Right on schedule

“A sociologist friend has the theory that people spend the first 40 years of their life enthusiastically accumulating and the next 40 years trying to get rid of the excess.”   (Scaling Down, by Judi Culbertson and Marj Decker)

So….I’m right on schedule.

I laughed out loud when I read this quote, because I really do fall into the timing they mentioned.  I’m not sure the word “enthusiastically” would have applied to my accumulation of stuff; maybe “mindlessly?”  “Carelessly?”  Sometimes it flat-out sneaks up on you; you turn around and are shocked:  when did that happen?  How did all this stuff get here?

I started thinking recently about when we really started accumulating stuff.  We did well for years; we had what we needed without a huge amount more.  Five moves in seven years helped a lot.  Our housing also dictated simplifying:  no basements in our first two apartments and first two houses meant no basement storage.  (Technically, that last house had a cellar–an open from the outside, Wizard-of-Oz type of cellar.  But I never even went down there in the year-and-a-half we lived in that house; I definitely didn’t want to use it for storage.  Eesh.)

It was the next stop when it all started.  Everything conspired against us:  bigger house, full basement, five years to accumulate things, and (the biggest reason):  we had kids.  I say that not to blame the kids, but the reality is that “stuff” began entering the house at an exponential rate.  When it’s just you and your spouse, it’s pretty easy to stay on top of things.  When you throw two kids into the mix….  Think about it.  It’s now extra everything:  from plates and cups to towels and toothbrushes to beds and blankets.  And that’s stuff you use; it doesn’t include things like junk mail and party favors and broken crayons and dead markers and no-more-sticky stickers…..you get the idea.

I would definitely prefer not taking the next forty years to get rid of all this excess, although I’m recognizing more and more that it’s a continual process;  it’s not like one day you suddenly stop bringing things into your house.  It will be a constant….”battle” seems too strong a word; maybe “routine” is more optimistic?  Just consistently, routinely staying on top of it.  I do think I need to dig out a little more before I can get to the “staying on top of it” part, though.

On a side note:  Scaling Down is one of the most thoughtful books I’ve read on getting rid of “stuff.”  It’s written mainly for those who are entering their retirement years and are preparing to truly downsize, but they recognize in their introduction that their book can be helpful for anyone, and it absolutely has been incredibly helpful for me.

Preparations

Awhile back I wrote a post venting about all the stuff I was dealing with.  Rereading it makes me want to slap myself just a little bit (get over it!), but at the same time, I understand where I was coming from.  I’ve been working on simplifying and decluttering and getting rid of excess, and to be deluged with stuff the way we were would obviously agitate me a bit.  (Interestingly, the whiniest post I have ever written resulted in the most “follows”….what’s that about?)

I’m at a place now where I realize that so much of the intake is so temporary.  The maternity clothes that have taken over my closet–and pushed all my regular clothes into every available nook and cranny left in the master bedroom–suddenly have a very limited lifespan.  The closet full of baby gear in the nursery will be dug into shortly, and everyone knows the cliches about how “they grow up so fast;” the bouncy seat and baby swing are going to be in and out of our lives in a fairly quick amount of time.  While homeschooling supplies might be here to stay for awhile, the pace of the influx has definitely slowed, and we can take the time to think through where something is going to live before we bring it home.  And all the winter gear (heavy coats, hats, gloves, etc.)….well, I tried to pack those away last week.  It didn’t last long.  (Sigh.)  But that time is coming.  Next week, maybe?

I realize that all the little tricks I’ve done off and on will now need to be used all at once, for at least the next year.  Going through kids clothes seasonally will need to shift back to “I keep a bag in the laundry room at all times,” for all the little outfits that last three months at a time.  The “one in, one out” rule might need to get tightened up for at least a little bit; “one in, at least two out” is really appealing when I realize my daughter has about four pairs of shoes she can’t wear anymore.  Staying on top of paperwork is becoming vital, simply for my own sanity:  once baby comes, postpartum depression is most likely to come, too (though I’m hoping a spring baby might make a difference).  Having piles of papers all over my kitchen counters will not help my mood or mentality one bit.

I’ve been trying, the past two days, to really focus on clearing and decluttering the downstairs.  I can’t call it nesting, because there’s absolutely no burst of energy spurring this on; it’s just the reality of the words “if she’s not here by Wednesday, we’ll schedule you to be induced” that’s weighing on me and helping me plod on in a “slow and steady wins the race” kind of way.  I can sit here on the sofa and think, wow, I really need to sweep (it’s mud clod season over here), but things look pretty good.

Essentially, I’m thinking back to when my first child was born, and realizing that NO, I refuse to do THAT again.  Let’s see how on top of things I can be before all the crazy starts.

I guess that means I maybe should pack a bag for the hospital……

Ready or not….

Hubby:  You’re nesting!

Me:  No, I’m panicking!!

Last week we celebrated my niece’s first birthday–my niece, who arrived a month early.  A few weeks before that, a friend delivered her twins ten weeks early.

If things go as planned, we will be having a baby in three months.  But nothing about this has been very planned, and for that reason, plus those back-to-back reminders that things can happen very quickly, I’m a little on edge.

