Friday, November 20, 2015

Quick tip: Candles

Some of you might throw away a candle after one use, but others, especially those who use their candles for prayers, intentions, or spells, end up with half-burned candles in a drawer or on a shelf somewhere.

I keep an old cookie tin in my desk drawer. When I don't burn a candle to completion for whatever reason, I put the stubs in the tin. Then, on my once-a-year camping trip, I use the candles to start the campfire. It's ecological (I'm reusing) and it's a sound practice spiritually.

As I throw the candles in, I think of what I've used them for. Dinner with friends? I thank the Universe that I have friends and that I can afford to share food with them. Healing intention? I thank the Universe for those who have been healed, and send good thoughts to those who could not or would not be healed. If you're not spiritually inclined, consider the other effects of a simple moment of gratitude for whatever good moments the candles represent.

I also have a shoebox where I put candle holders that need cleaning. Once a year, or when I run out of usable candle holders, I clean them out. I usually try to schedule it for months when it's warm enough to go outside to do it or at least to dump the hot water I used to dissolve the candle wax.  (See the Resources section at the bottom of the page for links to cleaning candle wax. Two suggestions -- freezing candles first and putting a little water in the holder before you insert the candle -- might even cut down on the need to clean.)

By the way, if you're fighting clutter, you should be extra careful of the fire hazard of burning candles. I'm fortunate enough to have a fireplace, so if I just want to burn a candle to scent the house, I burn it in the fireplace.

If I want to be able to see the candle and enjoy its ambiance, I put it on a fireproof surface somewhere where cats, dogs, kids, and strong winds (and curtains) from an open window can't reach it.  Make sure your surface is very clutter-free first, and that, my friend is another motivation for decluttering!

(P.S. If your mind is as cluttered as my desk, set an alarm or kitchen timer to remind you to extinguish the candle.)

Resources

This link has good information on cleaning candle holders, reusing candles and wax, and other candle-related topics.

How to Remove Candle Wax from Glass Containers

This site discusses removing candle wax from other items. I'm going to try the Dawn dishwashing liquid after I do the nearly boiling water bit (I don't trust boiling water not to break the glass) to see if I can make the process quicker.

How to Remove Candle Wax from Just About Everything

Did you know that frozen candles burn twice as long and drip less? Check this out, only if to see her cool candle holders!

Fun with Freezing Candles






Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Desk

Normally when writing nonfiction, I write top down. That is, I start with the broad and then narrow my focus. With my blog post on pens and pencils, I started this blog bottom up: I started with the tiny details and moved upward.

Why? Because so many people who try to declutter say they get overwhelmed by the big picture. Starting with pens and pencils was a way to show that you can start with the details and even a little bit at a time can make a big difference.

But now let's widen our focus. What about the whole desk?

Desk? What Desk?

If you're serious about writing, you need some space, whether it's a corner in a room, a TV tray next to your bed, or a back hall that you use for writing. If not, you'll be wasting a lot of precious writing time looking for your materials or hiding them under the bed when company comes. Still, if that's your only choice, hiding them under the bed, do it. Read this article, replacing the word "desk" with "underbed storage container" and see if that helps. Keeping all your stuff in a container that you pull out when you're ready to work is much more efficient than searching around the house or apartment for things you were working on last week. It also makes it less likely that the cat, dog, or house gnome will run off with it.

What's on Your Desk

For inspiration, writers and artists often keep things that don't traditionally belong on a desk. For example, when writing vampire fiction, I keep resin vampire figures, wax vampire teeth, and a miniature coffin or two next to my monitor. Many romance writers have adopted the idea of creating a collage for their novel (see Jenny Crusie's blog post on the collage as prewriting), something that would adapt well to other genres of writing.

There's no reason you shouldn't keep inspirational items on your desk. That's one of the things you need to do your creative work. Do you really need them on your desk? What about shelves at eye height? Or putting the paper items (photos, collages, notes) on a bulletin board? Don't like the look of cork? What about a magnetic board?

Too expensive, you say? Well, yes, a large white (or silver) magnetic board can be expensive, but there are other options. Fabulessly Frugal tells you how to turn an oil drip pan into a message center. This one, advertised on Advance Auto Parts, would work great turned on its side, but it has an embossed area that you might not like. Either search online for one that doesn't, or hang an year-long calendar printout over it.

To make space for items that you want to keep on your desk, start looking at getting rid of the things you don't need for your work, creative or otherwise. If you can move them away from your workspace, you'll not only have more room for creative totems, but you'll feel less hemmed-in, less inhibited, which might help your creativity.

At the End of Each Day

At the end of your day, whether that's 7:00 am when you have to quit to go to the day job or midnight when you have to stop so you can get some sleep before you get up for your day job, clear away things you can.

There are some creative things you can't put away (physical artwork in progress) or some things you don't want to put away (that manuscript you're editing that is open to the page where you left off), but take a good look at everything else. That book you were using for research? Are you still using it? If not, shelve it.

Your attempts won't have much effect at first, but the point is to get in the habit of going through what's on your desk. Who knows, you may find that check for your last story that you've been searching for!

Resources

Here are some useful articles to give you more ideas on what you can do to organize your desk or desk space.

From Lifehacker. Be sure to read the section called Reboot Your Office Every Evening.

Lifehacker: Streamline Your Workspace

These articles probably apply more to the day job, but you might find some of the techniques useful for home.

What Does Not Belong on Your Desk

More on Desk Organization

Monday, August 17, 2015

Decluttering, Or Getting Rid Of The Dead Weight

Today's guest blogger, author Jennifer Allis Provost, tackles the random junk in the kitchen.


Decluttering, Or Getting Rid Of The Dead Weight
Jennifer Allis Provost

As writers we tend to hold on to odd bits of minutia, whether it's a notebook of story prompts, a feather we found in the yard, or a souvenir from a trip we took twenty or so years ago.  Memorabilia's nice and all, but if we're not careful we'll end up with a house full of random junk— which is exactly what happened to me.

I've been working on my kitchen for the past few months, and anyone who's ever been in my kitchen will understand why. It's been half done for about six years, being that having twins is the single best way to lose time, funds, and motivation for home improvement projects. A few weeks ago I said to myself, "Self, this is it. By the end of 2015, I will have a kitchen I'm proud of." However, before I could tackle things like my atrocious ceiling and the half-tiled back splash, I had to deal with the clutter.

What sort of clutter, you ask? Daily progress reports from the Wonder Twins' pre-K teachers, assorted birthday cards and invitations, and enough receipts to evidence a truly debilitating shopping addiction (shoes...I needs all the shoes). But the mecca of clutter, in my kitchen at least, was the wine cabinet.

