Thursday, April 8, 2010

Pockets of Paperwork

Note: You may learn more about my home or about me than you wanted to know. For me, being open about my experience keeps me accountable. Thanks for reading, but if you choose not to continue, I understand.


For the last few weeks, this blog took a back burner while Pesach took over my life. I started this decluttering project more than a month ago with the intent to do work slowly at first and then take advantage of my spring break to truly tackle my apartment. I've been working hard, and I've learned a lot in the process. Let me share some of the tasks I've completed, and then I'll share what I've learned:

  • pockets of paperwork. They appear EVERYWHERE! I should know; I put them there. Paper is truly my downfall, and I've been working to trash, shred, or act on everything. I do feel that having a shredder sitting in my kitchen over the past few weeks has really kept current mail from piling up.
  • junk drawer in kitchen (opens and closes smoothly now, with much less stuff inside)
  • cosmetic drawer outside bathroom (same as above, and I'm just loving that I already had a plastic organizer inside each drawer!)
  • find somebody to take my stationary bike. Thanks to my college friend, J, who will pick up the bike in the next couple weeks.
  • go through EVERY CLOTHING DRAWER. Result: six large bags of clothing to donate.
  • organize under bathroom sinks (again, lots of stuff, newly organized. wow, even found more light bulbs...)
  • get rid of video rack and folding bookshelf. Dropping these off for M tomorrow, along with a few treasures from my stuff box.
  • declutter bookshelves. This one was difficult in concept. I love the look of a full bookcase (and I have a few of them), but I had extra books that didn't all fit, and I don't like the look of a second row. On several of the shelves, I created more space by removing about 8 vertically-arranged books and making a stack instead. Because I varied where I put the stacks, it actually provides a nice decorative effect, too.
  • junk on floor by TV. All removed and moved to the right places, except... I have these license plates from when I lived in Massachusetts. Um, what do I do with them?
  • Drawer in TV stand. This is where my tools, cords, and manuals live. Now they live nicely. (And if I know how the device works, I probably don't need the manual anymore. Or the remote control for the DVD player that broke two years ago. I just love throwing things away!)
  • Rebuild laundry sorter. I keep forgetting that I have to do this every time I do laundry, but it sure does make sorting a lot easier. One piece of the PVC piping is breaking. Where can I get more PVC?
  • Find place for picture frames that I'm not using right now. Once I got rid of 2/3 of my t-shirts, I suddenly had a drawer for picture frames and all the loose pictures I've found around my apartment.
  • Pack up Pesach. This was pretty easy, although my new acquisitions for this year necessitated the use of a storage tub in addition to my usual boxes. Fortunately, I had a few empty storage tubs in my bedroom closet, so no need to buy a new one. My boxes and tub are all happily stowed in the front closet. The only issue is that I now have a bit less space for coats; good thing I have a huge closet in my bedroom!
  • Okay, here's the best thing I did this week: I made a list of all the paper and plastic products that I put back into my Pesach boxes, so I WILL NOT HAVE TO BUY THESE ITEMS AGAIN NEXT YEAR.!!!
  • Outer bathroom counter. Home to my humidifier, tchotchkes, and not much else (now).
This is what I've learned:

You know the free address labels all those non-profits send, hoping for a donation? Even if you are really good about keeping them in one place, you will never use all of them. If I lived at this address for the next 20 years, I probably would not use up what I have right now--so I got rid of all the ugly ones and kept only the pretty ones. Do you have good uses for extra address labels?

As I was going through items in my bedroom tonight, I decided that I really wanted to vacuum. Then I realized that it was 11:20 p.m. I think my neighbors will appreciate that I am waiting until morning. :)

Remember early on, when I mentioned those pockets of space where you put things away for a short time but you never go back to them? Apparently, creating these pockets is a sickness for me. This is my long-term task: changing my behavior so that they are not created in the first place.

I was worried about throwing things away. I know somebody who is a hoarder, and it's always been a concern for me because I like keeping things. It turns out that I'm skilled at throwing things away, and I'm focusing on ways to appropriately contain the items that I choose to keep. (See note above on picture frames.) I know that I am not a hoarder, but I also know (now) that the decluttering process is continuous. Finding a home for everything in my home is difficult, but it's necessary! If an item doesn't have its own place, then it probably does not need to be here.

As I write this, I'm looking at my nearly empty living room. (Conveniently, my vantage point blocks my view (on the left) of the six bags of clothing to be donated and (on the right)the final pile of paper to be sorted and filed. What I can see looks really nice...and kind of empty. I wasn't sure what to do with that until I remembered something Peter Walsh said once on Oprah: "Flat surfaces are not for storage." He meant that although you might choose to display a knickknack, vase, etc., countertops and coffee tables are not meant for all of your random papers. I like that.

I have a nice-sized apartment for little old me. It's probably around 650 square feet (only three real rooms, but each is spacious). You would not believe how much stuff can be crammed into this space. Some of it is beautiful, some of it is useful, and some of it has gone through my shredder or down my garbage chute.

I'm not done with the major parts of this process yet, but I've met about 80% of my objectives for this point in time. I call that a win. I will continue to pop in from time to I continue the quest for my home to rise up to meet me.


  1. you are way more productive than i am. wow! thanks for all the ideas though. i actually cleared a drawer and use it for photo albums that need to be filled. as for the address labels, i cut off the pictures and gave them to my kids to use as stickers.

  2. Melissa, you were so much more productive than me in the weeks before Pesach. I can't believe I didn't think of the labels as stickers; I just gave a ton of stickers to my niece a couple weeks ago! Thanks!

  3. 1.- Aren't you supposed to return license plates? Don't you think the Commonwealth would love to have them back? I bet they recycle them;
    2.- One ALWAYS keeps a Pesach book from year to year, noting things saved from the year before, ideas for recipes to try, and reminders on what worked and what didn't;
    3.- Stickers can be used to mark luggage when you travel, mark casseroles if you share them (put scotch tape over it to make it stick better), given to nieces and nephews of a certain age to stick in books (so that they don't use your postage stamps like Nick and Nathan did...), pasted on top of band-aids just to amuse yourself, label your cereal boxes, myriad, myriad.

  4. Caroline-you are a rockstar! I would love for you to come to Tallahassee and work on my decrapifying projects! BTW, we have a collection of IA and FL license plates hanging as decorations in our hallway. It is kind of fun decor!--Jen =)