Struggling with “where do I put this?” syndrome

photo from Nicole

Photo from old-fashioned housewife

Sometimes the questions we ask ourselves are just really hard to answer. Other times, the hard part is that we’re asking the wrong questions.

We came home several weeks ago from 5 months of living in Spain, ambitious to capitalize on the things we had learned there about living in a more streamlined way. What with one thing and another (wonderful visits with parents and in-laws and siblings, oh my!) we got a little sidetracked, but eventually we got the suitcases unpacked.

We then started in on the project of laying hands on all of our stuff, one thing at a time, and asking, “do we want to keep this?”

This is not a long sentence. Every word is one syllable, and they string together quite coherently. Why is this a hard sentence to remember?

Well, let’s see. It gets supplanted by various musings: “I remember when I got this,” or  “this is my favorite color,” or “this is a pretty cool gadget.” Sometimes it transforms from “do we want to keep this?” to “when might we need this?” or the particularly dangerous, “can you think of a use for this?” I’m surrounded by artists, DIY daredevils and hackers, so there’s always an affirmative answer to that one, even if it involves dismantling as an intermediate step. We can think of something to do with nearly anything.

A drift of odds and ends

A drift of odds and ends

But that’s not the question we began with, and it’s not the question we need to end with. When we’re not careful, the question descends to “where do I put this?” That’s a reasonable question that will eventually need to be asked, but there is a sequence to these things. It should not be asked until whatever-it-is has earned a place among us, and despite the fact that we have a barn, there is not unlimited space.

So we’re back to the original question. “Do we want to keep this?” When we’re feeling particularly beleaguered by our stuff, we think even that isn’t tough enough, and consider pulling out the heavy artillery: “is there any reason not to get rid of this?” On the other hand, sometimes we sidle away, responding with “can we decide later?”

clutter-drawer

Even small spaces can be a big challenge

Staying with the main question is hard. Sometimes it feels like the mental equivalent of when two magnets that are repelling each other get too close. Yet it’s the question that we have to answer, without wandering off or changing the subject.

I’ve tried a couple of different strategies that have really helped me with this challenge, and they’ll be subjects for upcoming posts. In the meantime, Loquita and I have managed to bag and banish (donate) at least 15 bags of clothes over the past three weeks (some of them  small bags, I admit). That quantity may stun you. How did we have that much stuff to begin with? I guess we’ve been saving up. And we are the grateful recipients of occasional hand-me-downs, which is both a blessing and a challenge. I wouldn’t want it otherwise–I just need to get better at the processing-and-passing-on step.

And now, I’ve got to go down and work on the stuff that has accumulated on the bench in the kitchen. Maybe if I write the question on some masking tape and stick it on my forearm….

Things tend to pile up.

Things tend to pile up.

What are your best strategies for staying possessionally trim?

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7 thoughts on “Struggling with “where do I put this?” syndrome

    • I like the idea. I sometimes find that I’m better at a big push–I just got back from taking a carload to Savers. Such a great feeling! But I think your slow-and-steady suggestion might turn out to be more successful. There’s that line from a hymn, “Have I done any good in the world today?” Maybe I could hum something like, “have I put anything in my bin today?” to encourage me to feed my donations bin.

  1. “is there any reason not to get rid of this?” Good question.
    It’s not one of those projects that’s ever ‘done’, is it? You just know you have to keep going through the same routines of purging.

  2. I, too, see a future use of just about everything. But we need to downsize so I face a few closets and cupboards and bookshelves with trepidation. I fully know that feeling those hoarders face as friends and families come in to help them clean out their homes – it is almost terror! (after Westford, I was told by the family I may never own a basement ever again. 🙂 Some say there is a tangible thread of some sort to all our belongings, and the more we have, the more we’re weighed down. I’m beginning to agree. I’ll be freer when the next garage sale is done and the rest goes to our favorite charity thrift store. I need to adopt a mantra of, Someone else can enjoy it now.

    • I hear you, Sister! You raise a number of ideas that I hope to address in future posts, and that I have to address when looking at my stuff….

  3. Pingback: Lori Notes turns 100 | Lori Notes

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