Monday, January 21, 2013

Where to stuff it...

By now you are on a roll and have a backseat full of things to take...where?  Well here are some ideas and recommendations:

I had and have closets full of work clothes that no longer fit or fit my current work.  When I was a sortof big deal banker woman, we all wore similar clothes. First it was Dana Buchman, (anyone remember her?) a upgrade from Liz Claiborne.   Then it was private sales like Doncaster, then upgrading yet again to Ellen Tracy and St. Johns knits.    I still have these costumes, with shoes just as outrageous though now I am in a different world and of a different mind.

As I started to inventory these clothes, I wondered, why did I ever wear these?  I was not in a customer facing position. Though an executive, I could probably have worn jeans and sweaters if they were just interested in my thinking and brain power. But of course, in banking, one of the most conservative industries, you needed to "dress the part". It now seems a bit foolish and indulgent.  Who, other than other female bank execs, was going to recognize the effort or the outfit?  I was no Michelle Obama, no one considered me a trendsetter, in fact, no bank woman could really be called that- stylish without standing out was the code.  But why did we set the bar so conservatively high?  Skirt and Pant suits that were expensive with a bit of color, but basically non descript?   I kept them, because they cost a lot and I thought I might need them if I got called in to meet with the Governor or something.

But looking at suits is not nearly as fun or nostalgic as looking back at formal wear (another topic).  You are not looking at jacket lapels remembering the fun time you had, the great dance with your husband, how pretty you felt, how special.  Suits don't bring back any memory except of fitting in. No memory of some great Idea I had while wearing it, or even a great speech I gave ... nope, just costumes for the role. Speaking of memories in clothes, have you read, Love, Loss and What I Wore ?  excellent book of the stories and key moments of our lives marked by what we had on at teh time. 

Time to get rid of these costumes, so,   Dress for Success.  A wonderful organization that helps woman find job opportunities, trains them to interview well and gives them a suit or two for the interviews (If they land the job, they get a few more!).   As they say at Dress for Success, "if you help a woman, you've helped a family. "   Isn't that a better use and result than just storing these in a closet?! 

I decided to take my casual clothes (all  these need to be clean by the way), to the local clothes ministry or Goodwill.   (Ok here's a question, If I'm embarassed to be giving it away, why wasn't I embarrassed to have it?!)   There were a few clothing articles, I just threw in the trash. No one should have to figure out what to do with that treadbare, shredded nightgown that I'd had for 30+ years but in case I got a cold or flu in winter, it would feel comforting to wear.  Yes, that's right, every 4 or 5 years, I'd wear it till my fever broke as I threw comforters off and on.

Here's a treasure trove of stuff to be gotten rid of: Jewelry! I had cufflinks (does any woman wear those anymore?  real gold and silver). And then there's the gorgeous blue calcedony ring in 18 K gold that I bought in Italy but fudged about on VAT tax and custom forms.  I should have declared it,  I even lied up the next international trip I took and declared more value than what I brought into the country but it doesn't matter - I can't look at it without guilt and shame.  That's got to go, I don't deserve it.     A pearl pin my ex-husband gave me; a ring I bought at a charity auction; broken gold chains. I never wore these and yet never thought of getting rid of them, they don't take up much space BUT they would certainly count toward my 'ten each week". So off to jewelry stores I went and sold hundred dollars worth of stuff.

Electronics were the most perplexing and have left me with a hangover consciousness about electronic waste. Cell phones and their accessories, computers, printers, radios, and televisions.   Of course, we all appreciate the latest upgrade. But I had old phones with their chargers, earphones, cameras, and didn't know what to do with them.   Verizon Wireless will take all the phone sets, cases, accessories- in the store close to me, there is box near door where you can dump all that stuff. Goodwill will clean the memory and hard drive on your computers before they recycle or repurpose your computer, printer, monitor,etc. Some services will charge you $25 to do this but Good will does it for free.

On another blog, I'll talk about the trevails of getting rid of the TV. This was my own living room TV until last year.  27 inch screen (and 30" inch deep) television.  Well let's save all this for another time.    Just to get to the point, quickly, it took me a year to find a place that would take it.  Happy purging!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

10 a week!: What's the Point?

10 a week!: What's the Point?: My project to get 10 things a week out of my house did not begin out of generosity.  I was feeling crowded, pressed for time, overwhelmingly...

Monday, January 7, 2013

What's the Point?

