November 10th, 2012

The Big Decluttering Project

It's not over, not by a long stretch (and, arguably, will never be over, because of course maintenance). However, large chunks of the house are looking much, much better. There a space in the master suite that used to have a table in front of a book case: the table is gone (as is its match in the bedroom, and a different book case next to the book case in question). When I walk through this space, I'm starting to forget what was there, and only notice that it looks nice now -- I have to think to remember why it used to be so bad.

Anyway. We've been in the throes of furniture turnover (we have a dining table out to be refinished and have replaced a couch, two barstools and the rocking chair moved and a new chair came in -- and I _think_ that's it). But I have only now started to stare at organizing devices. I was looking for a solution to the roll-off-the-nightstand problem, and found a leather thing that snaps in the corners so it can travel flat and sit as a tray, which should solve the problem both at home and when traveling (the pocket light rolling onto the floor in a hotel room really sucks). Other purchases were made at the same time.

Today I took a swing at the kitchen, and was reminded once again of how fanatically hard R. and I work to keep the kitchen from getting out of control. I was a little shocked at how little I was able to get rid of (but one banker's box is headed to HGRM, even as we speak, and a variety of allen wrenches moved out of random drawers and into a tool box where they belong. Which reminds me. There's this tool chest in the basement. *shudder*).

I also went to my closet and extracted a few items that I no longer wear; they'll go out to a donation bin either later today or tomorrow. I also did the OCD hangar sort-and-swap (hang all my stuff on the nice hangars and move all the plastic hangars to the laundry closet and put all the remaining nice hangars in one spot where they are easy to find).

Yesterday was exciting: Got Books arrived in a big truck to take 9 boxes and 3 grocery bags of books -- that was a huge project all by itself, prepping for that pickup.

While I was sitting down thinking I _really_ may need to do something about what may well be an episode of hypomania, I eyed the top of a bookcase which had 3 large and one small art objects on it and thought, hey, that stone sculpture thing would look great upstairs on my dresser and since we had the bedroom painted while we were on vacation, the white of the stone will contrast beautifully with the deep red of the wall, rather than fading into the off-white that it used to be and still is downstairs. And it _does_.

It is probably wrong to enjoy this so much. And yet, I do.

ETA 1:49 EST: Mildly related remark.

There's not a ton out there about cleaning up digital clutter. While it is super cool and quite incredible that Apple (and Amazon) have, through their app stores, created the equivalent of New Real Estate (at least for toys) (and thus invoked Location, Location, Location), that new space, like all other space, attracts Crap. Editing the crap is thus a requirement, at least after a certain point.

At an otherwise unremarkable commercial blog about decluttering, I found this entry:

Nice summary, still unremarkable, other than that it has been applied to an area urgently in need of attention.

Link-Fu about Decluttering vs. Interior Design

[I was of two minds about whether to share this one or not, but I think I will. Short form: I concluded that there is some overlap between Decluttering and Interior Design, it's mostly at the less expensive end of Interior Design Services, and more expensive/traditional designers are trying to tie into this and not succeeding especially well.]

I've been feeling like there is something tantalizingly just around the corner cognitively in the Big Declutter. I can watch what I am doing as I do it, and I recognize there's a lot of coherence to what I am doing -- each step clearly builds upon what went before and it is all headed towards making our home more functional and more pleasing to experience sensorily (how it looks, how it feels, the way it smells, how the rooms sound -- I discourage tasting, obviously, altho not always successfully where my kids are involved . . .).

I can also say definitively what this process is not: planned, with a deadline or schedule, visually oriented. I'm not trying to make it "look" a certain way, altho making it more visually appealing is (almost) as desirable as making it more sensorily appealing in other ways (but I'll take a good sounding, feeling and smelling room over a good looking room every single day and twice on Sundays).

It occurred to me that if I were visually oriented, I'd obviously be doing interior decorating or interior design. And then it occurred to me that a lot of the declutter/unclutter/simplification stuff I've been reading is covering the same ground that home decorating material used to cover. And _that_ is where the "there" is. So what _is_ the difference between the two activities, if any?

(1) Personal organizers/declutterers often offer "staging" services to help sell a house.

