My Mutterings about Decluttering

If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you know I completed my second Inktober this year. It was a wonderful experience, drawing daily, and I enjoyed reacquiring old skills and learning new ones. The prompts kept me going when I ran out of creative steam. It was great!

I want to start a practice of writing most days (again) too, but it’s been a challenge. I can chat with my kids when I draw, but I can’t write and talk and listen at the same time.  NanoWriMo, though inspiring, isn’t quite right for me (at least for now). So, I’ve been trying to carve out a semi-sacred space where I can write in relative quiet. To that end, I have been decluttering. And decluttering. And decluttering. All that, of course, is tied up with work and parenting during a global pandemic. Now, holidays are in the mix as well, so I’ve been studying decluttering too, because all these things need to be simpler for me.

Recently, I read the life changing magic of tidying up by marie kondo. It’s a fascinating book, part confessional, part manifesto, confident in its requirements. I’m not interested in joining the on-line haters of a tiny cheerful woman, but I know her advice won’t work in every home, despite her confidence it will. That said, there’s a lot here that I found useful. Talking to things as I put them in the donation pile, for me, was a way to let go while learning about myself. But only keeping what “sparked joy” would have left me with no underwear. I found kondo’s method for folding clothes (& linens & towels &) interesting and smart, and while I don’t love folding clothes now (as the book said I would), I don’t hate it as quite much as I did before. I don’t think her storage methods work for people with ADHD (re: at my house), nor will they work for someone too depressed to function (also sometimes my house). Nevertheless, it was a fun, interesting read and gave me some new tools for “letting go” of things that no longer serve my needs. I do like her insistence that tidying isn’t on-going, that you do it once, then manage. I sure don’t want to do it every day!

Tangentially, in case you’re wondering, she never says you shouldn’t own more than 30 books. She says she doesn’t. She confesses to ripping her favorite pages out of books in her compulsion to keep tidy. And this part reads, to me, like someone sharing a real compulsion (something we also know about at my house), and she does not suggest doing this. In fact, she says, it doesn’t work. She does say to keep your bookshelf (and your musical instruments) in your storage closet. Just thinking about that makes me sad. I’m not angry she says to do it, but I’m not doing it. I love looking at books and musical instruments! Otherwise, I am working through her program to the extent I am able.

Of course, studying doesn’t mean reading one book, so a month or so ago, I read Unf*ck Your Habitat by Rachel Hoffman. This book describes ways to clean your space if you have little time, little energy and/or little knowledge of how to do the work. There’s advice to get you started if you can barely function (for any reason) and advice for communicating with others who share your home. There is excellent advice on asking for help, and who to ask (or not). Hoffman deconstructs notion that clutter (or even outright filth) is a reflection of a person’s worth and takes down the idea that some of us are born for housework (AFAB). I enjoyed this book and found it useful on some of my worst days. If you are depressed and trying to clean up, this is a good read. Both Hoffman and kondo suggest putting things behind doors, inside cabinets, however, and that won’t just work in a home inhabited by people with ADHD or head injuries (me).

The best book I found for my head-injured, neurodivergent self and my for family’s various brain diversities was Susan C. Pinky’s The Fast and Furious 5-Step Organizing Solution. It addressed the needs of people with ADHD and was easy for me to follow. I realized I had kept things simply because I’d been keeping them for so long, and no other reason. Things that mattered to me once had become things I kept because…because why? Many of these things were emotionally difficult to simply donate, so I offered them to friends on social media. After a few rounds of things going to people who adored them, I was emotionally able to put together some large donations. Donating books to the library (at their designated location) helped too!

I still have Pinksy’s book on organizing for people with ADHD, but I keep getting stalled out because I don’t like how she describes ADHD. It is not an affliction. Nor is autism. Neurotypical people need to stop thinking that. I am not the average height. I am quite short. But my height isn’t wrong, and neither is my brain…but I digress.

I also have minimalism room by room by Elizabeth Enright Phillips. It’s more of a workbook and I am not far into it, but I like its questions. How do we use this room? Not “what is this room for?” but “how do we use it?”. The thoughts on flow will be useful for my kids and for setting up my new workspace. I just wish it had more pictures. It’s an elegantly designed book and I wish it had lots and lots of pictures. I like pictures! I’m going to find a picture and add it to this post, just because. I’ll try to make it relevant, but no promises!

Anyway, a few months ago, I was invited to join my local “Buy Nothing” group” and this inspired my home-purge to a whole new level. We had a garage sale where sold things for very little money or simply gave things away. We ended up making more money (and having more fun) that we’d ever done with a garage sale before. My home is becoming more a home and less a burden each day. We have been very lucky during the pandemic and are privileged to have this house. I am happy that I am carving out some space for me and am finding a way to make it a home for all of us. Here are some of the most useful things I’ve gleaned from “my studies” so far:

  • No one who loves you wants you to be miserable (if they do, that’s not love).
  • You can part with anything if you don’t want it, no matter who made it or gave it to you; it’s not a reflection on your relationship with that person.
  • Things you don’t want, even those connected to good memories, can go away.
  • Valuable things connected to awful memories should go away. Fast.
  • That stuff you’ve been hauling around for years, from move to move – do you really want it? If not, let it go.
  • If you don’t want those books but hate to donate them, offer them to friends or donate them at a library donation location. Fill your local little libraries. Have fun!
  • If no one is playing the boardgames or making the puzzles or reading the books, it may be because there are so many that it’s overwhelming. Which ones are really worth keeping?

My goal is to create a home that makes me and my family happy. For me this can’t mean nonstop cleaning, and it can’t mean my home looks like it’s waiting for the “Hoarders” film crew. I will share some pictures of my studio/writing/work-space as it comes along. Maybe what I’ve shared can help you too.

Do you have a special place where you can create or read or just be? What’s it like? What do you want it to be?

Before we happened, the house was dated but nice. We brought chaos upon it.

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