I read Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things this past week, and if there's a better book to set off a little spring-cleaning binge, I don't know what it is.
Have you seen this "clutter scale" test by one of the authors?
(I got it from here, where you can see it larger and also see other sample rooms.)
Our house is a 2, without stacks of newspapers, and the downstairs family room is a 3 because we've been using it as "I'll just put this here temporarily" storage since it was built.
What I love about this chart is that I can SEE why a 2-3 feels hopeless and out of control (that is, I don't feel silly for feeling that way)---while still receiving comfort that I'm low on the scale. My goal is to be somewhere between a 1 (which looks BEYOND tidy to me---like when I was a child and if I left a book on a chair when I went to the bathroom, my mother would close it and put it away on a shelf while I was gone) and a 2.
This weekend I tried to use some of the ideas I got from the book and from a couple of other articles I've seen on the topic of decluttering and from my own thoughts---ideas like, "Could I replace this easily if I regretted getting rid of it?" "Have I used it in X years and/or do I have reason to believe I will use it?" "Do I still feel distress AFTER getting rid of it, or only when thinking about getting rid of it?" "Does it bless or oppress?" "Do I consider it my job to be the caretaker of this item forever?" "Is saving it in my basement less of a waste than getting rid of it?" etc.
I got rid of three clocks I've been storing because clocks are useful even though I don't like them and have replaced them with others. I got rid of a 3-foot stack of carefully-acquired Ladybug magazines that my firstborn loved with obsessive passion when he was 2 and none of the other kids have given the time of day. And two twin-size duvet sets I thought I'd use for Rob and William's bunks 8 years ago but then didn't. A bedskirt I got for Elizabeth 3 years ago but it didn't work with her bed frame. A 2-foot stack of partially-used children's workbooks. A package of size 2T-3T pull-ups bought on an awesome clearance and then never used.
All this is leading up to something I got rid of that I'd say might have been My Most Difficult Thing to Get Rid Of. It's something I've been gradually accumulating for a decade, and have thought MANY TIMES that I should get rid of---but then couldn't. I've felt simultaneously "The Owner of Riches" and "The Crazy Person Who Needs Help" over them.
It's twin-sized flat sheets. I make the kids' beds with only the fitted sheet and a blanket. But I keep the flat sheets, because what else could I do with them? THROW AWAY a perfectly good flat sheet, still new and folded, half the material/value of the package of sheets I just paid for? If I tried to donate it, who'd need JUST A FLAT SHEET? And what if when the kids were older I started using the flat sheets again? What if when the kids were grown I used the twin sheets on guest beds? Besides, they're so handy as drop cloths and haircutting drapes! And so many of them are so PRETTY! And they're FABRIC, and fabric is USEFUL! Fabric is a SUPPLY! If I knew how to sew I could use them to make quilts! or clothes for the children, Sound-of-Music style! Or I could make curtains that perfectly matched the bedding! And it would be perfect if I ever did that idea of wrapping gifts in pieces of fabric instead of wrapping paper! And what if there were an apocalypse? FABRIC IS USEFUL AND VALUABLE AND THESE ARE PERFECT HEMMED PIECES OF IT.
So I saved them, and continued to save them. We have five twin beds in our house, and we've had trouble with night-training more than one of the kids so I like a large supply, and also we use cotton-weave in summer and flannel in winter, and also I am always finding cute ones at 75% off, which is my way of leading up to the information that I had over 30 twin-sized flat sheets in a closet---and that's not counting the three I stored elsewhere as drop cloths and haircutting drapes. They took up 1.5 shelves in a good and useful closet. When I loaded them into bags for a Freecycler to pick up, they filled two large black garbage bags TIGHTLY.
I did save two of my favorites. They were the ones that, when I tried to put them in the bag with the others, I thought to myself, "No, never mind, this is a bad idea. I'll just put them all back on the shelf."
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