The urge to purge (clutter)

A post by Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, caught my eye this morning. It’s called “A Secret to Happiness? Don’t Get Organized.”


I thought organizing was a good thing. Lately, I’ve been gearing up for some serious decluttering. There always seems to be more of it to do. Sigh. I’ve been feeling the urge to purge for weeks, but haven’t had time to tackle it except in a small way.

Spoiler alert – Rubin isn’t advising not to tackle the clutter at all.

Instead, she says to get rid of things, so you don’t have to organize them. We are on the same page after all.





Which books to keep?

The bookcases in my home office are just about full, now that I’ve taken out the items that belong to my daughter.

I have four dozen books that didn’t make it to my office shelves, but at some point I will have to cull my collection further.

My criteria for whether to keep books and other items are: Do I want them? Do I need them? Do I love them? Will I use them?

But deciding is still difficult, especially when it comes to books. They’re not like vases, or decorative pillows, where what you see is pretty much what you get.

The value of books is often not apparent until you delve into them. I don’t think I’ll regret letting go of the books I’m not keeping. I don’t plan to reread them. I think I’ve absorbed what I need to from them, or they just didn’t speak to me in the first place.

I’ve kept some books that I don’t really want or need, but that may be useful for reference. For now, I have a place for them.

Only one of my books about writing is in the not-keeping pile, even though I haven’t referred to most of them in years.

When it’s time to cull again, I also want to look through my old copies of Writer’s Digest and The Writer, magazines that were very useful to me when I was starting out. They are neatly stored in plastic magazine holders… just in case.




My home office, and the “black hole”

Yesterday, I spent the whole day working on my home office (an extra bedroom), as well as the room I refer to as the “black hole.” I unpacked boxes, hung pictures, shredded, organized, and made a lot of decisions about what to keep and what to get rid of.

I moved all of my “offfice stuff” out of the dining room in early December, but didn’t really have full use of my new space, because my daughter hadn’t completely moved out of it. Sigh.

Although I like to break daunting tasks into manageable chunks, I felt I needed a running start for this next stage of getting-my-house-organized.

One thing that motivated me was helping a friend move earlier this month. Moving forces you to get organized and go through your stuff. I wanted to do that too, even if I wasn’t moving.

I also came across a TV show called Hoarding: Buried Alive, and watched the end of an episode as well as the beginning of the next one. Yikes! The show served as a cautionary tale. It also provided motivation to tackle my “black hole,”  the result of two post-university moves back home, and some of my own things that hadn’t yet made it to my home office.

There’s still a lot to do, but I’m ready to go back to the manageable-chunks stage. Lucky for me, because I have other things to do too.




Losing my nerve/the “clutter” post

Last week, I posted to my blog on Thursday, but lost my nerve when it came to letting people know about it via social media or the email list that I usually send it to.

In the post, titled “Too Much Stuff,” I wrote about the pile of notebooks, pictures and paraphernalia that I brought home from The Canadian Jewish News after being downsized – and how it was taking up too much space in my dining room.

Even though I’ve started to tackle the “stuff” more aggressively, it’s a bit daunting to write about it online. I guess it’s like announcing that you’re quitting smoking, or going on a diet. The pressure’s on to follow through!

It’s no big secret to people who know me that I’m not exactly ruthless when it comes to getting rid of things. I do know where things are, and can locate old articles and other items pretty quickly, most of the time.

On occasion, I watch Hoarders or Clean Sweep – reality television shows about people with serious clutter problems – and I’m reassured that my own stuff is manageable, if somewhat unsightly at times.

I mentioned to a few people over the weekend that I couldn’t bring myself to post a link to my blog last Thursday, and they were unanimously encouraging, reminding me how many people deal with the same issue, and telling me they’d be interested in reading what I wrote.

A couple of lessons/reminders for me from this experience:

1. I didn’t feel good about not posting the link to my blog. Even though I’m not accountable to anyone but myself, it’s important to me to follow through when I say I’m going to do something.

2. Sometimes I need to go beyond my comfort zone. Not only do people grow by stretching themselves that way, it can and often does lead to good things.

PS – No posts on Thursday or Friday this week. Will be back on Sunday.

Too much stuff

Of all my colleagues who were downsized, I was likely the one who brought home the most stuff. I began to recycle old notebooks and sort through papers in my office cubicle in my final weeks of work. But on my last day, I still filled the trunk of my car with binders crammed with years’ worth of articles, stacks of notebooks, photos, and other odds and ends that represented 22 years at the paper. And it wasn’t the first load I’d brought home – although it was the largest.

Fast forward two months, and welcome to my dining room, aka my (temporary) office. It’s also still the dining room (as long as I clear the table and move my Canadian Jewish News stuff into the corner) – because meals with friends and family are more important than a perfectly tidy room.

But lately, I’ve been motivated to tackle the clutter more aggressively.

You have to love technology – I programmed a daily reminder into my iPhone so that I’d remember to go through at least one notebook, shredding any contact information I come across. A modest strategy, but it’s been working very well.

I usually tackle more than one notebook, and I’m convinced the pile of stuff is shrinking. If I chip away at it a bit at a time, the task becomes less daunting.

It’s good to get rid of things I don’t need. Somehow, it helps me feel that I am moving forward – toward whatever is next in my work life, and toward a more office-y office in an extra bedroom.

PS – No post tomorrow. Will blog again on Sunday.