Cast off das krapp und be frei!

Are your closets disorganized? Full of junk you never use and clothes you never wear?*

*Women: Do you have two wardrobes, your fat clothes and skinny clothes you’ll wear once you’ve dropped those 10 pounds? Those very 10 pounds you’ve carried for the past few years?

Is your garage the graveyard for boxes filled with grandma’s china and photos and knickknacks from that 1980 trip to Fiji that you never look at and, worse, don’t even remember and truly value?

(I still remember the shock my mother expressed decades ago when I mentioned I’d given away grandma’s good dishes, knowing I’d never use them and preferring that someone enjoy them. I don’t love grandma any less for the act.)

And … and … and do you have one of these?

public storage units

A storage unit to hold the overflow of clutter because your residence, already bursting at the seams, can’t swallow one more doll for the collection?

Honestly, I could probably make a small living* helping others do what I do best: Distill. Discern. Simplify. Organize. All toward one glorious goal: Dump the Crap!

*Save your breath. I’m not interested. There are other things for me to do this lifetime.

I’m an anti-clutter nazi. It’s an innate trait that’s been highly cultivated and refined by a lifetime of moving.

I’m also unencumbered by sentimentality. Which isn’t to suggest that I’m not sentimental. I’m quite sentimental selectively.

And thus I can cut through swaths of stuff like a one-man army with nary a wincing blink. I know where my heart lies and where it doesn’t and that is that and so bye bye shirt I don’t wear and stuff I don’t truly need or love (= item makes my heart sing).

My anti-nazi clutter trait has been enlisted by a girlfriend L.

L. is ruled by sentimentality. The walls and shelves of her apartment proclaim so. I can barely lift the little wooden cow on her kitchen sill without knocking over the framed embroidered inspirational message to the left.

And then she has this:

Well, not this. I didn’t have my camera with me when we stopped by her storage unit over the weekend. The resemblance, however, is uncanny.

She rents the biggest space available to store le crappe. And she’s ready to downsize le crappe into le crapette and toward that goal has solicited my expertise.

So I outlined the offensive.

* You can poke into boxes ONLY to broadly determine their content. You will not be permitted to pull out and examine each item and go “aaaaawwwwww, my aunt gave this to me in 1985, I can’t get rid of this!” and then stick it back into the box

Because that’s the very thinking that landed you in this mess!!

The only way out is to Think Differently.

That’s the first fundamental of decluttering. Falling back into the sentimental thoughts of “awww …” and the other biggie, “I might need this someday” only lands the item right back in the box and you back in the sea of stuff.

* You’re allowed to keep the truly special and irreplaceable things like baby’s first handprint and favorite toy. I think some people overdo it even on this level; however, I know L. and she can pass go with her accumulation of family mementos.

* If in the distortions of sentimentality you insist you just can’t bear to give away those teacups that’ve been buried in a box for five years, here’s what you do: Take a photo. Then give them away. My prediction on how often you’ll look at that photo mourning the cups? Zero.

* Organize as you go into three piles: Stuff for (1) the Goodwill (2) the dump (3) you and your smaller storage unit.

Were this a full-on battle, I’d nix any storage unit but for L., baby steps, baby steps …

She needs trucks. She needs muscle. She needs bodies. She needs a game plan of attack.

She needs continued resolve toward shedding her life of those bookshelves from the 1980s that she says are well made — they’re not — and the metal frame of a desk whose tabletop long ago disappeared into the ethers and the two bicycles with flat tires that are never ridden. For example.

So decluttering means first and foremost: Think Differently.

And it means asking the second question: “Can I buy this item again if I need it?” When the answer’s yes, the odds are good that it can go.

Example: A large box of Christmas wrapping. “Can you buy Christmas paper again this year?” I asked. “Yes.” Then it can go. And so it will go, whittling with a scythe until the overwhelming mountain becomes a manageable hill.

I hope for her sake and growth and psychological and emotional liberation that she carries through with her goal; I will support her all the way.

Because the truth is: The stuff that you own owns you.

There’s a place for things, yes.

And there’s a place for things that just take up space. And it’s called the trash can, the recycling center, the homeless shelters or the Goodwill.

Cast of das krapp und be frei!

Signed, the anti-clutter nazi


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Aussie Emjay
    Sep 28, 2010 @ 16:45:17

    I’m guilty of the Christmas paper but I really do get it out and use it the next year. The look of the storage unit would scare most people away – where would you begin!


  2. trayflow
    Sep 29, 2010 @ 03:17:19

    My storage area (garage) is tidy and I can find things. BUT. I wish it would all go away. I am planning on having a garage sale after the heat of the summer. The trouble I am having now is finding time to go through everything. Everything must be sorted and organised and down to at least a third of what is there now before we have to move again!

    I am feeling motivated again after your post. Thanks!


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