Chapter 2 – The Summer of Progress
This first victory spurred me on to tackle other areas of the house one by one. I next went to the kitchen which most professional organizers will tell you is a mistake. The kitchen is not for amateurs. It is a big complicated area. However, in this case, ignorance worked for me. Getting the kitchen under control was a foundational piece for me to conquer. I broke the area into smaller goals and used the same process – take everything out, sort, purge, put things in other rooms, clean, and put items back. At this point I found it very helpful to seek out support. I joined a facebook group based around decluttering. I began to share my journey with pictures, comments, and questions. People were very affirming of my efforts. I got tons of pats on the back and lots of great advice. This spurred me on.
As I worked on in the kitchen I was not just sorting my own items. I had numerous pans and gadgets that had belonged to my mom when she lived with us several years back. When she died, I gave away a lot of her stuff but held on to some things “in case I needed them” or “until I find someone who can use it”. Now I had to overcome these two very common reasons for holding on to stuff. First I admitted that ‘in case of’ had not happened in five years so chances were it wouldn’t. If I ever needed those items I could borrow or repurchase them. I could not save everything and have a calm, clean, workable space. I had to choose. I chose peace. The second realization was that I might not find that perfect person who needed my items. However, if I donated them the universe might make a connection that certainly was not going to happen with the item hiding in my cabinet. Once I was able to overcome these roadblocks I received a joyous surprise. I loved giving things away! Every bag I took to a thrift store or shelter made me smile. I enjoyed knowing that now people who needed these items could get them for free or a reduced price. I felt like it was a service to humanity. I began to count the bags. I was curious how many 13-gallon trash bags of unused stuff I could remove from my house. That summer the bags piled up quickly and each one gone created more breathing room in my home.
One day I sorted out some cut glass serving platters I had never used. They were pretty and I valued them but truthfully, they were doing me no good. I decided to take them to church and give them away. I knew several ladies who do fancy dinners and I thought they would be overjoyed to receive my gifts. One or two of the dishes were picked up quickly but the last one almost didn’t find a home. That day I learned a lesson about objects – not everyone will love my stuff or even the same stuff as I do. In fact, stuff is just stuff. It was a pretty plate, but it was just a thing. In that moment I let go a little more of my attachment to things.
Each time I got to the ‘put it back’ stage of my process it was like a puzzle. I had to figure out how to best make the pieces fit. I used certain guidelines. First of all I put like items together. Then I considered easy access and visibility. My husband has the “out of sight, out of mind” concept embedded in his psyche. If he can’t see an item or find it quickly, he buys another one. So, I had to put things he uses in visible or easily accessed places. This makes my kitchen counter more cluttered than I would prefer, but it does keep peace in the household.
As I was organizing I also incorporated another concept from The House That Cleans Itself. It’s called creating stations. My family has a problem. We have spent countless hours looking (often unsuccessfully) for one of the twenty plus pairs of scissors I know we own. The author suggests creating groups of items near where they will be used. For instance tape, wrapping paper, tags, and scissors should all be together in the room you most often wrap presents. In this way some duplicate items are helpful. For instance I now keep scissors in a kitchen drawer, at my desk, and at the girls’ homework area. However, too many duplicates is just clutter. Over the years I made the mistake of keeping anything I thought was useful. As I purged this time I acknowledged that no house needed hundreds of pens and pencils. I filled stations in various rooms and donated the rest. I might need them in the far-distant future, but someone else could use them today.