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Lighten Up: A Month of Getting Rid of Stuff

eyelash

Dear Kay,

Who kicked the plug out of the heater? I opened the door to take out the trash and it was SPICYcold. I think we broke ten degrees. These are glory days for us knitters; I’m wearing everything I ever made. It’s almost enough.

A belated Happy New Year to everybody. The word for 2014 is LIGHTEN. In the interest of lightening, I decided to get rid of stuff around the house. I wanted to get rid of enough stuff that it felt like SOMETHING WAS HAPPENING. But I didn’t want it to get to be a burden or a bore, so I decided on these guidelines:

1. Fifty things a day have to go. If the 50 things are contained in another thing (i.e., a half-empty bag of FlavorBlast Nitro Fritos unearthed under the sofa), that’s one thing, not 50. I picked 50 because I have 18 years of child-rearing encrusted throughout the house, so there’s a lot of raw material to work with. Whatever number seems easy for you is the right number.

 

2. “Go” means either a) recycling, b) Goodwill, or c) trashcan. Psychic points awarded for the first two, but try not to feel bad about the third option. Sometimes stuff just has to go. I AM NOT GIVING OLD UNDERPANTS TO GOODWILL.

 

3. When 50 things have been gotten rid of, stop. Do not go for 60, or 55, or 51. This leaves you itchy to finish that kitchen cabinet the next day, and joyous anticipation is part of this project. I CAN’T WAIT TO DITCH THAT EIGHT-YEAR-OLD BAG OF GRANOLA.

 

4. Set a deadline. I’m doing this until the end of January. That will be 1,500 things out of this house.

 

5. Pro tip. If you’re pinched for time, go for a cosmetics drawer or a pile of magazines. Also: go for the most visible parts of your home first. Save the sentimental scrapbooky hard parts for maybe never.

As of Day 6, I have ditched 300 things, and I haven’t even stepped into the Boy Zone. And I guess it goes without saying that the Stash Zones are exempt from this entire project. Sort of like diplomatic immunity or something. However, I am embarrassed to report that in my ditching, I have uncovered some truly choice yarns that I had completely forgotten buying. SCORE!

In knitting news, I have good knitting to report, including a finished object. Please stay tuned.

Love,

Ann

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46 Comments

46 Comments

  1. Used judiciously, a trashcan is a good home for somethings. Some things get used up, just be sure you’ve used them all you can and then they either become trash or clutter. I like that trash leaves faster than clutter. Go, You!

  2. This is a bandwagon I can jump on! Hint – put donated bags out immediately (into the garage, shed, or even better, the trunk of the car to take them to the charity of your choice). Great point about not being bogged down by the sentimental things. And, of course, the stash is exempt. I consolidated stash before Christmas, and found some silk and linen skeins I had totally forgotten about!

  3. What a super-great idea! I think I am going to work these guidelines to fit with my home and life. I’m sure I can find a number and duration that I can stick to (even though I have some, let’s call them leanings toward saving things I do not need to keep) that will make a difference.

  4. I’m guessing the false eyelash got trashed only because it was missing it’s mate. Happy New Year and love the, “AS Guide to Lightening.” You’re probably already a half inch off the ground.

  5. Number 2, ftw. Remember the show queer eye for the straight guy? The clothes guy would frequently tell people to just throw out particularly ugly pieces by saying, “Poor people have enough problems; they don’t want that.”

    • Love it! That made me laugh out loud. Maybe I should re-look at the pile I’m about to send to goodwill?

    • I will be repeating that to myself the next time I fill up a box of stuff to donate—so true!

    • Oh, how I loved that show! Thanks for reminding me of one of Carson’s awesome lines!!

    • Hee hee!

      Don’t know about your Goodwill, but mine sends plenty of stuff off to the rag recycler. I think they get a little bit of $ out of it, but they don’t have to pay to send it away, and it keeps it out of the landfill. I pre-sort my stuff into “donations” (few, alas) and “RAG RECYCLING ONLY” — tied tightly into bags and taped across the opening with masking tape sharpied with the above. Sometimes it’s just my sewing scraps and wadders. Other times the no-one-wants-this cloth items (like undies).

      Use this info only to the extent that it is helpful with your own house-purging. :)

  6. Isn’t January supposed to be for just this kind of catharsis? I’m all about it, and spent Saturday night purging and reorganizing the home office.

    I wonder what will happen to boy #1’s room after he leaves for the Navy on Saturday? Hoping to forgo the shrine-status.

  7. Yay you. So funny you should post this today. I’m on my way out of town on business and the DH is tearing up the carpet in the room where the stash is hidden. We have a dormer so I know there will be surprises. We discussed the bodily harm that may come to him if he de-stashes while I am away.

    HUGE leap of faith. I have 50 other things I could toss or recycle easily!!

  8. if only I could do this with my husband’s things.

