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De-stuffing for the stuff-intensive lifestyle?
February 19, 2014 12:04 PM   Subscribe

I have a lot of stuff and desperately need to declutter. But I'm also a crafter, a DIY-type and a mom to small kids, which means I have lots of quasi-legitimate reasons to hold onto Stuff. Given that all these objects are potentially useful, what algorithms can I use to distinguish between "useful, but toss" and "useful, so keep"?

I've read, for instance, that you should put things in a box for six months, then toss the box, or throw out anything in your closet that hasn't been worn for at least a year... on the principle, I guess, that if you haven't used it by then, you never will. It's hard to get cognitively on board with that kind of slash-and-burn-style destashing, though, because I regularly do find myself using random things I squirreled away a few years ago. I go to throw out a pile of old clothes/craft supplies/whatever, and remember how last month I made my daughter a beloved twirly skirt out of an old high-school dress of mine. Or how we did a random, fun knitting afternoon using a bunch of old knitting supplies I had lying around from college. Or how I saw a cool tomato-watering trick using half-buried soup cans, then realized that I'd just tossed a bunch of perfectly good empty cans the day before.

I follow blogs with posts like "Ten fun toddler math activities using things you find around the house" (hello, old macaroni from five years ago before we started eating low-carb!). I have small children who constantly cycle through toys, who enjoy creative play with odd objects, who need homemade Halloween costumes and class craft projects and birthday presents for relatives. In my daily life, I have ten thousand maddening pieces of Stuff, but also thousands of unexpected and emotionally compelling needs for that Stuff.

Thus, the question: given that I cannot go cold turkey on Stuff, but instead need to maintain a fairly robust ongoing relationship with material things, what hard-and-fast rules can I use to nonetheless rein in the rising tide of someday-making supplies? I'm pretty indecisive and probably have mild hoarder tendencies, so I need a robust sorting algorithm that will prune away the unlikely-to-be-ever-used stuff from the items with genuine potential, ideally without the need for a lot of deliberation and willpower-intensive decisionmaking on my part. Organization-minded upcyclers of MeFi, what has worked for you?
posted by Bardolph to Home & Garden (27 answers total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
This is only useful for larger things, but I've found it useful to do the math on storage space. For example, my house cost $200/sq. ft. to build. Over the course of our 30-year mortgage, that basically doubles to $400/sq. ft. So when we consider acquiring something, I think about how much space it's going to use up, and consider whether that's a good use of, say, $1,600 worth of space.
posted by waldo at 12:09 PM on February 19 [6 favorites]

Has anyone mentioned Flylady yet?

I know what you mean-about needing stuff. I think in your shoes you might do well to set aside certain places in your home for storage-and then when the stuff outgrows the storage you declutter it. It's kinda like a tradeoff-having things organized and uncluttered frees your mind to have time, space and energy for the creativity.

What Flylady does is have what she calls 27 fling boogies. She sets a timer, weeds out 27 things to get rid of in 15 minutes, then boom, done. That's one idea.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 12:10 PM on February 19 [2 favorites]

If you might need something in a year, you can always buy it. Each thing you own occupies real estate in your home. It costs something to house it (this includes the headaches caused by clutter and looking for stuff). When decluttering, weigh the cost of how much it would cost to purchase vs. it's storage costs.

Another nifty idea is to have some sort of "library" of stuff you share with other people. This is ideal for things like tools, books, DVDs ect: things you use sparingly, but collect dust otherwise. Sharing things in this way means that at least more than one person is going to use it, so it has more value.

For closets and such , you should purge once or twice a year It is so much easier to deal with this as a regular spring cleaning thing as opposed to a huge purge.
posted by eq21 at 12:13 PM on February 19

I'm in a similar boat, though without kids so it's probably a bit easier to get rid of things. I like to look at what I have in terms of how usable it really is, and how much other stuff I have that fits that category. Plus I have a couple of totes that are required to be my total craft supply storage. Anything more than that needs to be used, donated, or trashed.