This wine cabinet was given to me by a less-than-favored in-law about ten years ago, with the explanation, "I know how much you like wine, and it was on clearance at Target." At that time I think I'd had all of three glasses of wine in my life, and hadn't liked any of them. Anyway, I accepted the gift, stuck it in my kitchen and filled it with all sorts of junk. Ironically, no bottles of wine ever made it into the cabinet, but it has housed Limoncello.

Mmm, Limoncello.

So instead of housing the intended wine, said wine cabinet ended up as the resting place of many oddities I accumulated over the course of my writing career. Within the bowels of the cabinet I found a Russian phrasebook (I took Russian in high school, along with French and Italian) that was used to assist a fellow author, a Gaelic dictionary (I taught myself Gaelic for a different project), random name tags and program booklets for 10+ years of writing conventions, and enough bookmarks to choke a horse.

Non-writerly stuff included mismatched tablecloths and placemats, keychains, half-burned candles, a crap ton of office supplies, and an assortment of odd-shaped glasses.

Yeah. Basically, it was a heap of junk.

Here's how it all shook out: I washed the glasses, and put them with...wait for it...the other glasses. I put the books on the bookshelf, the candles in the candle drawer, and recycled the program books and name tags; seriously, if I need to know who the Arisia GOH was in 2006 I'll Google it. That's what the Internet's there for. I also threw the tablecloths and placemats in the wash and then the linen closet, and added the bookmarks to my swag box. Then came the most awesome part of this project:

My husband and I destroyed the cabinet and dumped it in the trash.

The moral of this story is that not only was I holding on to things I didn't need to (for example the program books), I was also being lazy and dumping things in the cabinet rather than putting them away properly. If you want to be a successful writer, or artist of any type, a modicum of organization is necessary. And keeping a heap of junk in your kitchen is not conducive to anything but accumulating dust.

Besides, if you're going to add furniture shouldn't it be a bookcase? Now that's my kind of clutter.


About Jennifer:

Jennifer Allis Provost writes books about faeries, orcs and elves. Zombies too. She grew up in the wilds of Western Massachusetts and had read every book in the local library by age twelve. (It was a small library). An early love of mythology and folklore led to her epic fantasy series, The Chronicles of Parthalan, and her day job as a cubicle monkey helped shape her urban fantasy, Copper Girl. Her latest release, Heir to the Sun, was released June 1, 2015 by Bellatrix Press. Her next release, Changing Teams, will release November 10, 2015 from Limitless Publishing. Find her on the web at http://authorjenniferallisprovost.com/.




Monday, July 27, 2015

What I Learned from the Yard Sale

To improve your success at yard sales/garage sales, you have to analyze what sold and what didn't. Then you have to decide whether the problem was the price, the presentation, or the audience.

I think my presentation was good. I had a nice green sheet on the table which showed up the items. I accidentally took the smaller of two tables I own, which means things were crowded, so next time I'll bring the larger one.

The night before I made three flyers to hang on the table showing pictures of groups of items (that's what you saw in the last post), but I ran out of time to make small signs for the table. Fortunately, I have decent penmanship and can spell, so I just made some on-site. However, I didn't allow enough time to do that before the crowds started arriving, so next time I need to either make them before or arrive earlier.

It was supposed to be a nice day, so although I had a 10x10 EZ-Up in the car, I didn't bother to put it up at first. Later, though, when the sun shifted my way and the metal objects on the table started getting hot, I set it up. This meant, though, that people weren't browsing my items while I struggled — at first, by myself, then with other lovely people who took pity on me! — to put up the pop-up. Next time I'll do it at the beginning, no matter where I end up. The customers appreciate the shade, too.

So what sold? Used, cheap costume jewelry. Some lawn decorations. The Donvier ice cream maker.

What didn't sell? Vintage. This particular crowd wasn't looking for vintage that day. Or books, even though I heard they went like hotcakes at prior events. Or albums (vinyl).

What did they ask about? Craft items. Mens' jewelry. More rings.

Funny, but as I sorted out the stuff I took home, I thought about how similar selling at a yard sale is to submitting a short story or novel for publication. Not everyone will want what you have, or maybe they will, but not when you're offering it. Don't get discouraged; just find a different yard sale. Or sell something different.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Decluttering in Action: Yard Sale 7/25/15 in Winchendon, MA

The Unitarian Universalist Church in Winchedon, MA is holding their massive vendor and yard sale on Saturday, July 25, at 126 Central Street, Winchendon, from 9 AM until 1 PM.

In addition to their usual yard sale, they'll have vendor tables with fresh produce, locally made craft items, and plenty of bargains.

I'll have a table with the following items and more!


Retro scarves (all polyester) from the 1970s including one that says it's a Peter Max design.

Morris the Cat memorabilia


Data General ephemera
Computer memorabilia from the 1970s including flowcharting templates and punch cards!

Antique Table Talk Pie tin pans

Retro unicorn and gnome keepsake boxes

Retro long evening wear gloves from the 1960s and early 70s. Polyester, of course!




Retro 1970s choker necklaces.






A cobra car insignia that may or may not be a Shelby Cobra insignia.



Ladies' handkerchiefs. Perfect for crafting.

Donvier Ice Cream maker, with instruction/recipe book

Vinyl (record albums)  from the 60s and 70s. No guarantee on the condition.


Novels by local author, set in Framingham








Thursday, July 23, 2015

Throwback Thursday: No Progam is Perfect

Decluttering, that tedious job of going through everything you own to weed out the things you can release and the things you can retain, does have its moments of pleasure. Maybe you'll find that pocket knife or earring that you thought you had lost forever. Or maybe you'll find evidence of a civilization long gone; that is, your early years.

Today I found two printouts from an early computer job. When I say early, I mean that one printout is on perforated paper, printed with a dot matrix printer. The other is a photocopy of something typed on, I believe, an IBM Selectric typewriter.

The printout from the dot matrix printer is a poem called "The Perfect Programmer." It doesn't say who the author is, so I searched the Internet. The HP Calculator Archive attributes it to Lou Ellen Davis, having appeared in "65 Notes," January 1977, Volume 4, Number 1, Page 1.

In the April 4, 1983 edition of InfoWorld, the poem appears on page 50, but with no attribution. The poem, apparently very popular, appears again in 2009 on page 220 of Classical Fortran: Programming for Engineering and Scientific Applications by Michael Kupferschmid.

