Thursday, March 11, 2010

Past Deadline: On Viciously Decluttering

It must be spring. The urge to declutter is growing, but it is quickly being replaced by a fear that my house will be featured on an episode of Hoarders.

It’s no secret I am not Martha Stewart when it comes to housekeeping. What am I saying? Martha probably has people to clean her house, after all.

We live in a small abode. Currently, two of the grown-ups work mostly from home. Our dining room has become Groom-boy’s office/storage area. One of the little people is only in school every other day. Neither child has mastered the fine art of consistent tidy-up. The cats are always around to distribute cat-hair tumbleweed and other unpleasantries. Long story short – whenever something gets tidied, it never stays so for long because there are always people and cats here making messes.

It takes a certain kind of meticulous to stay on top of tidiness in a small house, and I’m not quite there. It doesn’t help that there is an element of packratitis going on here, too. I am fond of books and papers. Ditto on the papers for Groom-boy. The kids are fond of everything they’ve ever had – if they remember they have it.

Naturally, one of the reasons I had kids was to justify the existence of my abundant stuffed animal collection. I was relieved when I had a girl because that gave my 1970s Nancy Drew hardcover mystery series a reason for being, too.

Alas, the time has come to make a few changes around here. We’re all growing (even the big people) and taking up more space. I have started wandering from room to room with all the Lady MacBeth-style drama I can muster, wringing my hands and crying woe because there is just too much stuff.

Do you ever get to the point with something where you have no idea where to start because there is too much to do? That’s me – poster child – when it comes to decluttering. Sometimes, though, even when you figure out a good starting point, it doesn’t work out as well as you would hope.

Take, for instance, my Grand Plan on the weekend to purge the toy bin of stuffed animals in Girlchild’s room, which is crammed to overflowing. It contains my old “stuffies,” most of Boychild’s that he passed on to her and a whole bunch that were given to her specifically over the years. I would love to reduce the collection by half so we can actually use the toy bin for other things, too, like non-stuffy toys. This would dramatically reduce clutter in other parts of her room.

Good plan, yes?

I figured I would start by having her select items she no longer wants, then I could selectively prod or purge as needed.

Yeah, right.

She did a good job. She made a fairly large pile of items she was willing to pass along to other children. But I am weak.

“Oh, Girlchild, are you sure about this one? This little doggy was your first stuffy when you were a baby.”

“Oh, gee, Girlchild, you might want to play with this dolly again.”

“Oh, well, that was my Nanny’s. I’d like to keep that one. Oh, and that one, too.”

“Oh, um, well, we shouldn’t get rid of this one. Carole gave me that in high school.”

“Um, Rob gave me that in high school.”

“Cindy…high school.”

“Roger…you know.”

“Ahem. Never mind. Let’s go to the bookshelf and see if there are any baby books you want to get rid of.”

Again, Girlchild makes a pile of books for us to donate. Clever girl.

“Oh, gee, well we should keep this one because I used to read that to your brother every morning when he was little.”

“Yeah, um, hm. That one’s such a good story…are you sure about that one?”

I need. To get. A grip. I need to viciously declutter. Perhaps I will abandon the concept of purging books and stuffies for the moment and focus on closets and drawers instead. At least there it’s simpler – if it fits, keep it. If not, say goodbye.

Well, except for that cute little dress, maybe. And that blankie. And…oh dear.

Published in The Perth Courier, March 11/10.


sheila said...

Thanks for an amusing post!
Well, you said it... Girlchild doesn't have a problem letting go. Sounds like you do. Keeping things is not a way of keeping connections to people.
My guess is, that if you really learned to declutter and let go of stuff yourself, then the 'messy' people around you would miraculously follow suit!

mamabear said...

This post is precious! Love it!

In response to your first commenter--I don't think we keep things given to us to stay connected to the givers. Couldn't it just be that it's courteous and respectful, to not give away things that were gifts?

Steph said...

It's partly the gift thing, but I think Sheila makes a good point, too. I also admit I have a soft spot for some of these "stuffies." Some of them are connected to special memories or people who are no longer here, like my grandmothers. Maybe I need to take pictures and create a poster of them or something, but it's nice to be able to pick up a little bear or doggie and remember that they occupied places in my Nanny's room at the nursing home, for example. For a long time they even carried the scent of her perfume.

Be proud of me, though. Since this post I attacked my closet and Girlchild's closet and unloaded about five large shopping bags of stuff! I also recycled a couple of boxes of old files. All is not lost!