Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Items 19, 20, and 21: A sleeping bag and two bedrolls

The winter holidays are for giving, right? This Thanksgiving I made a point of giving. Giving back, that is!

I think these three things snuck into my house for some long-forgotten camping trip in the days before I owned my own camping gear. I had borrowed them from my parents. Time to return them to their owners.

~ The Reckoning ~

Original Cost: Free. (OOPS -- Oy, Other People's Stuff!)

What convinced me to get rid of them: I own my own sleeping bag and bedroll now. And they're both quite a bit smaller than these!

Fate: Handed them back to mom at Thanksgiving yesterday.

Total $ wasted on junk so far this year: $153.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Items 17 and 18: Victoria and Secret.

[caption id="attachment_172" align="aligncenter" width="222" caption="( www.victoriassecret.com)"][/caption]

Don't I wish I could throw Miranda Kerr out as well. Good grief does she look like a photoshopped, emaciated alien.

No, I just got rid of my two most uncomfortable bras. Now I'm down to 8 in total. I'm going for 7. Do I really need more than one a day each week? That seems like plenty of styles to give me some variety and meet my needs.

Really, how many bras and panties does a woman need? Before I get to today's reckoning, let's take a poll:

[polldaddy poll=5704601]

Now, let's try a reality check:

[polldaddy poll=5704603]

Was there a difference in your answers? For most of us there is. What's the solution?

Probably depends on how much you love Vickie's. Some people like to have no two alike. I prefer versatility. I like the idea of getting everything in black, replacing items as they wear out. No worry about mis-matching tops and bottoms in the morning (or at night..) And if there were a sexier color than black, why do women AND men love the little black dress so much?

~ The Reckoning ~

Original Cost: Likely around $40 each.

What convinced me to get rid of them: One word: Madonna.

That, and I realized that I only wear them when everything else is in the wash. Never should've bought them in the first place.

Fate: The Planet Aid clothes donation box in our basement.

Total $ wasted on junk so far this year: $153. Ouch.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Decluttering tip #4: If it's not yours, give it back or give it the boot!

'Could you keep this for me?'

Part of my clutter problems started with this simple question from a family member.

Ever been asked that? What did you say?

If you're like me, the answer was 'Sure, why not?' Turns out that there is a good reason why not:

Your home is not your friends' and family's spare closet!

Again, if you're like me, you can already hear the whining and see the (crocodile?) tears welling in some of those folks' eyes. But we can handle this now!

If someone is trying to foist an object on you, ask for some time to consider where you'll put it, and tell them you'll get back to them. In reality, you know that you're not going to put it anywhere. But hopefully in that time they'll forget and will find another alternative.

If they still insist on "giving" you the object, say honestly that you do not have the space. Keep saying no.

If they won't listen when you say no, then it's time to look at why they are so stuck on you keeping this item. Remember that they may be struggling with the same issues letting go of items as we are. Share some of what you've learned about downsizing. And offer to help take that TV to the Salvation Army.

Sometimes the items that don't belong to us are more sneaky about the ways they get into our house. The sweater a friend left when she visited from out of state. The baking dish left by your cousin at Thanksgiving (no, this is part of the reason I don't tend to host Turkey Day for my family).
If the objects are already in your home, call the person who gave them to you and give them a deadline to pick up the item, or you'll donate it. If they can't stop by, offer to mail it. The postage to mail it may be worth the emotional cost of keeping it.

But most importantly, do not give in and say yes figuring you'll get rid of the object later. Even if you do get rid of it, this other person now may feel that you're their spare closet just because you said 'yes' once.

I realize this is how I became my paternal grandmother's dumping ground for kitchen equipment. Her best friend died and Grandmom got to clean out Emily's house. Now I'm stuck with half of Emily's kitchen because Grandmom didn't want to see all those pots and pans 'go to waste' and I couldn't say no. Teriffic. All part of the reason I'm doing this challenge, right?

What's the most aggrivating thing you've kept just because someone else asked you to?

