Day 349 Editing your possessions

Cindy’s Weekly Wisdom

I used to be an editor, which invariably involves reading and rereading the same material. As far as I can tell, the process I used was similar to what most editors use. First I would read through the material, changing any obvious mistakes, but my larger goal was simply to familiarize myself with the material. Next, I would read it through looking for content discrepancies and sentences, or even whole paragraphs, that should be moved around or removed. The next time through, I would search out formatting errors, punctuation, and spelling mistakes. Last, I would print the document and read it on paper, giving it a final check. If I found more than one or two mistakes, I would print it again, and keep at it until I found no errors.

Decluttering is no different than editing. You begin by getting rid of the really obvious stuff – a huge, uncomfortable, and ugly chair that you’ve always hated, the big mixer you don’t like, the vacuum cleaner your honey said he would fix but never did. But you have to keep going round and round to find everything that should be winnowed. Perhaps we become more ruthless the more we declutter, but perhaps it’s just that when the really obvious things are gone, you can now truly see what else might also be unnecessary.

Recently, I was struggling with a kitchen closet. It holds my small appliances, Dan’s “secret” stash of chips and hot sauce, any extra cases of soda or beer, the step stool, a broom and dust pan, a dust mop and microfiber covers, a mop, and a large plastic bag for plastic recycling. (I don’t accept plastic bags at the store but still accumulate bread wrappers, shrink wrap, etc.)

There’s enough room in the closet for all of these things, but it’s not working. The brooms and mop tend to fall out on me, and the appliances are more jumbled than I would like.

First I looked at the big picture. Was there anything in here that simply did not belong? Yes, the extra batteries that my husband had stored on an upper shelf. Then I thought about each of the small appliances. Any that could go? Yes, an ice cream ball, a box of rock salt, an ice shaver, and 3 bottles of snow cone syrup. I took those out and tidied up what was left. That helped with the organization, but the mops and brooms were still in the way. I left them there to think about.

Today I realized that although the idea of storing them in this closet is a good one, the space and ease of access is not good. I’m going to put a couple of hooks on the back wall of the laundry room and move them. Even though I don’t have the hooks, I went ahead and moved the brooms and mop, so I can confirm that this really will be a benefit. Then,  in a couple of days, I will stand back from the kitchen closet, look again, and ask, is there anything else in here that needs editing?

Item 349 of 365 less things

This tool caddy was a lot less useful than I expected it to be and I haven’t used it for a long while so out it goes.
Craft Bucket

5 Things I am grateful for today

  1. Scones – They are so nice with jam and cream and so easy to make. There is a batch in the oven right now and I am going to have one soon with a cup of coffee while they are still piping hot.
  2. Laughter – You know the tears rolling down your cheeks kind. Liam and I are looking at some funny web sites and trying to relate what we are seeing and we are having trouble with talking between the laughter. Check out failblog.
  3. When I receive a cute Christmas card that has a great design I can reproduce myself next year.
  4. Good design – I have a coffee grinder whose grinding bowl comes off so it can be easily be washed. If that isn’t smart enough – The designer had the foresight to make drain holes where the mechanism is on the underside so that when it goes in the dishwasher the water drains out. Brilliant!
  5. Actually having my blog post ready to publish before dinner.

It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow.

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  1. Colleen, what kind of Coffee Grinder do you have? It sounds great and I am looking for a good one.

    CIndy, I like your editing idea for declluttering. That’s what I like to do. I had just never thought of it with that analogy.

    • Thanks Deb. I have a sort of annoying coffee grinder. I bet you don’t want to know about that! : )

    • Hi Deb J,
      It is a Breville BCG300. I bought an extra grinding bowl for it just after I got it so I could use one for coffee and the other for grinding spices and then I came up with the brilliant idea of whipping cream in it and making small quantities of bread crumbs and the like. Even though the bowl can go in the dishwasher I didn’t think it would be wise to use one bowl for for all those things because odours linger and I didn’t want the taste of my coffee ruined.

  2. Great analogy for decluttering, Cindy, and completely true. I’m a writing teacher; may I quote you on the editing process?

  3. A few years ago when our closets and cupboards and other storage spaces were starting to groan at the seams, I read one of Don Aslett’s books about de-junking your life. If I remember right, he focuses on the “clean sweep” type of decluttering, but I never had the blocks of time and the sustained energy to be able to do this, and my clutter continued to pile up. But I did manage to bring away two briefly mentioned points from his book which I found helpful for my type of cleanup – one, where you just pick the obvious problem clutter from a cluttered area each time you go by it, until it’s whittled down to a more manageable size, and two, the five-minute, or “just get started” approach, which means it’s usually hardest to just get going on a job but once you’ve started, it’s quite easy to keep it up. The first of these approaches is similar to what you’re explaining here, Cindy, and it’s been the only approach I’ve found that works for me. Not everyone can take a week away from their work and family to do an all-out sweep, nor can they make that many decisions (often wrenching) all at once. It takes persistence to do a little at a time, but the choices themselves often seem easier.

    So, yay for gradual decluttering, and thank you for describing it so well and helping to show others the way!

    • Thanks Jo. In 2009, we did a huge remodel on our house. By then, we’d remodeled the bedroom wing ourselves and had lived here for 6 years. Nonetheless, I was amazed at the ideas that people, including ourselves, continued to come up with during the process. Seeing it unfold allowed for new possibilities and new uses to emerge. While I wouldn’t do each and every thing exactly like it was done if I had to start over, I would replicate the vast majority of the design. (Really, it would be some of the more picky things that I wouldn’t do again.) My point is, watching it unfold slowly allowed time to make changes as we went, just like the decluttering, and left me with a home that is truly fantastic.

  4. Good concept. I do that with my blog. I am working on my craft room clutter.I’m getting there, slowly but surely.I think it’s one of those things that you will do the rest of your life and never get finished.

    • Hi Sawn61,
      Oh dear, I hope your are wrong about the craft room clutter but I fear that considering the sheer volume of my accumulated craft supplies you are right. That’s it, I am going to have to open an Etsy shop and sell my way through my craft supplies.

  5. Cindy, thanks for another practical and inspiring post. What a perfect analogy…..decluttering is editing stuff. Good thought to focus on when getting rid of things seems overwhelming or old. It seems that I naturally do this when I’ve been through an area of my home, and over weeks or months, I keep editing more. and more.
    Colleen, I enjoy scones also, especially with a cup of tea.

  6. You’re welcome Di. One of the first areas I started on was our bathroom cabinet. It was really in pretty good shape and not hard to do, but I can see that it still needs a tweak. Those razor handles – why do I have 4 extras??


  1. […] written on this topic before and compared the process of decluttering with editing, a past profession of mine. You have to clear off the first layer before you can see the second […]