For recycling-based crafts I know I'll be getting more cans/boxes/etc later, so I can always keep them *when I actually plan to do the craft*. I put it on my calendar and only keep as many items as I'd need.

There may be room to get rid of duplicates as well. If you have a variety of colors of craft yarn (ie the plasticky stuff, not nice fiber) then see if you can cut down to some basic colors.

You can also see if things have gone bad - I had a container full of acrylic paints and didn't even realize how many of them had dried or separated.
posted by brilliantine at 12:14 PM on February 19 [1 favorite]

desperately need to declutter.

To start with, it's ok to admit to yourself that thou really don't *NEED* to do this. You want to do this. You think your house is messy or whatever and you'd like it to be nicer. I appreciate that but you aren't going to die if you don't do it, so you can stop at whatever point in the process you find adequate.

Here are some things to consider when doing this, which are things I do at some point.

Say you throw out a bunch of stuff that you haven't used in six months, then three years later, you find yourself needing one of those things. How big of a burden is it to buy a new one? Say, for instance, you threw out a box of old macaroni and now want that for an art project. Can you afford to buy a new one just for the art project? What about the old dress? Could you afford to replace that? Obviously you won't want to throw out your collection of solid gold bars, but you may be able to just buy a new spool of string instead of keeping around remnants from the last dozen spools.

If you try hard enough, you can reuse almost anything. You have to ask yourself, "is this thing I need valuable enough that it's worth storing on the off chance that I need one one day, rather than just replacing it if that happens?"
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 12:14 PM on February 19 [8 favorites]

I'm working on this now - and I think it's really, really important to give enough weight to the opportunity cost of having too much stuff. It's easy to identify the few times that you use old things, but harder to put a number on the annoyance, and physical and cognitive burden of having too much clutter.

Also, this is low-value stuff. If you want yarn remnants, or old pasta, or whatever, in the future, there are probably people in your social circle who will be more than willing to offload theirs.

Also, read and re-read the Pastabagel comment - you can always reclaim this stuff from the universe.
posted by mercredi at 12:16 PM on February 19 [8 favorites]

My situation was a bit different than yours -- I had two specific-craft stashes that were getting out of hand, my fabric collection for sewing and my yarn collection for knitting -- but here's what worked for me:

I decided on a place in which I was going to store those things. For my fabric stash it is a single large plastic bin. For my yarn stash, it is a 2x4 Expedit shelving unit. That's how much storage capacity I have for crafting stash. If they are full, then I must either destash (whether by giving away, trading or selling) or use up some of the supplies that are in there before adding any new items to my stash.

So, one option is to give yourself a dresser or a wall unit or a rubbermaid storage tub (or more than one) where you are going to keep useful things for future upcycling. When that is full, you can't keep anymore things -- you can choose to put something new in by taking something old out, or you can use up some of the things that are in the bin to make more space, but you don't let your stash expand past the boundaries you have set for yourself.
posted by jacquilynne at 12:22 PM on February 19 [16 favorites]

Have I used it in the last 6 months? Will I use it in the coming year?

If I use it in the coming year, will it make all my dreams come true?

If the answer is yes, keep it.
posted by vitabellosi at 12:50 PM on February 19 [2 favorites]

Just to add a note to what I said above:

I think one of the advantages of the 'this is how much storage I have' solution I described above, at least for the initial set-up, is that it doesn't require you to go through your stash of things deciding what to throw away. Instead, you go through your stash of things deciding which of your things are awesome and definitely re-usable and which you have big plans for. That's the stuff you pack lovingly into your designated space.

The stuff you get rid of at the end then becomes sort of incidental. It can still be kind of traumatic when you get there, but at least you're not spending your whole time focused on what to throw away. It's just a more positive mindset and can be easier to wrap your head around if you're a reluctant purger.
posted by jacquilynne at 12:53 PM on February 19 [4 favorites]

When considering whether or not to toss a thing, think: what's the worst that could happen if I get rid of this?

