Thursday, September 18, 2014

In Which We Declutter

My latest quilt top, sideways.

I am in the process of decluttering my life, which is to say my house. If you have read this blog for any amount of time, you are probably familiar with my attic and are aware that my attic is a problem. It's a large walk-in attic, and it takes twenty seconds to open the door and chuck something inside, thirty seconds to walk in and pretend you're storing something properly by piling it on top of something else.

My attic is filled with Legos and many, many empty Starwars Lego project boxes, lots of books, lots of archived manuscripts. My wrapping paper is stored in the attic along with the luggage, the board games, the Christmas decorations, the Halloween decorations, the linens that are used once a year, the boys' school papers and old toys. Magazines. Art supplies. Camping equipment. None of it remotely organized with the exception of the Christmas decor and the luggage.

And then there is the flotsam and jetsam. The phrase "flotsam and jetsam," let it be known, was originally defined as the odds and ends that floated up on shore after a shipwreck. This somehow seems appropriate.

It is the flotsam and jetsam that will break your heart.

Every year I make a little progress decluttering my attic, but I can never quite get there. This year, I've decided, will be different.

One thing that's making the process easier: Now that he's in sixth grade and almost twelve, Will has grown out of a lot of his toys, toys he might possibly have played with  a year ago but now don't interest him at all. So out they go. The good stuff goes to Good Will and the Rescue Mission, and the junkier stuff I freecycle with caveats.

There are also piles of books just right for a fourth or fifth grader, but as a sixth grader Will's looking for books about older kids, not younger ones. So I'm taking loads of paperbacks to the library and to the book bins for Our Fine School's spring used book sale.

Another thing I've figured out: Don't do the actual decluttering in the attic. It's way, way too overwhelming to stand in the middle of all the clutter and junk and try to go through it. No, the trick is to throw stuff in boxes and bring the boxes downstairs. When you have several boxes, you sit in front of the TV and stream "Friday Night Lights" or "Larkrise to Candleford" and start making piles. The piles are as follow:

1. Trash
2. Recycling
3. Freecycling
4. Keep

You must be ruthless when it comes to the "Keep" pile. If you keep it, you must have really, really good reason to keep it and a place to put it.

I personally love keeping cards and letters. Being ruthless, however, I've started asking myself the question, If I threw this away, would I remember that I had it in the first place? Nine times out of ten, the answer is no. Now, I keep letters from family members and dear friends, letters I might love to re-read twenty years from now, but I don't keep birthday cards my parents sent that just have "Love, Mom and Dad" written on the bottom. Greeting card humor or sentiment is rarely good enough to justify keeping a card.

The other benefit of bringing the boxes downstairs is that I can live with a cluttered attic, but I can't live with a cluttered living room. Clutter that's right in front of me is clutter that's got to go.

I'm very serious about tackling the Attic Decluttering Project this fall, so expect to hear more about it. Feel free to share your best decluttering tips. And don't laugh at the idea of me having an organized attic! Really, stop that laughing right now!


Angela said...

Oh I am not laughing - I am just wondering if, once you have succeeded, you might consider coming over here for a three week holiday to sort mine out [one week to declutter, and two weeks to tour our fine nation] I would gladly give you room and board!
I watched three episodes of the US show Hoarders last week [is it classed as a sitcom?] and immediately went into our loft and threw out four large bags of unnecessary stuff. I keep saying 'I am not as bad as that, am I?' but suspect I might go that way if some awful crisis overwhelmed me.
You are not alone. But kids books - these are boxed and labelled in a 12 year old's hand "Do NOT throw these out" - my girls plan one day to have daughters who are obsessed with horses and/or ballet, I think!!

blessings xx

magsmcc said...

Frances, I'm disappointed. I love your attic. It gives hope to all womankind. Will this be the case when it has been cleared, cleaned, beautified and turned into a spa writing den using only upcycled and sophisticated items of vintage hue? I fear not.

Obviously you are right,I remain impressed, and bon courage!

Tracy said...

It sounds to me like you've hit on a successful approach to dealing with that attic of yours.

Me? I'm just hoping Miss Sunshine will one day take down the purple bunting from her 18th birthday party. Four months ago.

And one day soon I hope to dispense with the desk I have in the corner of my 'formal' lounge room.

Jo said...

Ooh, Frances, this sounds serious! I think it is quite brilliant of you to have worked out how to leverage your personal antipathies (ie clutter in the living room) in order to get rid of clutter in the attic.
I find I need to put each item in its own home as I sort, otherwise I just end up with more piles at the end, which I am then too tired to rehome. AND I need to take bags out to the car immediately, and deliver them the next time I leave the house, otherwise I end up with a hall full of bags/boxes for the next six months..
All the very best for your marvellous project..

Nancy McCarroll said...

Ok then, just a chuckle.

By the way, continuing good luck on due stashing. Wanna come to my garage and help?

debbie bailey said...

Yay for attic decluttering! I'll do my own when it cools off enough to be up there for any length of time. Your system sounds good and manageable. Smart to go through the boxes while you watch TV; makes it less painful that way.

Leslie said...

Oh, I think it would be fun to poke around in your attic and your treasures sound similar to ours only the manuscripts we have belong to two young girls. Beautiful quilt!

Anonymous said...

Hi, I've wandered across from Jo's place at All The Blue Day... if it makes you feel better, I just very recently chucked out all my 25th -29th birthday cards that I'd been saving for who knows why (except for a couple from special people). I am nudging fifty. I have lived in three houses since I was 25!