I wanted to know who Lou Ellen Davis was. Was it a woman? Was she one of the first females in the field? Was it a man whose middle name just happened to be Ellen? Did he/she publish other poetry?

Alas, I didn't find an answer and I really should get back to decluttering. But I'll leave you with my favorite stanza:

He died at the console
Of hunger and thirst.
Next day he was buried
Face down, nine edge first.

And for a clue why that particular stanza tickled my geeky little heart, I look at what I also found while going through old clutter:


Yup, an old IBM punch card. In the early days, a programmer (later it would be a keypunch operator), would punch them up on a clunky machine similar to an old teletype. Later these machines would be replaced by a computer terminal connected to a device that would do the actual punching.

Either way, when you finished punching one per line for each line of the computer program, you'd load the cards into a machine that would read them into the computer that would run the actual program.

You had to load them a specific way for them to be read, much like you have to load a printed page in a printer to manually print on the other side. With these punched cards, it was always the same way...

Yes, you guessed it: Face down, 9-edge first.

For more info, see this article on Wikipedia:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Punched_card

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Faux Decluttering

Today's guest blogger, author Catherine E. McLean, describes her secrets on how she tames clutter in a tiny working space.


Faux Decluttering               
by Catherine E. McLean

I bet you read the title of this piece and thought, "faux" means "fake," so how does one fake decluttering? Clutter is clutter.

Okay, so we writers are sometimes packrats, if not bona fide hoarders. Especially when it comes to juicy tidbits that spark our imagination. We find research so fascinating that we make copious copies of it to keep. And we constantly hear that little devil's voice whisper into our ears, "You'll need it one day."

I am fortunate to have an office in my home. Okay, in reality, it's a glorified closet— eight feet wide by sixteen feet long. The door at the end faces a small window on the opposite wall. Yet, in this space is a big four-drawer desk, a file cabinet (vertical, four letter-sized drawers), a work table for the cutting board and typewriter, my desktop computer, its tower and monitor, two printers, and six bookshelves. My office chair has just enough room to swivel from the desk to the computer station and back. Not quite a knee-knocker turn.

Of the six bookshelves, three are a foot wide (originally they were video towers. Two were placed to form a square base against the back corner wall. One unit is fastened on top of the two, allowing for more books, and a little shelf space— for the alarm clock and Office Minions (cute knickknacks, like a space alien reading a story to a robot).

The three video units, plus the other narrow bookshelf house forty "keepers," the books on writing craft. The books are the top picks out of the four hundred that I have studied. They're handy references when a fellow writer has a question or wants a definitive source on an aspect of writing fiction.

The computer desktop was originally a kitchen countertop, one that had been ordered but, because of an error, was too short. I wasn't letting something that nice go to waste. So, I had shelf units built to the correct ergonomic height for my keyboard, which means I work comfortably at the computer for hours on end.

Those shelf units hold my enormous American Heritage Dictionary and my thesaurus, manuals for my office equipment, and boxes of clipped "settings" (scenic pictures from calendars and magazines like National Geographic). After all, a picture is worth a million words.

Also stored (that is, crammed) into my office space is my writer's "stuff." It lines the walls and tops of bookshelves. Yet, the secret to keeping my office ergonomically unfatiguing and efficient comes from a kitchen remodeling workshop I once attended. The secret is— work centers.

In essence, my office is arranged into work centers. My desk is for the business of writing. My computer station is for creating tales. Everything for the printers and printing is on the bookshelf next to the printers. I don't get out of my chair to reach the reams of paper, card stock, address labels and business card blanks, brochure papers, etc.

When I turn around from my computer, I face the largest of the bookshelves. It holds bulging three-ring binders, half have four-inch spines. Those contain my story worlds. Stacked on top of the bookcase are more binders— copied information, each one on a specific story element, to help me put the story together, revise it, do the synopsis, etc.

The space under the cutting table's legs shelters three old cardboard file drawers sitting side by side. One drawer holds the overflow from the file cabinet. Another holds clear plastic envelopes (within are hard copies of stories that came to life but are missing elements, which keeps them in limbo, at least for now).


The third file drawer holds an assortment of miscellaneous stuff— like inspirational mottoes that can be pinned on my walls. (No mottoes have to do with being neat or tidy!)

Other "work centers" include a drawer of CDs— backups of the computer's story files. You see, I don't believe in "the cloud" for backups or storage. Computers crash when least expected. Nature and hackers are a threat.

All right, I'll confess. I have an external backup drive. Trouble is, I don't trust it either.

Another work center is the vertical file cabinet. One and a half drawers house correspondence (a lot of it decades old, which I really should purge). The other drawers contain alphabetic files of information on subjects like animals, food, runes, weapons, etc. Such material brings stories to life because I can see pictures as well as read descriptions.

Now you're thinking all I've done is organize my office. No, sorry, it's still cluttered because things are stuffed, crammed, and compressed into containers, which are haphazardly stacked, shelved, or hidden in drawers.

But, you know what? That's faux decluttering at its best!



About Catherine
In addition to being a wife and mother, Catherine has ridden and exhibited Morgan Sport Horses. She is an avid clothing and costume designer, an award-winning amateur photographer, a 4-H leader, and a Red Hatter who loves bling.

Catherine lives on a farm nestled in the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains of Western Pennsylvania. In the quiet of the countryside, she writes fantasy, futuristic, and paranormal stories where a reader can escape to other worlds for adventure and romance.

Book Launch

Love, vengeance, attempted murder, and a bomb . . .  No reason to panic.

Join Catherine for an online Release Day Celebration at the HEARTS AKILTER BLOG,  1-5 p.m. EST on August 5, 2015.

Participate in the Release Day Celebration and get a chance to win a $50 gift card giveaway and other prizes. See the Release Day Celebration page for more information.

Monday, July 20, 2015

I *Told* You I'd Need That Someday!

Face it, it's gonna happen. You'll give away, recycle, sell, or toss an item and immediately need it.

Recently I gave away almost every plant pot I owned, especially the smaller ones, because it's futile to try to garden with a back yard overrun with groundhogs, rabbits, squirrels, and chipmunks, and I'm not good at remembering to water a container garden.

Of course, I had forgotten that package of cilantro seeds — what did I say about memory? — that I had purchased because I didn't want to be throwing away nearly a whole bunch of store-bought cilantro every time I made guacamole.

Rather than buy more plant pots, I drilled holes in the bottom of used plastic cups I scavenged from a friend at a cookout.

After looking at the results, I thought maybe the clear plastic would focus the sun's rays on the poor roots and bake them, so I placed them in a paper coffee cup. When the cilantro is ready to transplant into the pots that I didn't give away, I'll simply rinse and recycle those temporary planters. Depending on the shape that the coffee cups are in, I'll either recycle or toss.

