Daymaker - a person who performs acts of kindness with the intention of making the world a better place.
~ David Wagner
, author of Life as a Daymaker; how to change the world by making someone's day ~

DayMaker - any thought, word, or deed that spreads happiness, compassion, or fruitful ideas.
~ Annis Cassells ~

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Clearing the Clutter

From 1995 to 2000,  I was a grad student at  California State University, Bakersfield, in their counseling program. This week, I threw away my masters degree notes and papers. If they had been kids, some of those notes and papers would be old enough to drive a car.

I hadn’t intended to ditch my college notes, hadn’t even thought about them in several years. But, one thing does lead to another, and somehow I found myself doing the unexpected.

Observing that the encroaching clutter in the house was beginning to cause claustrophobia, Judy and I embarked on a marathon sort and purge campaign. I’d snatched long-neglected clothing off the hangers and out of bureau drawers and had taken them to the Discovery Shop, the local American Cancer Society resale store.

Clothing on its way to be recycled

Then, after hauling out everything in my office and three days of going through it, deciding what to keep and what to toss, I took a couple of boxes out to the garage, thinking I’d store them in the cupboard marked “Annis’s Stuff”. There was no place to put them. Every shelf was full. The next thing I knew, the dusty garaged boxes were strewn over the cement floor.  Lids off, or their four corner flaps untucked, the opened receptacles revealed yellowed loose-leaf and typewritten pages, ink-faded 3x5 cards, and rubber bands that had baked brick-hard.

I rolled our large brown garbage can into the garage and began following the “Clearing the Clutter” instructions that I’d written on a card for myself as a psych class assignment in 1996. (Every now and then, that card floats to the surface of my desk.) It reads like this:

* Remember to use the self-instructions while you’re working on those piles.
* Keep going. Don’t stop to READ the papers.
* Throw away or put away the stacks.
* ‘Atta girl! It’s coming.
* Great! That table (desk, floor, shelf) is cleaned off!
* Don’t worry. You’re getting there.

And, I did get there. Heaving and tugging and stacking, ruthlessly getting rid of Statistics 520 and other items that brought back memories of sweat and tears, failures and triumphs. Three hours later, there was space galore on the shelves, and I rolled the full, heavy, hard-to-steer garbage can to the back yard. I was glad I’d been working out at the gym.

Feeling a bit lighter myself when finished, I wondered, Why do we hold onto that stuff?  Sometimes out of necessity? Or comfort? Or just plain forgetfulness? Maybe all of the above.
Office closet -- everything in its place

One thing’s for sure: clearing the clutter feels good. Knowing that I’ve dealt with my stuff, and not left it for someone else to manage, is satisfying. There’s pride in accomplishment when I see the neatly-arranged treasures I’ve kept. Yes, there’s plenty more that needs to go. But, this week I’m on a roll and hitting par. 

How's your stuff? How do you keep it under control?

~ xoA


  1. Testing how this comment box is working.

  2. A necessary step now and again. I'm lucky in that my wife does not like to have clutter build so we have far less 'stuff,' lying around than most people. Now I'm thinking about the shelving behind me--somethings gotta go. T

  3. I was 'forced' to de-clutter for my move back west four years ago, and it felt so empowering/liberating that I've held continued to keep my life as clutter free as possible. I'd rather have only meaningful essentials than a garage full of 'stuff'.

  4. Terry, so true "now and again". For me, it's a matter of needing to focus on the again. Thanks for writing.

  5. Kim, a big move sure will force a purge. Good for you for maintaining. Thanks for sharing your experience. ~xoA

  6. My brother phoned me after reading this blog post. "We hold onto the stuff because we're hoarders!" he cackled. "Our father was a hoarder, our aunts and uncles were hoarders, our grandmother was a hoarder." So, I guess it is in our genes -- as well as in our garages. ~xoA

  7. Guess I am related to your brother :-) I need to declutter and I make slow baby steps but its very hard for me. I've been in my large old house for 35 years and its full. Your post was inspirational. I don't want to leave it for my partner and/or kids to do.

  8. Not wanting to leave it for others to do is a great incentive, Susan. This way, you get to decide where it goes. Baby steps is a good start. Thanks for writing. xoA