I recently read the suggestion of taking on cleaning/de-clutter projects for 20 minutes at a time as a way to make the mountain of a task seem surmountable.  The book that made this suggestion also recommended cleaning from the inside out (starting with dresser drawers, closets, etc) because those areas need to be clean/organized in order to put everything else away.

So I started with dressers and closets.

Friends on Facebook may have noted that for eight days (not always consecutive) I have attempted to de-clutter my home. I knew this could be a months-long project of 20-minute sessions (longer sessions on weekends) when I started on it. What I did not know was how hard it would be to free my life of some objects or how many old and unused objects I still possess.

The problem is that I grew up in a family where sentimentality was attached to nearly every object. I sometimes heard a parent suggest that an item may become a valuable collector’s object someday — not likely since  most of those objects show plenty of wear and tear.

For me, objects were used as a way to feel secure and safe in the world. As in, if I am surrounded by everything I might ever need on any occasion, then it must mean that my life will be easier to go through and I will not get bored (always having some project to do).

I also have to fight thinking that by not throwing something out, I would be saving myself the cost of buying it should I ever find myself in need of such a thing.

The reality is that the things that I rarely to never use or haven’t touched for years (my old high-top roller skates, tennis rackets, bulky winter ski suit) take up a lot of space. For most of these items, I would be able to rent substitute equipment or make do without those objects if the need for them comes up again.

Then there are the objects that were a part of my past, that remind me of younger and crazier days. These include my wide-legged jeans with reflector stripes, plastic bead/candy jewelry, wigs, glow in the dark things, childhood toys , stuffed animals and children’s books. It turns out I also have a pretty big collection of music CDs (including a box of empty jewel cases) and audio tapes — yes tapes.

I was able to make myself put most of these things in the donation pile. However, I am keeping the children’s books that I’m pretty sure are now out of circulation and that I would like to share with my own children or future nieces and nephews someday.

Then there are the objects that belonged to or were gifts from deceased friends or relatives. Last night I came across a small porcelain decorated mask that a grade-school friend (Derick N.) had given me as a birthday gift. He died in a car accident some years ago. After staring at it for some time, I decided to put the object in the donation box and keep the memories of my classmate in my heart.

For some objects, I take a picture of them so that I can still have the memory but just use up less space in the house.

Another challenge is deciding what to do with the clothes that my grandma wore, including some things I don’t think I’ll ever wear. The obvious answer is to get rid of the things I won’t wear and keep a select few items, which I am doing.

I also had filing cases full of tax, bank account and other important documents to sort through. Some documents went back to the early 1990s.

The end result of sorting through those files, is that I am keeping the necessary things (useful maps, car titles, notes of loans being paid off, and the last few years of necessary tax records) but have several large bags of papers that need to be shredded before they can be recycled. I imagine this will take several evenings to shred all those pages.

As of now, I have filed the backseat of my car with stuff to give away and my outdoor garbage bin/recycling bins with broken and useless items. But I can tell there will be many more trips to the donation site and full dumpsters to go before my life is organized enough to make it easy to keep the house clean with daily maintenance.

Although many of the books I have read suggest selling the more valuable things for some revenues, I know in my heart that I will never find the time nor make enough money to justify spending the time on a yard sale or eBay. It is more important to me to get those things out of my house before I change my mind about them.

What are some objects you would have a hard time parting with?

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