    • Peggy, when I initially read your words, the “if only” part did not register (but I guess it must in real life). ;)

      LoveDiane

  9. Not that I want to encourage you to reverse lighten, but read The Luminaries next.

    BTW, the single false eyelash…so…poignant.

  10. Loved-hated-loved-hated-loved The Goldfinch. Snatched it off the library shelf and ran breathless from the building, howling with delight at being the first to find it on the shelf and check it out. Dove right in, slept until 1 am. Threw it across the room at one point, then retrieved it and kept going. Twice. Despair due to Theo’s antics, not due to the writing quality, which was luminous/transcendent/powerful/adjective-of-your-choice here.
    Oh, and your sweater looks scrump-chus.

  11. LOVE IT!! I was feeling the urge before the holidays to purge — the thought of more books, toys, shirts, knick knacks. etc was TOO MUCH. I did a first level clear before any gifts entered our home. I am doing more now – my number is 5 and I am going to do it for a while. I have already sent the hubby with 5 bags to Salvation Army and have a BIG box for the public library next time I head there. Happy New Year!

  12. What a great idea. I don’t think I’ll do 50, but 25 is worth a try. Now if it will just warm up so I can get my fingers moving. I’m in the snowy deep freeze of Michigan where the air temp is -11 and there is 17″ of snow out my back door.

  13. We did mini-clearouts as we tidied up for holiday visitors. We also cleared out a corner of the craft room to install a bigger (hand-me-down) TV, just in time for the new season of Downtown Abbey. Though the clearouts were a lick-and-a-promise quick, I too discovered forgotten yarn, and know that there is much, much more waiting for me, which helps urge me onward! Also, do you know the FlyLady? She is beautifully encouraging for living the cleaned-up way! http://www.flylady.net/

    • Laura, I just signed up to the FLYlady. She is exactly what I need! Thank you.

  14. Happy New Year!
    Good for you!
    I have been doing something like this every summer since my sister and I had to clean out my mom’s condo, and I came home muttering “I won’t do this to my kids.” I have even given away yarn stash and needles to charity. I have also begun to do the same in my office at work. There is something so liberating about purging.

    To maintain, you might what to follow the “If I bring one thing in, one thing needs to go”
    Janet

    • Feel totally the same about my folks home, I feel less guilty as I have been an apartment dweller until recently! So, while I am sure there is much to purge, there is so much less than there could be!!!!!!!

  15. Love it!

    (Doesn’t mean that I’ll do it, though. Somewhere around the spring solstice is when the “begin anew” bug tends to hit me – only about once a decade. Still, I love that you’re doing it!)

  16. Admirable- and sure to have results. One year a friend and I made a pledge to throw out/rid ourselves of ten things a day. Within a month we both confessed to counting things like kleenex, after we’d used them. So lame
    You’ve inspired me to give it a try again, I’m going to limit it perhaps to my office only for the first month.
    Happy2014! we’ll be so freeeeeeee.

  17. Ah yes, the Urge to Purge. The daily 50 is a high bar indeed. Yep, I already got rid of some frozen coconut milk from 2006 if container labeling to be believed (it is). Also, in looking for the athlete’s foot cream, DH went into medicine cabinet and found some steroid ointment from 2005 which he dabbed on– yikes! Labels were similar! Ladies, it pays off in strong vibes of satisfaction to clear _ _it out. Yarn is not even on the menu, unless it’s the everlovin bag o’ acrylic from dearly departed folks that knitters always get offered. Looking forward to the FO.

  18. Oh my goodness! 50 things a day? That seems utterly enormous to me.
    I love the idea of ‘lighten’ as a theme, and I think I might join in since I have to move again this year – but 50 things a day?
    I think I might struggle with 50 things a week. Mind you I do live on my own and did a massive clean out before moving 8 months ago after being in the same house for 7 years…
    I’ll get back to you with what the number looks like from this end ;-)
    Good luck! It’s such a great feeling have less stuff.

  19. I want SO MUCH to see a photo of you wearing false eyelashes. Is this wrong?

    • Quinn, perhaps you already have. I’m thinking “pardon me, i didn’t
      knit that for you” (the video).

  20. I love this idea and will start today.

  21. I did 50 things in about 10 minutes last night when I got home from work, it was liberating…tonight I plan on 50 more…and I have not gone near the hell-hole I call my studio space (its off the kitchen and in plain view and is overdue for a clear out. I am thinking I could go in for a week of 50 things and still have stuff left over. Thank you Ann for posting this, sometimes I need a good push in the right direction and this was the perfect push today.

  22. A couple of years ago, I challenged myself to get rid of 1,000 items from my home. I’ve lived here since 1987, and when I started digging through all the closets, drawers, and cupboards, I was surprised at how easy it was to find that many things I could divest myself of. I was also surprised that after that many things had left my home, I couldn’t really see a difference.

