Project Declutter 2011

Despite more than a year’s worth of so-called efforts to downsize my possessions, yesterday I found myself staring at an overcrowded living room and a couch crammed with cardboard boxes full of kitchen wares, random items and laundry baskets of clothing. I’m not even going to begin to describe the state of chaos in the rest of my place.

Besides my own seeming inability to stop bringing things home from consignment shops and other stores, I can also thank my parents and grandmother for my most recent influx of mostly unneeded items.

You see, my grandmother last month moved out of her home of more than 20 years to go live with one of her daughters in California and my parents are downsizing (and I mean DOWNSIZING at a level that I don’t know if I would have the stomach to do) and have moved into an apartment.

As a result, I now have things I didn’t think I’d inherit for years, if not decades and I’m not willing to give them up.

That means, I must get rid of other things.


This weekend and until July I will again begin a serious decluttering/downsizing effort in the house. If I haven’t used it in two years, it must go.  And I’m going to get rid of all things broken or damaged that I’ve been meaning to repair.

Finally, I’m going to bite the bullet on my crochet yarn and get rid of the whole lot (with a grandfather clause for yarn already dedicated to a project).

It will be a weekend of freecycling gone wild.

In July, I’m letting one of my friends who is a ruthless declutterer come in to my home and do the rest. We’ve agreed I get two vetoes and a corner in which I can put a few small boxes of things that I will not give up no matter how irrational it is to keep them.


I love to crochet and I love to shop.

These two enjoyments over the years have led me to collect dozens of skeins of yarn of various colors, weights and textures. The problem is that for most yarns in my house, I have only one or two of each type.

One contributor to this collection is that for some time I was buying only one or two skeins of any color. That was before I realized that a lot of yarn is needed for most projects of any substance.

Worse,  sometimes I would buy yarn because I liked it but with no idea of when or how it would be used.

The last time I gathered all my yarn in one place the collection took up all of my full-length couch and was piled higher than the arm rests. In other words, I have more yarn than I could crochet in a year if I worked hard at it every day.

For each type of yarn, I usually have enough for small projects such as gloves, hats, scarves, small clutch bags, baby things, and a couple dozen afghan squares (a lot less than what would be needed to comprise a full-size afghan), but not enough for a project of any substance or for anything that requires a thin yarn.

I tend to gather the chunkier/bulkier yarns because, for a long time, I valued speed/quantity of completing projects over quality — at least to some extent. You see, the thinner the yarn, the less space each stitch takes and the more stitches required to take up the diameter or length needed.

Now, as part of home/life project declutter, I am debating what to do with my yarn collection. My sister has offered to take some of it off my hands and there are some yarns I still have plans to use.

I believe the wise thing to do would be to give away my yarns through freecycle or donate it to a thrift store, and that will most likely be my decision.

I think I will better be able to enjoy the yarn I have, find the yarn I need when I have a reduced collection and be happier when my yarn isn’t taking up a fourth of my living room like a giant rainbow hairball.

It may also be wise to have a plan to prevent such a collection from accumulating again.

Once I get rid of the majority of my yarn, I will only buy yarn when I know exactly how much I need and what it will be used for. In addition, I will give away or toss whatever yarn of my new purchases that I do not use to complete the project.

Finally, I will limit my number of ongoing crochet projects to six — I can think of three that are currently unfinished.

Do you have any suggestions, thoughts on what I might do here both to deal with what I have and rules for going forward?

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?