Something about winter (maybe being cooped up all the time?) makes me desperately want things to be organized and clean all the time. I get a little neurotic about it…something Zach seems to have just gotten used to.
In the past, he would jump when he heard me growling at the mess under the bed or grumbling at the state of the kitchen cupboards. He used to get nervous when I pulled out the mop bucket so I could get on my hands and knees and scrub the floor the old-fashioned way. Now he barely looks up from his computer screen…which I guess makes me predictable? Whatever. My kitchen floor is spotless.
Over the last couple of years, I have made half-assed attempts at cleaning and decluttering our space. This year, though, I’ve completely, 100% had it with the clutter. I’m done. So I’m throwing stuff out.
(For the sake of time, I suggest tossing things or taking them to the garbage. In reality, I donated a lot of stuff. I recommend doing the same to anything you think could be used by someone else.)
I started with the living room by throwing out my entertainment center.
Basically, I just put it back where it came from. Zach and I found that thing beside a dumpster about two years ago…when buying a TV stand was too expensive for us (well…buying a TV stand is still too expensive). And, actually, it was pretty nice…for being dumpster furniture. So I washed and disinfected it (which took forever) and I had been seriously considering replacing the veneer and hardware to make it look new.
Then I realized that this was just a temporary piece of furniture that we didn’t really need–I have all kinds of other places to put the TV–and there was no way I was putting money into it.
It took up far too much room and made it more difficult for me to arrange the furniture. So one day in October, I snapped. While Zach was at work, I went through everything I had stored in the entertainment center and in my lavender cabinet. I threw a bunch of stuff away (I don’t even know what half of it was). Anything that was left was consolidated to fit into the cabinet, which the TV now sits on top of.
We had every intention of just tossing it if we ever moved…so I decided to just make that happen a little sooner.
When I went through the entertainment center, most of what I threw out were cords and adapters for electronic devices that I’m pretty sure we don’t have anymore. I also went through our DVDs and gave away the ones we don’t watch/don’t have any interest in re-watching (something I need to do again).
I also did this in the kitchen. If I couldn’t figure out what something was or I couldn’t find the rest of it, it was thrown out.
Nearly two years ago, my sister-in-law finished college and moved in with us while she looked for a job. Two months later, she moved into a townhouse with a friend of ours. Around the same time, I decided to try to organize our apartment. Of course, my heart wasn’t as in it as it is now.
I felt bad throwing things out, so I asked if she wanted any of it. Some things she took…others she “forgot” about. Which I now realize was her way of telling me she didn’t actually want it.
In hindsight, I should have just recognized that, tossed the box into the trash, and moved on. Instead, I was so desperate for someone else to say, “Hey, I’d like to have that.” Not because I wanted them to find value in my trash–I had no emotional attachment to any of it–but because I feel horrible about throwing things away. It feels wasteful.
No one wanted it, though, which should have been obvious. Some of it wasn’t useful, some of it wasn’t even pretty. I had kept it because someone gave it to me or because it was still in good shape…or simply because, at one point or another, it cost me or someone else money. So throwing it out felt like throwing out money.
None of that changed the fact that it was all junk.
I’d love to say that I came to this realization quickly and immediately threw it away. But no. It took me more than a year to finally toss it. Which is far too much time to waste on something I didn’t even care about.
Right after Christmas, I went through the closet, found the box of things I had meant to give her…and suddenly realized that it was just crap. Crap nobody wanted. I immediately threw it out and you know what? I don’t even remember what any of it was.
Which brings me to my next point….
I get anxious about throwing things out, which is the result of a lot of things. I have a tendency to throw something away because I haven’t used it in three years…and then a soon as the the garbage truck comes it turns out I needed it. Which infuriates me. I would blame it on a lack of foresight…but foresight is why I kept it three years longer than I should have.
I was taught to keep everything if there was any possibility of it being useful in the next 20 years. This is something I have to stop doing…especially since we live in an apartment and not a three-story house. Most of the crap I’ve kept is just that–crap.
What I mean when I say, “crap” is NOT that it’s crappy…but just that it’s not useful. Its only purpose is to clutter my apartment and my life.
So put your crap away and if you really love it, you’ll pull it back out. If not, you’ll forget what it was. If that’s the case, get rid of it.
Our closets were out of control. I couldn’t pull a sweater out without five other things falling off the hangers. I couldn’t even close our dresser drawers! My first reaction was to just go through them and fold our clothes correctly. But then I realized that it would never stay that way.
Honestly, the reason our dresser is chaotic isn’t because we didn’t have our clothes folded right. We do a pretty good job of folding our laundry when we put it away. The problem is that we get impatient when digging out clothes to wear. I could fold and refold our clothes all I wanted…but the only thing that would accomplish would be giving me one more thing to keep up with.
The more stuff you have, the more stuff you have to take care of.
So I walked into the office, looked at Zach and said, “We’re cleaning out our clothes.” He wasn’t too thrilled, but he grabbed some garbage bags anyway and we got to work.
The original advice I was given on cleaning out a closet was this: Turn your hangers around and every time you wear something, turn them again. After six months, whatever hanger is facing the wrong way, throw those clothes out.
Except I live in a climate that has long winters, long summers, and nice but short falls and springs. There are clothes I’m not going to wear for six months out of the year.
So we went through our closets, asking ourselves, “If I were shopping, would I buy this?” The answer for a lot of items was a resounding, “Heeeeell no.” They went into the bag.
For items we weren’t sure about (in my case, items that I still loved but could no longer fit into), we put them into a separate bag. In the end, we had four bags filled with clothes. I let them sit in the office for three weeks before realizing that I couldn’t even remember what was in them–even the one with the clothes I liked but couldn’t wear. So we took them to the thrift shop and dumped them into the clothing bin they keep outside.
Now I can close my dresser drawers again. 😀
My cleaning rampage didn’t end there. I also went through the pantry/closet thing where we keep our trash can (it doesn’t have shelves, so it’s useless as a pantry). We had a bag of charcoal (that had been in there for three years. It was used once…on the day we bought it) and a bag filled with sand (which is a long story).
We never use any of that. So I took everything out of the pantry, cleaned it, and threw everything but the trashcan away.
I’ve been avoiding doing this because it was a waste of money. What if I need that charcoal later?
And that’s really what it comes down to, isn’t it? Should I waste money or waste space? It’s taken me a long time to decide on which one is worse…but I’m going to choose wasting space. There is a reason!
I’ve been paying attention to what we’ve been throwing out. It’s generally stuff we don’t use and didn’t really need in the first place, like the charcoal. The idea is that I’ll remember what I threw out, as well as why I threw it out, and that knowledge will make me think before buying from now on.
Though the desire to keep my space clutter-free should be a motivator, as well. Having a cluttered home wastes more money in the end, because I find myself buying things to help keep it all organized…which is helpful for certain items (like extra blankets and sheets). With others, not so much. I’m wasting money to keep a temporary and potentially useless item. Really, I should just get rid of all the stuff I don’t need to be storing.
I’m still not finished! Not even close. I still have a lot of work to do before my apartment will be completely clutter-free and organized.
How do you keep your home organized? Any rules you’ve found useful in the past? Share them in the comments!