Progress in 2009

December 19, 2009

The year is ending, so I’ll do an update on my goals for the year.

1. Desk + Five Boxes:

Did pretty well on this.  Books are in two boxes instead of one, and I haven’t gone through all my media stuff yet.  So there are eight boxes left, and I just need sorting time to get it to six boxes.

2. My Furniture:

I hesitated on getting rid of some of my furniture, but what I have left is in my room or in the garage loft right now.  This could be reduced further, but at least it’s no longer in the storage unit and is all out of the way.

3. Storage Unit:

As detailed in this post, the friend boxes are mostly still in storage.  I reached a point where I could not continue with the sorting, so this goal is a failure.  Have not been able to get rid of the storage unit yet.

Going forward I’ll be scanning through my old VHS tapes and converting anything I want to save to digital files so I don’t need the bulky tapes anymore.  I want to organize my non-digital photos in some way.  There are also a few DVDs that could be sold on eBay.  After that I’ll probably refocus on my computer stuff because having one desk and three computers (along with all their peripherals) isn’t very efficient.


Book Pile Staredown

September 20, 2009

Found a group of books I was willing to let go of.  Some hardcover and newer softcover ones, probably worth $80 total if they were new.  Monday I took them to work and put into the donation box.  Walked by the box on a coffee break and saw they had been taken somewhere and the box was empty.  Had an “OMG THEY’RE GONE” moment.  I was okay with it, although it did feel strange.

Over the next two days I felt inspired to find more to donate.  Books were pulled out of their storage boxes – on my desk, bed, and a card table.  There were four major groups:

  1. Reference
  2. Want to Read
  3. History – personal and family mementos
  4. Favorites – mostly fiction

If it’s reference, can I give away the book and look the info up online or in a library when I want it?

If it’s #2, how long have I been keeping it to read?  Some have been in storage for more than ten years.  Would I be terribly disappointed if I never got a chance to read them?

History items should be ranked in order of importance, and then maybe I can toss the bottom two.

Why do I keep a favorite book that has already been read?

  • to read again someday
  • identify strongly with the characters
  • makes me feel comfortable to see it

Is that feeling in the book itself?  Would I stop feeling that way if the book was no longer in my life?

This week has been like a staring contest between me and the books.  I sit in a chair and look at the piles.  I sort through them and move books from one pile to another.  I pick up one book and leaf through it, then pace back and forth because I can’t decide and then put it back down.  Who will blink first?  I’m afraid that would be me.

A favorite book is in my collection because I may want to re-read it in the future.  The question is, how much is the storage costing me?  I enjoyed it in the past, and it’s being saved for a potential future that may or may not happen.  I think back to my storage unit, which costs a monthly rental fee that is way more money than the stored things are worth.  Is the peace of mind that I am losing by looking at the book clutter costing me more in the long run than the trouble I’d have to go through to find the book again?


September 13, 2009

Some things I have held onto for a very long time, recently was able to let go and give them to a church fair.  I put them in the box of donations, and even then could not believe I had done that, perhaps thinking of just taking them out again, restraining myself and letting them stay.

Telephone – This was the last wired land-line phone that I had.  A nice quality AT&T phone in perfect working order.  The house where I’m staying had a cordless phone system installed a couple years ago, so it went into storage.  I probably kept it this long because I’ve been using it since the early 1990’s, and it could potentially be used as an emergency phone in case the cordless phones stop working.  But there are other phones in the house to use in emergencies.  I also have a mobile phone which is my main number.  So this telephone was not necessary.

Clothes Iron – The old metal ironing board from my Grandmother’s house is still here.  But I decided to let the iron go.  It was not something I chose – the iron was given to me when my Mom got a new one for herself.  Most of my clothing was chosen partly because it does not require ironing.  If I start ironing clothes again someday I’ll get a new one.  Maybe now I’m closer to being able to give away the ironing board?

The pile of audio tapes I had set aside for donating went to the church.

Also, just found out that someone at work is collecting books to sell as a fundraiser for charity.  When I read the sign I thought about my “on the cusp” pile of books that I still want to keep but would not be devastated if they were gone.  I decided while I was at work that I’ll just donate the whole pile.  Not looking at the books helped to make the decision.  Never finished reading some of them, but I really don’t have room for them all here.

It seems easier to give things away if they’re going to benefit a church or raising research funds to fight a disease.

Bound By Books

September 8, 2009

Because of my recent success in sorting through the old audio tapes, this weekend I felt ambitious enough to try to sort my books.

Books are the hardest things to let go of.  I have very few fiction books.  Most of them are collected for a purpose.  For example – at one time I wanted to learn to sail a boat, so I have books on learning to sail, biographies of famous sailors, outfitting a boat for living aboard, how to survey older boats, etc.  These books are research material that I believe will help turn a dream into reality.  Getting rid of these books feels like I am giving up on my dream.