About a week later, Dear Hubby asked to borrow my spare insulated lunch container, the one he had urged me to get rid of since I had two others. Well, I had gotten rid of it, and the two I had left were the girly purple one I bought when my grey one leaked when carrying ice. He double-bagged the ice and used the grey one. It worked.

So, yeah, you'll give something away and then discover you need it. It's just the Universe messing with your head. The Universe is like that. You'll survive.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Why Can't I Find Things?

While you work on stopping — or at least slowing down — the accumulation of items, let's look at why they are never where you expect them to be.

There's No Place to Put Things
You need to get rid of some things or you need to find a bigger place. Or both. This blog will try to address both, eventually.

For now, pick one area that's a real problem for you. Clothes? Remember my comment that some people keep buying tee shirts when they already have enough to clothe a third-world country? Maybe you think that's not you.

Okay, try this. Go through your room, apartment, house, whatever, and grab every tee shirt you own, clean or dirty, and put it on the kitchen floor. (Uh, maybe you should vacuum first?)

Make only two piles: Clean and dirty. (Yes, I want you to go through your laundry bag.) Look everywhere: Your dresser drawers, your closets, your gym bag, your suitcase, under the couch, behind the couch  — everywhere. Don't stop until you've made sure that you have every last one. And don't just eye the closet. Pull everything out! Open boxes! Look on hangers.

When you're finished, count the total number of tee shirts in both piles. Now, if you wear a clean shirt every day, how many days of clean tee shirts is that? A week's worth? A month? A year?

How many still fit? How many still fit well? How many are faded, stained, ripped? Why are you keeping them? If they're faded, stained, or ripped, but they have strong emotional ties, here are some ideas:
  • Take pictures. You're going to hear me say this a lot, but it's true. Take pictures and write a description of where you got each one, when, who you were with (was it the first time you went to a concert without your parents?), and any other interesting details. If you're a writer, maybe you want to describe the fabric, the color (the color in photos isn't always  true), how it felt (was it thick cotton, or a soft blend?), maybe the size or style (was it back when shirts ended at the waist, or mid-thigh?).
  • If you're good with photo manipulation programs, make a cool collage of the tee shirts. Post it on your web site or Facebook page. Or print it out and see if it can stir a remembrance or inspire a short story.
  • Know someone who's crafty? Are you crafty yourself? Cut out the good bits and make a quilt or pillow. Check out these cool ideas from Instructables. Or cut out the best part of the tee shirt and make it into an applique for a canvas tote bag. Stretch it over cardboard or frame it.
Now you're down to those that aren't faded, ripped, or the wrong size. Is it still a manageable number?

You Misplace Things Because You're Too Scattered
You have triplets, two jobs outside the home, and you're the president of the local writer's association. You exercise two hours a day and make meals from scratch. Your wife's mother is staying with you while she recovers from hip surgery. Sounds like you need to declutter your schedule. Start thinking about that. I've got some ideas on that for later.

You Keep Misplacing Things Because You Don't Have a System
Unfortunately that annoying adage we heard as a child, "A place for everything, and everything in its place" does have some value. Maybe you never bothered with getting organized before because you knew where everything was.

Well, that was before: Before you had enough income to buy Stuff. Before you had a million other things crowding your mind that were more important than where you put the pack of pens. Before you started getting — ahem  — older, and lost that wonderful memory that you had as a young adult.

You're the Only One in Your Household with a System
If there is more than one of you in the household, maybe you're not the problem. Maybe you have a perfect system, but no one else follows one. Maybe you're the one who picks up after everyone.

I once heard a mother say that she made her teenager's bed because her daughter "didn't do it right." I'm not a mom, so you'll probably laugh at what I'm going to suggest, but I'm going to suggest that you make them do their part and you put up with the bed not looking exactly perfect or them not always remembering which drawer the screwdriver goes in. If they don't get in the habit now, you're giving them the gift of being a clutterbug when they leave the family home. I doubt they'll thank you for that.

I know, I know, it's hard, so hard, being a parent. You've got a lot on your plate. But if you keep doing things for your child, you're adding more to your own plate and you're making it harder to keep things under control. Just try to get them in the habit, and don't stress if you're not successful. Baby steps.

If, on the other hand, you're a parent who has dealt with this successfully, maybe you could leave some tips or suggestions in the Comments at the bottom of this page. I know some of you must have found a system that helps.

You Just Can't Throw it Away
Maybe the main reason you can't find anything is just that you have too much stuff because you just can't throw it away.

I came to some of the same conclusions that Justine did in her guest post The Socioeconomics of Clutter, though I'm sure I won't relate them as eloquently. Did your father "come from poor" and your stepmother raise five children during the depression? Did you pick up the packrat-itis from them because they drilled it into you with "You never know when you'll need it"?

This one is a hard one to deal with. Some of the ways I'm dealing with it is by being realistic, a suggestion from Dear Hubby. Let's say that I discovered that I have 71 pens in the house. I'm a writer, so it's realistic to assume that I will always need a pen one day. But how long does a pen last? (If you want, do an experiment: Use only one pen, a new one, which you mark with tape so you know which one it is. Keep it in your pocket or bag. How long does it last?)

Let's just say a pen lasts a month. That's 12 per year. Those pens will last you almost SIX YEARS. What will be the condition of the ink at the end of six years? Will it flow smoothly, or be so sluggish your hand cramps while you drag it across the page? What are the chances that some new pens will come out, some that you are dying to try, that flow better, fit in your hand better, or have some new feature we can't even dream of now?

Maybe the reason you can't throw things away is that you're living in the past. When you grew up, there weren't many shops nearby, and they were closed on Sundays. There was no online shopping with next-day delivery and mail order took forever. So you keep a stash of all-occasion cards just in case you forget to buy Aunt Tilly a birthday card and the shops are closed. You keep fancy paper and blank notecards because long-distance phone calls were too expensive and that was the only affordable way to keep in touch with friends and family. Or maybe you had three small children and it was just too much to try to get out to the mall or walk to the convenience store.

How many of those reasons are still true? Maybe there's an all-night drug store nearby. Maybe Aunt Tilly prefers Jacquie Lawson e-cards now. Maybe you rarely write letters or notes and the designs and colors of the ones still in your possession turn your stomach. And the young children you had to drag out to the store are now in high school.

