Friday, November 12, 2010

Becoming a War Reporter in the Home Clutter Wars

There's been a war going on for at least seven years over possession of what was once my daughter's room.   We've been fighting an uphill battle since the year we rented out the house while we were on sabbatical.  The room became our storage unit while the tenant had access to the rest of the house.  

We've fought the boxes now and then, successfully unhooking emotional claws long enough to donate, recycle, or trash.  And for periods of time we've managed to confine the boxes to the overcrowded refugee camp in the closet.   But somehow, when we aren't looking, troublemakers manage to sneak out and set up cardboard shanty towns on the floor.

I posted before and after pictures of this room last summer when we had temporarily reclaimed the floor. Things have again gotten out of hand. 

So I commissioned a report from a prestigious think tank on whether this war is even winnable and if so, what is the best strategy.  Here are the findings and recommendations.

  • Rampant consumerism is NOT the issue- with the exception of books, there are relatively few impulse items.
  • Both rational and emotional needs to remember, document, and stay connected.
    • There's an array of photos, slides, old letters, kids' art, mementos, tapes, gifts, and old documents
  • Relentlessly changing technology has left its detritus of old computer, telephone, and camera debris.
  • Retirement brought old work materials home that haven't been properly triaged.
  • Way station - the room is the way stay station for things being eliminated from other parts of the house.  So things may look worse than they really are. As new stuff is added old stuff does move out. 
Obstacles to winning the war
  • Emotional Attachment - "But these letters are from my grandfather who I never met." "This is M's favorite stuffed animal." "But this is Cocoa's collar."
  • Exaggerated Sense of Future Need - "But we might need these telephone bills from 1985 one day." "I could use this cracked mug to plant something in."
  • Distorted Sense of History - "But these old checkbooks are archeological data of how people really lived."
  • Distorted Sense of the Future - "But surely our (unborn) grandchildren will want to see these."
  • Distorted sense of Economics - "But these Dungeons and Dragons magazines will be valuable one day."
  • Lack of Will -"What's playing at the Bear Tooth?"
  • Lack of Clear Goals and Deadline - "I'm gonna start on it when it gets cold outside."
And one more that is relevant to this post:
  • Blogging - takes too much time and gives excuses to do other things


  • Blog about the war.  This will give me incentive to get more done. Consider yourselves warned. But it should be fun. I have a post on great meals coming up.
  • Deadline.  There will be people coming this summer, so the room (and other parts of the house) not not only must be liberated, but also transformed into an inviting livable space with no traces of its former war zone status.

Immediate Steps
  • Write this post.√
  • Take old computer. monitor, and keyboard to Total Reclaim Saturday

Saturday November 13, 8 AM - 5 PM
In celebration of America Recycles Day, Total Reclaim will accept electronics for recycling at the discounted rate of $25 per carload.

1 comment:

  1. When were you going through my stuff? As a certified practitioner, the archaeological data excuse is my favorite (unfortunately, I won't be around when the data is archaeologically significant).

    The solution may be similar to packing books for a move-- have someone else pack. Then, you won't be tempted to read each one.

    I wish we had transfer stations like Fbx and some small towns-- leave your good stuff under shelter for others to grab and what doesn't go in a week gets landfilled.


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