Tag Archives: clutter
The second step for organizing your life according to Elaine St. James in Simplify Your Life is to “Use Dave’s Uncluttering Sytem.”
My first thought before even reading the rest of the page was “Wait a second! Dave? A man? Organized?” You see, while I certainly think men can organize and unclutter their homes and offices, women tend to have a bit more of a natural knack for it. I know, I know. Women can be packrats too. Anyone who has ever watched the show Hoarding: Buried Alive on TLC will know that. But men tend to be focused on only one task at a time and don’t typically plan to focus on organizing for a day. On the other hand, women are expert multitaskers. If they put their minds to it, they can keep their home and office organized and uncluttered throughout the day even as they work on other tasks.
So what is Dave’s system for getting rid of things he believes he no longer needs?
“Put them in a box with a label indicating a date two or three years from now – but don’t list the contents on the label. Store the box in the attic or the basement, or wherever is convenient. Once a year, examine the labels. When you come across a box whose date has passed, throw it out without opening it. Since you don’t know what’s inside, you’ll never miss is.” (St. James, 1994, p. 13)
Hmmm. Interesting. It’s a little unclear if Dave is only saving old mail and sentimental yet worthless knick-knacks or if he is going through his clothes closet and bookshelves. If it is the first option, then this is probably a pretty good idea which will eventually save him a lot of time.
However, if it is the second option, I would like to ask Dave if he has ever heard of Goodwill or Salvation Army. These stores take donations of gently used clothing, furniture, books, household items and more and resell them. They also give receipts for donations, which can be claimed as deductions on federal tax returns. Other options that I think are better than the trash include consignment shops, ebay and even a garage sale if there are many items.
Personally, I put items that I am no longer using into bags or boxes in my storage area throughout the year. Then, about twice a year, I go through it all. Occasionally I find something that I can’t believe I was thinking of parting with such as a movie that I’ve been wanting to watch or a shirt that is suddenly (but not surprisingly) back in style. I mark everything that is left on a list and then take the items to the thrift store where I receive a receipt that I attach to my list. Voila! Electronics typically sell fairly well on ebay so I make little bits of money there throughout the year.
Elaine does make a point of noting that it’s much easier to not save worthless clutter in the first place but to toss it in the garbage right away. I agree with that 100%! It is much faster to deal with things immediately before they turn into unsightly clutter.
“Reduce the clutter in your life,” says Elaine.
“A great idea,” say I, “as long as you are not sentimental.”
“If you haven’t used it in a year or more, get rid of it,” asserts Elaine.
“What about things you only use once every five or ten years?” I question.
Sadly, since Elaine only wrote a book and is not carrying on a personal conversation with me, I find that she has nothing to say on this point.
I totally agree with the fact that almost all of us, and not just women I might add, have “stuff” that we are hanging on to for absolutely no good reason. I discovered this fact as a sophomore in college when I was rooming with three other girls and realized that my “stuff” took up half of the room. I went on a trashcan spree and found that I greatly enjoyed it! Goodbye nursing papers! Goodbye class notes that I never even looked at while taking the class let alone after taking the class! Goodbye makeup that I thought looked great on me when I was eighteen! However, as it turns out, I wish that I had saved at least a sampling of my papers. I would have been very interested to see what I had to say when I was twenty and taking a social ethics class.
I tend to go through all of my cupboards and closets about once a year and I always find things that I haven’t used in ages and that I know that I will never miss.
But I know that many things cannot be put into the category of “If You Haven’t Used It in a Year, Chuck It in the Trash.” For example, what about that wedding dress that probably some of you carefully preserved? Do you try it on and wear it somewhere every year just so that you don’t have to toss it? What about pictures and notes from loved ones? What about a favorite book from your childhood?
I think that there is a very happy middle ground that includes getting rid of things that have no sentimental value, that you will never miss and that you don’t even remember owning in the first place. The more that you get rid of things that you don’t need, use or want, the easier it will be to continue on this process.
“You can complete the initial stage of an unclutter program in a couple of Saturday afternoons,” counsels Elaine.
“Thank you Elaine, but have you seen how many closets and boxes that I have?”
“Remember,” reassures Elaine, “the idea is not to deny yourself the things you want, but to free yourself from the things you don’t want.”
“Whew, then I can keep my wedding dress after my wedding day,” I breathe in relief.