I’ve been cleaning and purging not one, not two, but three attic spaces for the last two weeks. And nibbling away at my studio stuff. I would clean my studio first, except I have to make room in my barn attic for the stuff I want to store in my studio.
My studio is just too full. Partly from months of being unable to even unpack fully from last year’s shows (my Year of Surgeries and Injuries), partly from a kid moving into her own place (and leaving behind almost as much stuff as she took), partly because we realized we still have unpacked boxes from when we moved to Keene 20 years ago. (Oh, my….) When we moved into this house 8 years ago, it was lightening-fast, and I never got to really purge our stuff. I think we even packed and moved dirty laundry, it was that fast.
I’ve read a lot of books on the market about how to clear stuff out, and they are marginally helpful at best.
“If you haven’t used it in a year…” doesn’t take into account the stuff that can happen in a year. Just because I was too injured to decorate our Christmas tree last year doesn’t mean I should get rid of all my tree ornaments.
“Make four piles to keep, give away, to the garbage” blah blah doesn’t help, because if I could decide that easily, I wouldn’t have three attics full of stuff.
The most inspirational one I ever read was CLUTTER’S LAST STAND by Don Aslett. He gives you compelling reasons why you should move that stuff on.
I was going to say, you can’t go in the same river twice and that rereading such a book never works for me. But then I read all the reviews and I’ve decided I will read it again NOW.
Caveat: As I read the reviews at Amazon. I realized what I loved–and hated–about this book. I love that he shows how destructive clutter can be physically and emotionally. I HATED his derogatory comments about “people of size”, and cats! He is opinionated, thoughtless and ruthless. But what he says about C*L*U*T*T*E*R is gold. So read it with a thick skin and a grain of salt, and take what works for you.
Before I do, let me share another strategy with you.
I’ve got something I want to move on, but for whatever reason I don’t want to just throw it in the trash. Maybe it’s not worth the time and effort to sell it. (Honey, remember the dresser we kept taking to consignment shops and bringing it back home when it didn’t sell?) I don’t want to drive around with it trying to find which thrift shop will take it this week. (Sometimes they’re full, sometimes they won’t take out-of-season items, and sometimes they’re just really picky about what they accept.)
Renting a dumpster is expensive though it’s great for getting rid of a lot of stuff fast. But unless you’re sure everything is pure de junk, it makes it worse when you have to throw away perfectly useful items you spent good money on. Or maybe you don’t have a bunch of people with a full day or two free to go through this process. (In my case, I have to triage the process.)
Even if you throw the item away, you may get charged extra by your garbage company if you leave out too much stuff at a time, or ask them to take big items like furniture and appliances.
What’s the solution?
Let me introduce you to FREECYCLE. Freecyle can be a nice intermediary step between driving around town with bags o’ stuff in your car, and simply throwing everything out to the curb on garbage day.
My local chapter of Freecycle is Monadnock Freecycle. Here’s how it works:
I go to my Freecycle group online and post an “offer”. This is a post with the word “OFFER” in the subject line with a short description of the item. (“OFFER: 12 back issues of Bead & Button magazine”)
I can add more details in the actual message: “This is a mixed lot of back issues, in good shape, no torn articles, etc.” I can add any other information, too, such as my general location (“In Keene”) and any conditions for pick-up (“These need to be out of here within a day.”) I’ve been adding, “Please let me know when you could pick these up, as this will help determine who gets these…”
I post the offer to the group. Depending on whether people have opted to receive offers as they come in, or in the form of a daily digest, the takers start to email me.
We arrange for a pick-up time, I give them directions to my house, and voila! Soon the item is gone to a new home where it may finally be put to good use.
Advantages: I don’t have to clean or repair the item before it finds a new home, as long as I accurately describe its condition.
I don’t have to load it up on my car and then drive around for days because I forgot the Salvation Army isn’t open on Sundays, or before 10 a.m., or after 5 p.m.
In fact, sometimes I post, someone answers–and picks it up within the hour.
And sometimes I find out my item has gone to a really good cause, or to a person or family who desperately needed it.
Best of all, a still-usable item has not gone into the landfill.
Disadvantages: The no-shows: The people who swear they are coming by at 9 a.m. Tuesday–and you never hear from them again.
Or someone says they want it, and then they let you know they can’t pick it up for a week. Well, half the fun of clearing stuff out is having it GONE. So when you have to stash it in your mudroom or garage for another week, it can be disappointing.
You need a computer, though you can always use one at a library if you don’t have your own.
You also may not like strange people coming to your house, in which case you can always make different arrangements–leaving it somewhere more public, or delivering it to them, or arrange for times when you are not alone in your house.
Not everything flies out the door. I’m always amazed at what gets taken and what gets ignored. Sometimes you post the stupidest thing and you get six people begging to take it off your hands. Other times a perfectly nice item languishes. You just have to hope the right person sees it at the right time. Some days, the group doesn’t seem too active–your offer gets no response. Other times, it’s really hoppin’, and your items get dibs on them almost as fast as you can post. I’ve learned to simply wait a few days and repost with an item that didn’t go. More than that, it goes to a thrift shop–or the dump.
Oh, and another great feature of Freecycle–you can ask for things, too. I actually asked for–and got–a number of nice baby items for a friend who was expecting: A baby backpack carrier, a bouncy chair, etc. People were happy to pass these on to a new family. A couple years ago, I asked for a used bike for my son, and got two nice ones. Some people get carried away and ask for stuff like cars and houses. Good luck with that!
Anyway, it’s fun, it’s easy, and you don’t even have to get out of your pajamas. Give it a whirl! If your area doesn’t have a Freecycle chapter, maybe you can start one.
Please feel free to share your strategies for moving stuff on to other people, too.