Feb14_Blog_Header_SAIf you’ve read any of my blogs or tips on organising your photos, digital content and projects, tagging, categorising, and labelling, you might be under the (mistaken) impression that my house is in similarly good shape, with “a place for everything and everything in its place”.  Alternatively, you might (more accurately) recognise that a person who spends all that time on her computer files, doesn’t exactly prioritise housework!

Most of the time this doesn’t bother me too much, and fortunately the people I live with are even more oblivious to the mess than I am. Every now and then I waste half a day trying to find something that hasn’t been put in the right place, and then I determine that I am going to get organised if it kills me! Sadly the burst of enthusiasm that follows never lasts very long at all.  I have had some very successful clutter “purges” and managed to give away, sell or donate quite a lot of “stuff”. But somehow it still keeps accumulating!

Until now. There are two huge changes in my life that together are both forcing me and enabling me to confront the mess head on. Firstly, I have resigned from my paid employment. I realised that apart from 6 months off  following the birth of each of my children, I have been studying or working continuously since 1961!  I have never experienced the freedom that an empty calendar provides, and I can finally contemplate spending time organising and decluttering. I can start a project and have a reasonable expectation of finishing it before the business of life crowds in.

Second, and more imperative, is our impending move to Doha. As we will be overseas for at least 18 months, we plan to rent our house while we are away. Decluttering is no longer just desirable, it is essential. I have to make a decision about every single item in my house. There’s no putting it in a pile or a box or a drawer to think about later, today is the day. We don’t know exactly when we are leaving just yet, but we expect it will be within the next 2-3 months. When they finally settle on some dates we may not have very much notice at all, so we really need to be ready to leave at short notice.

Having lived in this house for some 23 years, there’s no shortage of “stuff”. As I said, I have to make a decision about every item in every room.

Will we take this with us?

Will we store this for however long we are away? Is it worth the cost of long term storage? Will I still need this when I get back?

Will we give this away, throw it away or try to sell it?

If I can manage without this “stuff” while I’m away, will I need it when I get back?

Will I ever need this item again? How sorry will I be if I dispose of it?

Which are the items I absolutely can’t manage without?

How far can I go in the pursuit of minimalism?

Although I love old things, and real (paper) books and fine china, Im also pretty excited about how easy and practical it is to transport things in digital format. I can fit my entire music collection on an iPod. I can put hundreds of books on my Kindle. And most importantly I can fit all my photos and photo books on an external hard drive. No matter what else I have to manage without, I get to take all my digital scrapbooking supplies with me! There’s no minimalism when it comes to digital content! (Have you seen the new kits from CottageArts, Kaisercraft & Little Feet Digital Designs?? So many to choose from! Who am I kidding? I don’t want to choose – I want it all!)

By the time I write my next blog, I hope I will have answered all these questions! Meanwhile, if you have any advice for me, I’m all ears.



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21 Responses to Blog: An organised mess

  1. Maria Bell says:

    I loved reading all about the ways to down size. When my father died I kept a lot of old stuff because he had kept it. Sometimes it takes time to separate the person from their stuff. Now years later I finally can do that. I want to make it easier for my children when I am gone. Thanks for this blog. Maria

  2. Barbara Mitchell says:

    Shelley, I don’t know what is offered for you Aussies, but here in the states is a wonderful company called Dig My Pix. When my mother passed away in 2006, we had the daunting task of all the slide photographs that my father had taken over the years. Family photos, vacations, parties, square dance (yes, my parents did!) pics. There were hundreds of them. Some 56-60 years old. We sent them off to Dig My Pix, and they did the scanning and cleanup. The slides were returned to us with a DVD of all the photos (for a price, of course!). They did a fabulous job! We even purchased a spiral bound color catalog of the pictures, which was categorized by how they were labeled on the slide magazine. If you don’t want to use your precious time before departure trying to scan all of those photos and doing the touch up yourself, find a place you can send them to have done for you.