Apparently Best Buy isn't completely evil

Yeah, I had trouble believing that one too.

My husband is still at his mother's for the holidays and they spent yesterday cleaning out her basement (wait, why is he helping her and not me?! just kidding.) They unearthed a pile of 1980s electronics, including a VCR and some walkmans.

Then he told me they were going to Best Buy. Wait, what? I thought the idea was to get rid of stuff.

Turns out you can recycle electronics at Best Buy (for free, doesn't matter where you bought the item). Huh. More info is available on Best Buy's site. Small electronics, big ones too. Even CDs.

I never thought I'd say this, but challenge yourself this holiday to actually go to Best Buy. But only to recycle something! I'd love to see what archaic electronics we can all dig up from our closets.

I guess that's where this huge box of computer stuff is going to go...along with my collection of Celine Dion CD's from middle school.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Item 16: Ugly race shirt

I'm not sure which was uglier: this shirt or the race I ran yesterday to get it.

(Okay, it wasn't that bad. If you ignore the "uphill the whole way" part.)

~ The Reckoning ~

Original Cost: Free. (really? wow, a lot of free junk shows up in my home.)

What convinced me to get rid of it: The fact that no, the photo doesn't do the awful snow/mud/slush brown color of this shirt any justice.

Fate: The wonderful Planet Aid clothes donation box in the basement of our building.

Total $ wasted on junk so far this year: $78.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Item 15: The sewing scissors Gram gave me

Gram gave me these scissors when she first taught me how to do embroidery. Even though the scissors were broken, I've kept them because I've been afraid that throwing them out would mean I would forget about the wonderful times she and I had sewing together.

Well, I didn't. In fact, I think I'm less likely to forget these memories that I now keep in my memory book, instead of keeping those memories in a broken pair of scissors (what would she have said about that, anyways?)

The Reckoning

Original Cost: Free. A gift from Gram.

What convinced me to get rid of them: I realized I had a better way to keep my memories of her than keeping things she gave me that are now broken.

Fate: Trash can.

Total $ wasted on junk so far this year: $73.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Item 14: Extra Coffee Pot

One of many duplicates we found we had after my husband and I moved in together. Shame it took me over a year of marriage before we decided to part with it. Especially given that neither one of us drinks coffee.

The Reckoning:

Cost: I think my husband spent about $20 on this.

What convinced me to get rid of it: Seeing both of our coffee pots stacked up on top of our cabinets while I was digging for a mug for tea, the only hot caffeinated beverage we drink.

Fate: The "free box" area in our apartment complex's basement.

Total money wasted on junk this year: $73.

Decluttering tip #3: Keep your memories in memory books, not in your clutter.

The hardest hurdle for me when it comes to decluttering is definitely dealing with the emotional attachments I have with objects. Even broken ones.

I've really had a hard time getting rid of anything that I associate with my grandmother. She was more involved in my life in some ways than even my father, and now that she's gone I know I'm using her stuff as a way of keeping her memory closer. I'm keeping really silly things -- a broken pair of scissors she gave me, curtain clips (I don't have curtains!), two pairs of her shoes...

But I don't have to be a pack rat to remember my grandmother, as it turns out. Throwing away stuff does NOT mean you're throwing away your memories. 

The most elegant (and space-efficient) solution to this problem I've found is the idea of a memory book. When I see an object that I don't need that reminds me of her (or even an object I do need that reminds me of her), I get out a little spiral notebook that I've turned into a memory book.

I write down the object and then a little bit about why it reminded me of her. Then it goes back on the shelf and the useless object goes out the door. I can even tape in a little picture if I want to.

I've found this works for any object really. It's far more satisfying than all of the clutter. And this I can scan and back up on a computer, never to be lost if my apartment burns down!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Item 13: A little pencil sharpener

I think the only reason I held on to this little thing was that it reminded me of elementary and middle school.

Then I realized, why in the world would I want to remember middle school?!

It also seemed to break every pencil I would put in it. And my husband had an electric one that worked! Out it goes.

