Secondhand News: Confessions of a self-proclaimed recluttering expert
By Lauren Flynn Kelly
One morning during the height of holiday season madness, I had a sudden urge to declutter, since some new Christmas gifts were about to enter the house. Without any coffee or any sort of plan, I began with the living room. But when I extended my arm to put away a board game, I felt a terrible spasm in my right shoulder. I couldn’t breathe without pain for several days. I took that as a sign that I should wait. In the meantime, I did a little reading on the topic — including the bestselling Outer Order, Inner Calm, by Gretchen Rubin, and the January “Zero Waste of Time”column in this paper. I could devote at least 20 minutes a day and a large chunk of quiet weekends in January to cutting the clutter, I could finally achieve inner calm.
Here’s how it went:
Week 1: During my research, I learned that you should group similar things together and take stock of what you have. Then give yourself a rule, like if you have two rubber spatulas, give one away. But I actually need separate whisks for baking and cooking. And separate wooden spoons, bowls and cutting boards.
So that rule doesn’t apply to my kitchen, and I should start with my makeup. I take out all my eyeshadow palettes and eyeliners and display them in a rainbow ranging from aubergine to avocado. Then I give myself a makeover and spend about 20 minutes taking and editing selfies that I will never post and will most likely delete. My aunt calls, so I talk to her while organizing my lip glosses by color. They look so pretty like this; I should reorganize everything this way! Then my kids see what I’m doing and want makeovers, too.
Week 2: Time to put the Christmas decorations away! Where did all these ornaments come from? I should separate out the ones I won’t want next year. I go up to the attic to bring down the ornament boxes and find a gift bag that is soaking wet. Time for a new roof? Thankfully, no: a DIY snow globe had frozen and exploded its glittery contents all over my grandmother’s vintage penguin ornaments. I towel off each little creature and toss the ones that are too damaged. I then go back to my original plan of separating out the rejected ornaments. But seeing as it’s mid-January at this point, and it’s unlikely that folks are in the market for ornaments, I relegate them back to the attic, and in unmarked bags that will likely be overlooked next year.
Week 3: The attic is really where I should have started my New Year’s decluttering. Maybe I can finally use those carpet tiles — the ones I picked up at Community Forklift and have been sitting in my husband’s car. I start planning a little play space up there for the kids; I’m sure I can create it in a snap, once we clear out those old baby toys, of course. I find two boxes of old papers and letters from college. What fun! I spend the three-day weekend laughing and crying over the contents and fill exactly one-and-a-half trash bags with paper shreds. Can I recycle these? Nope. Hmm … then it hits me: I can take the slipcover off that broken ottoman and make a garbage pouf that I can stuff with the shreds. Genius! I remove the slipcover. I’ll need at least one more bag of shredded paper, so I tuck the project into the basement closet for now. My brother-in-law arrives with a Christmas gift for my daughter — an oversized fluffy beanbag chair called a Big Joe. Perfect for the attic! Except it doesn’t fit through the door. I’ll have to clear space somewhere else. How long is this month?
Week 4: If my home office were cleaner and prettier, I’d be less distracted and more productive. I spend a Sunday afternoon clearing shelves of long-ignored books and DVDs that I’ll donate, plus old remotes and cables to put in the box in the basement that I carefully set aside for old remotes and cables. I find a book called Horror Cinema (Jonathan Penner) — also a gift from the well-meaning brother-in-law — and take a coffee break to do some reading. I make a list of movies to rewatch. Hmm … maybe I’m not ready to give away some of those DVDs.
I had read somewhere that it’s better to stack just a few books on your bookshelves in a pretty way and then layer on objects that are pleasing to the eye. I choose a ceramic bowl and some vintage cameras — hey, that’s three fewer things in the attic! With fewer distractions, I’m ready to work.
Seeing as I probably shouldn’t bring anything else home from the thrift store for a while, I think I’ll revive my “Thrifting with …” Q&A series. If anyone would like to be my next subject, find me on Instagram (@starlessskyediy) or contact the newspaper.