The Little Life: Five More Steps
Posted on November 7th, 2010
OK, so you’ve made some preliminary steps. You’ve seen a little bit of progress. Your closet has a bit more room in it. You’ve made a little cash selling books back to the second hand store (or gotten a tax deduction for donating them). But you’re still overwhelmed by the amount of stuff in your life. What now?
1. Closet Purge #2. You’ve previously paid attention to what you wore for a month. You’ve gotten rid of things that are too big. This time, you go through and you get rid of everything that’s too small. And yes, this one hurts. It may be easier to do at the end of each season, as you cycle your clothes, when you realize that you never wore certain sweaters or sundresses or skirts. If the clothes are a very, very long way from fitting (more than three dress sizes), get rid of them: donate, recycle, sell. If they’re fairly close to fitting (say if you lost ten pounds), put them in a container on a high shelf (clean and with cedar blocks). Right now, my biggest encouragement for continuing my fitness journey (other than a certain pair of Fluevog boots when I hit my target) is a lovely pair of brown wool pants up on my top shelf.
2. Media purge. This is easier. VHS tapes? Trash them or donate them. You really will never watch them again. If they’re something special like family movies, have them put on DVD and store them in a binder. Paper pictures? Only keep the good ones, and definitely ditch as many boring landscape pictures as you can handle. CDs you never listen to? Donate or sell. Once all your music is ripped to your computer (and backed up!) you could even get rid of all of your CDs. I’m not there yet, but they’re in a box somewhere.
3. Kid stuff. Oh, the kid stuff. It multiplies overnight. You can be overrun by toys in a hurry. When I saw that second line appear on the stick, the first words out of my mouth were, “No plastic sh*t in the house!” Yeah, that worked well. The best I’ve managed is to keeping it to a reasonable level.
The key to keeping this stuff organized is controlling what comes in and thinking about where you’re going to put it beforehand. A bonus from being estranged from most members of my crazy family (aside from not dealing with their craziness) means my child generally only receives gifts from people who share my values. Only a few stuffed animals are out at a time (the others live in a portable dog crate on top of an armoire – and are too high for me to get, so it requires P wanting them at the same time M is home – which is not often). I try to get her small toys – lots of small plastic dinosaurs are easily stored* – or practical toys or books. Also, puzzles, games, nice blocks (I love HABA sets!), Magformers, and Legos are also easily stored and grow with your child. Her easel (IKEA) folds away easily. Art supplies are stored in boxes on one shelf.
It’s easier to do with a planned only child, but I give away P’s clothes and shoes as soon as she outgrows them. I’ve kept my very favorite of her newborn outfits to use as clothes for dolls and stuffed animals (along with some of the newborn diapers). All told, those don’t take up more than a small bin on a bookcase. Newborn and baby toys (other than those which could become heirloom or decorative) were given to her cousin. I always asked P first, and in fact, she got into the act, indicating to me when she was ready to give something to her cousin.
4. Book Purge #3. Now you’re going to start getting rid of books you like, since you’ve already purged those you’re hanging onto out of guilt or that you’ll never read. The only way I’ve ever managed to do this is by giving myself a space limit, like: “No more than three shelves of books on Colonial America” and “no more than one shelf on WW2.” It’s hard. It sucks. But you can do it.
5. Ugly brown furniture purge. I don’t know about you, but I ended up with a lot of ugly, bulky hand-me-down brown furniture. If you can’t paint it, repurpose it, or sell it, then just get rid of it via Freecycle, Craigslist, or a donation center. No guilt. Let someone else have a chance to love it.
*Plastic dinosaur storage: a zip-up playmat.