Here’s the first of my final reports. I’m giving myself a final grade and sharing some tips which I hope you’ll find helpful. Note: I don’t have a formal list of criteria and I didn’t go back and average my monthly progress report grades. This is just what I think I deserve based on what I did over the past year.
My first objective was to create a home which only contains things we need and love.
My grade: A-/B+
If I had to quantify it, I’d say I spent probably ¾ of my project time on Objective #1. I felt I needed to harness the stuff situation in order to succeed with the other three objectives. And I felt that the issue of clutter was the most pressing, because it was so evident ALL THE TIME. My house was not remotely Hoarders-level bad, but our stuff was always strewn about the house. Whenever we had company, we’d spend several hours spread out over multiple days getting the house in shape. I attribute much of the problem to having a child who was always getting things from us, and also from our family. But I also bought a lot of things I didn’t really need. When we first moved here, we didn’t know anyone, so we spent our weekends at the mall, or at the bookstore. We were always coming home with things. Books. Kitchen gadgets. Clothes. Knick knacks. There wasn’t a lot of thought put into purchases. Fortunately, we didn’t buy enough to go into debt, but we bought more things than we had space for. I wrote a lot about the process of getting rid of all these things, but I don’t know if I ever addressed how stuff came to be an issue for me in the first place. I have gotten a lot better at leveling with myself when I’m in a store, asking myself if it’s something I really need. Nearly all the time, I don’t.
I went back through my photos, and tallied up all the bags, boxes and miscellaneous items I donated during the course of the last year. Drum roll please…
10 miscellaneous items (small furniture mostly)
We also took 5 bags of old financial documents and other papers to a shredding event. And most of the books I gave away went to the local library. I didn’t really keep track of those. If I had to estimate, we probably have 200 fewer books, if not more.
Post-project, I still have more things to get rid of. The garage remains the deepest pit of hell. I have not been able to get rid of several old air conditioners which occupy a lot of space in there. It’s a complicated process to toss them so I’m not sure what I’ll do, but when they’re gone it’ll open a lot of space.
The attic needs another round of purging, though it’s way more organized than it was before. When I don’t know where to put stuff, I still resort to sticking it in the attic, but it’s not as full as it was.
Overall, the difference is subtle but definite. We had family visit during the first week of March, and it took only an hour or so for Bob and I to get the house in order. Last week I had a small surprise party for Emma’s birthday, and again, the house was company-ready pretty quickly. Granted, this still happens…
…all over. On a day to day basis stuff still piles up, and I suspect it always will. We have interests and hobbies and school and work and mail. But now we’re able to put our things in their proper spots pretty quickly. There was a time when many objects occupied space on the home’s flat surfaces because they didn’t have designated spots. Now, those things have either been tossed or donated, or relocated to proper homes. And because I also combed through all our cabinets, closets and drawers, I was able to find room for those things which were ending up all over the place.
Trying Project 333 has also been great. My first attempt was a failure, but my second attempt was more successful. Technically I should have changed over everything two weeks ago; I just haven’t had a chance. But I will. Getting ready for work was much easier. For the next round, though, I want to leave out a few more casual things. And despite having a much smaller wardrobe, a few things remained unworn or rarely-worn, which makes them a good candidate for donation. I appreciate that some of you told me about Courtney’s blog, because I hadn’t heard of it before.
What I learned:
- It’s important to acknowledge the difficulty of letting go of stuff. Realize that yes, you will probably donate something and later find you needed it. It happened to me more than once. I improvised and got over it.
- The hardest things to consider were not necessarily the sentimental items but the things I use only a few times a year. Like my stand mixer- I really only use it at the holidays and maybe one or two other times during the year. But not having it would make the task much harder, so I kept it. I also have an inexpensive tray which I used Friday to bring out the cupcakes at Emma’s party. Like the stand mixer, I do not use it often. But I have other things which will fulfill the same purpose, so I’m not going to keep it. These kind of possessions need to be judged on a case by case basis.
- There were a few things, like my spice rack, which I wavered about. I found it helped to put those things in the garage to see if I missed them. If I didn’t find I needed or wanted them back, I gave them away. Putting stuff out of sight to help you gauge your feeling and need for something is a good way to help you really assess.
- Obviously, giving unneeded and unwanted things away is the key. Moving things out of the house makes the biggest difference. But mindfulness about what comes into the house is crucial too. I devoted some time to this, and it really helped me see that getting rid of stuff is a waste of time if you keep bringing stuff in at the same rate.
- It’s never really done. I read a post I wrote back in June or July where I announced I was done decluttering and reorganizing the kitchen. Well, I went back a few weeks ago and reorganized again. Regardless of the task, it’s likely you’ll always find a way to do it better. Laundry is still a huge hassle for me. I’ve had some good weeks but I have to confess that there are three baskets of laundry waiting to be folded. My newest theory is that I need to fold everything downstairs in the library. I’ll be motivated to get it done because we have no formal entry, so people who come into the house find themselves in the library. And I don’t want visitors looking at piles of underwear, even if it’s clean.
Next time I’ll review my final progress on Objective 2. And I want to thank everyone who sent their proposals for The Simple Year 5. We’ll be reviewing them later in the week, and we appreciate your interest!