For me, I find the answer is often "I would have to go to the hardware store and spend ten cents." So I toss it. For you, maybe, the answer is "I would have to save up some more soup cans." Not a big deal - you eat soup, so soon enough you'll have some cans. If you don't still want to do the project by the time you've saved up the cans, you didn't really want to do it that much in the first place.

Throwing a thing away is almost never catastrophic.
posted by echo target at 12:55 PM on February 19 [1 favorite]

Using Freecycle really helped me get rid of things that were still useful, because I knew that they were going to people who were going to use them.

I try to remember that Stuff has overhead. It costs money, it takes time to organize and clean, it takes up space in my apartment (which costs money), I have to dust it, etc.

If it leaves your house now and you really need it, you can replace it. There will be more soup cans, more dresses you aren't wearing, more knitting supplies. And, was holding on to knitting supplies for however many years since college worth the one afternoon of activity you got out of them? If you didn't have the knitting supplies, you probably would have done something else fun with your kids.

People are usually willing to give you stuff if they think you are going to use it--for example I got a ton of knitting stuff from friends when I started knitting, because everyone wanted to offload their old yarn they never used on to me. (I stopped knitting for a few years, and gave all my yarn away. Now I'm knitting again, and have newer, more awesome yarn that's perfect for the projects I'm actually doing).

To me, there's no logical reason to keep things which are actual garbage, like expired macaroni and empty soup cans, unless you have a use for them within the next week. If you need them in the future, either you or someone you know will be throwing them away.
posted by inertia at 12:57 PM on February 19 [5 favorites]

I just decluttered my storage room, so I feel you. I have quite a lot of stuff -- I craft, sew, paint, make stationery, make ornaments, etc. Oh, and the gift-wrapping alone was getting out of hand.

One thing that helped me was to put like with like. So instead of a big plastic box with random buttons and a ream of paper and some paperclips and some ribbon and a tablecloth (because I had thrown everything into giant rubbermaids just to get it out of sight) I organized all my thread together, all my paper together, all my ribbons together, etc. And then culled through each category, keeping the stuff I thought was nice or functional or inspiring.

I can finally see the floor in my storage/guest room, and everything's in labeled boxes or vintage suitcases or the big sewing trunk.
posted by mochapickle at 1:01 PM on February 19 [2 favorites]

I use two techniques. I work very hard not to bring any new stuff into my life. If I do bring something in then something else has got to go.

My other rule is to have a very short window for the potential usefulness reserve. If it is useful will I use it now, tomorrow or this week? Nope? Then Bye bye.

Someday is like Elvis. It never actually shows up even though it would cool if it did. Today, tomorrow, and this week actually exist.
posted by srboisvert at 1:05 PM on February 19 [5 favorites]

I would consider how much it would cost to replace it if "someday" ever comes up. For example, the macaroni, would driving to the store and buying some macaroni when you really did need it have cost you a significant amount of money? It probably didn't. In terms of the percentage of storage space it took up in your home over the 5 years you kept it, storing it probably actually cost you more money than just buying a new box.

So, I dunno, some rare silk fabric you'd have to go to China to replace? I'd keep it. Some bog standard fabric you could pick up at Joann's in 3 years when you get around to it? Out it goes.

Or you can do the moving box approach: Put everything in a bunch of boxes in a designated location. After, say, 6 months, those boxes move to the garage. After a few more months, you can safely toss those boxes without looking in them because you've used everything you're gonna use in a year.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 1:23 PM on February 19

If you have room and appropriate storage containers for this stuff, and it's not stressing you out to keep it around, sure - keep it.

If you don't have enough space, and you feel cluttered and disorganized, and it IS stressing you out to keep it around - consider that the psychological benefit of living in a clean, uncluttered space might be greater than the psychological benefit of having random stuff on hand for projects.

I derive significantly more pleasure day to day from having a clean organized uncluttered home than I do from occasionally having just the right craft supply on hand. These are two competing have to decide which one matters more to you.
posted by amaire at 2:00 PM on February 19 [1 favorite]

Pre-bundle everything you need for a specific project or craft. That way, everything you need is already assembled. If it can't be pre-bundled in preparation for something specific, it should go.

