Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Ya gotta see this!

The easiest way not to have clutter is not to bring stuff into your house in the first place. Plus it's good for the earth. This video is the clearest explanation of I've seen of how things are going wrong.

So yes, clutter is an ecological issue -- and a political one.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

one more load to Goodwill

plus lots of things went on freecycle. I cleared out all the magazines in the living room bookshelves -- it's amazing! There is plenty of room to organize everything! Turns out i have a magazine problem, or at least I used to. But the only magazines I get any more are Sunset and Better Homes and Gardens, and I promise myself that when I finish going through this HUGE pile of magazines, I'll tear out what I want as soon as I finish each magazine.

Oh, I put all my beading supplies and much of the knitting and crocheting equipment in the new crafts armoire! It's really cool. (Photos soon!)

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Been a little slow...

A good friend of mine left her body rather permanently on Sunday. Had I not been clutter clearing, I might have known she was on her death bed in time to say goodbye. But things happen as they are supposed to. (Please see -- read the next to top post and then the one at the top.)

Anyway, between being rocked back on my heels by that, and having a house guest for 2 days, and dinner parties 2 nights in a row, I haven't been clearing too much. I do manage to let go of a couple of magazines a day, though, and both yesterday and today I've donated CDs or books to the library. I have a small pile of things to put on freecycle, as well.

I cleared off George's bulletin board yesterday, and took the mementos off the interior walls of Kosta's old desk armoire today. I'm looking to put the stuff from Kosta's armoire on the bulletin board today or tomorrow. Baby steps...

Oh, and one of our dinner guests has been here often and says the place looks better. Yay!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Cleaned up and cleared out

So I was really exhausted from working so hard (cooking, cleaning) and all the people and staying up past my bedtime, and kind of lazed around till about 1PM. Then, by some magic, I got a first wind, and

- did 2 loads of dishes,
- put them away,
- sorted out what goes back to Mom,
- packed that up,
- moved all the furniture back into its usual places (by myself!),
- put away all the 'good' dishes,
- started the distiller on another gallon of water (wow! we go through it fast with guests and cooking)
- made turkey soup, and
- began an overhaul of the piles of CDs on and around the stereo.

I raided my stepson's old room for a CD shelf, because I needed something to hold them. He had baseball cards in it, and I put those in a drawer in his old room. I wonder if he even looks at those? But I know my Dad had a comic book collection that his mother threw out, and he held it against her forever (with good reason? monetary value?) so I wouldn't dare get rid of baseball cards, or the Pokemon cards that I found, as well.

Anyway, the living room, dining room, the kitchen, our bedroom and my office all look much better than a few weeks ago. I still have to finish with the CDs, move Kosta's office from that armoire in the living room and put my crafts stuff in it. Then help Kosta organize his new office. THEN the hallway down to the garage and the garage itself (omg).

But you know, it strikes me as all this is somehow about my relationship to change. I change, you change, the seasons change, the kids grow and change, but somehow home is supposed to be constant. As if I can bring all this stuff into it, and it's just supposed to absorb it.

And those changes that each of us makes involve a letting go, even if we don't think about it. You take in food, and you digest it, and you let go of a lot of it by breathing or defecating. The trees take in nutrients from the soil, and use sunlight with them to make leaves -- which they let go of at this time of year. Why wouldn't it be the same for my home?

If my home is an extension of myself, then I have to make a regular practice of letting go. Do I make that a daily practice, like digestion? a weekly practice? an annual practice, each autumn? I mean, we put the food scraps into the compost just about every day, so we let go of some stuff daily. And obviously we put out the trash each week, and so we do let go of some stuff then. Is that enough? Do I then make an annual practice of looking at clothing, books, CDs, etc.?

I guess my home has to change as I change and as my family changes. The only question is how.

