Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Why Real Simple Newsletters Engender Crushing Guilt

About six years ago, everything I owned fit into the back of a full size van.  We had just returned to the United States from England and moved into a 650 sq ft 1 bedroom apartment.  We bought a futon soda, a mattress, and a television, unpacked our books and CDs, clothing and kitchen gear and commenced a tidy little life.

After about six months, we decided we'd like a little more space and moved into a two bedroom townhouse.  D converted the garage into a woodworking shop and started building us lovely pieces of furniture... a television stand, a stereo rack, CD/DVD storage, a small bookshelf, a bed.  Along with accumulating furnishings, we accumulated the accouterments of a woodshop - tools, supplies, building materials, etc.

Then we rented single family home with a yard to take care of and we (and by we I really mean D) began maintaining said yard, gardening and tending potted seedling trees that we envisioned planting on our very own country property someday.  With this gardening came more tools and more supplies.

Inside the home, I acquired various kitchen appliances that I was convinced would change my abilities and interest in kitchen activities - a Kitchenaid mixer, a bread machine, a food processor, a waffle iron or two.  We acquired various electronic entertainment items - a DVR, DVD player, a playstation, a Wii, and a large count of vintage hi-fi items due to D's intense interest in same.  I started to explore my interest in photography and acquired a nice camera and a few related gadgets.

Then we took the plunge and bought the little house on the prairie and commenced renovations, which required more tools, more supplies, and also moving the stuff we own from room to room like one of those little tile puzzles while we do the work.  That work is progressing slowly since we are trying to do most of it ourselves.  And by we, I really mean D (again).  I'm fairly useless at anything but final decor and we've not really gotten to that stage, but he amazes me with what he can accomplish given the time to suss it out.   We also want to pay for the remodel without borrowing money.

Also, I'm a total box hoarder.  As in, I won't throw away the packing materials for pretty much anything we buy since another international move is definitely in the cards someday, and I'm convinced those boxes are going to be critical to its success.  So on top of finding room to store the items we've acquired, I need to find room to store the boxes too.  I'm also a magazine hoarder, refusing to part with my copies of Better Homes and Gardens, Sunset, Real Simple or This Old House because there are so many great renovation, decorating, gardening or recipe ideas that I'm convinced I'll get around to implementing.  Someday.

People, I am Keenie Beanie and I've got a clutter problem.  My home is marginally organized - kitchen things in the kitchen, shop things in the shop, etc., but within those areas I haven't exercised any discipline in organization or clutter control.  I have devoted one entire precious bedroom to the storage of boxes and stuff which fill every cubic foot nearly to the ceiling (to be fair, this is while our attic bedroom renovation is in process).  I sometimes can't find items I KNOW I own.  I wouldn't be proud to have any of you visit because my lack of clutter control.  I need to undertake a serious purge and organize project.

Every month, I get an email from Real Simple entitled "The One Thing You Should Do This Month" from their Keep It Together checklist newsletter.  It reminds you to clean the gutters, or dust your houseplants, or run vinegar through your washing machine to sanitize it.  I wish I was the type of person that got this letter and said "Yes, I will DO that!" and got right on it.  Alas, I am not.  Instead, there are months when receiving the message consumes me with such guilt that I delete it unopened.  Sigh.

I wish I could say that I'm making this confession so that I can follow it up with an assertion that I am going to undertake a purge and organize project, and that the public declaration will hold me accountable.  But sadly, this is not the case.  I have a tentative plan of action, but it first involves completion of various renovation projects, and so it will remain on the "someday" list.

I did just read a brilliant book, Upgrade Your Life by Gina Trapani, a regular contributor on the Lifehacker blog.  The subtitle of the book is The Lifehacker Guide to Working, Smarter, Faster, Better.  It is largely PC/Mac centric, with a few tips thrown in on how to organize thought processes and one's approach to accomplishing projects.  I've decided that if I won't have an organized home, it is time to organize my PCs, both home and work, establish good information processing and storage habits, and create a functioning regular backup program, as I would be devastated to lose some of the photos I've created, as well as (nerd alert) my extensive financial records maintained in Quicken.  Both of which have happened before.

I'm considering this exercise a disinfection of a tiny space - like a little bacteria-free island in the petri dish of my cluttered life.  I'm hoping it will grow over time.  Wish me luck.


  1. I used to be a bit of a hoarder, like you, always convinced that I will use whatever it is. Well, Sam is soooo against clutter that he's helped me overcome a lot of it. I think the real problem is that you married an enabler. See? I knew it wasn't your fault. ;)

  2. We might be organizational opposites! I rarely keep things if I'm not using them (although I have a yoga mat that has made every move with me for the past 5 years and has never once been used). I live for organizing things in a highly functinal and presentable manner!

  3. I am Pippi and I am a minimalist. I throw out EVERYTHING. I should come for a visit.

  4. My oh my, who knew my bloggy peeps (or bleeps as Pippi so charmingly refers to us) are such an organized bunch? Cue shame.

    Nicki - you are sweet to help me deflect the blame!

    Krysta - my name doppelganger... I imagine that your aversion to clutter comes in handy living in Manhattan!

    Pippi - please come sort me out! Seriously, if you are ever in Oregon or I wander into the Carolinas, we should hook up.

    And on the very day I posted this, Crummy Mummy, who is about to embark a big push on her book, kicked off with a post about a big spring clean.

    I really must clean up my act. :-)

  5. Good luck! I too am a hoarder and so I definitely feel your pain. It's worth it though. I've got rid of so much stuff over the last year - Freecycle has done well by us- but definitely feel better for it. I think our roof joists feel better too!

  6. OK - I have to chime in. My husband thinks I'm a hoarder, but I'm still in denial. There are no rooms in my house that have merely a path and things (no offense Keenie!) are not piled to the ceiling in any room of my home. That said, I will admit that I NEVER throw out a greeting card, photograph (even if I can't remember who the people are in the picture - it may come to me one day) or ticket stub or other momento - because I'm quite certain that when I retire, I'll have so much time on my hands that I'll spend the first couple years (1) creating many scrap books (for whom, I have no idea - since I have no least my nonexistent kids are spared that!) and (2) reading all the hardback and paperback books that I've purchased for "someday when I have time". After that, I'll spend my remaining days working with the one category of things that I DO admit to hoarding - craft supplies. (I say this is the only thing I hoard, because I don't consider my shoe collection hoarding, because I think that's just part of being a woman) Yes, I'm Lori and I collect craft supplies. There, I've said it. I have an entire closet, an armoire and a few bins over the garage devoted to crafting. Problem is, whenever I get the bug to begin a project, I go out and BUY NEW STUFF, along with a few extras, instead of using the stuff I already have. Sadly, my husband has begun to notice, and just today looked at me with dismay as I purchased a pretty impressive pile of scrapbooking supplies in Maui because I'm certain I'll create a beautiful work of art with them!

    Good to know that I have company - and Keenie - I'm with you - admitting the problem exists, but nowhere near doing anything about it. :) Good luck to all of us!

  7. Helen - I remember reading about your "Sorting Out Our Life" project. You are an inspiration for me... someday!

    Ah Lori, my friend - you rock! Thanks for the validation. Of course, I should think that you can spare the room for a craft supply closet or two! :-)