Decluttering for maximalists

27-02-19 Declutter
Tomorrow’s decluttering target

Oh, lawks – I have too much stuff, I need to de-clutter!

‘The curse is come upon me,’ cried
The Lady of Shallot

Those of us who are not minimalists face a big hurdle in life and that is to determine where to draw the line between “lots of lovely stuff” and “clutter”. On the face of it and particularly, I am sure, to genuine minimalists, lots of lovely stuff looks pretty much the same as clutter. However, there is a tipping point, and I reached that last week. It took a comment by my grandson (the reluctant owner of a minimalist mother) to make me take stock and determine that there is a whole category of things which I regularly move about from place to place and which I neither want nor enjoy.

My favourite temporary storage space for such things is in my wardrobe, but when that wardrobe is required for the purposes of hide-and-seek, the things have to go elsewhere. The only problem with that is that elsewhere is aready full of things. Action is required.

The first step in any action plan is to think. In this instance, the thinking led me to an understanding of the nature of my clutter. For me, clutter is stuff that I have already let go of emotionally and cerebrally, but somehow haven’t physically removed and it falls into a few categories:-

  • Items that might be worth selling – these need to be priced and listed for sale.
  • Items might be waiting to be taken in to a charity shop – hardly difficult to accomplish.
  • Items that I have categorised in my head as difficult to dispose of and therefore have not even tried to think of ways to remove them – these need rather more work, but it can be done.

One example of the latter was my old printer which I could happily have just put it in my garage and forgotten about. One of my first actions after my grandson’s visit was to  list this on a sale site free to anyone who was prepared to come and collect it. I had an offer pretty instantly. Not everything that I want to sell garners any interest, but it’s always a good starting point and if no-one wants it, donating to charity remains an option.

One idea for tackling stagnant clutter is to make a decision to remove a certain number of items each day. This week I am setting aside just 15 minutes after I wash up the breakfast things each morning to go through one tiny area and see if I can remove three items. It might be a kitchen drawer, or a storage box. Today it was the box I use to store my spare make-up and skincare; I easily found more than three things in that which I wouldn’t ever use. One bonus in setting a number is that it’s human nature to try and beat it.

I am writing this on the penultimate day of International Correspondence Writing Month and after I write my final letter tomorrow I am looking forward to going through my letter-writing box and weeding out some things that I no longer want to keep. Then I can recycle the box and that will be a grand achievement for the day.

I’m not a profligate purchaser and there are plenty of things in my life which I am happy to just keep using until they conk out without feeling any need to keep updating. I expect my CD player and television to last me years; I don’t see any need to buy newer, bigger, splashier models. One thing my grandson commented about last week was a couple of framed photographs that I had just bunged under my chest of drawers pending some action. I told him I intended to put up new photos and he asked what I would do with these. I was happy to be able to point out that the existing photos would be replaced, but the frames re-used with new photos in them. That raises a question in my mind, too – in these days where we are all trying to reduce our impact on the planet’s resources, why don’t shops sell cushion covers separately? The vast majority still come with a foam or feather pad inside them, but it would make much more sense to sell the covers and pads separately. I mean, you don’t have to buy a new pillow every time you buy a pillow-case.

These are just some thoughts I am having as I try to create a bit more breathing-room in my flat. I am certain that this doesn’t mean I am going to become any sort of minimalist. I will still end up with more stuff than I need, and I don’t doubt that I will be decluttering in some form until I become too old to get to the charity shop and even the bin.


Do you have any favourite decluttering tips? Are you a minimalist, a maximalist, or something entirely healthy in between the two?


 

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Fitting in

23-01-19 non-camo
Fabrics for those “not blending in” moments

When I finished writing last Friday about Edward Scissorhands, a fairly definitive movie when it comes to not fitting in, I got to thinking about the choices we make during our lives in order to fit in with certain people or groups, the camouflage we choose (or are encouraged) to adopt, and how that can result in us feeling less like ourselves than we should. However long and however hard we try to fit in, the truth is that the only person you can ever truly rely on is yourself, as these two lines in a song from the musical “Chess” (by Tim Rice/Beny Andersson/Bjorn Ulvaeus) convey:-

No-one in your life is with you constantly,
No-one is completely on your side.

Although as I get older I am less inclined to make compromises in order to fit in, I think it’s pretty fair to say that there have been vast stretches of my life when I have curbed my own natural interests in order to fit better with the friends or colleagues that I have had at that time. For me, this has always started out as a creative endeavour, like trying on a different character for a while to see what it feels like, but I always end up feeling that my ‘real’ character has been submerged. This doesn’t only happen in the real world. For my generation, getting older has coincided with the rise of digital friendship and a whole new way of being influenced and of feeling a need to fit in. Quite simply, we are exposed to many more options right now than we have ever had in the past and that just increases the pressure to comply.

