Friday, September 4, 2009

One Week To A Better Home:"Letting Go Of Memory Junk"

It seems like recently, I have been asked by a lot of girlfriends (I am counting sweet Cari as a friend, even though we have never met) for organizing advice. Maybe since the kids are out of the house it seems like time to get things back in order... But, its super flattering. I LOVE to be organized. I love a nice uncluttered surface. I love a drawer filled with plastic organizers. So am going to devote this week to helping anyone who wants it with getting a little more organized around their house. And to prove that I am in NO WAY an truly organized perfect person, with hesitation, I show you this: (But please note: Theses are all boxes filled with items we are selling in a garage sale. Imagine if THIS MUCH extra crap was in still in my house?? Exactly.)Take a deep breath. Here we go!

Warning: Tough Love Ahead
In Lysh and I's discussion of "Personal Hells" (these are things we talk about after a few glasses of wine), I have said that mine would be wading through a messy house that smells like cooked Parmesan cheese while trying to finds things that are lost in all of the junk. Nightmare. (Hers is ironing pleated skirts in a fish market- which cracks me up every time I think about it!)

So to make sure I don't have to live out this scenario, I can clean up a mess in about 1 minute because everything in our house has a "Home" (More on that later). I NEVER, EVER top any cooking food with nasty Parmesan cheese and I maintain my organization systems so that I know where things are at any given time. Easy enough, right?

Not if your house is filled to the brim with stuff, and I can almost guarantee that that stuff is homeless. The only way you are ever going to be truly organized is to let things G.O. GO. Clothes, chachkies, toys, movies, books- you name it, you probably have WAY too much of it and its overflowing into your sanity. The only way to solve this dilemma is to Purge Your Heart Out.

I have been blessed with the gift of The Purge and I have been cursed at the same time. (If you ever get the chance you might want to ask Jas about the time I threw away his entire CD collection, or his speeding ticket or his new box of expensive heartburn medicine during one of my clean sweeps.... He'll be more than happy to tell you about it!)

I think one of the reason I am able to maintain a decluttered home is that I do not have to hold on to things to hold on to the memory. Memory Junk will fill your home faster than anything, because everyday you are making memories, and the size of your home is not increasing along with them. Sure, I have tons of photographs and the letters Jas used to send me. I kept my drill team boots and hat. I have the little red patent leather shoes that Olivia wore for her first Christmas. Of course I believe its okay to keep things- IF and only IF you honor them.

I know you are sitting there thinking, "But everything I have kept is so special to me that I could never get rid of it!" If something has been crammed in the back of a drawer, crumpled up, or is missing parts- Its not special to you. Something is not cherished and priceless when it is sitting on a shelf next to your phone books and old Pottery Barn catalogs. If there are things that are truly, truly special to you, then honor them. Put them in a special place, devoted just for those items. It doesn't have to be fancy: Pictures should be framed, stored in albums or photo boxes. Collections should be displayed together as a group on a shelf or a cabinet devoted to just those items. If you choose to keep something, you must also choose how to honor it. "Treasures" should be in a treasure box.

When it comes to letting things go (throwing it away if its broken or donating it if you really no longer use it or like it): You will never get through one drawer or one closet if you keep thinking that the things are memories. THEY ARE NOT. The 2 sizes too big, outdated sweater that your Great Aunt Edna gave you the Christmas before she died- IS NOT your Great Aunt Edna. The tattered pot-holder that your youngest child made during her first stay at Sleep-Away camp is IS NOT your youngest child. You will not be hurting their feelings if you let these things go, because they love you and want you to be happy. Its that simple. They would not want you to be stressed-out, overwhelmed because of something they gave you. We get so wrapped up in the idea that lettings things go will hurt the person who gave them to us, and it is actually the opposite. How to you think Aunt Edna would feel if she came down from heaven and saw her sweater wadded up in the back of a closet?? Exactly.

Now, as moms we have a tendency to keep EVERYTHING our children have written or drawn. Because I am cold and evil, I will be making you throw some of these things away. Here are my Kid's Work Rules:
  • If they are under 3 and there is MAJOR teacher assistance in the project- Let it go.

  • If there are hand prints or foot prints- Keep it.

  • Try to keep a few written pieces from when they are around 4 and just beginning to really write their name legibly.

  • Keep anything that has their "When I Grow Up..." hopes and dreams on it.

  • Keep three or four drawings or art pieces from ages 3 and up. Their skills and style will not change that much throughout each of those years that you really need to keep more than that.