Guess I didn't really want those glasses

Because I didn't get out the door early enough to buy them on sale. I'll just have to put out into the universe that I find some new used ones. Oh, I know -- I'll ask on freecycle. So I almost made it a buy nothing day. I did run out of ink for the printer, and had to go buy that. But I would have had to buy that any other day of the year, too, so I'm not counting it as buying anything.

Friday, November 23, 2007

More stuff went on Freecycle!

Oh, I forgot to mention that the following items were taken:

- a globe
- a bag of stuffed animals
- an air cannon -- get this! -- which will be used to scare pigeons away from a bird feeder! Apparently the pigeons scare away all the other birds, and eat all the food.

Maybe I'll put some stuff in the Pennysaver, too. A few years ago, I sold a lot of stuff there, for very little money, right before Christmas.

Thoughts on Black Friday/Buy Nothing Day

Whew! Thanksgiving is over, and I'm wiped out. It was 2 solid days of prep (W & Th), and then the guests started coming (an hour early!) at 3:30PM. But everyone had a great time, the food was wonderful -- and I have enough leftovers so that I don't have to cook for a week, which means more time to clear the clutter! Fortunately or unfortunately, everyone had such a good time that the last guest didn't leave till 10:30, which is way past my bedtime these days. So I'm bushed, and have a headache.

And even in the last few days, I did manage to get rid of some really old food, like a box of egg replacer my husband bought before we were married (it had practically become an ugly part of the wallpaper) and perhaps half a dozen catalogs and magazines.

I also emptied out the junk my stepson had stored (I think mostly so he didn't have to look at it) in the file drawers in his old room. I just threw it on the floor for him to paw through, or not. (if he doesn't care about his stuff, why should I?) Then I emptied the 2 1/2 (don't ask) file drawers my husband has in the living room, and put those contents in my husband's new office (i.e. his son's old room). Today, if I get enough cleaning up of the Thanksgiving mess done, I'll move my recipe and crafts clipping files into those file drawers, perhaps with the catalogs. That means more space in my file drawers down here in my office. Not sure exactly how that will help down here, but it will. At least my files will all have room to breathe.

I've decided that after I'm done in the house, I'll move to the garage and clean it out. For now, anything that doesn't go on freecycle is going down into the garage, but in a way, that's making the garage worse. And after the garage is cleaned out -- goal is at least one car in it -- then I'll work more in the yard. This is hard, because in the yard, I don't really know what I'm doing. But hey, I'll learn. And again, the goal is to have everything but the yard done by New Year's Day. Wish me luck! :)

So since I'm in the mode of getting rid of stuff, I'm not much in the mode of shopping. Actually, I'm not much of a shopper anyway, but I do like a good deal. And they abound today. So I'm really of 2 minds about it -- I am not programmed to buy at the drop of a circular, but I do need some new beer steins, and they're 6 for $6.50 at Kmart this weekend. (I broke a few in some misguided experiments to heat my morning latte milk without the microwave, and only have 2 left. And hey, those came from a garage sale, so I was really good there.) What to do? Buy them today, or buy them later for more money, as a sign of protest? I'll buy them now, because why would I give KMart extra money for the same stuff just to prove a point? Just to improve their bottom line? I don't think so.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

One Secret to a Clutter-free Life

Quit bringing stuff into the house! :)

Yesterday was a big grocery shopping day, because I'm having 14 or 16 people for Thanksgiving dinner. (Today I set up the tables, set the tables, decorate the living room and make the cranberry sauce, plus a roast and soup to eat till Thursday. Tomorrow & Tuesday I'll do a little more cooking, and most of it Wednesday PM, with my bro-in-law's fiancee. The point is, if I didn't do all the shopping yesterday, I'd be in deep doo-doo by Wednesday, since I'm working all week.)

Where do you put 5 quarts of chicken broth? 4 huge cans of pumpkin? a box of graham crackers and a box of cereal (for the pumpkin cheesecake crust)? I don't have much room for groceries, as I keep what little space I have full of the staples. So it's all on the kitchen table, and will be for the next few days. And I'm annoyed. All that work, and now there's crap on the kitchen table again!

