Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Homemaking Tip—A Dose of My Own Medicine

It's Spring. I need to take a big swig of my own medicine . . .

My mother was a new-stuff junk-aholic. She would go shopping for hours, turn around a few weeks later and go shopping again, buying the same things all over again. I loved my mother but over-buying was a frustrating habit. I liked the stuff all right, but she had no place to put it so she stashed it everywhere. The stairwell and hall to our bedrooms were lined with stacks of towels, clothes, books and wedding gifts–all brand-new. On a given day the end of our kitchen table had piles of new fabric, genealogy supplies, cake-decorating tubes, and tart pans. The storage room had bags of groceries, Christmas presents and cases of candy. But her sewing room was the worst. She piled the ironing board high with our tissue paper art projects, while her working area was piled with papers, the mimeograph machine, typewriter, a box of mate-less socks and, of course, additional new purchases.

When my grandmother came to visit us she spent her time cutting quilt blocks from old fabric, organizing baby books, filing papers, making puppets from lonely socks and tidying my mother’s sewing room. Shortly after I left for college, Grandma Erma went to see my folks and wrote me the following letter:

“You know your mother’s tiny room where she tries to do the laundry, ironing and sewing, but which she also uses as a study and office? Well, she needs a warehouse. I told her that I longed to solve the muddle, but that it reminds me of Mt. Ararat. I read that on Mt. Ararat there is a place where the human voice can start an avalanche. I’m afraid if I get in her study, and try to make it orderly, that I might forget where I am and call for help then I’ll be forever lost in the avalanche that is sure to follow.”

My mother was such a powerful example of collecting excess that I adopted the other extreme of getting rid of things. Some may think I'm heartless, but I've almost always lived in a small (ish) home and so it has served us well, and I have only gotten rid of two things in the last 25 years that I regret: Raggedy Anne and Raggedy Andy.

I bought the much worn, essentially ruined set of dolls at a yard sale for 50 cents. As I carried the soiled dolls to the vendor for purchasing, the 60-ish woman said, “Oh good. I was hoping someone would want these. My grandmother made them for me.” Looking at the fabric, then at the vendor I supposed those dolls were made in the 1930's. I brought the dolls home washed them, re-stitched their faces and hair and sat them on my pie-safe. They were darling. But as I was preparing items to sell in a craft show, I rashly decided to sell Anne and Andy. I put the hefty price of $40 on each of them, thinking $80 would erase any chance of remorse if they did, by chance, sell. Imagine my surprise when they were gone 30 minutes after the show began. But I was wrong, $80 was not enough. I still feel an occasional twinge of regret when I think of those two darling dolls gone. But to only have two regrets after all these years? The peace of an orderly home has more than made up for the mistake.

With that disclaimer (or endorsement, whichever you prefer to call it) –I offer a de-junking tip. Start. at. the. bottom. William R. Bradford said, “A cluttered life is a life that you do not have control of. I have learned that it is very difficult, if not impossible, to declutter one’s life by starting at the top of the pile with the idea that the solution is to just get things sorted and better organized. It is nice to get better organized, but that is not enough. Much has to be discarded. We must actually get rid of it.” (“Unclutter Your Life,” Ensign, May 1992, 27)

Clutter refers to many areas of our lives. Our minds can become cluttered with negative thoughts or images. Our schedules can become cluttered with insignificant appointments and events. Our hearts can become cluttered with jealousies and unforgiving attitudes. But for the purpose and intent of today's post, we’ll focus on THINGS—things that clutter our home, garage, yard, and car. Here are four decluttering articles:

When we unclutter our surroundings, we unclutter our time and energy as well—and that is priceless. It’s even worth throwing out a Raggedy Anne or two.


deidra said...

This sounds like the story of my mom's life. Grandma was a shopper and a hoarder. Her sewing room was like a treasure hunt. There were always birthday presents she bought and stashed, then couldn't find, so she'd buy another one. Grandpa, bless his heart, is now trying to dig out of the mess.