It seems a shame, but there are more interesting things in this world than any of us can experience in one lifetime and we have to make a choice about what we are going to pursue and what we are going to leave on the sidelines. For me, this has included accepting that I’m not going to sew garments for myself, even though I am confident that I could bring my skills up to speed and there’s a whole host of clothes I’d love to sew. It took me some years to understand that this is just not the road I’m going to walk. I would rather spend my time knitting, and there is enough of that to occupy me for at least one lifetime. I am aware, though, that every exposure to people who are happily sewing away and producing great-looking outfits, results in that twang of “I could do that” aspiration. And don’t even get me started on all the paper planners in the world at the moment! We must teach ourselves to deal with such influences, or we must act to avoid them entirely.

The big problem is that we can spend a lot of time and money on things that aren’t quite right for us, even though we know that isn’t the best use of our resources. When we invest in a particular interest and don’t pursue it, those items become part of the clutter in our lives that needs to be purged and, although it isn’t healthy, it is so much easier to simply accommodate the clutter than to actually sort it out. I think the modern trend for simplification and minimalism is not only about reducing physical things, but also a push to reduce the choices we have and the influences that we allow to work on us.

Fortunately, some things are relatively easy to ignore, the things you know you could never master if you practiced for a thousand years. For me, those are painting/drawing and driving; a number of people have this same reaction with swimming or cycling and I am sure there are countless others. Knitting, perhaps? In this case the knowledge is a combination of lack of interest in the activity, lack of desire and/or incentive to achieve the outcome, and lack of talent. Yes, sometimes people just don’t have the talent to pursue a particular skill, but you know what? They have loads and loads of other talents that make up for it.

So, what do we lose when we try to fit in and thereby sideline things that are important to ourselves in favour of things that are important to someone else? To understand that, we need to think about how we feel when we are doing the things that are important to us, that do interest us, that we are talented at. We feel our spirits lighten, we walk with a spring in our step, we think of the future – making plans, dreaming dreams – and we finish things because they engage our interest and make us happy. When we set aside the things we enjoy, life becomes a drudge, our brains may be engaged, but our hearts are locked away in a box, we envy others and, often, we delude ourselves.

It is, unfortunately, not simple to learn what interests you, which endeavours are worthwhile and which are simply interesting, even what the authentic you below all the camouflage really consists of. It takes time; I am sorry to say it probably takes a whole lifetime and maybe even more than that. Although none of us wants to face it when we are young, in this instance there really is no substitute for experience.


Related to this subject, here’s a couple of tunes which I never thought I would mention in the same breath!

“I know him so well” Elaine Page and Barbara Dickson
“Mis-Shapes” Pulp (interested in Pulp? This blog is doing a song-by-song analysis!)


 

Is it later yet?

September Morn
2019 – A New Dawn

I have noticed over the past few days that I have a particular mind-set which leads me to live further to the “maximalist” than the “minimalist” end of the social scale and I would define it as the “save it for later” mentality. I notice it particularly in the digital realm, however I know it’s also true in my physical life.

Since the New Year I have been making a determined effort to clear the clutter off my computer, basically archiving what I want to keep, but don’t need to access on a regular basis, and deleting what isn’t really useful.

Now, I could argue with myself that the things I want to keep but don’t need to access on a regular basis are, pretty much, clutter. I know in my heart that I probably won’t ever look at them again, but I can’t let go of them. Although I can’t make a sound argument for keeping these items, I attach an importance to them and therefore they have a value to me. They are my firm basis in a world of shifting sands; they are my past; they are an integral part of my memory palace, to borrow a concept from Sherlock.

That takes us to the things that are of no value, the place where I can strive to make an improvement in 2019, and those are all the little clippings that I keep because they pertain to something that I might one day want to pursue. I am an absolute nightmare for saving web pages or for taking screen-shots of things that interest me – clothes, ideas, articles about being organised, ideas for gifts, pretty spangly things like Christmas tree decorations that I noticed in 2005…. You get my drift? I have saved all these things “for later” – when the time is right, or I no longer have the facility to access the up to date versions of these things, which begs the question posed in the title of this post.

Is it later yet?

And if it is not later yet, when will it be?

I think these two are very relevant questions to ask, and there are two times when it would be very helpful to ask them. First, I should ask myself before I grab something just when the “later” will be that I am saving it for. Is it something that I will look into this week? This quarter? This year? Or is it just an interesting idea in a universe of interesting ideas and probably not the idea that is ever going to make it to the top of my list and actually get looked at. This would be helped by assessing accurately just how much time I want to devote to the pursuit of these nebulous items.

The second time I should ask these questions is on a regular basis when reviewing and assessing the things I have saved. Which means setting up a) a single storage place for all such items, and b) actually reviewing them on a regular basis. Neither of these has featured thus far in my slightly chaotic organisation system.

So that is an aim for the early part of 2019. Rein in excessive saving in the first place, and establish (my word of the year!) a storage and review system that really works.


Here’s to gaining some focus. Are you with me?