kids’ game (hopefully, my kid doesn’t kill me for donating it)
5 retail store bags
1 bark collar instruction manual
4 pk markers
1 pkg. wireless wipes
1 Rachel Ray magazine
1 cardboard folder
4 local business magnets
1 pkg. heavy duty magnets (FYI, only the sides of my fridge are magnetic)
1 partially used leather mini notebook
7 used Post-It Notes (during our 2016 house hunting adventure)
1 homemade Halloween costume
1 Homebuyer brochure for 1571 E ORCHID CT B, Gilbert, AZ (We considered buying this home earlier this year but got out bid.)
1 Total Gym dvd (We donated the total gym earlier this year.)
3 old Christmas card
1 school project flyer
1 small gift bag with tissue paper
2 old Department of Veterans Affairs education Certificates of Eligibility (personal info removed)
1 old envelope (personal info removed)
1 Tooth Fairy Post-It (my daughter left it so the Tooth Fairy knew it was her 2nd tooth)
1 fabric hookless shower curtain (We downsized on bathrooms with showers in our current home.)
3 birthday cards
2 empty cd cases
2 Arizona State University event programs
1 Rental check-in/out sheet (personal info removed)
1 old Financial Planning (undergraduate course) folder with homework
1 Food Network The Chocolate Issue magazine (2012)
1 store catalog
2 fabric color swatches from Design Within Reach for a Herman Miller chair (Fun story for another day but we scored this model of chair for less than $200.)
1 KitchenAid mixer instructions
1 plastic red top (kids toy)
2 pieces old artwork with damaged frames
1 damaged photo frame
2 construction traffic signs (My late father-in-law used to work for the Wyoming Department of Transportation which is how we acquired these things.)
1 2016 Arizona State University Graduation Commencement program (I earned my degree. I don’t need more paper clutter to show my achievement.)
Carpet remnants (hopefully, these can be recycled)
1 disposable razor handle
1 business card
1 plastic kid’s bracelet
1 Basha’s card (Nothing against Basha’s by the way.)
2 sheets Newsprint (moving packing material)
1 broken laptop cooling stand
1 pair women’s boots (ok, these didn’t come from the closet but I was on a roll)
1 pair men’s boots (ok, he was already throwing these out the same weekend, but again, it counts)
2 Desert Botanical Garden expired cards
2 Desert Botanical Garden expired admission tickets (expired 12/31/2016)
1 Men’s Warehouse store receipt
1 green dog bone (Our dog makes such a mess with these. We bought a bag and after she had one we were done with these products!)
1 empty battery box
1 Dutch Boy paint chip sample
1 check (shredded)
1 pile Christmas fake snow (the fluffy stuff sold at Walmart)
1 small party favor container of bubbles
1 bag of 7 day food beta fish tablets (Seriously, my daughter’s fish died in like October 2016. What is wrong with me?!) The bag was in our kitchen, but again, I was on a roll and it needed to be tossed.
1 opened container Ice Breaker mints (These have been in a box at least half a year..I’m not eating them!)
1 old box with metal pieces
I didn’t plan to part with so much, but I also cannot believe I was also holding onto so many items I (or my family members) no longer needed, wanted, and most importantly, enjoyed in some way or another. Thankfully, much of it can be donated so others can find joy with these usable items. As you can see, even without reading Marie Kondo’s book, I was inspired to make one change which has multiple impacts. I took simple inspiration from the table of contents (see below) to stay determined through my two day task. Find something similar that works for you (and your lifestyle). I didn’t have a whole week on my hands to go crazy cleaning up everything but I had a number of hours and the desire to distract myself from fireworks.
Below is what I (and my husband who chipped in significantly today) accomplished for our respective space (39.5″ by 76.5″). Disclaimer: Some items have been relocated to their more appropriate space in the house and some items, like the Osprey bags (left photo) were not originally in the laundry closet, but our hallway closet, but with the newfound space we could make use of the wall space. Happy cleaning and decluttering!!!