Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Problem with Dragon Skin

Okay that's a funny title for a post about decluttering, but decluttering in my house over the last few years has felt like Eustace in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, when he's a dragon and Aslan tells him to peel off the layers of skin in order to turn back into a human. He peels off layer after layer, but it doesn't make any difference.

In the last year or so, I've gotten rid of a lot of stuff. I've simplified the amount of clothing we store for various kids (now, instead of keeping each size, I'm only keeping off-season clothes and the clothes between all of the girls' sizes (which really isn't a lot - they're mostly in consecutive sizes). This involved getting rid of a LOT of clothes.

But it wasn't enough. The laundry area was still completely overflowing. Our plethora of great rummage sales pretty much filled the empty spaces back up. A busy Fall season caused me to dump the summer stuff in bags in the basement rather than sorting them out into the appropriate tubs.

And of course clothing wasn't the only problem.

So this Lent I've made decluttering and permanently-simplifying my special project. Here are some of the things I managed to accomplish:

- I made semi-Draconian cuts in the clothing and laundry department so that things could move more quickly through the laundry system. I threw away a bunch of old kitchen towels and wash rags. I made four or five LARGE trips to a local clothing and household items (etc.) distribution organization for the needy.

- I made some purchases to cause one higher-quality thing to replace several poorer-quality things. Especially where this forced me to keep tabs on it. Some of this actually started before Lent. I bought John a decent (not fancy) set of kitchen knives for Christmas. We'd been using a flimsy freebie set since we were married. This allowed me to dump not only the freebie set, but a huge set of nice steak knives we were given and about six or eight other odds'n'ends. I threw away loads of old (mostly dog-chewed) cheap colored pencils and felt pens and replaced them with one nice set of Prismacolor pencils that have to be used in only one location. I got rid of tons of my knit shirts that had shrunk-short (if you know what I mean) and bought just a few tall-size shirts from Eddie Bauer on clearance to replace them. You get the idea.

Anyway, my idea this Lent was something along the lines of (to use a food analogy) choosing a lifestyle change over a diet. I was trying to make changes that would lead to a somewhat simpler existence, which, of course, necessitates changes in the way I buy things as well.

In any case, I think the changes are making a real improvement, though I'm not yet done with the purging (yesterday I spent many hours on the paperwork aspect of decluttering as we had many boxes filled with paperwork in our bedroom and our new mattress is supposed to come today!). The nice thing is that, rather than being frustrated by the loss of things, the family has been quite receptive to the changes and have even voluntarily done a little purging themselves.

And yes, I DO feel more human. :)

The ironic thing is that AFTER all this purging, I'm about to get a bunch of attic space that was never-before-accessible. John has finished pulling out the loose insulation, cut a big hole for the attic ladder last night and is in the process of hauling huge boards up through the hole to line the attic floor with. Probably good that I did some purging first so that I don't simply hide the mess by throwing it all upstairs.


M.E. said...

"You go, girl!!" Decluttering is one of my favorite things. My cousin has a 40% rule: We could all benefit by getting rid of 40% of our stuff. I like Flylady's rule,too: If you don't use it or you don't love it, it's gone!

You've inspired me to do some decluttering of my own today... thank you!

Alice Gunther said...

Oh, I really, really need to do this.