It's Got to Go!

You've heard the old saw about nature abhorring a vacuum? It sure has held true in our house. When we moved to this house, double the size of our previous one, at first we had a couple entire empty rooms, but the inevitable happened and those vacuums soon became filled with more and more stuff, not to mention more children!

During the school year, it's all we can do to keep up with the routine homekeeping, with an occasional stab at dejunking. So each summer I try to get serious about thinning our belongings and ordering those that are allowed to remain. This week I'm working on our basement storage area.

My frugal nature makes me tend to want to hold on to things, thinking, "But it might come in handy some day!" And truth be told, "it" often does, which only feeds my desire to hoard stuff. This is not healthy in any sense, and I do love the order that is only possible when there is not an overabundance of junk.

For any natural de-clutterers reading this, you must be rolling your eyes at me. And I deserve it. But for any other packrats like me, here are the principles I've found helpful:

1. Touch (and open) everything. To really get rid of things, you have to take everything off the shelves, out of boxes, and touch it. It's not enough to simply rearrange boxes. For example, if I look at a bookshelf I want to thin, I can either scan the titles and pull out a few to cull, or I can remove all the books and sort them, deciding which merit staying on the shelves. This alone has made a huge difference.

2. I find myself asking, "Now just why am I keeping this anyway?" Often I don't have a good answer, so out it goes.

3. For the things I do decide to keep, I ask, "How can I make this accessible?" I want to not just store these things, but put them to use.

4. "Like with like." OK, I know this is obvious! But over time, I get slipshod and squeeze things into a convenient place instead of rearranging so the similar items can be stored together. I was thrilled to get all my food preservation equipment into the same zone so I can see what I have and find it readily.

5. Label shelves, not just boxes. A label maker would be ideal, but I've been using masking tape on the shelves to show what belongs there. When I reorganize closets or cabinets, I make index cards showing what belongs on each shelf, and then I affix the card to the inside door. This helps especially when you have children putting things away.

6. Some things are much harder to let go than others. Particularly, thinning kids' portfolios is difficult  for me. Tim says this is because that work represents my blood. So I save parts and dump the rest. I think I've liberated enough binders and sheet protectors to last a lifetime.

7. If I can't finish an area in the time I've allotted for it (usually one week of dejunking), I leave behind a list of places to start the next time I cycle back.

8. The new rule is: No more compulsive saving! If something new comes in, something has to go out. Everything from fabric to camping gear has its own zone, and if something doesn't fit, it is time to toss!

OK - that's it. I know it's kind of a "no duh" list. But keeping these things foremost as I de-clutter is making a big difference on this go-round, and I figured maybe there is someone out there as prone to collecting stuff that "might be useful someday" as I am. Now - for the family room side of the basement!


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