In 20 years of living here, starting with 36 boxes of books and not much else, I've accumulated too much stuff. Much of it was from garage sales, Savers or Good Will, donations from friends or family. My living room furniture is from my mother's house, a piano I bought from a friend, several large items like bookcases and chairs were given to me by people who were moving. And then there are the things my child has hoarded, because there were years when we had to save everything. That phase seems to have passed, and this year we determined to repaint her bedroom and get rid of a very large, dark piece of furniture that was not really serving its purpose and which made her very small room feel even smaller. But that job was not one I could tackle by myself.
Over the last few years, I've been making steady progress in reducing the mountains of clutter in my small apartment: I've sold, recycled or given away baby toys, books and clothing; several carloads of stuff have been taken to Good Will or Savers--odds and ends, furniture, clothing, books; I've cleared out cupboards, closets, drawers, and shelves. But there was still a lot sitting around, waiting to be disposed of in one way or another, and between work, travel and laying around on the couch reading the New Yorker, my tendency toward inertia meant there were piles of stuff accumulating cat hair. Some of the piles had become invisible as such, but they were just clutter.
When Fresca took care of Leo and my place while I was away, she kindly cleared some junk off the porch to turn it back into the lovely bower it can be when it is clean and has a few plants. This was both kind and inspiring. We all stood and looked at it, and since the guys had promised their help with painting R's room, we put our heads together and came up with a plan of operations for transforming the rest of the place in the same way.
First step, I finally gathered 20 years of old electronic gear and brought it to one of the Hennepin County "problem waste" disposal sites, where I could leave it without paying a fee and knowing it would not be put into the landfill or burned with toxic parts still in it. There was my first and only TV set, the VCR, several phones I'd inherited or bought but which are now obsolete or interfere with my broadband signal, an ancient camera, batteries, Compact Flourescent Lightbulbs, and assorted parts of computers past.
Now, with the guys, we are undertaking a massive project that involves a domino-like transfer of stuff: we've removed everything from my daughter's bedroom and we'll rip out the old carpet and paint it today. She has sorted out all the old clothes she's outgrown, and the stuff she no longer needs or uses, and we've packed up the nostalgia items suchs as Halloween costumes and some dress-up items. The rest is bagged and off to Good Will or will be turned into a sewing project (t-shirt pillows!). We also pulled all the stuff off the porch, including an old desk that went to the basement, and a bookcase that will go into her bedroom, and did the same sort-and-purge. A lot fo what needed to be sorted were odds and ends of recycling abandoned there during the winter.
We moved a very large bookcase/drawer thingie from her bedroom onto the porch, where it looks splendid and holds my sewing project materials, and other boxes of stuff like holiday ornaments. We removed another bookcase that was holding the computer and are doing the same sort-and-purge in the living room office space. All the loose CDs, DVDs, magazines, and electronic gear and peripherals (iPod cables, rechargers, etc) have been coralled and given a garage of some kinds, many with boxes I got from Ikea. Being from Ikea, they all had to be assembled, so I have punched out little cardboard holes and put together a zillion boxes with little screws in the last two days.
The guys repaired one file cabinet whose drawers had lost their front panels, and I got another one at Ikea so my files can move out of the milk crates in the dining room. I tell you, it's a delicate operation! In order to move one set of things, another set has to be displaced. Every piece of paper, book, envelope, paper clip, pen, coin, battery, old toy or art project has be to sorted and given its new home: recycle? donate? move? discard?
But the results, although we are still in the middle of the process and my dining room is the temporary holding area, are already making me extremely happy. I've been meaning to do these things for literally years, and to have two strong and handy guys to help me muscle things around, and to have my daughter's complete cooperation in sorting her stuff (which I am not allowed to touch and rightly so) means this is happening!
Thanks, Fresca, for inspiration, and thanks to Blas and Loren for patiently assembling something from Ikea, moving big cabinets, helping me bring things to the basement and being willing to paint and grub up the carpet. By the end of the day, we will be done painting. It finally looks as if it will be possible for me to finish the job I started about three years ago of divesting m myself of the things I don't want or need anymore.