The Reckoning!

Original Cost: None to me. My mom paid for it when I was a kid.

What convinced me to get rid of them: It didn't work and I owned a spare!

Fate: Recycling bin.

Total $ wasted on junk so far this year: $53.


Saturday, November 19, 2011

Items 10, 11, and 12: Three scarves

Our first real winter days came to D.C. this week. Okay, highs in the low 40s aren't winter days...but it is time to start getting the cold weather gear out of the closet. In the process I found five, count 'em, FIVE scarves. How many does a girl really need?

And now...The Reckoning!

Original Cost: Free. Two were gifts purchased by a family member, one was knitted by another family member.

What convinced me to get rid of them: The knitted one was so small it barely fit around my neck! (and it certainly didn't keep me warm). One of the two other scarves was for my husband...who doesn't wear scarves! And the third one...well, I had two other scarves I loved to bits and wore regularly last year. The one I gave away didn't match anything I owned.

Fate: The knitted one went in the clothes donation box in our apartment building.

The two fancy purchased scarves I gave to a friend at work who does a lot of volunteering at a halfway house in our area. She said she had two women in mind who had just moved into the house to give the scarves to. I'm thrilled!

Total $ wasted on junk so far this year: $53.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Item 9: My bathroom scale

[caption id="attachment_56" align="alignnone" width="220" caption="image from amazon.com"][/caption]

Nothing for me gets to the core of my second decluttering rule (get rid of it if it's bad for you!) like getting rid of my bathroom scale. I was in such a hurry to get rid of this I didn't even take a picture.

I developed my first eating disorder in 2001 (yes, that's *first*. Of more than one.) I didn't get help until 2009. And only now am I getting rid of this device which has tortured me for years. If only I'd listened to my therapist ages ago, I would've been one object lighter! (and probably far less anxious).

For now I'll settle for being comfortable not knowing my weight. Hopefully someday I'll be able to get on a scale (though one I borrow, not own) and accept the weight I naturally am.

The reckoning:

Cost: Free. A friend gave it to me when she moved back to Europe. I don't think she realized what she was handing me and I was stupid enough to let it have a role in my life.

Fate: The "free box" in the basement of our apartment building.

What convinced me to let it go? When my husband caught me weighing myself this week for the third time in a day. After I'd had 64 days without any externalized eating disorder symptoms. This was not helping me stay on that path.

Total $ wasted on junk so far this year: $53.

Total cost on my sanity...well, if you really want to know what it's like to be in the head of someone in recovery from an eating disorder, see my other blog.

Phew. One more step towards complete recovery!

Decluttering tip #2: If it's bad for you, get rid of it!

No, don't go empty all of the ice cream out of your freezer.

But if it does you harm, you need to get rid of it. NOW. 

Some objects do physical harm, even in little ways. Like this week's bottle of Coach perfume, which made me sneeze.

Sometimes, the damage is more psychological, like my scale, which only encouraged the eating disorder that I'm finally fighting after ten years.

This way, decluttering not only clears space on your floors, it clears space in your body and mind too.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Item 8: Broken Headphones

I can't hear anything out of these anymore. No wonder blackberry is in trouble.

Cost: $0, free with my blackberry.
Fate: In the trash, not to be replaced.
What convinced me to let it go? I like to hear my music.
Total $ wasted on junk so far this year: $53.

Item 7: Frumpy Jacket

This jacket is about four sizes too large and just makes me feel frumpy.

I had only kept it because I liked the pattern. Really? How good could that pattern have looked if the jacket made me look like I was a 70 year old librarian?

The reckoning:

Cost:    $5. I'm not sure about this since I bought it in high school. But I did get it at a thrift shop.

Fate: In the clothes donation bin in our apartment building.

What convinced me to let it go?  Looking bad just makes me feel bad. I deserve good things!

Total $ wasted on junk so far this year: $53.

Item 6: Coach perfume

It made me sneeze.

The reckoning:

Cost:    $65

Fate:   Sold on eBay for $30.

