I'm still here, underneath my pile of stuff. What I've learned.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

It's been a month since I've blogged or visited any of my blog friends. I'm still here. Actually not underneath my pile of stuff anymore, but emerging from it. We've donated three huge loads of stuff, not including furniture, and thrown out even more.

We've been shredding papers like fiends, emptying out one whole file cabinet and a dozen or so boxes of papers that were stored in the basement. Old cross country skis, sports equipment, lamps, china and linens, 80s decor, clocks, baskets, clothes, framed art, you name it . . . they've also been given the boot. If it doesn't spark joy or serve a useful purpose, out it goes. I've had to grit my teeth and override my all-too-present feelings of guilt over and over again. 

But the more I let go, the easier it becomes, and the better I feel. There's a lot more to do, but I'm burned out at this point. I'll come back at it again in a couple weeks with a fresher perspective. 

In the meantime, I present to you some of the things I've been learning during this process.

1. I am not responsible for everyone's stuff.

How did I get to be the caretaker of all this stuff? Loved ones have passed on or moved, and I somehow got all the stuff nobody wanted to deal with. Why? And how did I manage to save every. single. paper. my children ever scribbled/wrote/drew on?

I either agreed to take these things on because I felt that it was my "duty" or because I genuinely wanted to keep them.

But there comes a point when all this becomes a burden and I start to feel resentment at the weight of responsibility. How can I make the decision to save or throw out photos of people I'm not even related to? How do I know if someone else might want this handmade item? Do I have the right to just make the call, and throw it out? Do I need to check with others first, even if they've shown no interest in all this stuff?

I have come to the conclusion gradually that I do not have to sort through every thing myself. Other people can take the responsibility. I can ask them if they want to sort through the stuff, or if not, tell them I'm getting rid of it. 

In the case of my children, I can box up all their stuff and allow them to decide. I don't know what they want to keep or not. I've been afraid they'll just end up throwing it all out, but it's really up to them.

2. Things are not the same as people.

I've held onto so much stuff because it's felt disloyal to give it away. Gifts, handmade items, items handed down. Like if I get rid of them, I'm throwing the person out, or disrespecting them. No. It's just stuff. It is not them. Now, of course, we do want to save some things that remind us of people we love, but we don't need to save everything; how much we save depends on us. But letting go of something doesn't mean letting go of our memories.

This was a gift from a neighbor after the birth of our second child.  I've held onto it all these years because I associated it with my son sleeping as a baby. I realized that letting go of it doesn't mean I'm letting go of those memories. And, to be honest, I never was too fond of Precious Moments stuff anyway.
3. I can make new choices and do things differently.

I have a rare opportunity to start over in terms of decor as we have been redecorating our living room, dining room, and foyer.

I am no longer tied to a certain color/style/decor. I had a very large mural painted on the foyer wall. It was here when we moved in, and has stayed for the almost 20 years that we've been here. The colors and style of it dictated the entire downstairs decor.

Some time ago I asked you all to vote for whether I should paint over this or not. Most of you thought I should keep it, my husband included. But I have to say, I've been very happy to say goodbye.
 All of a sudden, with this gone, all kinds of possibilities have opened up. Instead of being tied to blue and sage and burgundy and yellow, I can do fuchsia and turquoise if I want! 

I also realized I didn't have to keep the art on my walls. Why did I feel guilty about donating it? I've looked at some of it for over 30 years. It wasn't expensive. It's okay to let it go and do something different, even if it takes a while to figure that out. 

So now what? Modern abstract art? Am I a modern abstract art person? I never thought so, but I could be if I wanted.

With some of the older furniture gone, I can do something different as far as style, not just color. I could do farmhouse, French country, mid-century modern, anything. I could do glam, with gold and mirrors and animal print. 

I didn't choose many of the things in my house. They were hand-me-downs, appreciated and loved, but like the mural, I didn't pick them out. Now I have a chance to think about what I like.