Is it that the things you're keeping have an emotional connection, like with the tee shirt from your first concert attendance? Maybe your mother died when you were young. Or maybe you lost a sibling at an early age, and those toys are your only memory because people didn't take as many pictures back then or you lost your pictures during a flood or a move. Or maybe you lost your partner and the smell of him/her still lingers in that ratty old bathrobe.

Those emotional attachments are hard to deal with. Years ago I tried a major decluttering project and failed because I tried to attack those hard-to-release items first. My emotionally connected items are still in boxes in the basement. My new approach is to deal first with the things that have no connection so that I'll have room for the things that do. And at some point, I'll have to even give them up.

For now, I'm starting with the easier things.

The Gnomes Got 'Em
Suspect gnome infestation if things suddenly disappear and reappear. For example, you can't find your reading glasses in your office. You walk out to the kitchen to get coffee, come back, and they're just where you thought they should be. The gnomes got 'em and they're messing with your head. They love aggravating humans like that. So do cats.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Stop Buying Too Much Stuff

So maybe you understand a little more about why you have so much clutter, but what can you do to deal with it?

Here are some possible solutions to buying too much stuff, one of the problems I mentioned in Pens, Morven, Really?

eBay and Overstock.com
Stop it right now. Block those web sites if you have to — There are extensions for your browser and I'm sure there are apps for your phone. As I said when talking about the Mall later in this post, it doesn't mean you can't do it forever, it's just that you can't do it now.

The Home Shopping Network
Is that still even on? Whenever the cable company updates the line-up, the first thing Dear Hubby does is to "hide" the channels we don't want. The Home Shopping Network and its kin are among the first to go. This makes it quicker to find what we want when browsing through the channels. There's a side benefit in that it prevents you from accidentally landing on that channel and getting interested in what's on sale. Find out how to hide channels on your cable setup. If you can't figure it out by "walking" through the menus, do an internet search. You're not the only person who's wanted to do this.

Offers in e-newsletters
Create a special folder for all incoming salesy newsletters. If your email program or app allows you to make rules, you can set it up so your newsletters go there automatically. If not, anytime one arrives, just move it to the new folder without reading it. Yup. Until you get things under control, don't look at it at all! Remember, it's not forever; it's just until you get things under control, which is an excellent incentive for being serious about decluttering. Why didn't I tell you to delete it? If  you're like me, you think, "Oh, but there might be something in there I really need!" You're more likely to put it in another folder where you can get it if you need it than you are to delete it.

The Mall
Okay, the Mall is a great place to do your daily fitness walk during inclement weather, but walk right past those stores! While you're in your decluttering phase, you've got to do that! It's like avoiding carbohydrates completely during the Induction phase of the Atkins diet. Complete abstinence is temporary. It doesn't mean you can never go into those stores again, just don't do it until you get a good idea of what you have and where you can fit it.

Buying Too Many Gifts
Are you one of those people who buy birthday, anniversary, Valentine's Day, Christmas, Hannukah, and Easter gifts for everyone you know? That means you have gifts, wrapping, and cards stashed away, doesn't it? And you can't always find them (or remember you bought them), so you buy more.  And your friends and family reciprocate gifts, buying you things you might not have room for, right? At some point you need to review — with your family/friends — who you'll exchange gifts with and what kinds of gifts they'll be. More on that later. You can start by saying, "Please no gifts. I'm trying to declutter." Or ask for non-physical gifts: Vouchers for movie coupons, gift certificates for a restaurant, a donation to your favorite charity.

Coming Back with More
If you or a family member have the problem of going to the local Swap Shop and coming back with as many items as you dropped off, try this technique. For every one thing you get from anywhere — shops, online, giveaways, gifts — you have to get rid of two. Or three.

No, it won't make a major impact in your pile of stuff, but it can help you stop accumulating more while you get a handle on what you have.

Think of it every time you buy or grab a freebie. Free promotional bags at the Farmer's Market? Fine, but think of the ones you already have and which ones you're going to give away. Get in the habit of doing this with little, inconsequential things so that you naturally think of what you already have and what you'll do with it any time you're about to acquire another item.

Buying Things You Don't Need
This takes some self-control, but, at least for your major decluttering time period, stop buying things you don't need.

Example: You see the greatest-ever tee shirt. You already have enough tee shirts to clothe a third-world country. Do you absolutely need another tee shirt now?

Another example: The latest Apple watch is out. You have a watch (maybe even a smart watch). You have a cell phone. There are inexpensive watches available for under $30. Do you absolutely need the latest smart watch now?

Defer your purchase until after the decluttering phase. Get your stuff under control before you make any other non-critical purchases. Get comfortable with the difference between need and want.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Socioeconomics of Clutter

Maybe your personal space is cluttered because you just haven't had the time to declutter, but maybe there are deeper reasons. In the second of my guest blog posts, Justine Graykin, Writer and Freelance Philosopher, muses on the connection between clutter and socioeconomics.

The Socioeconomics of Clutter
by Justine Graykin
justinegraykin.wordpress.com

I have a theory: Clutter is directly related to how much money you have.

It's not that poorer folks are necessarily messier than rich folks.  It's just that they have a harder time throwing stuff away.  After all, you might need it.  It might be useful someday.  And you might not be able to afford a new one.

When money is less of an issue, you don't worry about throwing away something potentially useful.  You can always buy another.  And chances are, you have a bigger house anyway, with more places to store your stuff.  Including all your kids’ art projects and report cards, and your dad's collection of WWII memorabilia.  Run out of room?  No problem.  Get a storage unit.  Get two.  Get a second home to fill with the spillover from the first. 

Is your clutter getting disorganized?  Tired of dusting all those tchotchkes (I love that word!) that you've collected?   Hire somebody to take care of it all.  Or pack it all up and donate it to charity.  Makes a great tax write-off.

But when your income does not include a surplus for housekeepers, storage units and second homes, or when you've endured a long stretch of poverty that has ingrained the hoarder's habits, it's tough to throw stuff out.  You save it for a rainy day.  You think, "Someday I'll be very glad I held on to this."

There are those houses you pass with cluttered yards.  When you're poor, and you need to keep that car, that mower, that appliance, running for as long as possible, and you need to fix it yourself because you can't afford repairs, you keep a lot of spare parts around.  Get a new (probably refurbished) washer?  Better keep the old one.  Might be some useful parts in it. 

Eventually, all those potential sources of parts (or maybe they could be fixed when you get around to it) sit in the weather for too long and disintegrate into junk.  But then what do you do with it?  Can't take it to the dump.  The dump charges you for the disposal of large items.  Towing away all those junk cars would cost money.  So there they sit, slowly becoming part of the landscape.

