Monday, January 27, 2014

My blog asked me if it is living and I told it, maybe not, but I sure am!

I have a box all ready to go to the thrift store.  My son is going along so I am just waiting for him to finish up what he is doing.  Then I remembered, "Oh, I can reward myself with writing," which partially the intent of this blog.

Imagine, my surprise, then, when I logged in and found that my last post was January 1, 2013.  Over a year ago!  Don't get me wrong; I am fully aware that I am an inconsistent blogger.  It's just that I didn't imagine it was over a year.  Being naturally curious, I then asked myself why it has been so long since I blogged on here.  Although I am still surrounded by clutter, it's certainly not because I have been keeping everything and chucking nothing.

Looking at my records on, I see I donated 6 times to 3 different locations (a total of 115 deductible items) in 2013. That doesn't include the donations I did a lousy job of recording, or that were giveable but not deductible, or that I gave to friends.  Actually, a respectable amount of decluttering did happen.  When I reflect, I realize that there were many times through the year that I was aware that I hadn't been blogging, but was also aware that it was because I didn't need to bribe myself with writing.  Decluttering had gathered its own momentum, and I got to a point that I could keep going for the sheer pleasure of unburdening myself of my things.  I was pickier about how I used my time, because I had the motivation.

What made 2013 different?  I have read every book about decluttering and organizing.  I have a knack for coming up with creative solutions.  I have started over and over and over.  Was 2013 really different?

I think it was.  Right at the end of 2012, I joined the Procrastination Cure Club hosted by coach Wendy Joy Hart.  Mind you, I know about Wendy for nearly a year, but I kept snagging free webinars, and not putting any money into it.  When I took the plunge, I got hours and hours of recordings, a workbook, a Facebook community, and monthly group coaching calls.  And I got unstuck.

The impetus for taking the plunge was the realization that my 2012 resolution was to create a home (physical, emotional, and virtual) for my inner artist-- and I had made NO progress in a whole year on the physical space.  The corner of my family room that was my office space, and potentially my art space, was so full of STUFF that I couldn't use it at all.  My mess was spilling out into the dining room because I would sit there with my laptop to pay bills.  Within a month of the cure, I had cleared off the desk enough to make it usable, and by April I had totally cleaned it out and rearranged such that I had space for my art, too.  That allowed me to make a collage I had been dreaming about forever, and to offer to make a similar name poem and collage for someone in my faith community (offered as a silent auction prize).

A leaky pipe caused water to drip into that space and everything had to be arranged, but I had tasted enough success to know that when Wendy Joy Hart revamped her Procrastination and Overwhelm Cure and offered the update to current club members at I discount, I should jump on it.  I bought it for my birthday in October, telling myself that most of what I had accomplished in 2013 was due to the help of the Procrastination Cure.  It has kept me learning and going in the direction of my dreams.  A couple of weeks ago I met Wendy in person when I attended her life event, and I'm on another level completely.  Again.

So, I am not one bit sorry that I let this blog lie fallow for over a year.  I have been tilling the soil of my life.  I can know that it's growing without showing the world a blossom every day.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Answer is Always Chuck

Happy New Year!

It must be all this out-with-the-old, in-with-the-new energy, but a thought struck me when I looked at this question that is the name of my blog: Keep or Chuck?

The answer is always chuck.

If you have to ask, you don't need it.
If you have to think about it, you don't need it.

Awhile back, I was wondering, if I ask myself, "Should I keep this?" the answer is yes, no, or maybe.   If it's a yes, I make a home for it.  If it's a no, I find a new home for it.  But what if it's a maybe.  I jotted the question down, to look it up in one of my decluttering books.

At the time, it was Clutter Busting by Brooks Palmer.  To find out more about how this book moved my energy (and got this blog going), read this clutter busting post.  So one day, as I was going through my to-do list, I saw:

  • Look up declutter method for maybe
I cracked open the book and found it in less than a minute.  I wrote:
  • just read Brooks-- maybe means no
I left that note on my list.  Maybe because I knew I needed time to for it to sink in.  Maybe because I'm a packrat and I could not stand to throw away that bit of insight.  Maybe because I knew myself well enough to know I would be looking up "maybe" in my searchable tasklist again.  When I was learning French and Spanish, I would highlight a word every time I looked it up in my dictionary.  If a word was already highlighted, I would put a little dot after it.  I think leaving "maybe"in my list was my way of keeping myself aware.  The messages I need to learn keep coming back over and over again, but I can use a little help deciphering them sometimes.