When it comes time for a craft project for either you or the kids, the materials are all together in one place, ready for use. Having a bunch of disparate items that could be useful is not the same as having items ready for use.
posted by quince at 2:06 PM on February 19 [1 favorite]

I, like you, am a crafter and have a child. Also, my house is full of "stuff" (and I have a big house).

I think people who say "oh just drive to the store" sometimes underestimate the weird things you need as a parent (ie: "I need a cow costume tomorrow" "Can we do some science tonight? I feel like a scientist!" "I got this seed packet from school today, can we plant it when we get home?" "I want to make a valentine for the school bus driver" (said during breakfast on Valentine's day)) on very short notice and sometimes without having the budget to do it. Having the stuff on-hand to meet those kind of crazy requests with a "sure we can, let's find some stuff" makes you feel like supermom, and -- often -- if you don't then the moment is lost forever.

Maybe it's because I was raised primarily by my Grandparents, who came of age during the depression and WWII, but I've just never been able to get behind the "if you don't use it in 6 months (or a year, up here where we have seasons) then throw it out" impulse. The way I have found balance in my own life, however, is by setting aside a space for the stuff and keeping it rigorously organized. Yes, I do keep all our glass jars -- but they're organized in a bin in the basement, and I can lay my hands on them anytime I need them (and you'd be surprised when I need them -- planters, candy jars (for gifts), storage for other small items, candle holders, the list goes on. Yes, I do also (really) keep a lot of things like paper towel and TP roll tubes, but I string them up on a cord and they hang in a tiny space behind the craft room door, easily accessed if you need to make an emergency tunnel, or doll, or want to suddenly make tiny pots to start seeds in.

Decluttering and "getting rid of stuff" are not the same thing. Decluttering just means making the house organized and tidy, so you can lay your hands on what you need when you need it. Homes can contain a lot of items (and I strongly disagree with the folks here that are talking about the "cost of storage space" -- so long as you're not buying a bigger house to store your empty bottles and TP rolls you're paying the same for your home whether the rooms and closets are empty or full) and still feel clean and uncluttered.

So, I would say that you don't actually need to get rid of anything if you don't want to. What you might need to do, though, is approach this as a storage and organization problem vs. a "too much stuff" problem. As a first step, thing about ways to help organize your stuff (Pinterest is GREAT for this). Then, when you've organized as much as you can and maybe find that you don't have room for it all, then you just need to prioritize what you want to keep and what you can let go.

PS: Twirly skirt out of a HS dress = awesome, and something she'll treasure. Take lots of photos. You're doing it right!
posted by anastasiav at 2:07 PM on February 19 [14 favorites]

Don't ask yourself "Do I want to get rid of this one thing?" because you'll always come up with reasons for keeping it, or you'll envision yourself regretting having gotten rid of it because the perfect opportunity to use it came up.

Instead, think of it like you're choosing the players for a baseball team. You start by picking the best player, then the second best, and on down the line until there isn't room for any more players on the team. Whatever hasn't been chosen at that point, it's good, but not good enough to make the cut, so out it goes.

When your available space fills up, you "pick your team" and choose say 80% of your stuff to keep. The bottom 20% goes. When available space fills up again, repeat.
posted by ngc4486 at 2:09 PM on February 19

I've moved across the Pacific... five times now? Pretend you're moving far away, you're shipping your belongings, and you're PAYING to keep stuff you already own. It's like you're buying everything all over again. Are there soup cans, construction paper, and macaroni in Australia? yeah. These things can be replaced when you get there. Favorite jeans that fit perfectly - keep. Corduroy pants you want to like but never wear because they don't fit quite right... replace when you get there.

I too grew up in a house with access to lots of craft supplies, and it was great - but as the adult child of a hoarder, I thank you for recoginizing the instinct and putting some thought and effort into getting things in check *now*. (I'm reading into this a bit, but the fact that you sound overwhelmed and are posting this question at all....) Even just good organization and storage would go a long way.

