Thursday, January 31, 2013

Decluttering in the wake of passing time

I'm trying to declutter the place. This is a major challenge since all of us seem to be incorrigible pack rats. Every so often I go into a cleaning and purging frenzy, but it's been awhile. Going through the boys' toys is one of the hardest things to deal with; other stuff I can easily get into a mind space where I can be ruthless and chuck stuff or give it away, but this is harder. I know I'll feel much better about this place once things are cleaned up, but I'm running up against this wall of resistance from everyone in the house, myself included, to letting go. Time just keeps racing by and all these material things are strewn in its wake. I feel kind of helpless against the flow of time; the things I'd like to hold onto the most are often the most fleeting of all.

With the boy toys I have to sort them and figure whether the boys are done with those toys forever. Really, forever. I think it's probably harder for me to let go than for them. There is some stealth chucking involved, since toys they haven't played with for over a year are ones they're probably done with, but if they realize I'm going to give them away then nostalgia sets in and they want to keep them, mostly.
I tried to let go of Riley's Mission model, and put it in the recycle. I found it later that day miraculously rescued and restored to its place on top of the shelf. Though it hasn't been played with or used much since 4th grade. (And yes, they are in 6th grade now, so what does that say about my lack of ruthlessness and my housekeeping abilities?) And do I donate the dinosaurs? They are very cool; they roar and move their heads in a quite startlingly realistic way. I like them too, but the boys haven't been playing with toys much in the last year or so. How am I supposed to deal with all of these toys that they have sentimental attachment to, but no longer play with? Out of sight, out of mind? Stealth chucking? I like to think that I would respect their wishes, and not just ruthlessly get rid of toys they love, but the bald truth is we can't keep everything, forever.

I have intentions of reclaiming the space in the living room that is now filled with toy shelves, and re-hanging the green hanging chair and restore a bookshelf or two to that spot, since the boys aren't using it for playing. When they have other kids come over, it's still a very popular hang out, though, so I'm a bit torn.

A lot of their toys are really cool, too, which makes it harder to know whether to let them go or not. Some are easier; all the Thomas trains we can let go to a good home, I know, so if you could use a huge amount of Thomas and friends trains and track, give me a shout out. We have several plastic bins of them...

I think I am too susceptible to melancholy, honestly. It's hard to go through all these drawings and the writing they did when they were little and realize that very likely they won't become very good artists; they don't have enough interest. I did try to encourage that part, along with a lot of other abilities, but I don't think that particular one took; I know I was drawing all the time and my abilities were much further along when I was the same age. They're much better at different things, like math and science and analytical thinking, though their writing ability seems well developed. I am left with a bunch of kid art supplies that will never get used, though I know I can give those to friends and others who can use them with other kids. I have to believe, though, that none of the time and effort was wasted; they will have those experiences drawing and telling stories with pictures back there deep inside, even if it doesn't get used right now.
There are other things, too. Wind, the horse, that I lovingly painted for the boys from a plain reclaimed wreck of a spring horse, is (obviously) something that needs to be let go of; he takes up a lot of room and it must seem faintly ridiculous to still have him in the house when the boys will be going into 7th grade next year. Maybe most people would pass him along with a sense of relief to be getting the big cumbersome thing out of their house, but I'm finding it surprisingly hard to let go. It's silly, of course, but I know I'm too sentimental already, so don't laugh too hard at me. It's just too symbolic of all that's passing away.
Gah. Wish me luck with all this de-cluttering; I'm having a hard time of it.


  1. I have a hard time with it too, maybe its a Gladney women thing.

    Part of it is, you put a lot of work into that horse, and he was thoroughly loved and used. It's hard to let that go on to another family who might no know how much love went into him. The same with the dinos, and the collection of dragons. Most of the toys you have trouble giving away were probably well loved and hand-picked during times of limited resources.

    Let me know if need the ruthless voice, I'm only a phone call away, and it is much easier for me to be ruthless with other people's stuff!

  2. Everytime I see that show about hoarding, or now, if I even see a listing for it, I want to clean a closet. But there are some things it's really hard to give up. I try, for some things, to use the one year rule, or the "I can get that at the library" rule (for 20th century fiction).

    But it's tough, isn't it. And I gather it's way tougher when it's your kids' stuff. I wish I were around to help.

  3. Some times I just keep them. We have nice display shelves for some stuff. I still have some beanie babies, but then again I only got beanie babies I liked, and I still like them.
    As for the horse, find a family member or friend with a kid who would appreciate it, and request visit rights. That way the toy can be properly played with but you can still admire your work. It might take some asking around, but there is someone out there.
    I brought a bunch of my daughter's beloved My Little Ponys and horses that she no longer wanted to Consonance one year. Seanan got first pick, and then I just left them in the con suite. They all found good loving homes. Yes, some were worth $20-30 on eBay, but I rather they went to good homes.
    And the house is still a mess with stuff. We are all pack rats, there is no getting around it. At least I finally was able to throw out Little Harold's little shoes. I kept the first set, but Big Harold wouldn't let me throw out any of them for years. And he complains about me.

  4. Hi Beckett,

    I'm going through major decluttering myself. It's not easy. My roommate is loathe to give away anything resembling a book, while I'm ready to get rid of books that I haven't touched in decades.

    Question, regarding the kids' toys, if there is one they insist on rescuing, can you tell them that they will have to give up something else in order to keep it? That way, they choose the toy that goes.

    I think we are all packrats to some degree -- we can envision all the ways that "x" will come in handy at some point, especially if we are creatives. For me, though, the thing is that I was beginning to not be able to find anything, because all my stuff was still in boxes from when I moved here. The roommate kept promising to make room for my things, but kept not making any. Since my health was slowly going downhill, I had no energy to push the issue, so just kept adding frustration and overwhelm to the situation.

    Will my home ever look like a showcase -- hardly likely. But I am determined to have my home at a level of tidiness where I will not feel bad about having people over on occasion.

    Anyway, good luck with the decluttering.

  5. I use the 6 month rule in our house. My children grew up on it and it meant that if you haven't played with it in 6 months it went into the 6 month tote. If you still hadn't used it in another 6 months it was given away. Every child had a tote for the atic that worked the same way with one difference. It didn't go by time it went by until it got full. I made sure the ones for the atic were large ones (about the size of a small hope chest) and they could only keep one tote each. If it got full and you wanted to keep something else you thought was important you had to make room. One tote is enough to carry through a childhood of toys and it never houses stuff like pictures or baby books. Just toys.

  6. Odd, the timing here. Just last week I moved cubicles at work into a space with more window (more plants!) and less storage. Old paper had to get sorted, thought about, not just chucked in a wad. At the same time, I got my new laptop set up at home so it can be used for working at home, and that involved disruption of the desk at home, another rethinking of how I work in this space. It helps me to do the thinking about usage in small chunks,not pushing your mental capacities for inventive tetris-ing of limited space.
    Even funnier, I had things settled for a bit (I still need another set of file drawers moved) when the call for carpet shampooing came down from On High, and lo and behold, all those temp boxes of mine had to be moved off the floor!
    I think it's the Russian who think that house gremlin-type spirits can be soothed out of their sneaky ways at stealing small things if you appease them with house cleaning. Not that you'd ever guess that we knew that, around here...

  7. I tried to post something yesterday, saying only a little more than "good luck", but the computer gremlins ate it. So Good Luck.