Come on, cut through the clutter


A Prairie Notebook

This time of year seems like the easiest time to declutter.
After the Christmas tree is taken down, a house seems to open up and freshen up with more space. When gifts are put away, older, unused items tend to find their way to the donate pile.
Except if you’re me.
Last week, I tackled our family room, a cozy space with a wooden plank wall off of our kitchen. It’s one of the warmest rooms in our house, with an electric stove in one corner, ready to quickly take away winter’s chill.
There’s just one problem – cozy has become cluttered.
The room is doomed to be the dumping ground of boxes of stuff that have nowhere to go. It’s off the beaten path from the rest of our house. No one sees it, unless they’re invited.
The boxes of stuff are too good for the garbage. We might need them sometime. They’re certainly not junk but are the accumulation of craft projects, books that haven’t been read yet, a sack of unworn shirts, magazines that might be worth hanging onto and paperwork, loads of paperwork.
With my husband’s help we moved out a long sofa table that had become a dumping ground for things that really needed to just be thrown or organized. We did a deep clean of the floors. But we still have boxes to deal with. That’s a task left to me.
I went through several, got rid of two boxes and bagged up a large garbage sack of mostly papers. I even pulled out some shirts to give to someone I think would wear them. Several boxes are neatly arranged now but there still is a dilemma of what to do with them.
Haul them to the basement? Um, we’re running out of shelf space. Get ruthless and just get rid of everything? It’s not my nature. I’m a bit sentimental. It’s only stuff, but I have a hard time saying goodbye.
A piece in the New York Times, which I happened to read during this purging process, explained why. It suggested that to really get rid of things, you should avoid touching them first. Have someone else hold them up and ask if you still want it. Apparently, touching something makes you love it all over again.
The article also explained that too much stuff causes stress. This I believe. I feel my anxiety go up just looking at those boxes. They take away from the coziness of the space and get in the way of using the room the way it was intended. If you have to move something to do something, you have too much stuff, I’m told.
Guilty!
In 2017, my neighbor and I did a 31-day challenge where we got rid of a box of stuff for each day in August. Neither of us could work through it that fast, but over extended time, I hauled out more than 31 boxes. I burned some, donated some, gave some of my kids’ things to them and in general felt successful.
Now it’s a new year, and there’s still more than we need in our house. Like any addict, I’m working on the problem. It’s quite a process. My January challenge is to completely rid that family room of boxes. If you saw it, you might be skeptical. Then again, some people could probably tackle that and meet the goal in two hours.
In the process, I might get caught up in painting a picture on one of the extra canvasses sitting around, or I could dig out some jewelry supplies from two totes that have more beads than I will use in a lifetime. It would be fun to create a couple of new bracelets.
My sin will be that I touched the stuff. There will be no going back.
I wonder what it would be like if I sorted everything while using a pair of gloves. It wouldn’t technically be “touching” stuff. And, lucky me, I found just the pair in the boxes of stuff.

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