Last night's realization was not about maybe.  It was about yes.  If the question is, keep or chuck? the answer is always chuck.

Keep means old and chuck means new.  Chuck doesn't just mean getting rid of something, and whenever I keep something, I need to chuck any negative energy associated with it.  Every kept item needs a renewed purpose, or it may as well be chucked.  So the answer is always chuck.  Even if, yes, I'm keeping this, I need to decide what energy to chuck with it, or what new energy I'm inviting.

On New Year's Eve I had dinner with a college friend, who referred to me as an "old-and-always-new friend."  That struck me as perfect, so soon after my realization that the answer is always chuck.  Here I've been thinking about resolutions and goals and all that good stuff, trying to chuck bad habits and start good routines, trying to decide what to keep or chuck about myself.

The answer is always chuck.  Not "chuck it in the trash," but chuck the moment from a moment ago.  Keep this moment, but only for as long as it lasts.  Even if you keep it, you chuck it, because it is old AND always new.

Monday, December 31, 2012

The Sum of Small Efforts

“Success is the sum of small efforts repeated day in and day out.”
~ R. Colier ~

This was the basis of my starting Keep or Chuck (the project and the blog).  I mean, no, I just found the quote today (I love success quotes), but that's the idea.  Thinking that I would display those small efforts to the world (or those who find me) day in and day out was, well, unrealistic.  Overambitious.  But I like having something to aim for.

Awhile back, a made a trip to Goodwill and dropped off a few things.  There are layers of small successes here.
  • Got rid of some stuff I knew had to be chucked.
  • Identified a couple of items for the garbage (yes, garbage).
  • Let go of some things I was trying to sell on Amazon (money worry is clutter, too).
  • I get to fling things on my to-do list, too.
I use Workflowy for a to-do list.  It works the way my cluttered brain does, so I can search my various lists and find out what my ideas were. 

I left this post idle for a month or two.

It's the last day of 2012.  I am at my dining room table, surveying the cluttered mess that is my house.  The Christmas decorations look manageable; I know the will go into the green and red containers.  I can see the piano, well enough that I could just move a few things and be able to play it.  But I feel a heaviness, knowing that I've had 2 days while my family is away, and I haven't transformed this place.  I have been making "small efforts" but I didn't even pick one area to make a noticeable difference in.  They will be home tomorrow.  I want them to see a difference, but I need to want this for myself.  I think I do.  Something's not clicking, though.

I'm focusing on failure, which is why I reopened this post and am bringing my attention to success again.  Maybe the emphasis need to be on the SUM rather than on the small efforts.  I'm not happy with the sum, so I feel like I don't have success.  The opposite of success need not be failure, though.  If the repetition of more small efforts could lead to success, than what I have right now is a partial sum.  Partial success.  In math class, I would have partial credit.

I just remembered that I made my own definition of success.  I thought, I should look at that and blog about it.  Then I realized I already had, on my other blog.  I went to look at it and WOW, it was my last post, last August.  Leaving it for so long feels like failure-- but I get partial credit.

I've had a song from the most recent Muppets movie in my head.  The chorus goes, "I've got everything that I need right in front of me."  Just keep adding it up, Em, you'll get a sum eventually.

Sing Unabashedly, Creating a Conscious, Effective Story of Self

Creating a 
Story of 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Chuck This!

I filled two recycling bags.
I can see my piano (but not play it yet).
I emptied 4 containers.
I threw away 2 broken flip-flops.
I found potential declutter/cleaning buddies.
I don't feel accomplished.
I'm thanking myself and tucking myself in anyway.

Tomorrow is another chucking day.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Veterans' Day Declutter

I have been lazily listening to my daughter sing all day.  She sang while on the "throne," as I lollygagged in bed.  Anytime she went from here to there, a song accompanied her.  She made up a clever rhyming song to get me out of bed.  I was too sleepy to remember it now.  She sings to the dogs.  She comes with a soundtrack, and I love it.

This afternoon she shared her songs with more people than lucky me.  Her choir went to the VA hospital to sing for the vets.  She has been practicing "Grand Old Flag" for the last three days.  Okay, okay, I've been singing that one with her.

