Sunday, November 01, 2015

Cleaning House.

This is a weekend of responsible adulthood. I woke up yesterday determined to tackle the guest room/office, among other piles of clutter. I've been picking away at it ineffectually off and on all year, but enough's enough here. After hours of back-breaking labor, the whole house is messier than it was before I started.

My dining room is filled with things I'm giving away or donating. I found some articles of clothing I'd forgotten I owned. And I'd been thinking how I need bigger bag for work, because my daily back-and-forth load is too much for my regular bag. Yeah. I already have a bag that is the right size. It had been sitting in the closet, forgotten.

I found knitting UFOs I'd forgotten, too, which is motivating me to sit down and knit again.

I have a lot of stuff. A whole lot. I'm a single woman in a 1400+ square foot condo with a garage, and I have single-handedly filled this place with stuff. I didn't buy all of it; some of the furniture and doo-dads were inherited from my parents, but still, there's a lot of stuff.

I don't have an excess of permanent items, like furniture. But in going through drawers and cabinets yesterday, I was chagrined to realize how often I've over-shopped, because I forgot I already had the thing. I have three large unopened bottles of Olay body wash, for example. I buy it in three packs at Costco when it's on special there, and I'd thought I was on my last bottle when I picked up more last week. Then I found another unopened bottle under the vanity. My body wash needs are covered well into 2016. Ditto shampoo, thanks to a sale a few weeks ago at Target. Now I just have to remember that I have all these extras on hand, and not buy more.

I've read books on minimalism (and ranted about a few) before. I'm not a minimalist, and I don't want to be. I love my stuff! A few months ago I listened to the audio version of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

I hated it. I hate that book so very, very much. I very rarely return an audiobook, but I returned that one. I'm happy for the author, that she turned her personal quirks (which sound very much like life-crippling OCD to me) into a profitable business, but that book annoyed the crap out of me.

Let's start with the premise that this actually is some "Japanese art." If that was the case, how did she build a business teaching her "method" in JAPAN? Wouldn't it be, oh, I don't know, "the way grandma did it?" But it isn't. It's the author's own bizarre and obsessive way of controlling her world, presented as a lifestyle. Her childhood stories of her obsession with things, and particularly her stories of secretly throwing away her family members' possessions because she felt they didn't really need them, totally creeped me out. Maybe it's because I listened to it as an audiobook, rather than reading it. That does make a difference. The eye can skim over the bad parts and skip to the value when reading a printed book. When listening, you're forced to really take in every word, and to me this was like reading Stephen King's take on the Fly Lady. Kathy Bates could play her in the movie version.

And as another critical reviewer put it, this was basically an online article stretched into a book. The droning repetition and number of times the word "tidy" was used: tidy tidying tidier tidied, tidytidytidytidyARRRGH! was enough to make me wish I'd had it in paperback, so I could throw it across the room with great force.

Here's her method:
Look at your possessions with a critical eye. Drag it all out of hiding and take a long, hard look at each item, evaluate its purpose. Get rid of the stuff that doesn't "bring you joy," and keep on doing this, forever. Make it a habit.

Strip away the OCD rituals (she empties her purse and carefully puts it away every evening, and there is only ONE correct way to fold clothing and socks, and that's her way) and it's every decluttering article ever printed in every women's magazine on earth. I salute her for making a highly successful business out of her personal "quirks" but I also think she has some major issues that quite possibly would benefit from medication. But the book got glowing reviews from major publications, while I write a lost little blog in the backwaters of the Internet, so my opinion is of course only my own.

Suffice to say, that book did not bring me joy, so I got it out of my life.

I did have an epiphany of sorts while cleaning out the office/guest room: Plastic tubs aren't the solution; they are part of the problem. When I moved back from Asheville four years ago this week, I hauled with me a number of large plastic totes of yarn, craft supplies, sewing supplies (I don't sew, but I had a dream) etc. I think I've opened those tubs less than a dozen times in the last four years. They are inconvenient. They are stacked in the back of the walk-in closet, and dragging them out just seems like a lot of work. So while I'm in cleaning binge mode, I'm going to drag out the contents of my yarn stash, take a long look, decide if it "brings me joy" (Am I really ever going to use it?) and purge the parts that aren't ever, ever gonna become anything. Admit that the purchase was a mistake and move on. And while I'm evaluating, I'm going to photograph my stash and put an inventory on Ravelry. I haven't been on the forums on Ravelry much this year, but I do use it as my first source for yarn ideas and pattern inspiration. It's past time to take advantage of the yarn inventory option. Then I'm going to rethink my storage options for what remains. I'm considering a cheap IKEA chest of drawers. I cannot be trusted with plastic tubs, and they have to go.

