Saturday, April 02, 2011

Spring Cleaning - What I Learned from Letting Go...

I'm Not June Cleaver, But I Play Her in Real Life

I hate spending my time doing housework-- like the quote, "That's right sweetheart, dreams and goals are satan's way of distracting you from cleaning the house"--because I feel as if I'm wasting my writing time.

However, there is a part of me that *loves* organization.  I am a list maker.  I am detailed-oriented.  I choose quality over quantity and appreciate beauty.

Walking into my house over the last six months, you may not have noticed that. What you may have noticed were the shelves in the guest room (which is also our art room) overflowing.  You may have not been able to find a pair of scissors.  You may have wondered if there had been a huge tornado in my daughter's room and if that tornado had also snuck into all the closets as well.  And maybe you wondered why there was a box of wrapping paper halfway under the bed and why the room was decorated in colored tissue paper.

Well, I will tell you-- I have had no time in the last six months for being a domestic goddess and my family can stand a lot of clutter and disorganization than I can.

But after my last reading on Friday night, my writing self told my domestic self, she needs to get her act together because all this clutter and mess is causing havoc in my writer's ability to write.  I was finding my mind was feeling as cluttered as my home and I realized I have had enough of living this way and have reclaimed my house.  I have done a mega-spring cleaning tossing out everything that is broken and donated all my extra stuff to Goodwill and our used bookstore.

And how do I feel?

Lighter.  Relieved.  Ready to write again.  Open for more good things to enter myself because they can find me now.  They will not trip over the bag of books on my office floor or turn around because how can such a small family of three have so many boots?  Yes, my family loves two things-- books and boots-- and now they are all back in their places.

June Cleaver, I will wear your apron for a few more days, then back to my writing life already in progress.

Nothing is Free

So part of my organization is because I'm trying to return to my life of living simply and creatively.  For me, that means I need time.  Some people thrive on busy days, I do not.

As I decluttered my house, I felt I was decluttering my life.

I listened to an audio book about organizing - there is nothing better than to motivate me when cleaning than someone talking in my ear about ways to be more organized (Capricorns love this stuff).  Anyway, she said, "Nothing is free."  Then went on to say that whenever someone gives you something free (I'm thinking off all the papers, flyers, swag I picked up at AWP this year), you pay for it in time.  Basically, you are now responsible for that item.

It's the idea that once something comes into your life you must 1) care for it  2) find a place to keep it  3) do something about it  4) throw it away  5) recycle it  6) give it to someone else  7) donate it.

I realized this year, I've become a middle manager for my stuff.  I'm responsible for it and honestly, that's not a job I don't want.

So I went through my house and kept only my favorite things.  I gave away the Hello Kitty sushi keychain (seriously, how did this end up in my life?), I took pictures out of old frames to keep and donated the frames they were in that had been living in a box, my daughter donated a box of old toys and books (though she also couldn't part with a good number of them--her books are her memories, she says and I understand this--so we put them in a bin and moved them to a safe spot for her to sort through at a later date), I donated bags of everything from ugly cups I never used to extra prayer flags (extra?!) and we loaded up our van.

By giving these things away, what I'm giving myself is time.

With things thing out of my life I have time to write and not worry about "the things"- not worry if they break, if they need dusting, if they need to be put back--none of it because they are gone and off to someone who will love and appreciate them.

What I Learned?

1.  I am happier with less stuff and more experiences.

It's a good reminder on how I should spend my money.  I'd much rather have a fun time with friends, then bring home a new throw pillow.

2.  If I don't know where something is, then it's just like not having it.  Like the scissors, in cleaning up I found no less that 7 pairs, these would have been useful over the last 6 months had I known where any of them were.

3.  I need to be aware of everything I bring into this house--what I bring in costs me time in upkeep & care at a later time.

4.  I do not need anymore envelopes.  I seem to have a dysfunctional relationship with envelopes and paper.

5.  Be mindful and don't accidentally throw away your dustpan (um, I did this on day 2).

6.  There is way too much packaging in the world.  Really, do all DVDs need to come in a *plastic* box?  DVDs manufacturers: put them in recyclable paper box or something smaller.  I don't even use these boxes, I just put the DVD in a DVD holder.

7.  The DeClutterer's Good advice--If you don't love it, have a use for it, or need it-- get rid of it.


So here we are, with space to write and receive.

Do others do a big spring cleaning?  A purge of all the stuff you've accumulated over the years?

Do you have a good advice tip for me on organizing, decluttering, and/or living simple? Please feel free to leave me a comment if you do.  I'd love to hear it.


  1. I went through my closets and got rid of pants that don't fit to avoid a debacle like the one I had before your reading - trying on five pairs of jeans before finding one that was even sort of the right size - it seems like everything hanging in my closer is the wrong size! I guess that what happens when you change weights. So I put together a nice box of nice jeans and pants that are just too big and TOOK THEM OUT OF THE CLOSET. Very important for me as I tend to hang everything in ten sizes in the closet, I think so I feel I have clothes even when I really only have five things that fit.
    Very satisfying! And will save time during the next poetry party when I get dressed! Oh, I don't have twenty pairs of jeans, I have two!