So I get it -- if I buy something, something else has to go, rather than be shoehorned in here, which is what I've been doing for the last few years. Or else I need to get extra room made now, and plan annual purges.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

My deadline!

I decided last night that New Year's Day is my self-imposed deadline to finish de-cluttering and cleaning (the hard part -- though I may try to find help with that). We have a big potluck every year on New Year's Day, and I want this place looking great by then (not that anyone but me will notice the difference). Of course, there are people coming for Thanksgiving and for a lecture someone is giving at our house in early December, but that just seems too soon. Pictures here by New Year's!

While everyone else is out shopping, bringing junk into their homes, I'll be de-cluttering and rearranging. Part of me doesn't want to bother with a Christmas tree this year, and I LOVE Christmas trees. But they take a day to put up and decorate, and half a day to take down, and perhaps it's better to use that time to de-clutter. But then it wouldn't feel like the holidays. Sigh.

Someone came yesterday to get the ugly red recliner from my stepson's room, so now almost all the big stuff is out. (The recipients are thrilled -- I got a lovely note from them in my email this AM.) There is still a stepper in there (you know, like at a gym!), and a lot of little garbage (literally garbage, my stepson is a pig, throws candywrappers and plastic bottles on the floor in there and doesn't pick them up) and old clothes that I think don't fit him any more. He has to go through that stuff to see what to let go of. Unfortunately, at 16, he still needs help to do this (is this him, or is it a boy thing? I don't know, I only had a sister, and neither my sister, nor his sister nor I have this problem), or at least someone to stand over him. It can't be me, so that leaves his Dad. With any luck, they'll do that today. Then I can help my husband move his desk stuff in there, which clears off the dining room table just in time for Thanksgiving. Plus it should empty out the armoire which lets me move my craft stuff in there, which means more space in the bookshelves, so I can reorganize those so that all the political books are together, and all the spiritual books are together. (I already have the fiction and crafts and cookbooks together.) Do I sound excited? I am.

Oh, got rid of 7 kids t-shirts, a couple of magazines, a couple of mostly eaten bags of food that have been around so long they were stale, and a dead pen yesterday. It was a light day -- 13 items. I also put some more empty jars in a bag for the garage or the recycler --- we'll see what's down there later.

There are beginning to be breathing spaces on shelves in the kitchen, which feels better, calmer. I am not one of those people who wants everything clear and spare - it feels cold, not homey at all. But I am beginning to see that some breathing space on the shelves feels much better than having them packed, while still feeling homey.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

I'm so proud of myself! Photos make it easier...

Yesterday AM I posted an electronic keyboard and a telescope on freecycle. One woman said she wanted the keyboard, and I promised it to her. She said she'd come that evening, but I was planning to go out, so I said I'd put it on the front porch right away, and I did.

Then I was inspired to let go of some barely used stuffed animals, plus a teddy bear that got me through some hard times. I had the inspiration to take photos of these, because they do have happy memories. I do want to have a reminder of those memories, but I really don't need a gorilla that sings, "Love Me Do". I'll definitely be taking more photos! It makes it much easier to let go of bulky things with happy memories.

Then I sort of lost my focus, and was guided to go clean out a cabinet in the living room that had games from when the kids were much younger. As I was putting the stuffies out on the porch, the woman drove up, and I asked her if she wanted them. She said, yes, she brings things to a women's and children's shelter, so i asked her if she thought they might like some games. Bingo! Well, not bingo, but The Allowance Game, some puzzles, Scrabble Junior, etc. Plus some lamp oil and paraffin candles (I made beeswax candles last spring because I don't want the indoor pollution from burning petrochemicals in my home). There went 21 items! She also took a bag of clothing (which I'd already counted, but at least I don't have to make a separate trip to Goodwill).

