Monday, August 11, 2008

Decluttering, Part I: Baseline Analysis

In my heart, I am a minimalist. I have only what is absolutely necessary. There is no clutter on my countertops or tables, there is only one bottle of body wash in my shower, and I don't have any clothes in my closet that I don't actually wear.

In my reality, things are a bit different. My countertops and tables are cluttered about 3 days after I make the effort to clear them off once and for all, I have about 6 types of body wash (most of which I actually use, but none of which I would call "absolutely necessary"), and most of the clothes in my closet haven't been worn in months (if not longer).

My heart leaps at images of clean, open spaces and sleek, crisp lines. My inbox is clear, my To Do list is short, and my desktop is as free from icons as I can reasonably make it.

My house, however, is inhabited by two large dogs, two fluffy cats, a packrat of a husband, and hand-me-down (i.e. not in any way minimalist-looking) furniture. Not to mention any number of remodeling projects and other assorted tasks.

And then there's me, somewhere between ready-to-throw-out-everything-I-own-and-start-over and I-don't-care-what-it-looks-like-I-just-don't-want-to-think-about-it-right-now. Throw in the standard allotment of not-enough-hours-in-the-day, work a full time job to which you commute 40 minutes to and from each day, add a baby girl due in December, and make sure that approximately nothing has been done to ready the nursery (which still needs such basics as wiring, drywall, and new windows), and you'll have a pretty good idea of where I'm at.

Yet I still read decluttering and minimalist blogs on a mostly daily basis. I still go through spurts of throwing out boxes and bags of stuff I don't need. Occasionally I even manage to convince my husband to get rid of a few tee shirts I've never seen him wear in the 4 years we've been together, or pants that haven't fit since his college days, or the rollerblading gloves he hasn't used since high school. And in those very rare moments where the longing for a minimalist abode is so great I'm willing to give up anything, anything at all just so I don't have to have it on my conscience any longer, I'll even clear a shelf of my greatest treasure: books.

Today is significant in that we've had to clear most of our dining room in preparation for remodeling. We're replacing a set of windows with sliding doors and adding a patio and stairs outside (so we can actually get into our yard without having to walk all the way around the garage), updating the wiring, and replacing the cracked plaster walls with drywall. I'm still undecided on whether or not to refinish the floors (they need it, but we can't really do the living room at the same time, so they won't end up matching).

The problem with all of this is, what do we do with all of our stuff? There is simply too much of it. Our house, while not huge, is a decent size (about 1650 square feet plus a full basement), and yet there is more clutter than two relatively young people would ever have a need for. We did manage to get rid of an extra desk (technically, it's sitting on the front porch until we can figure out exactly how to get rid of it), but everything else just got shuffled around. And the china cabinet and buffet are still in the dining room because I don't have anywhere to put them in the meantime. I could not, however, manage to convince my husband to let me get rid of the "puppy couch," or the torn up, stinking, 1987-patterned bachelor couch he had long before we met that the dogs are allowed on (hence the term), even though my grandmother recently gave us a perfectly decent sectional. Both of them are still in the living room. Along with all of the furniture from the dining room.

I'm blaming my current mood partially on my pregnancy. I'm over halfway through (22 weeks), and I feel like I haven't accomplished a single thing. Sure, I've got about $400 worth of baby clothes that various people have bought me (I myself spent only about $23 and bought exactly ONE dress), and my mom has crocheted 4 afghans and unearthed a bunch of stuff from my own babyhood, and we have finally secured the financing to start the remodeling which will start with the dining room and eventually include the nursery. But as of right now, I have not cleared a single item of my clothing from the dresser that will be the baby's. I have not begun to clean out the bathroom closet that will house my toiletries instead of the desk in the spare bedroom, which will be the nursery. I haven't bought a single diaper, or chosen a fabric or pattern for the diaper bag I intend to make, or selected a crib, or anything.

It's all so overwhelming, and I don't know where to start.

So I'm just picking something. Obviously, the dining room, which is waiting for the hired help (i.e. my father and brother, who actually are professional construction-ers) to show up and do their thing, is one step. As for the nursery, it will begin with the cleaning of the bathroom closet to make room for the rearranging I have to do.

Step 1: declutter (i.e. get rid of junk I don't need).

It begins tonight.

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