  2. Eagerly awaiting warmer weather, open windows for airing out the house and bringing on the major spring cleaning. Yes, I've been doing some minor spring cleaning--office organization, washing some curtains--but a bigger push is yet to come.

    It alternates with the year-round impulse to let the dust accumulate. Which, of course, it does.

  3. Hi Kelli,

    I am clearing items out for a similar reason. Purple Heart left a note to say I should call them in order to arrange a pick up, so I plan to have a bunch of items ready for them to come here and get. Yay!

    Deborah A./32 Poems

  4. Like you, I require order. My joke is: I'm CDO, it's like OCD, except all the letters are in the right place. In my case, it's genetic. My mother is very organized. Growing up, things in the pantry were alphabetized. I'm not that bad (or good!), but people who come over to our house are always saying things like, "Gosh, I wish my refrigerator looked like yours." (How come nobody ever says that about my hair?) Rule number one at our house: Never set a piece of paper down. Read it and deal with it--file it, put it on the calendar or toss it. This helps a lot in this "paperless" society we're living in!

  5. I just blogged about this very thing! I read a book called Organized Simplicity by Tsh Oxenreider. In it, she suggests you ask yourself two questions when considering whether to keep or trash an item: Is it useful? Is it beautiful? If you can't answer yes to either question, get rid of it. I loved this. So helpful!

  6. I can identify with this. Moving every few years has really helped me to keep only what I need (though somehow with every move stuff still winds up going to Goodwill). As much as I'd like to get rid of everything that I'm not regularly using, however, I still struggle with the few boxes of childhood items that Chad and I have stored in the basement (Chad also has a box or two of his mother's childhood things since she passed away a few years ago). I once read that your grandchildren should have the responsibility of disposing of your personal items, since they are the ones with enough distance from the objects to see their real value. This makes some sense to me, though I find that I treasure the one or two things that I have from my grandparents without wishing that I had _boxes_ of artifacts to pass on to the next generation.

  7. Deb-- I love how they come to your house for pick up! If we had that here, I'd have a friend for life!

    J9-- Yes, if you don't wear it, toss it!

    Kathleen-- Exactly. I'm pretty laid back most of the year, but there will be about 3 times a year-- after Christmas, spring & before school starts where I get into this bizarre cleaning ritual. But I get so much done, I love this over-the-top way to do things.

    Kelley-- I love your paper rule. I do that with mail daily. 1/2 the stuff I don't even open. I hate that waste, but I love not having piles of stuff to sort through.

    Wendy-- I have that book too! Books like this inspire my inner domestic Martha Stewart organizer that is off flying kites most the year.

    And I LOVE this rule (thanks for reminding me of it!) ---
    Is it useful? Is it beautiful? If you can't answer yes to either question, get rid of it.

    Joanna-- I like that about grandkids (of course, knowing me I won't want to store anything that long!) I think that is actually part of my issue--so much was left to me when I was a young 20-something that I don't want my daughter (or her kids, if she has them) to have that responsibility or the burden of "other people's stuff."

    I hauled stuff along forever until I realized, this is just my dad's stuff, not him. I kept my favorite things that reminded me of him--his coin collection, his aviator glasses, his WWII medal,his Izod cardigan,but finally got rid of the rest that I was just keeping bc I felt I should. I didn't want the grandfather clock he built (but I was glad my sister did).

    Still, family stuff can be a lot harder to deal with.
    Thanks for your note!

    My mum has actually said to me, "Kelli, these pearls are real, when I die- don't through them in your Goodwill pile" or "Kelli, this is an heirloom, don't sell it on eBay." She knows me too well.

  8. I have a weekly goal of getting rid of 5 things. Even if it's an old bill that was paid 5 months ago. Everything counts. Occasionally, I post a "Need-less Posting" on my blog, noting the week's items. Last week included two ancient travel alarm clocks, an old set of cabinet door hinges, and a beer koozie.

  9. I totally get you, Kells. That's why many people consider the arrival of spring as the REAL New Year. The melting of snow and the return of the sun is a symbolism for making changes, starting fresh, and rethinking priorities for the year. I'm definitely with you on #1! It's better to hold on to experiences and the lessons we learn instead of material things. Now that's genuine spring cleaning! Good for you, Kells!

  10. I'm going one step further this year. Not only am I going to get rid of the CD and DVD holders, I'm going to ditch most of the discs as well. Now that we store everything on a separate hard drive, I never use them.
    The idea has been making me a bit nervous. But really? I haven't touched them in a year. And I get all my new stuff off iTunes anyway.

  11. Bern-- Love the 5 items a week idea! I'm in! (yours could also be items for a poem!)

    Corie- Exactly! I remember when I was in my 20's believing it was opposite, that I would rather spend my $$ on something I got to keep than an experience. I'm glad that changed!

    Danica-- This is really the great thing with technology and internet, we can store a ton of music and info and it takes up zero space in our physical lives. I like that.

    Good luck to you in your project!


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