And giving the neighbors fits.  "The place is an eyesore!  Why don't they get rid of all that unsightly clutter?"  I'm betting the income of those who complain is higher than those they complain about.

So, writers.  Writers accumulate stuff just like everybody else.  Probably even more so, because writers are notoriously eccentric.  So what they collect, on top of all that potentially useful debris, is eccentric.  Writers also tend to be a sentimental, sensitive lot.  Goes with the territory.  So they keep the origami rose their youngest child made for them, the first draft of their first ever published novel, the cups from the BarFleet party at Arisia, the model of a real castle picked up in Scotland, MLP figures, business cards of every single person they ever met at a convention, mouse skulls, butterfly wings, sea glass, plant pots, pressed leaves and flowers, silver streamers from the Blue Man Group concert,  bookmarks, a handmade change purse from Mexico with Dia de los Muertos figures on it, and crates of books they'll probably never (but they might!!) read/reread.

And, of course, pens.

Now, none of this would be a problem if writers earned lots of money for their work.  They'd just get nice display cases for their eccentric stuff.  And as for the pens, well, who needs pens, anyway, when you've got all the latest devices?  Oh well, maybe to sign those books for fans.  But you have that deluxe gold pen you were awarded at some posh ceremony or other.  Keep that of course.  The rest?  Pitch them.  You can always buy more.

Writers, however, do not earn buckets of money for their work.  So, clutter.  For all the reasons of clutter.  And decluttering?

Good luck with that.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Does Decluttering Take a Holiday?

Does decluttering take a holiday? No, not if you're trying to establish a habit of keeping everything in its place, but we haven't gotten that far in this blog. At this point we're just trying to figure out why everything is so cluttered and how even little bits help.

So, if you're in the United States and planning something to celebrate the Independence Day (Fourth of July) holiday, yes, you can give yourself some time off.

But if you're not going away, or hosting guests for a cookout, this is a good weekend to declutter because you might actually have time for yourself. Is it hot out where you live? Don't try going through the stuff in the attic; look in your basement (if you have one) or back yard (if you have one).

Do you have a laptop and somewhere cool to go? Now would be a good time to sort through electronic clutter. (Can I coin the word e-clutter, or did someone beat me to it?) Going through photos is a good choice; it's like revisiting the places you've been. Just make sure you back them up to something first. It's easy to go a bit heavy with the Delete key or accidentally delete the wrong folder. Get rid of duplicates or terribly out-of-focus ones. You'll need the space later when you start photographing the things you are releasing from your possession.

And then, next Tuesday, when you're back online, read the upcoming blog post I'll release by writer Justine Graykin, who also has some insightful thoughts on who clutters and why.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Paperwork, Be Gone!

I don't have all the answers; there are still many de-cluttering problems I haven't figured out yet. So, being the crowd-sourcing type of person that I am, I reached out to the broader writing community to find out how other writers handled their clutter problems.

Sometimes you just can't do it alone. Writer Loren Rhoads found her answer in a professional organizer.

Paperwork, Be Gone!

by Loren Rhoads

For 10 years, I edited Morbid Curiosity magazine.  It collected true first-person essays, which I published annually in the spring.  The last issue appeared in May 2006, after which I collected my favorite essays into an anthology published by Scribner in 2009.

During the magazine years, I kept a paper copy of every draft of every submission I’d ever received, whether I eventually published it or not.  I kept every web page I’d printed out as research.  I kept reams of correspondence, particularly from difficult would-be contributors and/or all the prisoners who’d ever gotten in touch.  I kept copies of every invoice I sent and resent to the deadbeats who wouldn’t pay for the magazines they’d ordered for their shops or distribution schemes. Most of the paperwork was in rough order, but there were duplicates and redundancies and stuff I just didn’t need any more.

It felt like, to use the vernacular, an epic heap of fail. I told myself that I couldn’t tackle it, because there was no way to overcome it by pecking at it an hour or two at a time, as watching my daughter allowed.  The real truth was that I didn’t want to wallow in all the unhappiness, bad memories, and feelings of inadequacy the paperwork represented.  My magazine was a success, in that it was beloved and developed its own cult.  I just wasn’t as successful at the business of publishing it.  I naively wanted to believe the best of distributors and shop owners, especially if they were enthusiastic and complimentary. I didn’t want to look at the record of my struggles.

Luckily, a friend of mine started a business as a professional organizer. I hired her to come by one day to help me master this disaster.  It was the best money I’ve ever spent.

On that magical day, Lilah went through all seven boxes of papers, as well as the four jammed file drawers, without judging, reading anything, or becoming involved in any of it.  She made piles for me: one for each issue, with reviews, ephemera from the readings, photographs, and fan letters.  I decided to pull out the best parts of those piles and make a scrapbook, so I could look at my triumphs when my spirits needed a boost.

She also made piles of each year’s receipts and invoices.  Filing that stuff away was the best experience of my life. The unpaid invoices went into the tax paperwork, never to be looked at again.  When the IRS’s suggested length of time passes, I’m going to pitch those files in the bin without even opening them. 

Lilah made a pile of edited manuscripts, any hard copy illustrations that the artists hadn’t wanted back, and advertisements for each project.   Among that stuff were the rejected manuscripts or things I’d started to edit before the contributors became too challenging to deal with.  I simply threw those things away.  Now I can forget the people who were mean to me when I dared to edit their deathless prose. Every time I recycled a sheaf of papers, laughter bubbled up out of my chest.  I said over and over, “YOU are out of my life.”

In the five hours Lilah and I worked together, I managed to throw out three full boxes of paper.  We whittled the keepers down to three boxes and a file drawer, along with two miscellaneous stacks that I needed to read more closely before recycling them.

Two weeks after the organizer came, I finished. My curbside recycling bin was crammed full two weeks in a row, but the purge has been very healing.  I cannot believe the feeling of liberation in culling all this stuff.

In the end, I can forget the frustration and depression and anxiety that marred the triumphs of my publishing business.  I only want to remember the good parts of running the press.  I have thrown all the bad memories away.

I know it can be intimidating to turn your paperwork over to someone else to handle, but trust me, they will be working too fast to judge.  Because there’s no emotional baggage for them, they can be efficient and ruthless.  Unless you empower them to actually throw things out, you will still be able to make the final call and rescue anything you need to.  However, once of the worst of the organization is done in macro-scale, the little decisions are easier to make.  Throwing things away takes on a momentum of its own.

