Too Much Stuff, Too Little Time

In which I discuss my efforts to have less (#2, #11, #24, #33) and know exactly where to put it all (#42, #46).

Alas, I am not, nor have I ever been, a minimalist. I would really like to have the right things in the right amount and know exactly where everything should go. I have been working towards a reasonable, practical, and joyful level of stuff, but I find it slow and hard going. Add in the baby/toddler perfect storm of too many outgrown things and too little time and I found it hard to see the progress. I still have an unreasonable, impractical, and stressful amount of stuff.

But I am making progress. I found at least two things to donate or get rid of each day for a month. I did an initial clearing and organization of papers in my office. I donated to a men’s suit drive, a prom dress drive, and have pulled out my suits and professional dresses to donate in the next thrift store load. I’ve edited down our movie collection.

The hubs and I worked a lot in the garage, but were never able to organize it enough to fit both cars in. We have prioritized using that space for other projects, so I haven’t even been parking my one car inside, but I am all set to do that as the weather cools off. (No coats in the car seat will make for pretty miserable getting in and out of the car as it is!)

I did reorganize the cleaning supplies in my laundry room once I redid the cabinets in there, but I don’t think I’m really making the most of that storage yet.

And therein lies the real challenge that I think these goals highlighted but didn’t completely alleviate. By focusing on obtainable actions, I completed many of these items. But my life also changed a ton, my stuff changed more, and my motivation was … scattered. I wasn’t working systematically towards a clear, overarching goal. Those completions didn’t help me change my mindset or habits towards other categories of things or clutter-magnetic locations.

I’ve been reading a lot of books to help me figure out exactly what stuff triggers my stress, my husband’s stress, my son’s stress. To help me figure out what we actually crave from our spaces and our possessions, to recognize where we have different priorities, and to map out the feel I want the house to have. Some of the books were helpful, some weren’t great fits. None resonated enough that I feel like I have a clear action plan.

The clutter is mostly mine, which makes me feel frustrated and guilty, even as I can’t quite get rid of enough. The solutions will need to be mine, but with my family’s needs in mind. I am definitely more motivated than ever to get things down to a new reduced baseline. These reducing and organizing types of goals have been on each of my 101 lists, and I expect they will appear on my next list, too. But I know now to focus as much on the never-ending process of changing my habits as well as clearing out my backlog. I’m excited to see what I can come up with within my 101 format. And I’d be happy to hear any suggestions you guys have!

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Clearing out my space

In which I touch on a few goals (#11, #24, #29, #42, #53) that are all linking to clearing physical items out of my space.

I feel like I’m genetically programmed to keep too much stuff.

(That way, I can shift the blame off of myself when I finally go through my desk drawers and find 30 floppy discs, Hollywood video AND Blockbuster membership cards, or pens that don’t write. Or when I go through my shelves and find books I have no intention of reading, free bookmarks I don’t use, or decorations that have no meaning to me. Or when I go through my drawers and find clothes that don’t fit my style, life, or body anymore.)

This year, I have been doing a major house-wide purge. Sometimes I feel like I’m starting to see results, but others it is so discouraging to continue to work and still feel like I can’t find what I need, I have nothing to wear, my things are still all over the place.

I’m slowly working though the ridiculous amount of paper that I have. Filing, shredding, but mostly recycling: old coupons that got swept up in a pile, or old grocery lists that was out away in a purse, or why did we think we needed to keep this? I think the amount of junk mail we pile up in a week is disgusting. And it is way too easy to let that pile up.

We’re cleaning out in the garage in order to get at least my car in, but it doesn’t look like we’ll get the second car inside until we build out a lot more storage. I’m trying to take the progress for what it is worth and not let perfection be the enemy of good.

I’ve also been doing a lot of hard work on my clothes. I’ve got a ton of clothes that just don’t fit any more — not me, not my life. I’ve already donated one big load of clothes and am working on at least two more. (We’re donating baby items to a different location than the rest in the hopes that they get a more direct route to folks who need them than a thrift store.) While I’ve reduced a lot, I feel like I’ll cut more out when I am not comparing to the items that were clearly not working. Just because this one is better than that doesn’t mean that this one is good. Right now I’m storing three separate wardrobes — one for life now, and two in case I decide to have another kid, and then decide to nurse another kid. I’ve decided that all my items need to fit in my closet and dresser — no seasonal items under the bed, no fancy items in the guest room.

I’ve been reading some non-fiction books to keep me motivated on clearing out the clutter and making the most of my house after I finally get it cleared out. I think I’ll revisit a few books that I read back in my first 101 while trying to develop my style, which I feel needs a practical update these days. I hope those might keep me motivated to make the hard choices on clothes.

I’m trying to get some real progress, which is a lot messier than rushing through and “organizing” things out of sight. It’s been good but overwhelming. I haven’t hit the balance between working enough to keep momentum and working so much that I completely burn out on it.