Category Archives: Too much stuff

It’s been a hundred days

UPSwamp…since the start of my second try at getting my house all cleaned up. How’m I doing? Have I drained my own personal swamp? Is the place immaculate and empty?

Well, no. It’s cleaner than it was, and less cluttered, but there’s a lot left to do. And it’s really nobody’s fault. I’m overcommitted, and that’s part of the problem – but nobody could have predicted, more than three months ago, that I would be still be filling in for our church treasurer, let alone that my father-in-law’s health would take a nosedive.

So what do you do when you have too many things to do, and can’t walk away from the ones that eat up the largest amount of time? You make lots of lists so you don’t forget two-thirds of the things that HAVE TO get done today, and you reluctantly let some things slide that you’d like to do, and you take one step forward after another and try not to trip over your own feet.

And you cook a very simple Thanksgiving dinner, today. Never mind making Thanksgiving “interesting” – we’ll be eating roast turkey, with sweet potatoes, cranberries, salad, and pumpkin pie; just the basics, thank you.

I suppose it’s a good thing that I’m more of natural marathoner than a sprinter. I will have a clean house with no unloved junk in it – but probably not in 2015.

24 Bankers Boxes

UPSwampThat’s what I have in my living room right now. Two dozen cardboard boxes full of papers from my mother’s house. Unsorted, miscellaneous, mostly-but-not-all worthless papers, just the way I found them while we were clearing out the rooms. Forty year old bank statements, income tax records, recipes she clipped out of newspapers (thousands of recipes), deeds to property, receipts from her doctor’s office…

And, of course, the usual furniture you expect to find in a living room: chairs, sofa, table, a desk. You can’t get to the desk or sit in two of the chairs at the moment; there are bankers boxes in the way. All in all, it looks like one of those TV shows about hoarders who have piles and heaps of Things, with only narrow lanes left clear to let you navigate through the piles.20150817BankersBoxes

This has to change.

And the problem isn’t only my mother’s stuff. I learned my lessons well – I’ve never been good at throwing things away. It’s time to master that skill, time to sort through all the junk I’ve kept for no good reason and get rid of it. Then I’ll probably need to sort through things I think I do have good reason to keep and dispose of a lot of them. The idea of all that work and decision making gives me the shudders, but looking at the handful of spaces I have cleaned so far makes me happy. Being happier with an emptier house – that’s the goal. Now, how to get there from here?

As I’ve mentioned a time or three, I intended to start this project last New Year’s Day. I was supposed to spend a hundred days cleaning out my own house and be finished by early April. Instead, my husband and I kept working on my mom’s house and bringing more and more boxes home with us, while I got more and more exhausted.

Well, now that my mother’s house is finally cleared out and sold and off my hands, and now that I’ve had a few desperately needed weeks to rest, I can start that long-delayed project. We’re in the middle of August now, and in 100 days it will be Wednesday, November 25. So I ought to be all done the day before Thanksgiving. Good timing. I don’t plan to cook a turkey dinner while I continue with major housecleaning – and being done with the Great Emptying would certainly be something to be thankful for.

I wonder if there will be snow on the ground by the time I finish cleaning?

Best Laid Plans (2)

UPSwampIn short (but it didn’t feel short, not at all), it took two cold icy slippery winters separated by a hot, sweaty summer to clear out all that junk. And after that, the house desperately needed a good cleaning – it’s been years since my mother had the strength and energy to keep up with dirt, and it upset her to see anyone else (me) doing what she couldn’t do. Scrubbing woodwork and walls was even more exhausting than clearing out junk.

20150626grandmasvasesBut at last it’s done; some of the usable things went to an auction house to be sold, while others went to Goodwill (we gave so much to Goodwill that the staff at the store in her area started to recognize us). We probably have a buyer for the house. And only a few weeks ago, when we thought all the stuff behind stuff had been cleaned out except for a few books that the auctioneer rejected after they sat on the same shelves unread for the past forty or fifty years, I found two old brass vases hiding behind the books! They’re fairly ugly, but they belonged to my grandmother, and I’m keeping them.