It's actually been a good time for thinking outside of the box about a lot of things, letting go of not only things, but of guilt and unrealistic expectations, and old, unhealthy ways of thinking.


I hope to be around to visit my blog friends soon. Thanks for stopping by! xo

More decluttering

Monday, February 12, 2018

The donation truck is coming again today, and we already have another pile in the basement waiting for the next pickup. The more we declutter, the more we find. It really is overwhelming. 

We started tackling the basement yesterday, and it is looking even worse than when we started.

Warning: embarrassing photos.

Please tell me somebody else's basement looks like this!

Many of you suggested that it would be easier to part with things if I took pictures of them. This is especially true of some of my children's things.

A sweatshirt I made my daughter, a crib bumper pad, a sweet First Christmas onesie, and a soft little blanket. You mothers understand.

After I took the pictures, I hardened my heart, and out they all went.

I have a whole cupboard filled with stuffed animals. Then I found these. I kissed three of these dollies goodbye (literally), and shoved the rest in the cupboard with the others. I'll have to sort through these again, but really, I do have to save something for the future grandchildren, right? Or will I want to buy them new stuff? (Probably.)

I'm having book club tonight. We will have to navigate the pile from the laundry room clean out/painting.

Amidst all the mess, there is this one lovely spot . . . 

I'm so happy to have a new table and chairs, and I am super in love with this new chandelier. It was so heavy and awkward it took three of us to get it hung and leveled. Isn't it lovely?

I'm going to put some black and white framed photos on the wall and hang some curtains in here. I have removed all the little picture frames scattered about the house and on the walls, including the collage I made years ago of about 15 photos above the piano. There will be six 8 x 10 black and white photos here (in 20 x 20 frames), and about six in the upstairs hallway. That's it. After donating a whole box of picture frames, I still have about a dozen left. They will probably go in the next round of decluttering.

 I'm still deciding on centerpieces for this dining table. I'm thinking fuchsia peonies in two mercury glass bowls, candles, maybe a long tray. What do you think?

Whatever I do, I'm going to be super careful about what I bring back into the house.

Someone said we spend the first half of our lives accumulating stuff, and the second half getting rid of it. It seems so wasteful. And yet, there was a time when we did use the camping gear and hockey gear and cross country skis and bowling balls and Legos and all. And all those old suitcases and Christmas lights. Life just keeps moving on, and our needs change.

We do have room for all this stuff, but why? I see people moving and downsizing and they are totally overwhelmed. We won't be moving for some time yet, but I am thinking and working as if we were putting the house up for sale this year. That way, it will be much easier when we do finally downsize. In the meantime, someone else can enjoy the stuff and we'll be able to enjoy living lighter.

{I just ran across a huge tub filled with letters from my childhood. Remember when everyone wrote letters? Going through those will take some time, for sure.} 

Letting go of possessions and guilt

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Like many of you, I find the beginning of the new year to be a good time for taking stock. And as it has been cold and dark and perfect for nesting, for sitting in front of the fire with a good book or a knitting project, that "taking stock" has included looking around my nest and seeing if it's as cozy and welcoming as it could be.

While I wish I had full-time staff to clean my house (hey, we can dream, right?), I've always loved organizing and decluttering. Lately, I've been taking it to a whole new level.

Finally, after years of needing to spend money on a new furnace, a new roof, a new driveway, etc., I'm going to get my wish of replacing some furniture. You know, the fun stuff.

Now, please believe me, I'm not complaining. I feel very grateful for what I have. But, except for two couches and two chairs, our bedroom set and the mattresses, everything in our house is garage sale or heirlooms (read hand-me-downs). And the furniture we did buy new is at least 25 to 35 years old.

The garage sale/"heirloom" furniture has been re-glued and mended and painted several times over, and I am so ready to say goodbye to it. Suddenly, antique and vintage have become synonymous with wobbly, falling apart, and just plain old.

This rocking chair never did get repaired or painted. It's been sitting in the basement, the object of 20 years' worth of good intentions. Time to let somebody else take care of it.

