Many a decluttering/organizing book recommends taking pictures of things you want to part with but don’t want to forget. These tend to be things that aren’t so dear that you could never ever part with them but which may still have some sentimental value. I have just recently, after five straight years of slowly purging and reorganizing my small house, used this technique for the first time.
Over the last year I made about a dozen trips to my parents’ house to collect the amazing amount of crap I was still storing there. It is not hyperbole to say that over 95% of what came out of the closet I used as a teenager and the rafters of the loft in my dad’s shop did not make it home with me. Of that 50% went to the thrift store and 50% was legitimate trash, owing to a long-held adolescent delusion that I was going to be junk artist. Last month I was trying to carve out space in the master closet for some of the few things that did follow me home from Mom and Dad’s. In so doing I found the paper grocery bag into which I had emptied my junk drawer when I got my antique dresser two years ago. (It had one less drawer than the dresser it replaced, but its drawers are all deeper.) I sorted through the bag and came up with three piles: 1) Stuff that should have been elsewhere all along, 2) Garbage, and 3) Stuff to go in the box labeled “Childhood Stuff” in the loft of the band shed.
But I reeeeeeally didn’t want to go up to the loft. It was raining. The ladder is inside the house and the band shed is in the back yard. I would have to make one trip for the ladder and one for the stuff and maybe a third to go back and shut the gate. And once in the band shed I would have to move motorcycles, welders, speakers, PAs, toolboxes, chainsaws, and who knows what else in order to expose two areas of floor on which to sit the feet of the ladder. On top of all the rest I was wearing my brand new jeans, which I didn’t want smeared with dirt, bar oil, and plaster dust.
So I reassessed the stuff. There were three items: a piggy bank shaped like a rocking horse, a plastic clarinet, and a microscope in a wooden crate.
The bank was made by a neighbor with a ceramics hobby. I was crazy about it when I was little, because I was crazy about anything horse-related, but I have naturally outgrown both the obsession and the need for a change bank. It’s in fantastic condition, though, so someone is going to love it. (I would try selling it on eBay but I despise wrapping breakables and no one wants to pay shipping on a box big enough to accommodate the appropriate wrapping.)
I used this plastic toy clarinet to torture my parents and neighbors for years. I never learned to play it so I would just blow as hard as possible and flip the little buttons at random to make a loud, unending, and completely hellish noise. Someone must have taken action against this behavior at some point, because I noticed when I looked inside that the bell had been stuffed shut with clay. I have no desire to play this thing (and it’s broken anyhow) so away it goes.
The third item was this awesome, fully functional microscope. It’s in a very nice wooden case and came with all manner of accessories: slides (mounted and blank), slide mounting materials (labels, glue, methylene blue), and a variety of eye pieces at different levels of magnification. There was originally a little booklet but it seems to have gotten separated. If I don’t find it in one of the boxes in the loft I am almost certain I can find a replacement on eBay. I spent so much time poring over it that I’m sure I’d recognize it even now.
Did every little girl have a extensive Victorian Naturalist period, or was that just me?
Either way, that period was so lasting and affecting that I cannot bear to part with the microscope. I have installed it on top of one of the tall bookshelves in the living room, beside a potted plant, to serve as a permanent part of the decor (and perhaps a part-time conversation starter for very tall people).
Have any of you tried this method of parting with clutter? Were you successful? What other methods do you employ to thin the herd of your possessions without regretting letting something go?