Oh, and the Great Cleanout I had planned to start last New Years? It didn’t happen. Yet.

But it will, soon. After another week to rest and recover, I’m going to start throwing things away here. I had planned to allow myself more time off – but looking at the mess is getting on my nerves. (That’s a good sign, right?) My living room is so full of boxes that came from my mother’s house that it could be featured on one of those TV shows about hoarders. Boxes have come and boxes have gone, but for the last month I’ve been too tired to cope with them, and boxes have stayed. Time to make them go away.

Best Laid Plans (1)

UPSwampAbout a year and a half ago, I started cleaning out my mother’s house, and almost immediately learned that keeping stuff “because I might need it someday” or “because it’s too good to throw out” is a bad idea. Clearly, it’s time to dejunk my own home – but I had to finish my mother’s first. Days and weeks and months went by, and my husband and I kept filling up trash cans and lugging dozens of big black trash bags out to the end of her driveway to be hauled away. Over and over, I thought we were almost finished; we never were. As soon as we cleared away one mess, we found another hiding behind it.

But at last, when 2014 was almost over, the end seemed in sight. And I had such great plans. I knew exactly how I was going to spend the winter – at home, cozily busy indoors, discarding piles and piles of my unneeded, unwanted, unloved junk. Bags and boxes on top of bags and boxes, out the door and gone with the trash collectors. And when spring came, I was going to look back on months of accomplishment and look forward to a new, streamlined life.

So much for plans.

The trouble was, even after a year of work, I still didn’t realize how cluttered my mother’s house was. There was still stuff behind stuff, all sorts of stuff, three different types of stuff. Some of it, my parents valued but I don’t have enough room to store it or any desire to own it – but maybe someone else would. Then there were perfectly good things I don’t think they realized they had, like half a dozen can openers, ten or twenty or thirty years old (judging by the price tags), still in their original store packaging. (These first two categories were easy; they could be given away or sold.) And finally there was stuff, lots of it, that they might have valued once, and shoved out of the way someplace or other, and never touched again while it deteriorated and became unusable.

And I had no time or energy left to tackle my own mess. Instead, this house got more and more cluttered as we brought home boxes of papers – as many boxes as the back of the car would hold – that I didn’t have time to sort through while we were at my mother’s house.

So much stuff, and so little of it any use to anybody.

Writing 101 – Stream of Consciousness

(Added after the fact, so I can include a link: this is for Day 1 of WordPress’s new Writing 101 series.)

Okay, twenty minutes. I can do this. Well, I can do it if my left hand holds out.

Dumpster wrist, is what a friend of mine calls it. You develop it after too many days of lugging trash out of a house you’re clearing out and putting it in a dumpster or out at the curb for regular trash pickup. I’ve spent a LOT of this summer doing exactly that. And now my go-to hand is sore and undependable. Some mornings I can’t trust myself to pick up the coffee pot with it.

(The assignment for today is to write whatever goes through our minds for the next twenty minutes, and it occurs to me that this may sound like a pre-planned beginning. Really, it isn’t. It’s just that if you spend some of your time, as I do, thinking about how to tell stories, you get in the habit of filling in background information when you know you’re writing / thinking / talking for an audience.)

Of course, if you’re talking, you’d better have an audience. Even if it’s only the goldfish.

No, I don’t have a goldfish. But I suppose it’s acceptable to talk to one if you have it. I should ask my son if he talks to his accidental goldfish. Probably not, but who knows?

Anyhow, I hope I can get through this project without resorting to hunt and peck typing. That’s hard. Especially when you were forced through a year of learning to touch type back in high school. I don’t think anybody loved that class – maybe the aspiring secretaries – but it has been useful. Kind of like being tormented by the math teacher who insisted that we all practice adding up columns of numbers by blurting out what each new sum was without taking time to think about it. You make mistakes when you think about basic arithmetic. I suppose that’s why computers are so much better at it than humans.