As much as I'd like to think I could repair this desk and refinish it, this, too, has been sitting, unused, for more than 10 years. Bite the bullet, and pass it on. My parents spent $10 for it almost 60 years ago.

So far I've said goodbye to:

a couch
a dining room table and 6 chairs
a gateleg table and four chairs
2 rocking chairs
3 miscellaneous chairs
a coffee table
2 lamps
a desk
a filing cabinet
a side table

These all found good homes. The couch, which is still in good condition, looks better in a friend's home than it ever did in mine.

In addition, I've let go of:

a filing cabinet worth of paper
2 more boxes of old papers
3 old clocks
3 large garbage bags full of clothing
a box of picture frames
miscellaneous seasonal and other decor

I still have about 12 boxes of old homeschooling papers and old family photos I'm determined to get through. And a basement full of gear we probably won't ever use again -- cross country skis, bowling balls, camping gear, hockey equipment, etc., etc. Also, three huge piles of stuff, one for each kid who doesn't have room in their apartments for all of it. Hey, wait, one of my children has a house. I need to talk to her!

I've also been decluttering my email inbox. I've reduced it from 584 emails to 0! Okay, the zero only lasted a few minutes, but I've been zealously keeping my email inbox down to 5 or less, which is unheard of in all the years I've been on a computer. It's usually always hovering above the 300 mark, even with daily deleting.

I unsubscribe from everything I can, and mark lots as spam, but I still get some ads. Those are easy to delete. I put all my receipts in a separate folder (and just deleted anything older than a year). The majority of the emails sitting in my inbox are from blog friends, and they're so sweet I hate to delete them.

But the ones that come in as blog comments are stored on my blog. Any special correspondence I put in a correspondence folder. I'm going to try and respond to people ASAP, and then delete. It takes a little hardening of the heart.

This is the hardest part of decluttering, and what I've been dealing with, with all the vintage furniture and the photographs and 1st grade spelling lists and friendly emails.

The guilt of letting go of sentimental items.

But I've found that it's the decision to do it that's the hardest. Just like deciding to get on the treadmill. Once I decide, it's relatively easy. Once I decide it's okay to let go of a handmade or sentimental item it really is a breath of relief. It really is amazing how things can get to be like albatrosses around your neck without even realizing it.

I have pictures and I have memories. I don't need to keep every. single. item. anyone has made/given/handed down to me. Yes, of course, there are many things I will keep, but I don't need to keep everything. What a weight off my shoulders to see things going out the door!

And every time I go through this process I think, I'm never buying anything again. Or bringing home another sheet of paper. For example, I've stopped bringing home the little memorial pamphlet things from funerals. What do you do with them? They sit there, and then you feel guilty for throwing them away. Those pamphlets don't really add to the memories you have of a person. So I've stopped bringing them home. I stand at the recycling bin and sort my mail before I even bring it in the door.

But still, the papers pile up.

And cards and thank you notes. Those are so hard for me to throw out. Some I keep, some I throw out, no real method to that, but I can't keep everything. Again, it's hard to throw out a sweet note from a friend. What do you all do??

Right now we are painting. Tomorrow some of the furniture arrives. I am trying to replace with less. For example, I've gotten rid of 15 chairs total, and only getting 8 new ones. It will be so nice to sit on chairs that aren't wobbly or in danger of collapsing under the weight of an unsuspecting guest.

I'm going for what I call rustic glam. Unfinished looking wood and wrought iron combined with faux fur and some bling. Taupes, grays, cream with touches of blush. Lots of candles and pillows. Soft, comfortable, relaxed with a little glamour.

Here's a peek at the new chandelier that will be going over the new dining table. 

from Pottery Barn

It will be a whole new look. It's really been a little emotional, letting go of the old, ushering in some new, thinking about who I've been and who I am now. I'll keep you posted on the process.

And really, if you have any ideas for the sentimental papers, notes, and cards, I'd love to hear. xo
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