Another mom came to get the telescope for her son, and took a microscope, as well (I'd promised my stepson that i'd try to get money for it, so she paid $10 for that). It's feeling better in here all the time.

Systems for everything

I'm a pretty organized person. How did things get cluttered?

The short answer is that while I have places for most everything, and do tend to put them there, there are areas where I fall down. Here's what's wrong, and what I'm going to do about it:

1) I don't always put things in their places, so there are 'hot spots' of ever changing junk, like the magazines on the bookshelves in the kitchen (which need to be quickly culled and trashed). I was talking to a friend yesterday, who said that she was reading on (informative site for decluttering, BTW), that we all have 'hot spots' for clutter, you know, the place by the front door where you put the junk you brought into he house, or the junk drawer, and the secret is to clear them up daily.

2) I can have multiple places for similar items. For example, till recently I had stashes of coins in 2 places (places set up at 2 different times for 2 different purposes). They are now integrated, freeing up space in an organizer for other small desk items. I can see the pile of coins growing, and as they're now part of my savings, they make me happy.

My craft supplies are still in 3 places, because I don't have one that can hold them all (beading is all in one place, paper crafting is in a different place, machine knitting is about 3 places -- it's bulky). That may change. As my husband has finally accepted that his college age daughter has moved out permanently, he is going to use her old room for his office, and I'll get his desk armoire in the living room (plus the dining room table will be a dining room table and not part of his office). At least all the beading stuff and machine knitting stuff can go into the armoire, so I can start a project and leave it there, close up the armoire, and it will still be there next time I sit down... maybe that's a bad idea... hmm.. I'm actually really excited about this.

Maybe I'll move the paper crafting stuff there, maybe not... I use it at my desk, and it's kind of handy to have my computer and printer where that stuff is, so....

2) I don't clean out what's there. You have to keep tax records for 7 years (and anything to do with property you own for pretty much as long as you own the property and 7 years after that!), and CA real estate brokers have to keep records of their transactions for 3 years after the close of the sale. So everything is filed away neatly. But nothing says, okay, it's been 3 years, or 7, and it's time to go dump those files.

So the answer is more systems. I have a filing system, now I need a de-filing system (okay, bad homonym, but I can't think of a better way to say this), that is, a regular clean out practice. (Need to regularly clean my energy field, too!) I think I need to make this an annual ritual, so that each year, in winter, when it's not great weather to work in the garden, I get to work in the house. Last year, I got rid of 3 car loads of stuff, on the same impulse. I think I'll make the start date the day we turn the clocks back from Daylight savings to regular time.

3) Other family members have their own junk, and they either need to get rid of it, or I need to make the executive decision to do it for them. I've been putting my husband's stuff that looks like junk onto the dining room table for him to deal with. Yes, I do have to look at it, but I don't have to look at it there and in the bedroom both. I'm just giving away items that look waaay to young for the teenagers ("James and the Giant Peach", for example). And making lists of things my stepson doesn't seem to use, to ask him if I can just give them away.

Monday, November 12, 2007

525 thousand 600 minutes...

"Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes
How do you measure

A year in the life?

"How about love?

How about love?

How about love?"

So I was listening to some of the music from Rent on my iPod this morning when I was walking, and it's all about materialism v. love.

"You're living In America
At the end of the millennium

"You're living In America

Leave your conscience at the tone

"And when you're living In America

At the end of the millennium

You're what you own"

I am NOT what I own. Though I am probably, in part, the books I've read, which may be what makes it so hard to let go of them. But 17 went yesterday, all books on parenting. Time for someone else to have them, so they're going to the library book sale.

I cleaned out and reorganized the mugs that hold my makeup, as well. Got rid of some really old lipstick whose colors just look wrong on me. What was I thinking? Or has my skin tone changed that much? But I found one that I know I didn't buy that I kind of like! By clearing out the clutter, you can find the gems you already have.