What convinced me to let it go?  The piles of tissues.

Total $ wasted on junk so far this year: $48. 

Item 5: Broken Umbrella

Probably a good thing I own two others of these:


Even the husband with his mechanical engineering degree couldn't figure out how to fix this one.


The reckoning:

Cost:    $0, as it was used up and broken.

Fate:    In the trash, not to be replaced.

What convinced me to let it go?  Tomorrow's forecast for more rain.

Total $ wasted on junk so far this year: $13. 


Decluttering Tip #1: If It's Broken and You (or someone else) Can't Fix It, Don't Replace It!

If it's broken and you (or someone else) can't fix it, get rid of it and don't replace it!

This is quite possibly the easiest strategy for starting to declutter your living and working spaces because this one doesn't involve your emotions. Look Ma, no guilt!

How many times have you broken something and immediately rushed out to replace it? Even if you already own something that serves the same purpose?

Next time, I challenge you: don't replace something you broke. Do this, and you've painlessly downsized by one item, no worries about

This happened an astonishing three times this week. One was a pair of headphones that came with my blackberry (I went to hunt for a replacement and found that I own three other sets of headphones.) The other was an umbrella that died in a storm (I own two more of these). When my mechanical engineer husband couldn't fix it, I knew it had to go out.

The other was a custard cup that cracked the entire way through. This could have turned into a tragedy because my grandmother gave these to my mom for her wedding. But you know, I have hundreds of other mementos of my grandmother (to be decluttered later). Oh, and I also have the entire china set that went with that custard cup. I happen to have three more custard cups. Who's going to get upset if you get rid of something unusable?

(This doesn't apply to things you actually do need, of course. I'm not going to tell you not to buy another toothbrush if you break the only one you own!)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Item 4: Cake Plate

This one isn't getting a picture, because it was a wedding gift.

Gifts are often some of the hardest things to part with. But we realized that it was huge, fragile, and honestly, ugly.  How to decide whether to part with a gift? Let's see:

  • do you love it?

  • do you have room for it?

  • do you have occasion to use it more than once a year?

  • is it unlikely to break before it would get used?

  • is the person who gave it to you likely to end up at your house?

If any of these are no, get rid of it!

And now, the reckoning.

Cost:    $0.

Fate:    freecycle. I made someone else really happy!

What convinced me to let it go?  Well, I answered "NO!" to all five of the questions above. Out it went.

Total $ wasted on junk so far: $13. 

(and in case this person does show up at our door, we'll just say it got smashed in our last move.)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Item 3: Apples to Apples Game

[caption id="attachment_21" align="alignnone" width="80" caption="Silly of me to buy a party game when we never throw parties. Or have guests over at all."][/caption]

Cost:    $28.

Fate:    sold on eBay for $15.

What convinced me to let it go? In a year of owning it, we never used it.

Total $ wasted on junk: $13. 

Item 2: Leaky water bottle

Got this water bottle at the American Library Association Conference last year. Aspiring minimalists beware, conference swag is bad for your health!

Cost:    free.

Fate:    recycling bin.

What convinced me to let it go?  It leaked gatorade all over my shirt during my run today.

Total $ wasted on junk: $0. 

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Item 1: Old nylon cooking spoon

COST: free (gift from mom)
FATE:, I put it in our apartment basement's "free box" a place where people can leave discarded items so that another can use it.

Total money I could've saved if I hadn't bought this useless stuff: $0. Not impressive, but trust me, I expect it to be scary in the end.

What's this challenge about?

My husband and I got married last year. We also combined two households -- 2100 square feet in total -- into one 900 square foot apartment.

We're tired of cleaning, organizing, stuffing, squeezing, and tripping over the piles of stuff that we own.

I'm going to get rid of 365 items in the next 365 days and reclaim our house and home from our junk. 

I'll be tracking the fate of each object and how much money we wasted on each useless purchase. Are you hoping to declutter your life? Share your experiences with me and join the challenge!