Someone asked recently if we had the baby’s room ready.  “We have a room, does that count for anything?” was my response; and I confessed to a friend later that I felt genuinely bad for the kid.  The state of the nursery was “proof that this baby is a total afterthought.”  She promptly informed me, “No, it’s proof this baby is not your first.”  Good point…

Regardless, I decided that it was time to do what I could in the still-looks-like-an-office bedroom.  (It’s hard to get away from the office look when there’s a large computer armoire sitting smack dab in the middle of the main wall.)  I’d been moving random pieces of stowed furniture into the hallway, piece by piece, for my husband to carry down the stairs to the basement; so far it’s all things we do want to keep.  I had finally cleared off and set up the changing table, and last week I decided to stop waiting for the extra set of hands I assumed I needed and I assembled the crib by myself.  (Yes, all by myself.  Go me!)  I washed all the bedding and curtains, made up the bed, changed out and moved the curtain rods, and hung the curtains.  My niece christened the crib with its first nap the very next day.

Later in the week, I finally started clearing out the file cabinet, and am on the verge of–gasp!–getting rid of it completely.  I know myself, and I know that the file cabinet is feeding my paper clutter addiction.  I’ve changed a few things around with our filing system, which I hope to post soon.  (Until then, you can look at my hero and inspiration here.)

Finally, and this will seem silly, I sat down with a piece of paper and inventoried every single thing left in the room and closet that didn’t belong there.  (Or, rather, that no longer belonged there.)  It probably sounds like an extra set of work to do all the writing, but I’ve used this method before, in the garage, and it’s so much easier for me to look at a list on paper, go through it, and write down what I want to do with each item.  Once I’m done, I can look at the list, see that x, y, and z are supposed to go to Goodwill, and just walk in the room with a bag and gather it all up.  For some reason, walking in the room with a bag, without a list, means I just stand there and turn around in circles.  A lot.  Then I get distracted by something and nothing at all gets accomplished.

Two more pieces of kids’ furniture to drag to the basement, a trip to Goodwill, and doing something with that computer cabinet and we’re ready.

Well…the room is ready.

My first time being asked to write a guest post! The Sort-It blog is great for organizing advice….especially when the organizer answers your questions personally. 😉

Sort It ~ Professional Organizing for the Toronto Area

I have been following fellow blogger Jen at Pursuing “Enough” for a few months now. She writes candidly about her battle with stuff, and all the fun things that contribute to it, like her kids. After a few comments back and forth on a post I wrote back in February (Can’t Touch This), I asked Jen to share her experience of putting that advice into practice. So, here we go:

I am learning that just because I am on a quest to simplify our family’s life, it doesn’t mean that anyone else is going to go along with it easily.  My son, especially, has such a tenderhearted, sentimental nature; it’s extremely hard—seemingly almost painful—for him to get rid of things.  When he was three, it was precious and charming:  “Mommy!  We can’t get rid of that book!  It has baby remembers all over it!”  Once he hit eight…

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Paper Clutter

Our desktop computer is in the shop….again.  The problem with the “again” part (aside from owning a clearly defective computer) is that it was taken someplace new to be repaired.  The “someplace new” required proof of purchase.  Of course I have the receipt, right?

Well, yes, I did have the receipt.  Unfortunately, it took me approximately fifteen to twenty minutes, looking in no less than ten spots in five different rooms, before I located it.  (It turned out to be exactly where it was supposed to be….long story.)  As I was digging through files and piles of paper, I was getting more and more irritated.  I really did clean out when we moved!  I thought I’d been staying on top of this!  How can we possibly still  have a Windows ’98 start-up guide?

In fairness to myself, we’ve been moving the “office” to an area of the kitchen, and so things are spread out much more than they normally are.  I don’t mean that to be an excuse, but the perfectionist in me needs to recognize that transitions are difficult.  It’s made it obvious to me, though, that even if I purged three years ago, it’s clearly time to do it again now:  especially if things are going to work well in the new area.

Why is paper so hard to deal with?  I think that the amount that comes into our homes, and the rate at which it comes, stacks the deck against us.  Even if I’m great at throwing junk mail into the recycling bin immediately (which I am), that still leaves “important” financial papers to be filed.  I’ve managed to curb most of those by going paperless, but somehow a few still come through.  And heaven forbid we get rid of anything pertaining to taxes; I feel like we’ve been brainwashed into thinking we’ve all got an audit looming just around the corner, so you’d better not throw those records out!  Paper clutter is the worst, I think, for the idea that “This is important!  You might need it someday!”  At its base is an issue of security; feeling safer because you have a file cabinet full of “just in case.”

I did a quick search on my Bible app and discovered that the word “trust” is used in the Psalms sixty-nine times.  None of those verses say anything about trusting in files and paperwork.  (But you knew that, right?)  The first three references that come up:

“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.”  (Psalm 20:7)

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.”  (Psalm 56:3)

“In God I trust and am not afraid.  What can man do to me?”  (Psalm 56:11)

I’m closing with the words of Christ in John 14:1:  “Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Trust in God; trust also in me.”

(If you’ll excuse me, I need to clean out some files.)