A chest of drawers & limiting storage is good. Some stuff is good. Too much stuff is not (not enough is not either - now is probably not the time to go minimalist either!). A mom that let me pull out glue and glitter and make a mess without freaking out (and then helped me clean up) = priceless. A mom who bought me macaroni and glitter for a specific project? Also great.

The 27 things declutters sounds overwhelming even to me - if it does to you too, try 10 things. And anything counts. A receipt, a pair of old pants, used sandpaper = 3 things. Make it achievable!

As an adult with an art degree, having grown up in the environment I did, I long thought that having lots of "stuff" on hand would be inspirational. Some people do work this way - it turns out I don't and only find it overwhelming. I've pared waaaaay back. I'm a grown up and can source most art supplies/materials if I REALLY want them, and obtaining something for a specific use means it gets used. If you start culling things, also start a small craft budget. You can use this to teach your kids how to budget money and plan projects, and then everyone knows that if you need soup cans or macaroni or whatever, there's money set aside for that. Keep a rainy day box/chest of drawers/something for impromptu projects.

You sound like a great mom.

Q: Is it JUST craft supplies that's overwhelming you, or is there other 'stuff'?
Also, most big cities (not sure where you are) - and some small! - have a place like this where you can both take some of your stuff without tossing it, and where you can likely get 20 soup cans in a pinch. Contact your local dump/recyling center and see.
posted by jrobin276 at 2:16 PM on February 19 [3 favorites]

I share your dissatisfaction with the "box it up and discard it after six months" technique, as I've got the same pattern of having activities come in or out of focus over a timespan of over a year.

The key, I note, is "pattern" -- as in, when I encounter item X, I note that there is an activity associated with X, I have done it in the past, and am likely to do it in the future. This is distinct from "I don't know but it might be useful" and "Maybe someday I will do that thing, despite never having done it."

I follow approximately the following process in dealing with items not recently used:

Trash goes. Broken things are trash, unless there's an actual reasonable plan for their repair, I intend to do it, and there isn't obvious proof (i.e. I've been intending for years) that my intentions are vain.

If it is trivial to replace, it goes unless the thing that I wuzgonna use it for gets done in like a week or so. This category would encompass anything like macaroni, cans, screws and things, anything that is part of the normal material stream of my household or that of someone else I know, or is something that I could throw in on a grocery trip.

Then I look at the thing. Does it have a particular purpose that I can identify (is for knitting, is for leatherwork, is for LARP, etc). Is that purpose not acceptably satisfied by a generic tool (e.g. I don't need yarn scissors because I can cut yarn just fine with my pocketknife; I don't need an ice hammer because I can smash ice just fine with my framing hammer)? If not, it goes. Is there another thing that does that same thing, that I like better for doing that thing? If so, it goes.

Now, that purpose: Is it something that I actually do want to do in the future? If not, it goes. Then I think: What are the things that I actually do now and want to do in the future? Where will that activity fit relative to those? Does it compete substantially with my other hobbies for time and/or money (hint: it probably does)? If so, is it ever realistic that it will come out ahead in that competition? If not, it goes.

Then, finally, if it's something that, even though I do the activity infrequently, when weighed against the frequency or probability of the activity it would be easy or even advantageous to rebuy the thing when I do the activity, then the thing goes. My drywall stuff went this way, for example -- I've done it in the past and am fairly positive I'll do it again in the future, but I don't know when, do know it will be more than a year out, and will easily be able to find good drywall stuff that incorporates what I learned from last time around when that time actually arrives.

If the item survives all of these gates, it must be containerized. Ideally, it lives in a container suitable to its purpose, such as a gym bag, tool box, or box that is not made out of cardboard (I disfavor cardboard boxes; it's probably a personal prejudice). Designated space on a shelf also works. In any case it is necessary to be able to say that the stuff for X goes in the X-bag which goes on the third shelf in the closet, or whatever. It is organized such that it could be put to use, if desired. It is complete, and if it requires repairs then it is repaired. If at this point I find that I do not want to deal with containerizing it, rendering it usable, or finding a place for it to live -- or find that even when containerized, it still presents a problem (too large, in the way, has specialized storage requirements that I do not want to deal with) then it goes.