If you aren’t lucky enough to have a friend who is starting her own business, there are professional organizers who can be hired.  More basic than that, you could hire a high school kid or trade organizational chores with a friend.  Anyone who isn’t emotionally bound by your paperwork is an ally. Agree first what the payment will be, how long you will work, and when you will take breaks. Then pull up your recycling bin and get to work.



 Loren Rhoads is the author of the space opera trilogy In the Shadow of the Templars. The Dangerous Type comes out on July 7, 2015, followed by Kill By Numbers in September, and No More Heroes in November. You can learn more about the series at http://lorenrhoads.com/writing/the-dangerous-type/ or Morbid Curiosity magazine at http://lorenrhoads.com/editing.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Pens, Morven, Really?

I can hear you screeching now: "A two-part blog on PENS?!!"

Yes. A two-part blog on pens. Sort of. The blog posts were about more than that. They were about how little bits help, how sometimes things get messier when you're decluttering (pen traps all over the house), how you can make it a family/household project -- and that's just a few of the obvious themes!

Those blog posts were also about finding out why you're so cluttered to begin with. Is it that you buy too much Stuff? (Did your search yield multiple boxes of 50 pens that you purchased at the warehouse store?)

Why did you buy too much stuff?
  • You watch the Home Shopping Network.
  • You like to go to the Mall.
  • You love eBay, Amazon Prime, and Overstock.com.
  • You subscribe to too many e-newsletters and go for the sales.
  • You buy birthday, anniversary, Valentine's Day, Christmas, Hannukah, and Easter gifts for everyone you know. You have gifts, wrapping, and cards stashed away
Is it because you can't find the stuff you already have? ("Gee, I didn't know I had two 24-roll packs of toilet paper! What's this doing in the kitchen cabinet anyway?")
  • You can't find it because there's no place to put it.
  • You keep misplacing things because you're too scattered.
  • You keep misplacing things because you don't have a system.
  • You just can't throw things away.
So now, at the end of the Pen Phase, think about why things are cluttered. Write down what you noticed. If you did this as a family/group exercise, get input from the other participants. They might have noticed something you didn't, and, best of all, they might become aware of the problems your household has and how to solve them.

That's enough for now. You have your homework. Get to it! And if you come up with other reasons, let me know. I'd love your input.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Pens and Other Multiplying Entities: Part 2, Dispersal

In my last post (Pens and Other Multiplying Entities: Part 1, Capture), I described how to capture pens, pencils, and markers. Now I give some hints on what to do with them.

Rehabbing Your Captures

Before you determine which ones you can keep, try this trick.
  1. Add about 1/4 inch of rubbing alcohol to the bottom of one of those glass jars you used to trap the pens. 
  2. Put the pens point down in the alcohol for about an hour. Then take them out and wipe the tip with a rag (if you have a rag bag...) or paper towel. 
  3. On a scrap piece of paper -- can't find one? We'll solve that problem later -- scribble with the pen. If it won't write, throw it out!

    "That's obvious," you say. Oh, yeah? How many times have you found a pen that wouldn't write on the first try and set it aside to fix it later? (You didn't? You must have a mild case of Packrititis.) Going through this step, giving the pen that one last chance, helps you to throw it away without guilt, and without delay.
  4. Repeat with the rest of them.
For pencils, mechanical or wooden, it's just as easy. Round them up. If they're wooden, sharpen them. If they're mechanical, find the leads that go with them. Can't find the sharpener or pencil leads? Disorganization can lead to clutter, and not just because things are lying in a jumble, but because the next time you're out shopping, you'll say, "Oh, that's right. I couldn't find the pencil leads. I'll buy more."

And maybe you can't remember if they're .07 or .05, so you buy both, thinking you'll return the ones that don't fit. And maybe you misplace the returns. Or the receipt. Or you just never get around to returning them. Get it? You need to organize. At the end of this post, I'll add some links to articles on organizing your desk.

Dispersing Your Extra Writing Implements

Determine which ones you'll keep. Put them in a separate pile. What do you do with the extras?
  • Take some back to work (that's probably where they hitched a ride home with you to begin with). 
  • Leave them somewhere. One person who had promotional pens made for a local business used to "accidentally" leave them at the post office and ATMs, hoping that people would pick them up.
  • Pass them on. Do you belong to any organizations that could use them? Some people are squeamish about handling others' belongings, but as long as you didn't chew the ends, a quick swipe with a cleaning cloth should do it.
  • Donate them. If they're in good condition, find out if there are any local organizations that could use them. Every non-profit needs office supplies. Maybe, like you, they've been plagued with rogue pens who hide on them, but they don't have the time to set traps and capture.
  • Some organizers suggest leaving some in your car. I don't. Cars get too hot (and cold) where I live, so they don't always work when I need them. They also can end up on the floor where you step on them, and they can leak into upholstery. Pencils? They work under almost any condition. I leave a couple in my car at all times, in case the point breaks on one.  

Rehoming the Keepers

You've discovered that the preferred habitat of the pen and pencil is not necessarily the starkness of the writing desk, homework table, or even kitchen. Some of them like to move around. That means that you need a permanent pen hostel for every room where your traps yielded significant captures.

Instead of buying holders, why not recycle something you already own? As I said, coffee cups make great holders. If you're crafty (or have kids who are), make some. Google craft project pen holder for ideas.

Guys, there's no reason you can't do this, too. Think the designs on that link are too feminine? Take an empty can (preferably one that was opened with one of those can openers that leave no sharp edges) and cover it with a printout of your favorite book cover, hobby, sports team. All you need is a printer and glue.

Resources

Here's an idea: If you can't find a place in your area for your overwhelming collection of extra pens, send them here OR take them to another area yourself.

Right to Write

Darn. I just found out that one of my favorite fables might be a myth:

Fact or Fiction?: NASA Spent Millions to Develop a Pen that Would Write in Space, whereas the Soviet Cosmonauts Used a Pencil.)

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Pens and Other Multiplying Entities: Part 1, Capture


I always have a pen and a scrap of paper with me in case the Muse hits. Correction: Usually. I don't have them with me in the shower, or if I walk out to the mailbox, but 99% of the time, you'll find I have a pen. People who know me know that. ("Ask Morven. She usually has a pen.")

The problem is that pens don't stay with me. They move. The two pens and a pencil that I keep in my handbag can dwindle down to one or multiply to ten. Some of them end up in my work bag. Or on my work desk. Or vice versa: Sometimes when I'm gathering my stuff together for work the following day, I'll realize that I have brought all my work pens home.