  3. crefreeman says:

    Check out FlyLady.net. She has many ‘tools/skills’ to share to assist you with your move, and clearing. Might help with all that needs to be done.

    I had a time in my life when I was a borderline hoarder. Not as bad as you see on TV shows, but the house was a mess and a lot of clutter. This was caused by stress of a falling marriage. Once stress was reduced, I used her skills to help get me ready for my ‘new’ life. I may not have a spotless home, but it is leaps and bounds ahead of where I was.

    • Shelley says:

      I did try FlyLady once, but there were too many emails! I never got past the shiny sink stage 🙂 But perhaps I should try again – my motivation is higher now. Well done on the progress you have made!

  4. LindaIOSMe says:

    Shelley – Use your scanner! 7 years after my father-in-law passed away and we finally got a scanner for all those slides. We had boxes upon boxes of slides. Most we tossed. Some, with people or places we recognized, we scanned. Trips we remember, we scanned most of. 700 scans later, we have all the best of the slides and no boxes! And, with the digital tools we can “fix” the slides that have become spotty or faded. Next up are the 3 large rubbermaid boxes with the Children’s masterpieces… No clutter, and no guilt over tossing a memory, either. In the end scanning everything didn’t take as long as we’d thought, just a lot of patience. Of course, that doesn’t help for all the REST of the clutter in my house!

  5. Glenna says:

    Shelley, I know what you are going through. We have lived in our home for 30 years and contemplating downsizing (4 bedroom, 2-1/2 bathroom), about 3500 square feet. I have been weeding out rooms with my husband, but now have the dubious task of weeding out my once scrapbooking/sewing room in our basement (about 800 square feet). I dread doing it, but have set dates/times on my calendar to force myself to go down there and get it done! My goal is to have it done by June. Good luck to your weeding and have a great time in Doha. I look forward to more of your blogs.

  6. adakallen adakallen says:

    Shelley when were you in my house! I could take you name off this blog and put mine and it would be a perfect fit. EXCEPT I am not moving. It seams that everytime I throw away one thing I collect two more. No maybe I have so much stuff that it is essentally vaccum packed in the crooks and crannys of my house.
    One request when you are dispossing of book if you should happen to find Sugar-Loaf Mountain by Laura Bancroft I would like to borrow it while you are gone.

    Have Fun!

  7. Katrina says:

    Oh my how I can relate to spending quality time looking for items not in the proper place! The move is a lot a work, however; it totally forces you to deal with your “STUFF”.

    I’m a work in process, I’ve given away quite a bit, but the one thing that has helped me is to put back everything after each project. It’s easy to say leave this out I will need it again, but that starts the mess and it keeps growing. It’s a journey to completely change, but I’m working on it.

  8. Carolyn says:

    Awesome, Shelley! Just another way we are alike. Cleaning’s never high on my list either… too busy on relationships. But, in this way we are different: while you were working and studying in 1961, I was waiting to be born the NEXT year. 🙂 (Hahahaha! Couldn’t resist! and really, would you have wanted me to?!) I’m really excited for your time in Doha. Can’t wait to learn about a new place vicariously through your travel blog!

  9. jolleyontheroad jolleyontheroad says:

    Shelley, Been there, done that!! We had a 4 bedroom, 3500 sq ft house, down to one small storage unit and our 25 foot travel trailer!! Some of the stuff in our attic, was ours, some was my Dad’s, and some was our oldest’s daughter who had already left home. Not to mention the one who had just left and the one about to graduate!! Along with all my CM supplies, all my homeschool books and Christmas and baskets!!

    I did exactly what you said, sorted, threw away, repacked, decided I couldn’t live without this or that. Some furniture we sold to a church family that was moving into our house till they found a place to live, some I gave away. I would pick one item that I loved and decided who would love it as much as me and give it to them!! We had a huge garage sale and what didn’t sell went directly into our van and was donated to a local charity that had a resale store.

