Friday, September 14, 2007

The Logic of Clutter

For some months now I have been on a quest to rid myself of at least some of the tremendous amount of clutter that I live with. I find that the more I clean up, the more I like the results. But at the center of the argument, as I have cleaned out my spice cabinet, pantry, utensils drawer, closet, under-bathroom-sink, yarn stash, dresser and front closet, has been what exactly I consider "clutter" and where my urge comes from.

I am not a pack rat per se, but I am right-brained in nature and habits. This basically means that if something is out of my sight, I forget it entirely. Many years ago I read a book called "Organizing the Creative Mind" (or something) and learned to set up small but simple areas that were only used for one thing - keys and only keys go here, makeup goes there, or I couldn't find anything. But - ask anybody who has ever been my roommate - I tend to hold on to clothes and junk I don't need anymore because of the "might" - and the "might" is the real thing I am trying to get to the bottom of.

Like everybody on planet earth, I have two parents. Additionally, I have the pleasure of knowing both of them well. (I also have two terrific step-parents, and I realize how lucky I am to say that.) My mom is a purger - she doesn't appear to keep anything even of sentimental value except photos, and often gets rid of things around the house just to clear space. She's very good at keeping clutter out of her life - almost too good! My dad is the opposite. He is a collecter - (made-up word)- and has stacks and stacks and boxes and boxes of things. Most importantly, he keeps the empty box things come in - and guess who else does that? I have all sorts of them in my outside hall closet. I plan to purge mightily this weekend, everything but the box for my computer, because all the other boxes I can replace if I need to.

I think my 'clutter personality' if I have one is that I occasionally overdo the big purge, but if I'm not careful I'll collect. Of course the answer to this, like everything else, is balance. I am trying to find that.

I have a number of things I keep for sentimental value, but they are no longer badly organized and full of junk. Except in the bookcase. Everywhere else is beautiful and clutter-free, except for the corner of the entryway where I keep throwing stuff to donate. It is last on the list, and shall take all my fortitude.

My bookcase is a nightmare, a full-on horror that has become mesmerizing to look at. I use the term "bookcase" lightly. It has DVDs, stationery, books, Febreeze, Downy Wrinkle-Release (love you, DWR!), two Fossil watch boxes full of change and one empty (?), a stuffed rabbit, bank statements, bibles, an artist's wooden model, a box from Tiffany, cds, a bag of dried lavender, a drinking bird, a box which contains cords and other electronic aggregates, suntan lotion, sunglasses, a camera bag, unused book jackets. Picture frames. Tsotchkes. A copy of my lease. Finished freelance work.

People, the bookcase is maybe 5' x 5'. Something's gotta give.

I have deduced through clever analysis, taking photographs of it and walking by and staring at it several times a day the following:
1. It stresses me out to even think about cleaning it up, so I am going to clean it.
2. I seem to have two layers of material in this bookshelf. Four of the cubbies are actually used for books, and five of them are used for general junk storage. But even in the four book-cubbies I've got a foundational layer of books in the back, and junk on the shelves.
3. I have one red canvas basket in one cubby that contains the cords, etc., and it works very well. I think I need another couple of these for non-book items, so they look neat.
4. Once again, a rule that nothing goes on top of the bookcase, or I tend to put everything there - clothing tags, mail, books I'm done with, stuff I can't find anything else to do with.
5. There is no logic to clutter, and I love logic, so I am getting rid of clutter.

Don't believe me? The strong of heart can look here for a picture. (I can't believe I just posted that for the world to see.)

Now you know my goal for the weekend. Pray I do not lose heart.

On the knitting front - I bought a chocolate-brown Namaste messenger bag. My first knitting bag. I love it! (More on it later.)

Oh, and the last weird thing about me? I strongly dislike chicken skin.


Blogger Jodi said...

Good luck with the clean-up! My study needs a good, thorough cleaning, too.

I keep extra boxes, too, but I've started putting them in my storage unit, either nested neatly or broken down.

Chicken skin... yuck!

8:16 AM  
Blogger Kathleen said...