  • Worksheets: Let them go. (Unless they have written something hilarious on it, or shows their early hand-writing.)
  • Old Christmas and Birthday cards to your child- Let them go. (Unless it has a personal, handwritten message inside, that you feel will be meaningful to your child one day.)

  • And of course, keep anything that truly makes you smile. Jas' mom has saved this HILARIOUS little story he wrote about snakes that is the funniest, sweetest thing I have ever seen. And for some reason I think this little guy O made in Montessori school just has the funniest little stinker-pot face. So I kept him.

Now that you have your "Chosen Ones"- where do they go? This is what works for me: I have a large plastic bin for each of my kids that I keep on the top shelf of their closet. In each of these bins is a smaller box, their baby books, and a manilla file folder for each school they have been to. (TOTAL COST: about $10.00)
  • All of the art work you have chosen should go in the manila file folders. If something is too large to be folded and still fit, then you can put it in the large box. You need to write a date or a note on the back of the art work. I hope to have a nice bound book made for Olivia when she graduates from HS of all of the cute things she has written. For that reason, I keep a separate folder for her written material.
  • Any small, handmade items (a special Mother's Day pin made of dough, a sparkly painted rock they made just for you, etc.) should go in the small box. You can also store cards, jewelry, coins, baby hats, etc... in here. Think of it as a "Treasure Box".

  • School shirts, jerseys or hats, even a favorite costumes can be stored in the large part of the tub.

  • As your child brings home school work, art and projects and you find something you think you cannot part with, it goes in the "NEED TO SORT" manila folder (or if you are like me and sometimes get lazy, just jump and chunk it in the box). This is your Memory Box Holding Center. It give you time to come back at the end of the school year, or on their birthday, whenever! and go through theses items and choose what you would really like to keep and then they go... that's right: In that school year's folder. Chunk the rest.

  • If you like to display their work, chose one or two pieces every couple of weeks and then toss 'em or put them in the Holding Center once a month. Instead of putting them on the fridge, focus on the kid's hallway: You can string up a cute clothes line with simple painted clothes pins, create a huge framed bulletin board in the hallway (my next project), or use Ticky-Tack and put them on each child's bedroom door.

My storage system is the Poor Man's version. You can accomplish the same thing, only nicer with a real hope chest, a wooden box that latches and a beautiful album. Anyway you do it, just do it.

As far as letters, photos, event programs, ticket stubs go for us adults, you can pretty much follow the same plan. I have a large, hard-covered, spiral bound album that I use for things that Jas and I have done together. The pages are black and I use a silver gel pen for make notes about what goes in there. Simple and classic. I just rubber cement the item in, make a note of where we went and why, the date and a quick fun memory. Ta-Da! Perfect.
Any other treasures go in a Treasure Box (just a nice decorated box from the HL). I am currently storing all of the photos we own that are not actually saved on the computer in photo boxes. I don't like them, but they are a nice Holding Center until I can invest in a large collection of photo albums with sleeves. There are a lot of them, so I have devoted the top drawer of our entry table to photos- and ONLY photos! Nothing else goes in there. At all. So when it comes time to get those photos to their proper place, that is the only thing I will be dealing with.

And even though it is not my ideal storage system, if you asked me to find a picture of me and Fan Target triumph-ing at the Arc De Triomphe from the Summer of 2000. I could find it in 2.2 seconds. See:

Because all the photos in the box are sorted and every envelope in that box is labeled. It takes time, but it is totally worth it.

Here are my Photo Rules:
  • If you can't remember where it was taken or why- Toss it.

  • If you hate how you look- Toss it.

  • If you have doubles- Toss one. If you haven't given it away or used it for something when you first had them developed, then you aren't going to.

  • Put all school photos in a large envelope with your child's name on it with the date or grade and out them in their bins.

1) Realize that things ARE NOT memories.
2) Be honest with yourself about what is really special to you: Make a commitment to honor those things.
3) Create a storage system for the items you want to keep.
4) Don't keep something out of fear of hurting someone's feelings.

YOUR HOMEWORK: Gather all of your kids art and treasures. Sort, purge and organize- Even if it means paper clipping them together and putting a Post-It note with their name on it. Decide on your method to store and organize them from now on. Make a list of what you need to buy the next time you are at the 'Mart to make it happen and then Git 'Er Done.

TOMORROW: Kids' Toys

1 comment:

Lucrecia said...

We are kindered spirits! I toss, toss, toss and it drives my husband crazy! I keep EVERY project my kids do with hand prints but brutally toss the others when they are sleeping :-)