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Posts Tagged ‘Decluttering and organizing your home’

giraffe soapWe are a culture of excess, and while I can’t explain my obsession with vintage silverware (does anyone else sit and lovingly clean their silver on a Saturday night?) I have no hesitation throwing out that last piece of Tupperware that has no lid.

Being attached to our stuff seems to be part of our DNA, and while some pieces harmlessly serve to feed our soul, others just zap our energy by taking up unnecessary time and space.

As I push back at the influx of technology (slightly disturbed that my television is now smarter than I am) I have found that there are some things that we will always need, and some that we just have to get rid of. Here are six things that all of us should throw away right now.



That pile of old cables, routers, chargers and remotes that you are keeping just in case.  Let’s be honest, your old equipment is not coming back, and your neighbor is probably not going to be drilling a hole and snaking the coaxial cable down through a hole in your ceiling anytime soon.

Vases, dishes, pots and pans that you have never used. Will you ever turn into Martha Stewart and spend days arranging flowers and cooking beef bourguignon? If not, keep your most beloved, but donate the rest, or make food in the pots and fill the vases with flowers to give to your friends as gifts.

Reusable Shopping Bags. How many do you really need? Five at the most? True story – for some reason, a person (who I won’t name) gave someone in my family a reusable shopping bag that was covered in advertising from a funeral parlor. Some are not worth keeping, and others should never have been made in the first place.

Fancy soaps, body lotions, scrubbies and matching toiletry sets that you got as gifts or stole from a hotel over five years ago. I love this stuff, but some people don’t, and it can go off quite quickly, which is such a waste. Either pop the soaps in your undie drawer, or, if the toiletries are in nice, new condition, donate to a local organization that will appreciate them.

Chairs and sofas that are uncomfortable, or damaged. Whatever the reason, frightening guests, or making it impossible for them to stand back up after a cup of tea isn’t a good idea. Fix it, or send it to the curb.

Pens that don’t work, pencils that you will never, ever sharpen, and promotional pens, notepads and post-its from your local bank.  Why do they do this? Do they really think it makes up for the hours we waste on the phone, and the teller who was absent on the day they taught them how to smile?

I was going to mention plastic containers without their lid, but it kind of goes without saying, and, as I am never planning on getting rid of my lovely old silverware, you are more than welcome to keep your mismatched pieces of Tupperware 🙂

Wendy E. Wrzos http://wendyandthebluegiraffe.blogspot.com/
Photograph from: http://littlegreendot.com/kiddie-prize-soap/

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junk mailLots of people I meet have a hatred for the mail; it’s shoved in drawers, overflowing from plastic bags, or abandoned in boxes for days on end. But my daughter and I actually fight to see who goes and collects the mail. We both rummage through, it as we slowly walk back to the step, seeing if there are postcards for her, or magazines and catalogs for me. Occasionally, there is a real letter, but sometimes it is just a few, official looking envelopes, screaming out for our attention, when they are merely clever impostors, pretending to be far more important than they really are.

We look at them together, and I roll my eyes at the credit card invitations, while she is excited at their promise of (seemingly) large amounts of money coming our way. I rip the plastic off the magazines, scan the headlines, and try to guess who is the latest beauty on the cover. I briefly believe them when they say that the new hair cut will make me look young and slim, then I put it carefully aside, coveting its promise for an indulgent, quiet read later on.

Getting the mail is a game to us, and I realized yesterday it’s because our focus isn’t on the bills and thoughtless, shiny pieces of advertisement (I always mean to take up the coupon crusade, but I just can’t seem to do it). These, we can’t avoid, but in the middle of the necessity is the fun of always having something unexpected to look forward to.

Yes, it may be setting the bar for enjoyment pretty low, but we never know what is going to arrive. Like everyone, I have had my fair share of devastating envelopes, but amidst the fear and breathlessness the garden catalogs continue to arrive, and the fashion magazines still sweetly call my name.

I know we are supposed to cut down on clutter, and unsubscribe to everything, but I don’t want my world to be that sanitized and pared down to exactly what I want. I control enough in my life, without knowing (and dreading) exactly what I will see every day. I like to be surprised; to have my eyes opened to something different, and to be allowed to wonder why on earth I have just received the latest bass fishing catalog …..

Wendy E. Wrzos http://wendyandthebluegiraffe.blogspot.com/

Photograph adapted from Martha Stewart

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box people

They estimate that 1 in 10 Americans own a storage locker, and that at least 2 out of every 10 lockers will become abandoned and unclaimed. Apparently, we spend a tremendous amount of time and money storing things, and the older I get the less I understand why; it is frightful to me how much I have stored in my own basement, and on more than one occasion I have gone to look for something, only to find that it has been nibbled on by mice or become more than a little damp and damaged.