    We kept our storage unit for 4 years and when we moved up to the bigger trailer if it didn’t fit in there I had to get rid of it! I found out my children didn’t want anything I had saved for them!! No school papers, not pictures that hung on their wall, no little special things I had bought them over the years!! I sold some books and kept my history books, which are still in my RV, they may add some weight, but they are the real American History before it was rewritten!! I sold a few special pieces of furniture that just weren’t practical to send to California where the children were. I gave my niece all my baskets and Christmas houses!! She has a new huge house and will never move as she has a handicap child and the house was specially built for them.

    It was a cleansing experience. And as we have been on the road starting our 8th year, we continue to downsize and get rid of stuff I thought I couldn’t live without!! I donated a lot of my CM stuff to a missionary from Russia who used scrapbooking as an outreach!! I love my kindle, my laptop with external hard drive and my camera! Those are the things I have learned I can’t live without!!

    They all fit in my camera bag and I can take them anywhere!! Just add my cellphone and some comfy clothes and I’m good to go!!

    Good luck and just work on something everyday!! It took me a few months to go through it all!!

    Excited to see your future when it arrives!!

    hugs, donna

  10. Linda Ammons says:

    Americans used to read an “Advice Columnist” named Erma Bombeck. Today she would have her own blog. She was funny, wise and practical. One of her most famous stories was about a gift; a rose shaped candle that she couldn’t bear to light, so she wrapped it up and put it in her attic or basement. The long and short was: the candle completely melted and she had to throw it away. She told us that what she should have done in retrospect was light the candle and appreciate it in the here and now recognizing it’s short but wonderful life. As a military wife of 21 years, I moved us over 12 times and was unable to throw anything away. Too afraid that I would throw something away and regret it, I kept everything. Mike can thank me for the extra $$$ we had to pay for going over our weight limit. When we retired, I recognized what you’re going through and remembered Erma’s advice. Use it or give it to someone who will. Sell it if you can. Garage sales and Flea Markets are all about that stuff. Ask yourself; will the children REALLY want all these “keepsakes” and do they even know why you kept them. And let’s face it, If you can live without it for 2 years, you don’t really need it. Lastly, when we lived in Amman, Jordan, there was a German family across the street from us and we loved them dearly. When they went back to Germany after 15 years of being away, they did the same thing you’re doing. I gave them some $$$ for a set of wine glasses as a memento. The glasses are not very pretty, and the kids know the story and sadly will never appreciate them, but I will never give them away. They’re in my Hutch. I don’t drink out of them, but when I dust them or walk by, I’m filled with love of that family. Good Luck in your next adventure and honestly, don’t over think your tasks. As a former hoarder 🙂 it will be fun to “slim” down. Your Friend, Linda

    • Shelley says:

      Gosh Linda – when you said you were an army wife I thought you were going to say you learned early on not to hold on to too much stuff! 🙂 Not sure I’m strong enough to do this 12 times!! I loved your story about the wine glasses. There are some items which have a lot of meaning far beyond their monetary value. aren’t there?

  11. Sue Sohn says:

    Shelley, I had this exact same experience when my husbands job brought us to move our family of 5 to the UK back in 1998. I used different color post-it dots to tag absolutely EVERY item in our house; it worked pretty well, except for when I found a mystery dot laying in the middle of the floor! LOL Unfortunately the digital options weren’t available to us back then, so I had to make some difficult decisions. We even had to differentiate what would go in the air shipment vs what would go in the sea shipment, adding another layer of confusion. While in the UK our house was significantly smaller than anything we’d lived in since we were in college, but it was a 700 year old, thatched roof cottage, across the street from the ruins of Kenilworth castle … what an experience for our family. Funny, but we never missed any of our “stuff” and quite enjoyed the simplicity of life. I’m really excited for the adventure you’re about to embark upon and wish you safe travels. We’ll miss you!

    • Shelley says:

      Oh Sue, that sounds like a wonderful adventure! Your cottage sounds amazing. I am actually looking forward to being unencumbered by “stuff”. By the way – I’ll still be here at pixels2Pages – the beauty of an online business is that it is so transferable.

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