(2) They also offer "room renewal services", and home blending services. These often involving digging through the crap you have, getting rid of some of it, and then prominently displaying/arranging some of what they found along the way, along with paint and (budget permitting) furniture upgrades (replacement or refurbishment), lighting and window treatments, etc. Since they look for "themes", this sounds like interior design/decorating to me.

I don't know a durn thing about these people beyond what their website says (I'm in no way endorsing them), but it's hard not to think this is what the 1980s and 1990s would have called interior design.

Obviously, there is a different end of decluttering that has nothing to do with design/decoration, and this thread does a fantastic job of capturing a wide range of it:

The question asked is simple and captured by the URL: If you have ever done a massive decluttering, did you have any regrets? The regrets listed are so few that someone re-posted the question as the answers were so resoundingly NO! NO REGRETS! A book here, an album there, a concert t-shirt there, a BMX bike, a guitar, etc., but vast amounts of NO REGRETS. And then there was this:

"Does regretting the way my brother cleared out 3 homes of relatives count?"

The poster then explains how an aunt and uncle, her parents (dad deceased, mom going to nursing home, then mom dying) had their leftover stuff dealt with by a brother, who (obviously) got rid of most of it, including some specific named items in a will that were left to the poster.

"Because of all this I have a hard time letting go of things. I know there were things that were either valuable or historic amongst the "garbage" that was disposed of. Needless to say I'm struggling with getting past this and definitely have regrets."

This answer comes from someone who has never gone through a decluttering process, but rather saw it happen with items whose former owners had died, and who (predictably) has confused what happened to the owners and what happened to the stuff (really, like a textbook hoarder).

This is all describing the therapeutic aspects of decluttering (successful in the case of people who have gone through the process; opaque to the woman who has not), which is presumably unrelated to the aesthetics of it.

Altho maybe not. Which is part of what I am trying to understand.

The original asker came back later to say they had indeed decluttered, described some of what they did, and to say they had no regrets, like all others, quite the opposite.

Some design people are taking advantage of the popularity of decluttering (witness Clean House, Clean Sweep and the various Hoarding shows):

An uninspired piece written for AI by a freelancer, it includes the usual suspects from the design side (The Container Store! Hide Things! Put Toys Away When Company Is Coming!) and the declutter side (Edit things 15 minutes a day so it doesn't build up. Reuse/recycle/be crafty). Plus seasonal rotation, neutral palettes, and throw pillows as color accents. *sigh*

From across the pond:

You can tell a designer is involved when the advice is to get rid of paperbacks on the shelves and replace them with vases (remember to make that a an "ah" ;-).

More of the same: hide stuff, neutral palette, color through accessories, along with the sort mail over the recycle bin.

Over a decade ago, I borrowed and mostly enjoyed a friend's copy of Karen Kingston's _Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui_, which, IIRC, was one of the books Niesslein used in _Practically Perfect in Every Way_.

My first link above included Feng Shui consultation (creating a bagua for your home to analyze the energy flow), as does this:

Urban Dictionary tells me I'm passe for using "declutter". The Trendy Term is "de-hoard".

"The act of removing previously hoarded items or animals from a facility or parcel of land. Due to the rise in the use of the words hoarders and hoarding popularized by reality television shows, people now dehoard rather than declutter."

My anecdata from googling suggests that while people who declutter talk about ADHD, people who dehoard talk about OCD.

The aesthetic sensibility collides with perfectionism, procrastination and hoarding in this blog:

Right down to the pile of half-used cosmetics.

One of the comments highlights the saving-tax-returns-forever issue that makes me see red whenever I see that particular piece of evil advice:

"we have EVERY income tax return we've filed since we got married in 1961"

Best Tumbler EVAH!

Nice young woman's hoarder grandma passes away and she (the young grand-daughter) leads the project to de-hoard grandma's house. The link above is to what (at this point in time) is the beginning of the photo blog, explaining the project. If you go to the main link, you'll be at the current status. I did not dig through the photos, only looked at the top level for each page. As with nearly anyone who works with a hoard and/or hoarder, way, way, way more compassionate and way, way, way less judgy than I suspect I'll ever manage to be.

Boy, when people get all pre-history about clutter, they can really screw up:

"Our stuff has changed a great deal since those early days as well. Back then, everything was biodegradable and disappeared rather quickly so that clutter buildup was less of an issue. Much of our stuff now will outlive us."

Someone has failed to understand "archaeology" and "middens".