There are philosophy books related to principles that I believe in.  The implication is that getting rid of the books means my values have changed.  I know this isn’t true, of course.  But the feeling that a book is connected to a dream or belief is why I keep all my books.

The approach I started with was to sort them into four groups: To Keep, To Donate, To Sell, Not Sure.  Goal is to reduce them to the most essential books that cannot be replaced at any price, hopefully to fit in one banker’s box.  They had been boxed up for a year and a half.  Looking through them reconnected with the memories, beliefs, feelings, and dreams.  Only found ten I could let go of.

The next day I began to realize that the trouble in letting go is caused by this connection to things that I wanted to do someday in the future.  So I made a list of “dreams” and wrote them on index cards.  Also had cards for fiction, must keep, sentimental value, and other.  I placed the cards around my bed and table, then sorted the books into these categories.  The new goal was to sort them and then pick 2 or 3 books from each category to keep.

Tried to use the OHIO technique (only handle it once) but some were shifted around three times.  At the end of the day the keepers were down to about two boxes full.  Had a nice donation pile and a sell pile.  During the day I created a new pile called “the cusp” – for books that were somewhere between must keep and can go.  I’ll let this pile sit for a week or two, and maybe I’ll be able to sort it again and let most of them go.

A lesson learned: giving away a book does not mean that the knowledge within is being erased from the world.  In fact, passing it on means someone else can read it and share the knowledge.  If I need the information again in the future, I can probably find it.

Holding on

April 23, 2009

I read an ebook today that has a great quote in it.  The author wrote that someone once said to him, “Letting go is really hard, but not as hard as holding on.  You let go once.  You have to hold on all day every day.”

Data Clutter

March 25, 2009

Ten days ago I was sitting with a pad of paper, trying to organize my thoughts on how to approach the clutter caused by the damp things spread out to dry.  After I while I just wrote: “At the end of today I want the bedroom to be in a state where I can leave it as-is for one week.”

That was accomplished.  It was all consolidated in one area, half-packed boxes stacked up along one wall.  Shoes, books and things piled underneath card tables.  The chaos was still present, but contained.

It occurred to me today that I didn’t feel motivated to finish packing the dry stuff back into boxes and storing them.  It’s not as offensive now to see these things, compared to when they were damp and musty.  As if the stuff is blending into the landscape of clutter in the bedroom, so that I am not seeing it anymore.  Soon I’ll need to pack it up so I can reclaim some floorspace.

I want to upgrade my computer.  But it worries me.  Where will I put the old computer?  Where will I put all the stuff that comes with a new computer?  (disks, books, cables, boxes)  How will I consolidate all my data so it can be transferred and then backed up?

Data, like objects, have been collected by me and saved for a long time.  I still have text files that were downloaded to a Commodore 64 from a BBS using a 300 baud modem!  Also most things I’ve created on computers – including programs written in college that won’t run on any system I have now.  I did throw away the paper printouts of those old school projects, but I probably still have the data files.

I have all the pictures taken since I got a digital camera.  That collection is getting pretty big now.  Data takes up little physical space, but there are media like CDs, DVDs, Zip disks, flash drives, external hard drives.  That crap takes up real space.

Flooded Basement

March 14, 2009

A week ago the basement at the house flooded.  It was a rare warm day in in winter, snow and ice melting, plus it was raining.  Water level in the basement rose to about 8 inches and stayed there most of the day, slowly draining out overnight.  I’m told this is a rare event, the basement had been damp, but no flooding in the last 20 years.

I was storing about 30 cardboard boxes down there, many of which were sitting on the bare concrete floor.  They were stacked three boxes high.  A few of the lower ones changed shape when they got soaked, causing the upper ones to fall down and get wet.  I discovered it the next day, when the furnace wouldn’t turn on I went down to look.  The whole floor was a wet mess, with boxes and plastic cans knocked on their sides.

This past week I went to my job every day like normal, then rushed back to the house to work on saving as much as I could.  Things that got soaked were clothes, shoes, books, and paper files.  Bedroom is super cluttered right now, with piles of clothes on chairs, card tables, and hanging up on hooks, damp books arranged on any available flat surface to dry, and shoes all over the floor.  The musty smell is making it hard to sleep there.  Haven’t opened all the wet boxes yet, due to lack of workspace.  Trying to hurry and get things dried out before they can get moldy.  Planning on finishing it this weekend.

Sadly, most of these boxes are things I am storing for someone else.  If it were mine I’d rejoice and heave the wet junk into the dumpster and be done with it.  But since it’s not mine and I am responsible for it, I feel obligated to save as much as possible.

I was thinking the other day, as insane as it is to store things for friends, it actually does help me with decluttering my own stuff.  Being able to compare the physical volume of my stuff with the stuff belong to other people, gives me a perspective that changes the way I look at things I feel attached to.  Other people have an emotional or memory attachment to their own things which I don’t share.  Looking at junk I’m not attached to, and then looking at my own things, allows me to view my own junk as if it were someone else’s.