And it's been really fun, as I go around the house, looking to let go of things, to really look at each item, and remember how it came to me. Was it a gift? Did it come from a trip? When did I make it? What was the occasion of that photo? It's making me happy to do it.

I put this ugly red recliner on freecycle, got 2 calls, and someone came to pick it up last night -- took one look at it, and said "it's too big for me to move!" Luckily, someone else is interested. I hope he takes it.

I put a telescope and electronic keyboard on craigslist. If no one wants them in a few days, I'll freecycle them, too.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Been busy, but...

I can still clear out old emails on my laptop! that counts, right?

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Cleaning my bulletin board

There are 4 types of things on my bulletin board:

1) great quotes and channeled information
2) keys
3) memories
4) tips on exercise, cooking, etc.
5) flyers from handymen, gardeners, etc.

Last night, I got rid of category 4 from the board. I have file folders for that stuff now -- have for years. I never looked at the bulleting board long enough to notice! I got rid of category 5, too, by typing the info into my computer. I like having the memories and quotes there, they are an instant pick me up when i need it. And the keys, well, it's the easiest place to keep them.

I found the most wonderful email exchange between me and my husband, from when we were dating! It was totally worth the half hour or so of clearing just to find that.

Today, maybe I'll reorganize the board since it has a lot more space now.

I've never had to "clear clutter" before!

Why? Because I've moved, on average, every 18 months in my life, from age 13, when I went to boarding school to my early 40s, when I married my husband. (I consider a move any time I pack up all my stuff with the expectation of not putting it back in the exact same geographic location.) So for all my school years, I moved at least twice a year, sometimes 3 times. Then there was the buying, moving into, rehabbing and selling of houses, each of which required two moves. And every time I moved, I got rid of stuff.

But now I've been in this house for more than a few years, and I need to get rid of stuff intentionally! The good news is, I can do it at my leisure, the bad news is, there's no deadline. Which is where Yumi comes in. Thanks, Yumi!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Got rid of...

went into the give away bag:

3 pieces of costume jewelry that i haven't worn in years

went into the trash:

8 magazines/catalogs
6 jars (I buy in bulk, so I kind of have a thing about saving empty jars. I mean, I do use them -- but how many do I need?) - so I got rid of anything that had bits of label and the one that didn't have a lid.

I have collected some rocks over the years, from various hikes. They have a good feeling, even though I can't remember which rock came from where. So I put them in the garden, and they seem happy there. That was 4 more items, and I'm not sure they count, but they are out of the house, so I will.

Had to start a new bag for things to ask my husband about -- they're his, but he hasn't touched them in months or years. Put 2 things in there.

That's 21 for today, out of a goal of 25 per day.

Thoughts on clearing the clutter

I'm having a pretty easy time getting rid of some sorts of things:

- food that no one in this house is going to eat. My husband's daughter, who no longer lives with us, bought things like sprinkles for cakes, and Kraft Mac and Cheese. My husband and I don't eat that crap, and my stepson, who does, isn't going to cook it. So the quarter bottle of sprinkles are going into the compost pile, and the box of mac and cheese is going to a food pantry. It's almost Christmas season, and there will soon be a barrel at the library. It will feel good to feed it -- and perhaps a family. (Yes, it's crap by my standards, but lots of other people like it and eat it, and who am I to judge?)

- Clothes I don't like and don't wear.

But I'm finding some other things are hard to let go of, mostly books and magazines. I seem to think that information is precious, and that the Internet won't be around forever. I mean, why clip recipes from magazines if the internet is going to be around? It's silly -- I can just get on BH& or and the recipes will be there -- but I want to keep them anyway. For now, I'm clipping the recipes and the decorating and gardening photos I like, with the idea that I'm going to file them. Maybe I can figure out how to deal with that. At least I'm getting rid of 90% of each magazine, recycling it.

I also see that hanging onto things really reflects a belief in scarcity. Why hold on to something you're not using if you can always get another? Especially if someone else could use it today?

