I admit to chuckling when I got a very nice email encouraging folks to participate in the Spring Cleaning Challenge. While I aim for neat and clean, I generally fall short of Martha Stewart (but still far above having the Health Department called on me). My biggest problem is not that I'm messy or unsanitary, but just that I have more stuff than can comfortably fit in my tiny apartment.
I blame my genetics. I grew up in a tiny house filled with colorful art and memories, and my mom grew up in a house full of treasures handed down for several generations. Treasures in this case means everything from pottery to a Styrofoam ice chest from the 1960s.
In other words, I am a pack rat.
So this is a post for those of us who see memories in the things around us, and who assign feelings to inanimate objects;
for those of us who have a hard time letting go of the items we've collected in our journeys, those of us who may appear to be nuts to our roommates or significant others;
for those of us who are thrifty, who were trained to "waste not, want not;" and
for those of us who see potential for everything to be reborn, and who have a shame box of abandoned DIY projects in the corner.
I've been slowly working through my physical possessions over the last few months to make space to better honor my old memories and leave space for new ones. Since I bet I'm not the only pack rat out there, here are a five things I'm learning:
1. Just because it's old, doesn't mean it's valuable. Or at least it might not be valuable to me. My family has a big collection of books from the 1850s to 1940s that don't mean anything to us (titles include, My Mother is a Violent Woman and Soap Behind the Ears...not exactly classics). I'm going to help my mom sell them on Etsy in the hopes of connecting someone who loves obscure older volumes with books that are just going to take up space our closets. Other favorite sites include your local Craigslist, eBay, The Freecycle Network, thrift and consignment shops, and social networking sites like the Facebook Marketplace. And if, like me, you feel sorry for neglected items, the best thing you can do is find them a new home where they will be loved!
2. Be realistic. When I was unemployed, I sold stuff online and through local consignment to generate some cash. I collected a lot of items, and am still trying to sell it off. Now that I am short on time and have a stable job, I've gone through everything and narrowed it down into three categories:
* Items I can easily sell at the consignment store across the street;
* Items of higher value in a niche market that will be sold on Etsy; and
* Stuff that is not worth the effort and can be donated to someone who WILL use it.
The last category includes items I had planned to use for DIY projects that have not happened in the year since the item was acquired. Since all of these items were bought from a thrift store or rescued from the dumpster, I just donate them and call it even.
3. Create visual displays of items you love so you can see them everyday. I found this shelf for a few dollars at a yard sale, and it's perfect for displaying small items of significance.
It has everything from Czechoslovakian Glass to my grandma's harmonica to chai mugs I picked up in India. I'm sure some might find it unappealing, but to my aesthetic sense, the big bold design provides a unifying frame for items of a similar size that otherwise wouldn't go together. If this isn't your thing, check out the many, many ideas available on Apartment Therapy or Pinterest!
4. Find ways to repurpose cool items. I love using my grandpa's tool caddy as a wine/beer rack in my apartment, and my great-grandma's mirror as part of a jewelry organizer. It serves a practical use, and as a right-brained purpose, I cherish being able to see things that make me think of someone I love.
5. Collect memories, not stuff. I am tempted to keep things just because they remind me of a person or an era (which, conversely, is also a reason I get rid of stuff). I don't think there's anything wrong with hanging onto an item that makes you remember fond times, even if you only bring it out once in a while. That's what a memory box is for. Box in the singular. If you have boxes and boxes of keepsakes, the truly special items get buried. If you're having a hard time getting rid of something but know that it's just taking up space, take a picture with or of it and write down its story. Pictures are space-efficient keepsakes :)