Well, that certainly rambled a good distance from the original topic – not that there’s anything wrong with rambling stream of consciousness. I probably wouldn’t have remembered where I started if my little finger and ring finger weren’t getting so sore.

At least we’re finally making a visible dent in the mess in my mother’s house. With any luck, we’ll get the attic emptied this week, and also the sewing room and maybe the bedrooms – they’re mainly empty anyhow, except for stuff that came down from the attic a few weeks ago. After that, check the kitchen and dining room and living room, and drag a few things up from the basement. Then we should be ready to clean the whole place thoroughly, and after that talk to a possible buyer and an estate auctioneer. I really hope we don’t have to spend the winter travelling back and forth halfway across Pennsylvania to keep checking on it. We’ll see.

And after that project is finished, it will be time to clear out this house. I’ve spent way too much time listening to my parents’ horror of throwing out anything that could theoretically be put to use. Finding everything that somebody else could certainly have used if only it had been given away twenty years ago, thirty years ago, forty years ago, and that’s now junk, will definitely clear that notion out of your head.

It’s harder to get rid of your own useless treasures, though. But it needs to be done, so that I don’t wind up ninety years old and surrounded by stuff that I don’t even know where to start looking for. Better to have less and be able to find it. But which “less” to keep?

Well, start by locating and dumping things that I don’t need and don’t want and will be perfectly happy without. Then I can start triage on whatever else is left. Not fun fun fun. Hopefully my stupid hand will have recovered by that time. This is frustrating. It does seem to be better than it was last week; I need to remember to take a wrist brace to my mom’s this time so it doesn’t

Reverse 100 Day Challenge: 40 days and counting?

Counting? Not really. Getting rid of things, that’s what I’m doing. (For an explanation of the Reverse 100 Day Challenge, look here.)

The project is going well, except that it may be taking over. Two days ago, I wrote up a schedule intended to get the whole house (well, except for the basement) cleaned up by the end of March. Oddly, so far – yes, for two full days – I’ve been keeping at it.

I’m not going to give a day by day diary this time, though. Just a summary: mostly what’s getting recycled, given away, or once in a while thrown out has been books and piles of papers – no surprise, since that’s what we have much too much of in this house. And then there were the oddities, like the pants hanger – I have no idea how it wound up with its handle sticking off to the side at a forty-five degree angle, but it’s no use to anybody. Trash! 😀

Reverse 100 Things: Three and a half weeks in

Still emptying out my house, a little at a time…what have I disposed of since my last “Reverse 100 Things” post?

Reverse100ThingsLotsaPaperThursday January 24th, piles of paper to recycle.


More paper on Friday the 25th.


Reverse100ThingsPrinterCartridgesSaturday the 26th, old printer cartridges and some of the packaging from the new ones to recycle – and a bit of packaging that can’t be recycled and has to be thrown away.


Reverse100ThingsOldSunscreenSunday the 27th, ancient sunscreen to throw out. It’s so old it doesn’t even tell you if the bottle is recyclable. Away it goes.



Reverse100ThingsRecyclingAndAPieceOfTrashMonday the 28th, more paper and the case a memory stick came in to recycle. And a name tag that appears to be just plain trash.


Tuesday the 29th, another week’s accumulation of glass and plastic containers.

Reverse100ThingsRagWednesday the 30th – once it was a dishcloth, then a cleaning rag, and now it’s past being useful for anything. Trash. Also assorted old clothes past their useful days.


Thursday the 31st, a pile of my Mom’s junk mail to recycle.

Reverse100ThingsKleenexBoxFriday February 1st, yet more paper including an empty Kleenex box.


Saturday the 2nd, still more paper to recycle.

Reverse100ThingsRoughDraftSignSunday the 3rd, recycling rough drafts of a food bank collection sign.