My project to get 10 things a week out of my house did not begin out of generosity.  I was feeling crowded, pressed for time, overwhelmingly busy, not enough room for my interests and friends, in short,  jam packed.  My brain felt packed and jumbled. Notes were everywhere to be added to my lists of "things to do".   I noticed there was 'stuff' on the floor of the garage, on countertops, bedside tables, on the floors of closets: stuff lying around because drawers and closets and shelves were full of other stuff.   I wanted to de-clutter my mind. I wanted less on my mind, less on my list, less stuff lying around, more clean surfaces, more bare closet floors, more empty drawers.  For the last few years, I was repeatedly involved in assisting my elderly parents move, first out of our childhood home and into independent living, then into assisted living. Downsizing from their house, office, storage warehouse, until all they had was what was special enough for one room in skilled nursing or the alzheimer's wing. So much stuff to go through over and over again. And I felt the same way about my house.

But I was overwhelmed about how to start. 

So I decided to get rid of (not necessarily "give away") ten things each week in 2012.  At first and for many months, I donated.   For the first months, most of the stuff leaving my house was not anything I wanted and I didn't know anyone else who did, so it wasn't 'generous', it was 'removal'. It wasn't a life decision, it was activity (though surprisingly, would have some lasting impact).

I wasn't inspired, initially, to live a simpler life, just one less frantic, trampled and cluttered.

The by-product of what happened during 2012 as I got rid of 10 things each week, was I learned a lot about why I had acquired, kept, and forgotten so much stuff. I learned a lot about my relationship to objects, shopping, memorabilia, sentimentality, and even my personal relationships with others.

If you are interested in following along, jumping in and getting rid of 520+ things this year, first think, about what's your purpose in doing this? What do you hope to accomplish? What's the point for you? 

It's important to figure this out at the onset because as you go along, you'll find the need to develop some guidelines about what 'counts'?  Being able to relate questions that arise back to your intention will be helpful and necessary.    For example, since my purpose was to get stuff out of my house,  I decided during the year that selling things would 'count'; gifting to my family would 'count'; asking friends and neighbors if they wanted stuff would 'count'.  I decided trashing would not count.  If it wasn't good enough to be salvaged for any use I couldn't count it. I wasn't going to count what I was taking out in the trash.  

 I found it helpful to do my house survey and selection on a given day each week, as a routine  assignment, like taking out the recycling.   At the beginning, this survey and selection took less than 30 minutes - there was so much to choose from. It got harder but only after several months (what does that tell you !) I might only get things together in a box, not taken to a donation center every single week, But the regular practice of going through and looking for 10 unneeded things helped seed a recurring awareness that developed into conscious change. Of course, many of us have a tendency to tackle this enthusiastically and go get 100 things eliminated all at once and wait for a quarter year to pass before tackling again.   Sporadic purging won't result in the top of mind consciousness that sparks interest and insight.

What's your intention for doing this and what number of items do you want to set as your weekly goal? 

Next, thoughts on where to donate.....

Monday, December 31, 2012

How it, become a minimalist?

Over a year ago, I was visiting a friend and talking about clutter, not hoarding level clutter. I was sharing with her that I was interested a single person could have so much stuff  even being the sole occupant of a three bedroom house, I had crowded closets and full drawers.  My friend said she'd heard the only way to conquer that was to get rid of 10 things every week. Hmmm...?

Like I said, I'm no hoarder. If you had visited my house last year, you would've thought I kept a neat house, friends even say, "must be nice not to have kids trashing your house".   Still, I've moved a lot, over ten times as an adult, and every time I give tons of stuff away and then am surprised when unpacking to find boxes of stuff I didn't know I had. Every year, I make two good passes through the whole house and load up stuff to take and donate, several times each year. I resolved to change the way I accumulate and store.  I resolved to be one of those people who lives with things only if they are beautiful, useful and/or I love them. Nothing else, all else must go.  And go it would - 10 things every week. 

As I started out, I headed to the kitchen and safely found myself prying open too full drawers and tossing misplaced single wine coasters in a box, including a pretty wine glass identifier that looks well, sortof like a hooker's boa.   What tha.,,,,.??? why did I even have that, and only one not a set!   I have no memory of who gave me that or why I kept it but there is was, a laughable possession.  and there were lots of laughs in the first  weeks.  As I began I just tossed items in a box and then took to Goodwill which was closest to me.  Over time, I developed a system of where to donate stuff depending on who the likely recipient would be, the type of item and the condition of items. I also developed a system for what 'counts' as one item - should a set of sheets be one item or 4,  as tempting as it became later in the year to count it as 4, I determined early on it was only 1 item, a "SET" of sheets.  I've learned a lot and beginning today I'm blogging about this experience hopefully to start someone else on a decluttering and life lesson about the stuff in our lives, why we got it, why we keep it and why we have trouble parting with it. ( I had no trouble parting with the pink boa wine glass coaster but now that I see it again, it is kinda special, isn't it..?)   Stay tuned for more on the journey from a middle aged material girl...   12.31.12