In which I’m still paring down

I’m still paring down around here–interesting in that I’m doing revisions on CITY OF JASMINE so I’m tightening up the book while I’m tightening up everything else! I hauled four bags of clothes out of my closet the other day, and that wasn’t even a proper clean-out. Articles on decluttering always tell you to take every single thing out of the closet and then scrutinize each carefully, but let’s be real–that’s a project that takes HOURS and I don’t have that right now. I also don’t want to wait until I do have that sort of time to bring some order to things. So I’m adopting a different method altogether; I’m doing as much as I can when I can. And here’s how I’m making quick decluttering choices:

1. Dealing with paperwork. I’ve let a few piles accumulate, and now I’m diligently working my way through the stacks. Business receipts and personal receipts are getting filed. Thank you notes from people are either getting tossed or put into a Tiffany box I keep for special correspondence. (I had been hanging onto the thank you notes because I was going to respond, and then I realized how absurd that is. Am I really going to thank someone for their thank you note? No, of course not. It would never end because then they’d thank me for the thank you I wrote for their thank you. It’s a Mobius strip of gratitude. Instead, I read them over again, appreciated their kind sentiments, and dealt with them.) I’ve whipped out my label maker and have created a few new files for things that need a home. It takes thirty seconds to make a label and stash something, but that’s an item that is now properly housed and waiting for friends to be filed with it.

2. Filling a bag with as much stuff as I can find in a quick sweep through my closet. Again, not the method preferred by anyone who knows anything about decluttering, but I don’t care. It’s getting things DONE. I take a single grocery bag and hit the closet, tossing as I go. Some things are obvious–like the gold cocktail dress with the bubble skirt–and somethings are just tired, like the long-sleeved t-shirts I’ve been wearing for the last four winters. They’ve seen better days, and I never really liked them anyway, so out they went along with a pair of jeweled flip-flops that feel like walking on concrete.

3. One drawer at a time. I tidied my makeup drawer in fifteen minutes and tossed a bagful of old or duplicate cosmetics. Last week I found the perfect blush–L’Oreal mousse. It replaces the Lancome mousse blush that was discontinued a few years back and is miles better than anything I’ve made do with in the meantime. So out went all the cream and powder blushes I didn’t like. Drugstore brands, NARS, Lancome, they all got passed on or trashed. I chucked out every dried out lip balm or gloss that was past its prime, and all glittery eyeshadows got passed to my daughter. (Eighteen is the perfect age for glitter.) I kept the Naked palette from Urban Decay and a soft black that can be smudged into smokiness. Everything else went. I ditched half my makeup brushes–the half I never use because OMG, what are they FOR? And I got rid of lipstick colors that didn’t really suit me. I will admit to keeping far more red lipsticks than any woman should ever own, but I also don’t have to go shopping for red for a good long while.

4. Purging while waiting. If I’m waiting for something to print, load, bake, spin dry, or connect, it’s the perfect chance to do a micro-purge. It may be one drawer. It may be one ITEM. Doesn’t matter. If I can skim one clipping and toss it or file it, if I can pull one lipstick out of my purse, if I can toss one raggedy towel, I’ve accomplished something.

I’ve always been a sort of “all or nothing” kind of girl. If I couldn’t do all the trimming in the yard, why bother doing any of it? If I couldn’t give the dog a full haircut, why get out the scissors? Why answer emails if I can’t empty the entire inbox? The result of that is a whole lot of stuff just not getting done. Now I’m not focused so much on the end result, but on the process itself. I’m using the odd few moments here and there to get things done, and it’s actually working. Of course, the dog looks a bit mad with half-cut hair, but it will get finished in the end, I promise. And breaking things down into smaller bites really does help you to eat the elephant. I don’t have to take the entire morning to deep clean the bathroom. I can take two minutes to clean the mirror or swish the brush around the toilet and that is an improvement. I don’t have to take everything out of the linen closet; I can toss one washcloth that’s seen better days. I can polish one piece of silver instead of every bit I own. I can take an hour to trim ivy in the yard and get done as much as I can in that time. Instead of viewing everything as a major project, I’m simply doing what I can when I can and finding much more is actually getting done this way. It’s contrary to everything I’ve ever read about how to tackle decluttering or organizing projects, but it’s working, so there you go.

Now, if only I could figure out how to let go of books in my TBR pile that have been lurking there for YEARS unread…

12 thoughts on “In which I’m still paring down”

  1. Alleyne D. says:

    It sounds like you’ve been reading FlyLady!

    1. Heard of her but haven’t checked out the site. Have friends who swear by her though!

  2. Jaye says:

    Fabulous! This is what I do as well and it works particularly well on stubborn piles of things that need to be filed. One thing filed is one less thing to be filed! i know my yard needs attention, but I hate gardening, so I allot myself a certain amount of time and get as much done in that time as I can. I don’t enjoy it, though. Still, things getting done is a good thing.

    How about donating the TBR books to your local library, then they’ll be there when you want to read them?

    1. That would be a perfect solution, but our library doesn’t put them into the collection. They sell the books as a fundraiser instead!

  3. Amy K says:

    What’s the full name of the Loreal blush? I’m feeling like I should branch out from powder blush.

    1. L’Oreal Magic Smooth Souffle.

      1. Amy K says:

        Thanks! I’ll be sure to check that out.

  4. Ah, grasshopper. Zen and the art of downsizing clutter. Well done!

  5. Judith Smith says:

    My daughter also went to college when I was 45. It’s a magical transformation time, though often unexpectedly difficult.

    My mantra is 15 minutes a day to work on that pile that won’t go away. Come on, you can certainly do 15 minutes! Particularly helpful for those tasks you don’t want to do.

  6. Lin Paulson says:

    These sorts of activities let the mind percolate in the deeper regions. My WIP benefits as does my peace of mind when I view the results. Thirty minute breaks work best for me. Oh, and I make sure I have a small note book handy to jot down some of those ideas that bubble up.

  7. Kate Tupper says:

    You have sooooo inspired me! I love this post! I am an all or nothing girl too and it does stop me from attacking big decluttering jobs. I’m off to do some decluttering — one grocery bag at a time — with suitable reward breaks for my re-read of Lady Julia’s adventures!

  8. Pat says:

    Good for you! I live in a cluttered house; I’m trying so hard to get rid of stuff. Catching up on paperwork and filing—hate it! If I could just get rid of my spouse’s stuff there’d be so much more room. . . .

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