And on that note, it's time to slap some color on my hair and get back to it while it marinates. I'm on a roll here.


Unknown said...

Howling.. "Stephen King's take on the Fly Lady".
I haven't read the book, it only took me reading a few blog posts of people following her advice to bring me to a similar conclusion. But your take is hilarious.
And maybe it is useful for people who have an overwhelming amount of stuff and clutter. I know I did before I moved, but frankly, I don't think that asking myself if my clutter brought me joy would have helped with my yarn and quilting stash. I still miss that stuff! But asking myself if it would fit into my much smaller condo space made the answer to keep or donate a lot easier. Not whether it brought me joy, because it did. Digging around in my projects and finding a petit-point bag that I started nearly 40 years ago- and finally finished this summer? Yep. Brought me joy. But was it joyful schlepping it around for 40 years? Maybe not.
Re: the Ravelry inventory- it's really useful, and I should be more diligent to get all of mine up there. What's nice is if you are looking at a pattern, Ravelry will tell you if you have a yarn in your stash (and enough of it) that will work to do the project. It's help me to remember to raid my stash for a couple of things rather than buy. So maybe you want to photograph and inventory before you get rid of everything.

Kimmen - inspired to clean off one of my desktops, at the very least.

Catherine said...

Oh, the only yarn I'm getting rid of right off the bat is the bits and pieces of leftovers of old projects. Yes, I'm one of those people who has a ziplock back of three ounce balls of single colors of this and that, because "it might come in handy someday!" I will keep the little walnuts of leftover linen, because that is perfect for holding sleeve stitches for small sweaters, but the rest will be donated. Maybe some crafty person will be inspired to put it all together in a multicolor masterpiece, but I know I'll never get around to it.

I also found FOUR - count-em, FOUR - nearly complete yet abandoned sweaters. I have a year's worth of knitting projects without even taking on anything new.

Anonymous said...

I never needed to worry about the advancing grey-pepper and salt and eventually silver process, which is lucky, because it started in my late teens, with a half inch streak of white.
Never had to worry because most of my working life has been in the family business - no way husband and son would go all ageist on me -- they would have been left with all the paper work and office stuff, and they are not that silly.
By my mid forties I was basically silver - I could still find dark hairs here and there! but that was all.
Family thing, both my father and his mother went grey very early. But it seems to have missed the two children.

Gae, in Callala Bay

Catherine said...

Neither of my parents went gray early. My mother still had a mix of her natural chestnut brown and silver when she passed at 82. I had more gray than she did when I was 45! I chalked it up to stress, since it wasn't biology.

Diann LIppman said...

I despised that book! Totally creeped out by even the idea of "thanking" my stuff and getting rid of it. We are decluttering here - lots of decluttering in the next 2-3 years - because we are starting to think about retiring and moving across country to a completely different life. There are things that we don't need, and there are things that are so not on the declutter list: my 9 sets of china, for example. I know I don't need that much china, but it gives me joy and I'm keeping it (at least for now). Yarn, fabric and books - keeping them. Some of the furniture? Nope. It won't be making the move.

Catherine said...

And that's it! I have two sets of china, my everyday, and my mother's vintage (but not ultra high end) Mikasa. I treasure the Mikasa, though I never use it. I am not going to get rid of it for anybody, ever. I was okay with "thanking" the things you were getting rid of, it's romanticized way of "saying goodbye," but I don't think my socks have feelings, and I don't think her way of storing clothing is the Only Right Way. It is true that some storage methods are easier on the fibers than others, but her rules are arbitrary and just f*cking nuts.

besshaile said...

Nothing like a new month to make a new inventory. You go girl.

KatyaR said...

I did a huge purge of my entire apartment this summer. It made a huge difference, and I feel like I have a new home. The best part was that I switched bedrooms and am now using the bigger one as an art room. I put a second table that I have in there and have been using it like crazy--I actually like working in there! In the last six weeks I've made a dress and two small quilts and just finished a third quilt top this weekend. Why didn't I do this years ago?

As for the hair, mine's pretty salty in the front, but I don't really care about it. I don't think it makes me look old until I'm in a photo, and then I just don't care (lol). My mom used to use the stuff in a pink and gray bottle, but I just really don't want to mess with hair color. I've done it before, but who knows, I may get crazy one day and do it. It's been known to happen.

Catherine said...

So, I just cleaned up three silly sales spam comments from the same guy. I don't want to enable a complicated anti-spam filter, so I'm hoping this won't become a regular event. I'm such a small, backwater blog, I rarely have to deal with that.