  23. Love doing that – Peter Walsh & his books inspired me. Some time ago we had to clear out 30+ years of my mother’s (& her mother’s) accumulated stuff – yikes! Now DH & I are constantly clearing out our own cabinets & closets ’cause we don’t want our kids to have to endure that same scenario. It does, indeed, make one feel lighter. Plus in addition to getting rid of lots of stuff, I found some wonderful little treasures I’d been missing!
    *Pls note – also good to do this with yarn, needles & fabric on occasion!

  24. My favorite targets for this kind of cleaning are the back of the refrigerator (science projects and unidentified frozen objects) and the household junk drawer. The junk drawer can really be a gold mine for things to throw out. I’m always finding outdated batteries, fossilized rubber bands, odd old store receipts, dead butane lighters, and assorted orphaned screws, nuts, washers, etc., in there.

    Here’s my opinion about for counting things within other things. If it helps, thing about having 50 old magazines or soda cans that need to be put out for recycling. If those magazines or cans were already in a container (let’s say recycling bin) when you identified it as needing to be shown the door, you count them as just 1 thing. However, if you filled a recyclable plastic shopping bag with those 50 things and then put it out for recycling the same day, you count it as 50 things — 51 if the container stays with the other 50 things!

  25. 50 things a day will certainly lighten the load; but, there’s nothing like a dumpster for feeling L-I-B-E-R-A-T-E-D!

    Just saying.

    LoveDiane

  26. I do that 50 things toss quite often! It’s great! The kicker is to never ever go to Target again because you’ll just replace what you tossed.
    And I have a little song I sing while I’m purging: “it’s ok to throw away! It’s ok to throw away”
    The hard part is getting the goodwill pile out of the house.

  27. Excellent idea. I have a backlog of junk everywhere. The cleaning ladies are not even allowed in my closet at the moment. I found a jar of salsa in my pantry that expired it 2007. But, you know, it still might be good…….

  28. I don’t do the 50 items per se but more like a drawer a day or the magazine receptacle, my jewelry box etc. have to laugh about getting the Goodwill pile out of the house……. Have pulled things back out of the pile too many times!!

  29. I was feeling nervous about committing to 50 a day. Then someone mentioned fossilized rubber bands and I thought, “well, maybe I could make it.” Not that I lack junk that should really go, I just move on it slowly.

  30. #3. Brilliant. I am the sort of loser overachiever who tries to accomplish everything in a single swoop, only to leave myself rocking back and forth in the corner (or, with respect to today’s to-do list, procrastinating on the internet in a blanket nest with a full pot of coffee). The kitchen cabinet has waited three years until now; it can certainly wait another day, while the bathroom’s accumulated mysteries get their due.

  31. I have just come up from The Cupboard Under the Stairs for a coffee break, and saw your post! We worked very hard in the fall, decluttering our home and it is such a good feeling! Since all the Christmas stuff was under the stairs, that is our last area to purge before the Xmas stuff goes back in (it has been purged as well). Your rules are excellent and we followed most of them, only saying ‘2 hours’ instead of 50 items. It is amazing how much work can be accomplished when you set manageable goals, and then follow them! The guys at Goodwill got to know us, which made us very careful about what we took to them. Happy New Year to you and Kay, and all the MD knitters out there.

  32. I am so in on this Lightening Challenge. I am committing to 15 things a day for Jan. If I am able to maintain my commitment, I will continue into Feb. I am looking forward to hitting the office.

    I must say that last night at 11:00, I just started throwing crap away that was on my desk, taking up space. LOVE IT!!!

  33. We just moved from a home we’d been in 20+ years. We purged for 8 weeks while we packed, it felt great! The new home is slightly larger (I finally have a linen closet!) but I don’t want to put it all back; so much of it just looks like junque. So I’m purging again. I seriously doubt I’m going to finish that work-in-progress cotton knit rag rug started 3 years ago. It hurts my hands… even though I’m 7/8’s done. Decisions, decisions.

  34. 50 things?! we live in a one-bedroom apartment, and are habitual tossers-of-clutter, so maybe my reaction is extreme, but if I did that, it would be EVERYTHING WE HAVE! good luck!

  35. Just blogged about this today, and the vexing question of VHS tapes. Can’t recycle them, nobody wants them, and it’s too much plastic for the landfill for me to feel good about.

    Suggestions welcome!

  36. I’ve been struggling to find my Word for 2014, and you gave it to me! The several areas that could benefit make Lighten perfect. Lighten my house’s load, my spiritual load, my bones’ load.
    Thank you!

  37. I’ve been purging lately as well. One day last week I stopped at Goodwill 3 times in one day (it’s down the street from my son’s school – so convenient!). It felt good to haul out a dozen picture frames, kitchen crappe that hasn’t been touched in years, books, etc. I like knowing that someone else will be enjoying it when all it did at my house was gather dust.