Your bookcase looks like my bookcase! I'd love to see the after-shot. Perhaps I will be inspired! :)

8:33 AM  
Blogger Julie said...

I've just gone through all of this, preparing our house to sell. However, circumstances changed this week and we had to take the house off the market - so the challenge is going to be keeping the house in "show-ready" condition. As it turns out, I quite like it clean. Who knew??

8:54 AM  
Blogger Amanda said...

My Step-dad keeps all the packaging his model car collection came in - almost 100 boxes! He has this belief that the cars will be worth more in the future if he has them (we wonder why he does not keep them in the packaging if he is concerned about their value).

Good luck with that bookcase! Just attack it one cubby at a time and you will be finished in no time at all!

9:01 AM  
Blogger Annie said...

Your bookcase looks like everything in my house!

My therapist says very creative people need to have clutter. That the most productive creative souls live in chaos. Which I'd like to think is true. Good luck with the bookcase. I'm currently working on sorting out my entire house, which is mostly worse that your shelves!

9:52 AM  
Blogger Jen said...

I feel your pain! The picture of the bookcase could have been from my apartment! I have boxes full of random junk from moving 3 times in the last 3 years...*hanging head in shame* I will get to them one day! Good luck to you!

10:36 AM  
Anonymous mel said...

I love Annie's therapist I think. And we are definitely the same personality type. I too always keep things just in case and often the packaging too.

I've got a 6'x6' bookcase just like yours. My mother-in-law (a very organized woman) cleaned it out for us while waiting for our baby to arrive (we were at the hospital that night). It was awesome. But the 3 bookcases in the office still look like yours. Between you and CAP, I'm getting inspired to deal with it. Yay and thank you!

12:02 PM  
Blogger Elke said...

I keep my loose change in a fossil tin as well. One for American change and another for Canadian coinage. Crafty minds think alike. :)

12:54 PM  
Blogger bellamoden said...

Brave girl! Being the change you want to see is tough at times but o so necessary. I'm proud of you.

And you can do it.

Me? I need to get some kind of cart thing for my business supplies, so they can live under my dining table neatly, and not all over the top..... oh well.

3:55 PM  
Anonymous Kat said...

I did a purge Labor Day weekend and need to do more. It really is addicting. Someday I'll get around to purging the yarn.

4:05 PM  
Blogger TheBunny said...

I get areas like that all the time. I find, for those horror spots, I need to sit down with a good movie and take everything out at once and organize it somewhere other than in front of the spot. It seems to make it easier to keep perspective about things when seen out of their "environment."

Good luck! You will be thrilled with the results.

4:08 PM  
Anonymous Malena said...

I'm 46 years old (I don't share that with just everyone)and I fight clutter every. single. day. The doctor says I'm probably ADD - who can sit still long enough to FILE?? I can only knit in spurts unless I'm in the car. And of course there's always something I'm late for . . .
If you find the secret, let me know. I've thrown away more junk, and yet I still have more junk. Hey, at least you have an inventory of your shelves . . .

I feel like purging . . . oh, well. Husband is asleep in the bedroom, so it has to wait. Guess I'll check in with a few more blogs . . .I always start with yours.

10:24 PM  
Blogger Batty said...

I also have clutter problems. I suspect it's part of the same impulse that makes us stash - sort of the dark side of stashing.

6:47 AM  
Blogger MezzoDiva said...

J - you are not really in clutter-trouble unless your whole house looks like that (and mine does). That is one reason I am NOT going to become a spinner anytime soon. I'm already parked 3-deep in every room with obstacles lining every path through. I can't even imagine bring a wheel (or two) into this house, plus the roving and the paraphernalia! I know - hand spindles are small. I got one from my Sp9 last year - and that's my limit.

But I digress. Thanks for sharing your decluttering drive. It's really contagious! Anytime I see a friend getting rid of their excess, I am motivated to do a heap of it myself. It goes in fits and starts and I always manage to fill the space with some other clutter, but I have gotten rid of a lot of unneeded stuff in the past and I'm ready to do it again.

Of course this means I will have to lay off destashing you and about a dozen other folks whose extra yarn ends up over here - well, for a while anyway... ;)

11:15 AM  

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