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Getting my stuff together (another dispatch from The Purge 2010) April 1, 2010

Posted by Emily in moving, The Purge 2010.
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The spring cleaning bug is officially here. And this year, I decided to actually do something about it and not just have one semi-motivated day in which I do some cleaning and then get distracted by reading magazines. Quite possibly even magazines about organization, for a bit of irony.

So, with a little prodding, I’ve decided to come out and say it: I took an online organizing class. I was sort of embarrassed about the dorkiness of the whole thing, and perhaps more than a little skeptical about the efficacy of a class like this…but it was actually awesome. I’m a total convert. For the cost of a couple of cups of coffee, I took the introductory, weeklong course through simplify101. A few other bloggers I read and like (namely, Chez Larsson) had recommended professional organizer Aby Garvey’s classes and I figured that if the über-organized can feel they get something out of the classes, even the lowly bums like me might make a little progress. And I totally did.

There was basically just one assignment – take 15 minutes a day with a timer and move around a room in your house – not cleaning, not actually organizing, but just plucking out the easy things to get rid of – a couple of kitchen examples are freebie coffee mugs or travel mugs that leak on your way to work, tupperware containers without lids, expired food. Pretty basic. But, as predicted, taking a serious look at all of the spaces in your house helps to unearth other stuff you’ve just held onto for too long. Why did I keep the smiley face mug I received flowers in sometime in high school? Well, because it had memories of some kind attached. But another thing I’ve come to realize in sorting through and culling my possessions, independent of the workshop, is that I really don’t need the actual item to have the memories. Sometimes I can just take a picture of the item, keep the memories, and the smiley face mug can find a home with some kindergarten teacher out there. I certainly never used it for actually drinking anything.

The first time you set the timer, you feel kind of ridiculous. I was sure to do it when I was home alone. But that ticking time bomb mentality, a bit of a rush and a dose of competitiveness (who, me?) was a strange motivator. I didn’t start reading magazines. I didn’t stew over any choices. If I grabbed something and it made me hesitate at all, it went in the garage sale bag. If I had second thoughts, I could pull it out – the next day. And only one thing made the cut there. If I find that I don’t use this multicolored tray in a month or two, out the door it goes. I won’t lie – it’s liberating.

I have plenty of lovely things I plan on having for some time to come, things that make my little apartment my space to come home to. Many of my friends don’t care as much about such things and find my nesting a bit curious. And that’s fair enough. But tidy I’m not, and I feel overwhelmed by so much stuff I just don’t need or want anymore. Why did I move so much of this junk so many times?

I’ve decided to take another class, this one over the course of 6 or 7 weeks. It’s kind of like the gym – even if I can’t make it as often as I’d like, if it’s a motivator to make some change, it’s worth it. And commenting on the forum and getting positive feedback and upbeat congrats is a mood booster.

Chances are, I myself will be moseying on to a new apartment come the end of May, so now seems like a perfect time to take a hard look at what stuff warrants another move. Like this time last year, I’d like to find a little place of my own. And also like last year, I recognize that one bedroom apartments in this town are pricey or shady, and often both. So we’ll see.

I’ll still rent a UHaul. I’ll almost certainly have more stuff than fits comfortably in the space where I’ll land. But at least the stuff I love to look at and use will be front and center, not hidden behind any smiley face coffee mugs.

I’m off to set my timer.

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