What does this have to do with the decluttering theme?  Music is abundant and moving.  I am surrounded by song, but not always so keenly aware of it.  My awareness of this gift my daughter is offering to those who have served our country is sharpening my sense of gratitude and purposeful action in my own life.  Perhaps it is cliché, but I am trying not to take things for granted.  Especially when an acquaintance in a chat room pointed out how much the veterans would truly appreciate my daughter's choir's visit.

Abundance:  Why do I keep so much clutter in my life?  I am surrounded by stuff, stuff I don't need.  What would it be like to be surrounded by song and little else?  If I cleared space for it, would the song fill the space?  Would I be filled with music and feel less like I need all this stuff?

Movement:  We say that certain songs are moving, or stirring.  The word "emotion" contains motion.  I have known for many years that cranking some tunes can help me get some cleaning done (you know, a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, and all that).  How do I forget?  How do I go so long without choosing some uplifting music?  Without singing my own song?  Playing the movie of my life without a soundtrack?  Could it be that the clutter, which I cling to with a scarcity mentality, actually sucks the song out of the atmosphere?  The tones are trapped under piles.  The music can't move amongst the matter.

Today, I have started to move with the appreciation of her song.  I have thrown a few things away, repurposed others, felt myself move forward.  I am a little overwhelmed by everything I'm trying to get done today, but just getting rid of a few things has made me feel accomplished and cheerful.  And I have songs going through my head. 

My messy house is a prison of my own making.  I am so lucky to live in a country that values and protects freedom, yet I frequently let my things and my subconscious make decisions for me.  Maybe some other time I can come up with a better way to honor the troops and my country, but just for today, singing my own little battle hymn to move my decluttering troops in the freedom of my own home, I am grateful, and hopeful, and marching on.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Clutter Busting

True confession (because that's what blogs are all about): I have not made another trip to Goodwill since I last mentioned it.  However, to encourage myself and you would-be chuckers out there, I will share the book that I was reading when I really started chucking (and started this blog).

Now, I have read a lot of books about getting rid of clutter, getting organized, time management, effectiveness, etc.  Each one of them got me to do something.  I'm not going to say this one takes the cake and renders all the others obsolete.  It is the Now book.  The book that has me motivated Now.  Brooks Palmer is so compassionate in his approach and has a lot of Zen exercises to get me in touch with my feelings about my stuff and to be gentle with myself (and yet, busting occurs).

What really drew me in to this book, though, was the combination of Palmer's kind awareness of what goes on for messies like me, and my own awareness about the parallels between my relationship with stuff and my relationship with food.  I am in treatment for binge-eating/compulsive overeating, and I found that with this book (more than any other), I was able to plug both of my addictions in and still have it make sense to me.  Sometimes I would go back and read several paragraphs substituting "food" for "clutter" and "eating" for "keeping" or "buying" and it resonated as written and with my substitutions.

Maybe that's more about me than it is about the book, but I've known for years that I binge on shopping and other activities, like I do on food.  I know that I cling to piles of stuff the same way I cram too many tasks into time the same way I can't stand white space when I'm making art the same way I use too many words (and can't resist parenthetical remarks) the same way I don't feel satisfied unless I'm overfull.  Reading this one book, I felt like I was doing therapy in multiple arenas.

Now, my dilemma.  I kept the book as long as I could from the library.  I want to go back and do every exercise.  Do I buy it because it will be truly useful?  Or would it just add to my clutter?  I think I will take the middle way and pick it up from the library again.

Clutter Busting: Letting Go of What's Holding You Back

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Back to school, back to clutter

I lost my momentum with the kids going back to school.  All this business of buying school supplies, and shoes, and alarm clocks, and always a few other temptations while I am out shopping...  On top of it, today was another trip to Target to buy items for a baby shower, and darned if I didn't pick up some cute Post-It notes and Freezees for 70% off...  I've got the whole flow going backwards. 

I tried to be funny about it.  I posted on Facebook just now:
A wise woman told me that if I was overwhelmed with cleaning the house, I might want to start in the bedroom, because that would give me a sense of peace when I go to bed at night. Here I am. I swear the laptop just followed me in here.
Time to change the chi around here, it's starting to smell.

Just when I was about to sign off, I heard my husband get home and start to empty the dishwasher!  I think that's where the good chi is!  I gotta go!