Link to Yumi's blog

I really like Yumi's before and after photos, and so I'm taking photos, too. Of course, mine aren't complete before photos, as I've cleaned up a bit before even taking them.

I really like (though I don't read Japanese) that she seems to take a photo, work on an area and then take another photo. I don't seem focused enough to do that. I plan to work on one area, and end up in another. I wonder why that happens? At least I'm doing something.

I have an affirmation now that says that I am always guided on what to do next, and I pay attention to the guidance. Maybe that's why I intend to work in one place and then work in another?

I'll post the before photos soon, or maybe I'll post them as I clean up an area.

How it all started

A couple of weeks ago, in one of those odd synchronicities, my day emptied out -- all my clients called to cancel. Very strange, but I just flowed with it. Anyway, about 1PM, I got this phone call, with a familiar Japanese-accented female voice on the other end of the line. As soon as I heard it, I exclaimed, "Yumi! How nice to hear from you! Where are you?"

She was at the airport -- about 10 minutes away! And stranded, as her flight from Tucson had arrived late due to the fog at SFO, and so she'd missed her plane home to Tokyo. I immediately told her I'd be there to pick her up in 20 minutes.

I finished up whatever I was doing (it couldn't have been important, because I can't remember it), brushed my hair, put on a jacket, and headed out. As I walked out the front door, I realized that I was going to have to apologize for the state of my home -- definitely NOT company-ready. Not "hurricane just went through" bad, but not anything to be proud of, either.

I picked up Yumi at the airport -- it was great to see her, having been about 8 months since I'd seen her last, and we chatted animatedly on the way home.

A quick aside:

8 months ago, when Yumi was visiting, she came with me to the radio station where I did a weekly show, with the idea that she'd be on with me for the last half hour, and I'd interview her about her peace work (she runs JUMP, Japan United for Ministries of Peace). In the hour and a half she waited, she cleaned up and organized a room-sized discard pile of clothing, books, furniture and other miscellany, while watching her children. When I mentioned this to an American friend who teaches many Japanese children and so knows their families, my American friend said that this was cultural, "they're pretty much all like that". (Sorry if this is a stereotype, but it's what my friend said.) So I was pretty chagrined to show Yumi the state of my home.

As I turned the key in the front door to let us in, I apologized for the state of my home. When we walked inside, Yumi said, "Oh, it's not so bad," and admitted to having a bit of a clutter problem at home. Of course, she had just finished hosting an international peace conference, not to mention the 9/11 truth lecturing she does, and the running (with her husband) of an organic farm. She'd been busy, but she said that now she was ready to clear her clutter, based on a feng shui book by Karen Kingston, "Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui". I remembered that a friend had feng shuied her home (the whole 9 yards, painting different rooms different colors, etc.) to very positive effect, and said that I should do the same thing. That was the whole conversation (or at least all I can remember).

Then, earlier this week, I found the following email in my "In" box:

How are you?

It is like a dream I stayed one night with you the other day. Thank
you very much for your unchanged friendship which I appreciate very

I have read a book called Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui. by Karen

This book is fascinating and I started cleaning my desk to start with.
My house is full of clutter from her point of view.

Clutter by Karen:

1 Things you do not use anymore or you do not like anymore

2 Untidy things

3 too many things pushed into a small space

4 all the unfinished work!

According to what she says, what I have in the house is almost all
clutter and I need to clean them so that I have a better and more
effective result from my work/life, creating world peace.

I wonder if we can do this together.

I mean, I am lazy and easy to give in, so I want a company to do this

Would you like to do this with me?

lease read the book if you feel like and let me know. I thought you

would be ideal as you already have some knowledge about Feng Shui.

Peace starts within me and around me.

I want my house to be beautiful and peaceful.


I really like those last 2 lines. Peace starts in me and around me. I want my house to be beautiful and peaceful.

So we start!