Sunday, July 11, 2010

Other People's Neatness

I didn't realize that Gail Blanke's Throw Out Fifty Things: Clear the Clutter, Find Your Life is like a workbook -- you're prompted to get rid of items while reading. No matter, things have a way of coming along when you need them.

I asked someone to come and help me unclutter my bedroom which I had lost the ability to be agile in. Translation: I could have easily sprained an ankle with all the crap that was in my room.

Asking for help was humbling and a bit (understatement) mortifying. I was properly and thoroughly embarrassed to have someone witness my slovenliness. My counselor friend said, "Don't worry, we all need professional help at some point."

The initial organization provided me with the incentive to take on The Fifty Project. Still, I wrestled mightily with the most insignificant items. Is it recyclable? Will I have a need for it later? Should I try to sell it?

I also struggled with things that people gave me -- even if it was an object that I didn't particularly like. I found things that I had forgotten about including license plate covers that my brother gave me in 2003. I also spotted, in the nether region of my closet, the toes of a tall doll, a childhood present from my grandfather.

I didn't think that I would have has many mental throwaways as I did but once the ball got rolling, it really got rolling. I have the feeling, though, that it's going to take more than one trip to the trashcan for the mental throwaways. Throwing out non-mental stuff became somewhat infectious as well. I was searching for a place that might recycle photos and I came upon good advice: Sometimes you just have to throw stuff away.

Here's the big qualifier. If you threw out fifty cups, it only counted as one item and on and on -- 50 books = one item. And magazines, they belong to the same tribe as books. I thought I might never make it to 50 but here's the list:

1) Bath Sponge
2) Bedding (unused for nearly a decade)
3) Being verbally abusive to myself
4) Beverages, Old or Unwanted (Pimpjuice and Propel)
5) Bike (Old One)
6) Book bags and satchels
7) Books and magazines
8) Candles
9) Candlestick Holders
10) Cardboard Boxes (lots of them; what was I saving them for? plus, my friend has this situation below)

11) Catnip (G’ma gave it to me for protection from mosquitoes)

12) Christopher Gruver’s Flowers: A Universe Revealed -- 2006 Wall Calendar

Significant Events in 2006

  • Dinner at Stir Crazy, Cirque de Soleil & Memorial Service; October 12th, 14th and 15th

  • Jury Duty; L’Enfant and Akeelah and the Bee released; Drivers License Expired; Tape Oprah: April 14th & 18th; India Arie: July 15th

  • 13) Clothes (Goodbye to those of you that I outgrew)

    14) Contact Paraphernalia (Expired -- in 2007 -- Rewetting Drops)
    15) Cups (‘A’ cup, tiger mug, white cups with white tea)
    16) Declarations of war i.e. getting my feathers ruffled over small stuff. (Bye bye)
    17) Expired Food (Pomegranate Fruit Bars et al.)

    This is your brain on expired sugar

    Why do I still have crystallized ginger? Have not made cookies in over three years.

    Ginger Lemon Cookies

    Makes 3 dozen

    • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
    • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, plus more for sprinkling
    • 1 large egg
    • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
    • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1/4 cup crystallized ginger, cut into 1/8-inch dice


    1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment; set aside. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl twice. Add egg; mix on high speed to combine. Add zest; mix to combine.
    2. In a bowl, whisk together flour, ground ginger, baking soda, salt, and crystallized ginger; add to butter mixture. Mix on medium-low speed to combine, about 20 seconds.
    3. Using two spoons, drop about 2 teaspoons of batter on baking sheet; repeat, spacing them 2 inches apart. Bake for 7 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

    From Martha Stewart Living, December/January 1995/1996

    18) Eyeglasses (Old Prescription; Donated)
    19) Feelings of guilt (over throwing away food that I bought but didn’t’ like, of throwing away stuff that may or may not be recyclable etc.)
    20) Graveyard Ribbons
    21) Hangers
    22) Jewelry
    23) Latex Swim Cap (Unused)
    24) Old Dietary Supplements
    25) Paper (Old Notebooks and Newspaper Articles)
    26) Percussion Egg (Don’t Ask)
    27) Perfection
    28) Perfume (Expired)
    29) Photo Album
    30) Photos
    31) Picture Frame
    32) Potpourri
    33) Purses
    34) Smiley Face Bank
    35) Soap & Bath Stuff (Old)

    36) Speedo (First One)

    37) Squirrel Knickknacks
    38) Stuffed Animal
    39) The feeling that I’m this poor little girl from the wrong side of the river. (gone)
    40) The feeling that I suck (because I forgot someone’s birthday or to pay a bill)
    41) The feeling that I’m not good enough. (Throwing that out felt really good.)
    42) The feeling that I’m not smart enough.
    43) The feeling that weird things only happen to me.
    44) The nagging feeling that I don’t belong. (out)
    45) Tins (Altoid tin good for holding pepitas and peanuts but did I need two?)

    46) Tweety Birds (gift)

    47) Underwear (seldom worn back of the drawer rejects along with the need-to-be darned)

    48) VHS Tapes (Biggest Loser with Helen, Sione and Tara; The Amazing Race)
    49) Wall Décor

    50) Wallets (Black and Green; I bought the brown replacement wallet a year and a half ago)

    This whole uncluttering project that I have underway takes the burden off my friend Lori who was to come in, should I meet a sudden demise, and clean up for me so that I would not die again of shame.


    Can I Recycle Old Photographs?

    Can Used Photo Paper Be Recycled?

    Recycling Photos

    Stop the Souvenir Insanity

    The mess he made: A life-long slob decides it's time to get organized

    The Story of Stuff

    Best quote
    : "It's rare that a sloppy person is made uncomfortable by another person's neatness," she says. "Part of being a sloppy person is that you just don't notice." Arlene Kagle from "To Clean Or Not To Clean, That Is The Question," O: The Oprah Magazine, March 2010


    1. I love all of the intangibles you gave up. :D

      Bob spent 2 hours cleaning out my car today, so now I have a new group of stuff to go through and purge.

    2. I really need to purge items, especially items in my closet. I have suits that I wanted to take to the consignment shop, but they have not made it. You have inspired me to rid myself of my clutter and excess.

    3. I love the 50 idea! What a wonderful thing to purge things you really don't need. I am pretty good at decluttering but still can do better.

    4. @Angela,

      It seems like the more you clean up, the more you have to clean up and purge but it definitely feels good to work on organization. Also, the intangibles are definitely nice to work on too.


      Let's keep each other inspired... I still need to deal with more stuff and clothes. Re: clothes, it's been an odd walk down memory lane.


      It feels good to get rid of the stuff that I don't need.

      I learned a few things from the organizer and I'm hoping to get better at decluttering because I want to join your tribe. ;)

    5. gingersnapper,

      It's nice to know that I'm not alone. :)