At home, pens that were perfectly happy sitting behind the keyboard or in that cute little pen groove on my monitor stand suddenly disappear. I grab one out of one of my pen holders -- what, you have only ONE? Confess, you have more, don't you? -- and, when I straighten my desk the next time, I find twenty. I think they deliberately go off somewhere where they can have some privacy and, um, get to know each other. By the time I find them, they've multiplied.

This can drive you crazy, distracting you from your writing, besides creating a clutter problem. Even worse, while some of them are hiding, they dry up!

So here's what I suggest. This is going to be one of those bite-sized decluttering tips that will help you get in control and ease the pain of decluttering, whether it be the pain of taking the time to do it or the pain of letting things go.

Trapping the Pens

I'm not going to tell you to go buy desk organizers because the last thing you need right now is more Stuff. Instead, find some things around the house that you can use to hold pens just while you get them under control. This might be a good time to go through your coffee cups. Any that you don't absolutely love or that are chipped or otherwise aren't making the grade are good candidates.

Don't have any extra cups? Okay, just while you're getting your writing implements in line, consider using glass jars or even empty produce containers (you lay the pens on their side). (Tip: Remove the produce first.) You need one for each room. Yup, one for every room, including the bathroom, garage, and basement, if any.

You don't need to bait the pen trap, though seeding the trap with a pen or pencil will help other residents of the household remember that those are pen traps, not things that need to go in the recycling bin. If it helps, label the trap. This is a good use for scrap paper. Can't find any? Ah. I see another blog post in the future.

For a week (or month, if you're really serious), every time you find a pen, pencil, or marker, put it in the nearest trap. Make it a game. While you're waiting for the coffee to brew, look around the kitchen and see if you can find any. Pens are wily creatures; they can be hiding in the junk drawer, the medicine cabinet, or, if you have a cat, under the refrigerator or sofa.

In my next blog, I'll tell you what to do when you've captured them.

Resources 

I disagree with her suggestion to leave a bunch of pens in the car, but otherwise the suggestions in the link below are similar to mine.

Pens & Pencil Clean Out

If you don't want to craft your own pen cups, here are some interesting ideas.

Organizing the Pens and Pencils: Pencil Cups and More

Monday, June 15, 2015

Why Declutter?

In my first post, I touched on a couple of reasons why I've started my decluttering project. The longstanding reason is encouragement -- ahem -- from my spouse.

But you're not married to my spouse. What reasons would there be for you to declutter? Look at some of the factors that have stirred the "small house movement."

The small house movement (also known as the "tiny house movement") could have early roots in Henry David Thoreau, whose book Walden; or, a Life in the Woods, published in 1854, talked about getting back to the simpler life. For him that involved building a small cabin, with just the necessities.

Where Walden's experiment was rooted in spiritual and philosophical aspirations, the current trend seems to have risen to address the need to find a way to live in an increasingly crowded world, though the need for simplification in a complex life is a strong motive, too.

Let me say here that I don't think I'm a candidate for a small house, for many reasons. Even if I pare down my books to the bare minimum, and find homes for things I no longer use, I have too many different interests to fit in one room.

But I am a candidate for a cheaper house. Eventually I'll want to retire, or at least go part time on the day job. I'll have a lot more choices if I can fit into a smaller house. It will be a lot easier for me to sort things and disperse them (notice I didn't say dispose of them) now. Moving will be cheaper; I can't expect friends to move me, so I need to consider how expensive hiring movers (at least for the heavy items) will be. Having fewer items should decrease the cost.

So think about that. What do you really want to do in life? Do you want to get out of the rat race and follow your passion someday? That goal will be a lot more reachable if you can exist on less money. You can exist on less money in a smaller house, or if you take up less space in a larger, shared house. Either way, you need to have fewer things.

A more-recent incitement for me to declutter was wanting to be the person who actually goes through my stuff. After all, we can't take it with us, though maybe someone could start a modern grave goods trend where your survivors rent a front loader and just dump your possessions in over your coffin... (Let's face it, some of our possessions probably won't burn safely, so I can't see the crematorium going for it. It would have to be an option only for burials and mausoleums.)

I don't regret having gone Big -- it's been wonderful -- but it's not sustainable forever. I'm downsizing, and I'm embracing the journey.


Resources:


Wikipedia's page on the small house movement:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Small_house_movement

Tumbleweed Houses, the web site my niece showed me when I didn't understand what she meant when she talked about the small house movement:
http://www.tumbleweedhouses.com/

Real Simple, a magazine you might find inspirational
http://www.realsimple.com/magazine-more

Friday, June 12, 2015

My Decluttering Project

Oh, why oh why am I starting another blog when I can't even keep up with my first one? (http://morvenwestfield.blogspot.com/)

Because a lot of people have been asking me not only what I'm doing, but how and why.

So what is decluttering? It's a word that I picked up from the internet that describes what you do
when you get rid of the things you no longer need, when you pare down the clutter, when you engage in Spring Cleaning on a grand -- or perhaps, superficial -- scale. (Although in my case, I am indeed cleaning everything I am getting rid of. More on that later.)

I've been going through everything I own and deciding whether I should keep it or not. Why? It started out as a response to my husband's complaint that I have Too Much Stuff. And he's right. I have my first grade reading book. I've found a few things I had that were so old that the rubber deteriorated (rubber bands, spare dishwashing gloves). And yes, I have books that, though not antiques, don't have an ISBN, and paperbacks that cost 75 cents.

Yet now my decluttering has taken on a different aspect. I've seen a few older friends and relatives who are no longer able to get around without assistance. They can barely clean the cat's litter box and need someone else to do the grocery shopping. Infirmity hits without warning. If I were to become unable to pull down boxes from the attic or carry things to the car to transport to the recycling center, what would become of them? All those precious memories would probably be trashed because there wouldn't be anyone who would know enough to go through them.

Rats. I'm getting a little morbid there, but seriously, I'm thinking ahead. *I* want to be the one to go through things, sort them out, disperse them. *I* want to pick up that box of matches in my travel memorabilia box and remember the Acacias Etoile Hotel in Paris or Finally Michael's in Framingham. (It's actually been a lot of fun seeing those things again!)

And so I begin this blog. Why did I say "Decluttering for Writers"? Because I'm a writer and many of the things I'm holding on to (like old matchbooks) are for research. I mean, who knows? I may want to write a story about Paris set in the early 80s and I'll need to remember all this, right?

And why "and Other Packrats"? Because some of the other things I'm hanging on to are for psychological/sentimental reasons. That might be your reason for being a packrat. It's taken me a long time to come to terms with giving up those items and maybe my handling of my rationalizations can help you, too.

Gotta run. I have some matchbooks to photograph...