Yes, there’s a pattern here – far and away the biggest category of junk in this house is old paper that needs to be sorted through and recycled. At least I’m making a start on it, and getting rid of freshly used-up paper right away before it spawns new piles…

Reverse 100 Things: Any progress?

Eleven days ago, I started the “Reverse 100 Thing Challenge”, or a modified version of it. (The “100 Thing” concept asks people to live with only one hundred possessions, subject to various exceptions. The original “Reverse 100 Thing Challenge” asked people to choose a hundred things to recycle; the – oh, call it the “Revised Reverse 100 Thing Challenge” calls for you to spend 100 days throwing things away, or recycling them, or giving them to charity.)

I got a bit derailed by getting sick around the same time, but I have been plugging away at removing something from my home (or someone else’s) daily through most of the past week and a half. Let’s see how things are going –

Reverse100ThingsMiscPaperMonday the 14th, I sorted through miscellaneous papers and recycled a small handful.


Reverse100ThingsPlasticGlassRecyclingTuesday the 15th, we recycled an assortment of plastic and glass containers (though I’m not sure if this should count, since it’s already routine).

Friday the 18th we visited my mother, and I recycled a foot-high pile of junk mail she had received (no photo, alas; there was enough of it to be slightly dramatic in a will-the-whole-thing-collapse-onto-the-floor  kind of way).

Reverse100Things3BooksSaturday the 19th, 3 books – one to donate, one to recycle because it’s falling apart the way old paperbacks do, one to recycle because it’s horrible. (And I think I’ll count one of the three for the 16th and one for the 17th; those two days I spent either coughing or reading.)

Reverse100ThingsMiscPaperAndCoughSyrupSunday the 20th, more paper to recycle. Including the box for a bottle of cough medicine, which I emptied in the course of a week.


Monday the 21st I threw out things that were overage in the refrigerator; be glad there aren’t any photos. You don’t want to know.

Tuesday the 22nd, more glass and plastic for recycling

Reverse100ThingsOneBookand today, Wednesday the 23rd, another book to donate – this one actually isn’t bad a paragraph or so at a time, but it’s fatally easy to put down and not pick up again. And it’s not like we’re short of things to read. Maybe someone else will enjoy it more.

I can’t claim that the house is suddenly spotless, but progress is happening. I even cleaned my dusty computer cables yesterday!



Reverse 100 Thing Challenge: Day 2

What’s the Reverse 100 Thing Challenge? Well, it seems to have started here at Be More with Less as a variation on the 100 Thing Challenge. The original idea was to find 100 things to donate – not a bad plan, but I suspect we all have possessions that are no use to anyone, including ourselves. I prefer this version, from January to December, that asks you to donate or recycle or throw away something every day for a hundred days.

I’ll admit that this particular Challenge isn’t going to make much of a dent in the excess stuff lying around my house, but it’s a way to remind myself to keep at it.

So what’s today’s winner?

100Days002TShirtI liked this T shirt once. Actually, if I hadn’t liked it, it would probably still be fit to wear…but I have to admit, it’s no longer even good enough to use for grubby projects inside the house where nobody will see it! Time to say good-bye.

Reverse 100 Thing Challenge: Day 1

Beverley over at January to December has a good description of this one – “Instead of living with only 100 things you need to remove 100 things from your home. It can be anything, anything at all. It can be clutter that as been waiting to be removed, it can be things for recycling, or things to be given to charity. You also need to remove one thing per day for 100 days.”

Well. That seems to fit in nicely with my current project of Getting Rid Of Excess Stuff. So I expect to be posting the discard of the day for the next several months – that will mean more than one post if I have something else to say; oh well.

100Days001HandfulOfPensWe have a lot of miscellaneous pens and markers in the junk drawer, so I got them all out and tested to see which ones could still write. The good/bad news is that we have about two dozen things that can be used to make marks on paper (so I’m keeping those). But I did find a handful that are past being useful. Out they go, and don’t ask why I didn’t throw them away long ago when they stopped working. 😉