My mom is anti-clutter. She can't handle the piles.

I think I fall somewhere in between, but we've been instituting some new systems and I love having clear surfaces and less junk around!

tina said...

Love you, Jane! :) I should take your words to heart, as I really need to de-junk, de-clutter our computer/craft/ironing/guest room. I am sooooo dreading getting started. But, we are starting this week so we can move the junk out and move the boys into it since it's bigger than their current room. I am excited that I can take my time putting stuff back in and hopefully organize it all. Definitely need a filing system - the one file box that is stuffed in the garage someplace is doing a lot of good! ;)

Your mom sounds like my sister-in-law! We like to visit and help her de-clutter, but that causes more clutter at my house!

Leslie said...

I wish more people understood how much less stressful and overwhelming life feels when their is less clutter in our homes (actual, physical clutter, and clutter in other ways - time, etc.).

I'm a BIG fan of trying to keep clutter out of our lives and I think some of my friends think I'm ruthless as well when it comes to possessions. But I just know that nice, peaceful feeling that come with less STUFF and just enjoying those things I have more and enjoying my less cluttered time with my family.

And thanks for posting that great quote. I've read that before and know how true it is, but it was nice to read it again.

Julie said...

You know I love to shop and love "STUFF" but my rule is usually if I see it and can see exactly where it would go in the house, I can get it! I do love to get rid of stuff when we move. I go through everything...every closet, cupboard, etc and my rule is, "if I took this out of a box at the new house would I love it or wonder why I packed it?" It works every time! I do have a few regrets but I quickly seem to get new stuff I love so I guess a balance is what is needed! I love to go to the dump and get rid of stuff almost as much as I love to buy stuff! I think I'll use this blog as the basis for my next RS lesson. Lots to think about.

angie said...

Coming from a daughter of a professional shopper, "collector", hoarder...I too, feel less stress when surrounded by minimalism. I constantly feel the need to de-clutter, and organize...such a relief.

Rachel said...

I tend to go a little crazy getting rid of stuff too...clutter actually makes me anxious. I'm not a neat freak by any means, but when stuff starts piling up, out the door it goes. Especially outgrown toys from 4 children! Every once in awhile I give away something I regret later, but I try not to dwell on it.

Mike and Lisa said...

My mom is just like your mom. And I am just like you! You should ask her about the time we packed up their Butte house when they were getting ready to move to Korea. Better yet, don't ask her. Ask me and Krista!

Jill said...

This is brilliant advice! The older I get the better I get about letting things go. I have never regretted getting rid of anything so far, so that keeps me going when I'm in one of my great purging moods.

Becky said...

I cringed as I read about your mom...I could not have handled that much stuff! My grandparents were buyers/hoarders. They grew up during the Depression (Grandma was 5 in 1929) and so they always bought "bargains" but really, how many people need a case of brass doorknobs that Grandpa purchased at a swap meet? And once they bought something they refused to get rid of it because it would be "wasteful".

I love de-cluttering. I won't buy Christmas presents (toys) until I go through the playroom and find some gently-used toys to give away to someone else.

That studio sounds like a mini-version of your mother's sewing room :)

michelle said...

That letter from your grandmother is priceless!

I'm not exactly on the hoarder scale, but I do seem to have a problem with getting rid of stuff. I'm working on it.

hennchix said...

I haven't read the articles yet, and maybe my question's answer is there. Just in case tho, what do you do when you don't have enough storage for the stuff you DO need? ie. kitchen appliances, pots and pans, etc? That is what curses my life right now.

Samantha said...

That was fun to read. I'm nesting right now and want to declutter everything. (okay- I want to declutter about every other day. I rest the other days!) One other tip that has really helped me is having someone else around. When I was getting married my sister Cali was with me when I was dejunking and it was nice having someone who wasn't emotionally connected to some of the stuff and could just say "no sam, that's junk."