Some things, I honestly don’t know why I even have them, but I am sure they made perfect sense at the time. I’m not so silly as to store rubbish down there, but after last Winter I was so afraid of losing electricity again that I began stockpiling cardboard to use in the wood-burning stove; fortunately, this year has been very mild, but now all I see is an endless, messy mountain of boxes when I walk down the stairs, and the thought of breaking them down makes me want to cry and lose the will to live. It made sense in a random doomsday prep kind of way, but now it is just something that feels overwhelming because of the sheer volume of it all.

There are a few things that I thought I would sell (which considering I have never sold anything before was maybe a tad ambitious) and an old cast iron sewing machine that I love, and is useful for putting things on, but far too heavy to make its journey back up the stairs.

So, while I understand the occasional need to store things, it is often my least favorite idea when it comes to organizing a home. I prefer to think of it as a temporary solution; one that should probably be stopped before it becomes a reluctant place to visit, a small habit, quietly fed with irrational doses of fear, cardboard and avoidance.

When the weather warms up, I will empty my basement as much as I can, and delight the recycling man with my impressive pile of cardboard, but in the meantime I must decide what to do with the rest. Don’t ask me for my life plan, or even a 5 year plan, but ask me to organize something and I will be right there. It makes me so happy, and, I am sure that if my cellar was heated (and not jumping with cave crickets) I would be cleaning it out today.

I donate most things to Big Brothers Big Sisters or the Market Street Mission in Morristown. I like that they are local, they are friendly to deal with, and I know that everything is appreciated and used (or at least sold for their cause). I have found that it is so important to donate to something that you truly believe in, as that will make the process far more motivating and enjoyable (palatable?).

If you want to make money off what you have, there are places for that, but otherwise it is best to give freely, without regrets or conditions; not everything may go to the exact place that you imagine, but someone somewhere will always get the trickle down benefit from your donation, which, as Martha would say, is always a good thing.

Wendy E. Wrzos http://wendyandthebluegiraffe.blogspot.com/

Photograph of the box people from: Pinterest

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piles of furniture from pinterest

He said that you should have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful. This was very sound advice from William Morris, a talented man and a wonderful poet; from what I have read, he could quote exquisite words of wisdom faster than I can swipe on cherry lip balm at a quick-changing traffic light.

I admire him, and others like him, who can speak meaningful words while subconsciously editing out the frilliness that some of us can’t resist; it is a skill that I will probably spend my entire life merely aspiring to achieve.

Editing our homes takes us back to that wonderful quote of his; it is one of the most popular sentences in the design world, because it is so simple and true.

Now is the time of year when we start to feel the conflict of motivation and hibernation. Stuck in the confines of icy paths and nose-freezing temperatures, I really want to follow Mr. Morris’ advice and declutter my cellar, but I don’t want to get frost-bite in the process. Then, if I actually do it, where do I put all my stuff after I have braved the frost-bite? Will I be able to fit it into the garage? Highly unlikely, considering I almost need a waving flag and an engineering degree to maneuver my car inside.

Just thinking about it is enough to make me put my pajamas back on.

So, for now I will be content to wait for warmer weather, but when I eventually do feel inclined, and my home starts to feel more blah than beautiful, I won’t go to the nearest self-help blog, I’ll decide on my exit strategy first. Sounds weird, but I need to know where things are going, before I start to sort through them; believe me, there is nothing worse than going to bed at the end of the day with an empty closet and a bedroom that looks like the final hour of a really bad garage sale. It does your head in, and it is a horrible thing to wake up to.

Decluttering can be an exhausting can of worms to open, so deciding (realistically) where your clutter is going before you start, is far more motivating than sorting random things into lots of neat little piles that have nowhere to go.
This is what I do before I do anything……

  • If I think I will be donating items, I choose a cause that I support and believe in. If I am really organized, I will call them ahead of time to see what their requirements are.
  • I buy heavy duty garbage bags almost before I even think about decluttering; this way, when I am ready to start throwing things away I can do it without hesitating.
  • If I am honestly not quite ready to get rid of some things, and I don’t want them cluttering up a certain room, I don’t feel guilty about it, but I do decide on new (hidden) spaces to store them until I am ready to get rid of them (cellar, attic, garage etc).

Wendy E. Wrzos http://wendyandthebluegiraffe.blogspot.com

Photograph from Pinterest

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