Things that I am baffled by may hang around for a bit if they're not causing a problem and I'm occupied with other activities. If my eye falls on them too many times and the bafflement does not resolve, they go. If they cause a problem while being baffling, they go.

There is at the end a bit of a get-out-of-jail-free card for things that are sentimental and not causing problems - this is mostly inherited stuff or gifts and probably a little over a medium box in volume, all told. If the annoyance of having it around without a use overcomes the sentiment or it starts to cause problems, it goes. That last is the path by which the truck I learned to drive in exited, when it proved bent on developing new and obscure coolant leaks every time it was driven.

These rules are judged by their results. What I have found so far -- implementing this is a work in progress -- is that I'm living in a place that is a reasonable size for me, my living space is pleasant to live in and relatively easy to keep pleasant, I know where to find things, and I generally know what things I have. If I found this not to be the case, I'd be stricter -- if I found that I was substantially inconveniencing myself, I'd be looser (or, rather, would determine what case I hadn't considered that was causing the problem, and revise the rules accordingly).
posted by sparktinker at 3:13 PM on February 19 [1 favorite]

Keep in mind:
You don't have to make every project you are drawn to
You have to do it exactly as it is presented to you
You don't have to be prepared for it right now.

Sooner rather than later, you will have more soup cans. Now that you have a project in mind that can use them, you can keep the next ones you get, there's no need to have 20 empty cans on hand. You don't have to do math with years-old macaroni, use beads or buttons that might actually have a use if you keep them. If you had gotten rid of the knitting materials, you still could have had fun doing another project. You don't have to prepare for the Craftpocalypse.

Prioritize your keepings. Sort them into categories:
1. Projects I have a plan for
2. Things I might be able to do something useful with
3. I'm overthinking this thing's usefulness (which is where I would place the macaroni).

Find a space in which to keep category 1, and organize that logically. Any space left over can be filled with some of things from category 2 (re-prioritize some of the things this category downward as needed), and throw out (or use immediately) the things in category 3.

Then stick to that amount of space. Want to add something new? Use something up to make room.

Clear boxes are good for seeing what you have, while limiting the amount of stuff and keeping it clean and out of the way. And the old maxim applies: A place for everything, and everything in its place.
posted by sageleaf at 3:17 PM on February 19

I have had to limit myself to just a few hobbies. I decided which gave me the most pleasure and which were the most useful and then purged the rest. For me it was kintting/crochet, sewing/quilting, and painting. Those are the three that I'm allowed to buy new supplies for.

The rest of my stuff I went through and had to be ruthless. I allowed myself a shoebox or smaller for all the other stuff. My calligraphy supplies all went into a pencil box, same with the polymer clay. Candlemaking, soap making, and beading went into shoe boxes. Scrapbooking stuff was the hardest to get rid of, but I realized with three growing kids it was so much easier to just organize stuff online. I kept a box full of papers for my kids to use as crafting and school project supplies. The rest was given away. I have a shelving unit that I keep everything on, labeled and boxed. When I need something I know right where it is. Supplies that I use but don't really fit into a designated hobby are kept in boxes there too. My glue gun, for example, has its own box.

As far as things that I think might be useful for kid crafting stuff, I have a three drawer plastic organizer and keep that stuff in the drawers. If the drawers are full the stuff goes in the garbage. When my kids use some of the stuff then I know I can start saving again. That's also where I keep the stuff that they're allowed to get into any time. The things that don't make a mess, like construction paper. (The glitter has a special hiding place.)
posted by TooFewShoes at 5:37 PM on February 19 [1 favorite]

Gifting craft materials is a way to get around the emotional "I bought this expensive thing and it's so prettttty" when you recognize you are unlikely to use it or could replace it. If you have friends who craft or just friends with children, pick out from the things you can give up little sets (e.g. a pack of scrapbook paper, washi tape and those cute stencils you thought you'd use...) and put it in the mail to someone as a pleasant surprise. I did that for my yarn collection, and now I only buy what I will have for a project and it has to fit into the two boxes under my bed only. If I want more, I have to use up what I have first to make space.
posted by viggorlijah at 5:43 PM on February 19

