CLEANING THE ATTIC Tip #6: Help Someone Else

I’ve made a little more progress today, letting go of some really sticky stuff. Every day, I find a new way to think about each item, deciding if it stays or goes.

Books were the hardest. We love to read and reread our books, and we have eclectic tastes. Books had taken over our house.

Yet to date, we have packed up over fifty boxes of books. Yes, you read that right! (Fear not, we still have plenty of books left….)

Now, I’ve tried for several years to part with some of those books. How was I able to suddenly cull out 75% of my titles?

And what made me finally let go of a knitting machine, a camera stand with lights, a slide projector and screen? (I can just hear the little hectoring voice in the back saying, “Besides the fact that they’re all so outdated?” Hey, it’s still good stuff!)

Here’s what: I donated them to groups that would benefit hugely.

A friend works in program services at a county jail. When I first mentioned getting rid of some books, he said, “I’ll take ’em! I’ve been wanting to beef up our library at the jail.”

It’s odd, but somehow the thought of my books being read by someone down on their luck, someone who’s taken a few too many wrong turns in life, someone who was so bored they’d read anything, someone who might think, “Hey…that was a good story!”…was compelling. And liberating. We quickly filled seven boxes of books and gave them to John. (It helps that he came to pick them up, too.)

He was impressed with our selection. “Not a single *$#!# romance, either!” he said admiringly. (Apparently people tend to donate romance novels to jails. Go figure.)

He said he’d name the library after us. Well! If that’s the case, we’d better give ’em even more books! So we filled seven more boxes. “The Udell Memorial Library?” I suggested. “Nah, that would mean you’re dead,” replied John. Oh.

We packed up another ten boxes. Then a dozen. Finally, John said “uncle!” But he gave us the name of another program manager at another jail–who was also delighted to have our books. He even came to get them, too. We gave him fifteen boxes. Another twenty-four sit in our garage waiting for him. Hmmm…I guess that’s more than fifty boxes.

Tip: For each book, we decided if we could easily find it at the library, or if we could easily find the information on the internet, it left the building. Ditto if we didn’t want to reread it, or if we had multiple copies.

The big-ticket items were set free soon after. A dear friend mentioned that the non-profit arts center she works for was having a fund-raising yard sale soon. Would I consider giving them some stuff? I could give to a good cause, and get a tax deduction to boot. She even offered to pick up whatever I was willing to donate.

Turns out some of the items are coveted by the center itself. So maybe my donations will end up helping many budding artists and craftspeople. I found myself adding to the pile throughout the day.

There’s something compelling about knowing our donations might change someone’s life for the better.

Suddenly, it’s clear that hoarding something I know in my heart I will never use again, feels wrong. Letting it go to a good cause simply feels right.

So think of a group or cause that would benefit from your old stuff. Somehow it makes it easier to let go.

Maybe it’s part of that legacy thing I was talking about yesterday.

Author: Luann Udell

I find it just as important to write about my art as to make it. I am fascinated by stories. You can tell when people are speaking their truth--their eyes light up, their voices become strong, their entire body posture becomes powerful and upright. I love it when people get to this place in their work, their relationships, their art. As I work from this powerful place in MY heart, I share this process with others--so they have a strong place to stand, too. Because the world needs our beautiful art. All of it we can make, as fast as we can! Whether it's a bowl, a painting, a song, a garden, a story, if it makes our world a better place, we need to do everything in our power to get it out there.

9 thoughts on “CLEANING THE ATTIC Tip #6: Help Someone Else”

  1. You’re too funny! What makes you think we were ever organized enough to build bookshelves for all those books?? :^D
    Seriously, most of them were in boxes in the attic from our last move eight years ago.
    And some were in boxes from our move before that–twenty years ago!
    Most were in towering piles around the dining room (where everyone reads while eating), in the living room (attractively stacked under the coffee table) and dropped around our bed (because we read in bed, too.)
    A few bookshelves were cleared, but I think that’s where the keeper books will go!


  2. Somthing that I started doing , I got one of those “Kindle” readers , from Amazon.
    Now, I just download new books onto it —and it’s great for traveling , and anywhere . I love it .
    I love my books too—but ,this way , when i travel, I can take several books with me , and I’m also saving trees (which I remind myself–when I have that impulse to buy a hardcopy 🙂


  3. I recently cleaned out all the items I own and don’t use. It’s amazing how much of our stuff we almost never use at all; I probably got rid of 90% of my belongings, and haven’t missed any of them at all since. Congrats to you for your cleaning efforts-it will be well worth it.


  4. I keep wanting to post a comment on your fabulous de-cluttering, but every time I read a post, I go clean something instead.

    Doesn’t it make you feel light? I love dropping off donations.

    Do you know Flylady? She has people post their “pounds” either thrown away or donated, I wonder how many tons you’re up to?

    Have fun!



  5. When I left Memphis eight years ago I took two-thirds of my library to the public library for their book sale. Years of Quilter’s Newsletter Magazine, Early American Life, and Colonial Homes as well, but I knew that there were active local quilting and antiques groups. I still miss those books, and I thought a lot about Thomas Jefferson selling his books to a young nation to “recommence” a burned Library of Congress. Of course, he immediately started building another personal library…. Still, why didn’t I put aside the American Quilter issue about Kuna molas?

    It also helped to go to the local donation places and watch the people who came in to buy things. I started following 26-foot trucks, wondering exactly how much of 25 years’ worth of my possessions would fit. When the guys hired to load my rental truck arrived, one young man told me that he was dropping out of college for awhile to make money. At the end of that hot August day, he mentioned that he was going back to school. Everyone who loaded and unloaded the truck said that I had really interesting stuff, though.

    I guess I’m still looking for a packrat cure.


  6. Peggy, thank you for the Kindle tip–I’ll check that out!
    Rosanne, the 26-foot truck visual is just way too funny! Thanks for sharing that.
    I don’t think there IS a cure for packrat-itis. I’m not sure I WANT to be cured.
    It may simply means a periodic purge is necessary, which is not a bad thing.
    I think it’s GOOD to take inventory once in a while, and take the time to look back/evaluate/look ahead.


  7. Hi Elaine,
    I was so deeply moved by your comment–I’m delighted to hear my post motivated you to action!
    I’m not at the “light” stage yet, but I’m beginning to see how it might look… :^)
    I do know Flylady. When I first checked her website out a few years ago, it was at a time when she was marketing her services/info and it was hard to find solid advice. I’ll check her out again–sounds like there might be good stuff there now! Thanks for the tip,


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