Thursday, February 16, 2012

Decluttering for the next decade

This is the time of year for article upon article on decluttering. An entire O Magazine issue was dedicated to the subject. And I can't seem to get enough of it. I'm always looking for ideas on closets, my drawers, my desk, my life. It's not that I'm a hoarder (Gor forbid) or even a pack rat. In fact, I'm much better about tossing unused items than I used to be. But I can do better.

Maybe cleaning out my mother's condo when she died in 2005 helped me realize that I wouldn't want my kids to go through my things after I'm gone and ask, "What in the world did she keep this for?" I also realized my mother's life might have been a little easier if she didn't have to look at the corner of her bedroom that was a shrine for boxes, plastic bags, shopping bags, and whatever would fit into any of those containers. Really, it was a mound of stuff. Then there was her walk-in closet, filled with clothing from at least four decades. She had items hanging there that, even if they came back in style, would never fit her. Ever. And some items had been hanging there so long, the foam covering on the hangers disintegrated as I handled them. On the other hand, having lived through the Depression, maybe she was comforted by seeing the hundreds of rubber bands in her kitchen drawer and the books of S&H Green Stamps stashed on a shelf. I know that I don't want to live that way.

So I've been purging my closets, drawers, and shelves ever since. As I said, I can do better. And I also have to be discriminating in what I give away or toss. A few years ago, I started eating healthier and exercising more (mainly because of a fear of dying of something related to high cholesterol or sloth). I lost about 15 pounds and was delighted to be able to buy a smaller size in pants and skirts. This, I declared, was the way I was going to live the rest of my now-healthy life. I would never go back to slathering two pieces of bread with butter in a restaurant or taking a second piece of chocolate cake at a birthday party. I would use low-fat non-creamy salad dressings and look away when passing through the candy aisle. So I donated all my larger pants and other clothing items that had become way too big.

Then, about a year-and-a-half ago, old habits crept back. I don't know why, and I did nothing to stop them. Before long, my newer, smaller pants were getting slightly snug. Soon, they were unwearable. How I longed to have my old clothes back! Now I'm buying the larger sizes and vowing to keep them in the back of my closet if (rather, when) I lose the weight again.

But I've been pretty good about visits to the Goodwill donation center, about two or three times a year. It feels wonderful to get that stuff out of the house and garage. So why do I still have two overstuffed closets? And why are my books stacked up in double rows? Am I really going to read all those novels again? I suppose I could forget that I've already read one and not realize it until I come upon a character with an unusual name and think, "I've seen that name before...". It's like old 48 Hours Mystery episodes that don't look familiar until the district attorney who has a pronounced Southern accent or odd hair style is interviewed and I begin to remember watching it the first two times it aired. Getting back to books, I now have a Kindle, and although I still love the look and feel of a paperback book, I can have an entire literary collection in one convenient little device.

So here's my new resolution. I will once again purge my closets and my bookshelves. My drawers might be a lost cause, but I may get to them eventually. And I will look at each item and try to imagine my heirs' reactions before I make the decision to toss or keep. Then I'll move on to my email Inboxes and the files I'm keeping on my work computer from 2003 and even earlier. I may even go through the linen closet and ask myself if those multi-colored towels are ever going to be displayed again. (If they're to become rags or padding for hauling items to Goodwill, they belong in the garage...but that's another space that desperately needs an overhaul.)

I'm celebrating a big birthday tomorrow, so this resolution to clear out what's not needed is timely. I want the next decade to be more serene, more carefree, less cluttered in a physical, mental, and emotional way. And maybe I'll celebrate by buying myself an outfit, a few books, and some new towels. That will make it mandatory to carry out the resolution, unless I also rent a storage unit.

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