I have absolutely no qualms about having lots of stuff. I moved 6 years ago, got rid of masses of stuff on freecycle, have only missed a few items, but have acquired more. The rules for me are: It has to be clean, there has to be space for it, it has to be organized so I can remember I have it and lay my hands on it quite easily, it has to not be a burden. I like the way my stack of old suitcases looks, and they're great for fabric storage, sorted by type of fabric, and in zippered plastic bags. I had the zippered plastic bags saved from buying quilts, sheets, etc.

Having stuff requires being a librarian - having a taxonomy of what it is so you can have a place for it. Use the sections from the craft store as a guide, if that helps. I got a bunch of storage cubes on craigslist, and also use those wood clementine boxes to store:
Art Supplies - markers, crayons, colored pencils, glitter, glue, scissors, paints, brushes
Collaging - *lots* of paper and boxes of doo-dads
Sewing - incl. things to be repaired or re-purposed, fabric, buttons, ribbons, etc.
Weird stuff - nice branches, bits of wire, metal and glass, jewelry findings, etc.
and more. It's a 6' x 5' wall of possibilities, neat and tidy. The oatmeal boxes I'd saved got painted and used to store things.

Some people 'do crafts' by buying a list of supplies or a kit. I feel more creative scrounging up supplies and being creative, and I'm averse to buying stuff and wasting stuff. When the tile guy showed up without a good container for mortar, I had a plastic container (ok, or 5) he could use, and another for grout. When I notice that I have too many recycled plastic cups, I get rid of a bunch, either in the recycling or to a pre-school teacher. (She came to pick up a freecycle item, and left with bags of stuff; we were both delighted.)

Find a balance of organization. Collaging paper = small scraps in shoe boxes, larger pieces in folders, and a sturdy bag of magazines and catalogs with good possibilities. It's not super organized, but it's also low maintenance. The grocery store has sturdy banana boxes, shoe boxes reproduce themselves, etc. Label things. If you have lots of stuff, use it. Having a bunch of clean tin cans doesn't make you a hoarder - being unwilling to use them or give them away because you might need them does.

Anastasiav, we should have a crafting meetup some time.
posted by theora55 at 9:16 PM on February 19 [2 favorites]

Not a solution for you but something to think about. I have been decluttering and for various reasons the process is very painful and difficult. Almost immediately you can ask me what I got rid of and I would not be able to tell you. I just don't miss it but I do enjoy the new decluttered area.
posted by snowjoe at 8:31 AM on February 20

Having lots of stuff in disorganized boxes doesn't do anyone any good. My theory is: if you WANTED to find that high school dress to make a twirly skirt (or old macaroni for a necklace), would you know where to look?

If your stuff is organized such that you know where to find things, then it's just a storage issue. But if you've got boxes of stuff that constantly surprise you when you open them up, then yeah, that stuff has to be either organized or thrown away.
posted by CathyG at 9:26 AM on February 20

I moved from somewhere small to somewhere large, and paradoxically found it much easier to declutter after that. When I was in the small place and clearing out my cupboards, I would keep finding things and thinking "if I had remembered this skirt I would have worn it" (or equivalent). When I was in the large place, I had enough space that I actually did see all my stuff all the time, which meant that if I hadn't worn a skirt for six months, it was because I never picked it out of the wardrobe (not because it was folded away somewhere I couldn't see it).

Now I am back to living somewhere smaller but I have adapted this technique. If I have something I'm not sure about, I put it where I can see it regularly (eg, skirt, hang it on the front of the wardrobe). If I see it every day for a couple of weeks and never choose to pick it up, that means it can go.

For you, perhaps you could put one category of stuff somewhere public for a month - if you feel like picking it up and doing something with it, it's worth keeping.

But also, nthing the comments about being able to FIND the stuff that you have kept if you need it.
posted by ontheradio at 9:42 PM on August 2

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