Okay, not as melodic as “The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Music!” or even as comedic as “The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Griswold!” but nevertheless, it is music to my ears.

Or, rather,  it will be when I actually start de-cluttering. As it is, I’m spending most of my time moving my head around to various angles trying to determine which one produces the least amount of sinus pressure and bloody snot. But I digress.

A few months ago my Best Bud and I decided to have a yard sale this coming spring. Since I have no staging area to speak of, my de-cluttering came to a halt in order to prevent a mental breakdown. However, with absolutely no effort on my part, my tiny little basement “get rid of” pile continued to grow on its own – and at an astounding rate. (Where does this crap come from???) Lately the pile has come dangerously close to what I like to refer to as The Freak-Out Point.

Then, a wonderful thing happened. During an email discussion of an unrelated event, the Best Bud and I touched on the yard sale topic. She asked if she could bring things to my staging area. My head almost exploded. When I had collected myself, I responded with an alarming and vividly detailed account of the current states of both my basement and mental health. We cancelled the yard sale and agreed to donate our stuff.

Free at last, free at last!

I have to say, I didn’t realize how much the idea of having yet another yard sale was weighing me down until we canceled it. I would have celebrated by skipping through a field of daisies if it weren’t for a) it is the middle of winter and there aren’t any fields of daisies nearby, and b) I can’t breathe, much less skip. Instead, I celebrated by swiping a bunch of cardboard boxes bound for recycling and took them home to fill for donating. 

Now all I need to get this project into full swing are antibiotics and someone willing to load the truck…Honey, got a minute?

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I’ve written a few times about the various projects I’ve been taking on lately and thought it was time for a progress report.

Relay For Life

I have initiated a RLF team at my church and have been working to recruit members for my team for the local Relay event. I have one other person on the team so far, and a few others on the fence about joining. The holidays are a difficult team to spring something new on people – especially when it involves money – so I’m not terribly discouraged that new members aren’t beating down my door. Build it and they will come.

I’ve already started fundraising, and find that it is simultaneously daunting and exhilarating to raise money for a good cause. I’ve been extremely lucky so far and have already reached my initial fundraising goal of $500, and have upped it to $1,000. Even better, over the weekend my sister volunteered to help sell Hope bracelets and earrings to raise money for my team, and she is on a tear. She has already texted me that she has sold everything I gave her. Yay! 

Family History Project 

This project is getting off the ground with a herky jerky motion – a bit like the Wright brother’s first attempts at flight I would imagine. That said, I am making progress.

A few weeks ago I dug through some boxes in the attic and found a tiny gold mine of photographs, an obituary for my great-grandmother, an oh so precious handwritten letter from my grandmother, and a few other treasures.

I also wrangled some formal given names from my Mom’s memory via email which are easier to research than “Great-Grandma Ella.”

Then, this past holiday weekend, a visit with my Dad produced a cornucopia of information. I learned a great deal about the family farm and how it came to be, and a bunch of things about my grandparents and my great-grandparents. I also got my hands on some great old pictures and found out who has more, and then – Cha-Ching! – my Dad produced two books that will be hugely helpful with background data – one on the County in which my family has lived for generations, and the other on the church that my great-great-grandparents help found. As if that weren’t enough, Dad, Little M, and I took a short drive down the road, and picked pears and pecans off trees on the farm that have been bearing fruit since my grandfather was young. A priceless outing. (And yes, I got pictures.)

Letter Writing Team

In October I joined the letter writing team at www.soldiersangels.org. Each week I receive the name and address of a new soldier (male or female) in one of the branches of the military, and I write them a letter of gratitude for their service. I have found this to be the most uplifting of my projects, but also the most difficult. It is a privilege to be able to write and express my gratitude for the freedoms I enjoy everyday. However, at the same time, it is incredibly difficult to find the right words, to figure out what to say and not feel like I am sounding like an idiot. You are told upfront when you join the team that you may not ever hear back from your soldiers, but that regardless if you do or not, the letters are invaluable and to keep writing. I have taken that message to heart and will keep writing and trusting that my letters are helpful…and hoping that I don’t sound like an idiot.

Decluttering

A few weeks ago my BFF, bouyed by the success of my yard sale back in early summer, agreed that we should have a sale together.  Get rid of stuff, make money, spend time with BFF. Hurray! 

Wait…now this crap has to sit in my basement until Spring? Boo!!!

I have discovered over the years that I am very much a light switch person. Either on or off. I’m fine with the stuff hanging around until I flip the switch in my mind and decide it has to go. Once I make that decision I want it gone yesterday, so the thought of having this stuff lurking around taking up valuable real estate (especially now since it is piled in the basement instead of stashed here and there) is slowly killing my sanity. In light of the impending sale, I’ve decided to take a break from serious work on decluttering until mid-January in order to preserve what is left of my mind. In January I will be a few weeks away from the sale and will be able to stack, sort, and price with abandon because I’ll know it will all go soon. Hurray!

Yesterday my family came home from vacation. We stayed in a beach house where we lived amongst someone else’s house full of too much stuff, only to return last night to our house full of still (!) too much stuff. The irony did not escape me.

While on vacation I chose to just “chill.” I didn’t take all the projects I had originally intended to take, opting only to work on my genealogy project. I took two books but read only one. I let my mind slowly empty of all the excess stuff. It was refreshing and calming.

I also used the time to reflect on what was clutter in my life (beyond actual belongings), and what was missing. I determined that I was a long way off from where I want to be and that it was time to start editing. Good editing doesn’t just take away, it adds where needed to make the most of what is already there.

Due to a few unforeseen hiccups our vacation “wasn’t the most perfect vacation ever” as my husband so aptly put it, but it was great to get away, and as a bonus, it gave me all the inspiration I needed for the next phase in my life.

This past week my husband, Little M, and I have been on vacation. We rented a smaller, older house on the beach and have been enjoying a bit of quiet time together without the distractions of everyday life and the hassle of in season crowds.

Thursday we took a day trip up to Manteo to visit one of my all-time favorite places to shop – The Island Gallery and The Christmas Shop. For those who aren’t familiar with it, The Christmas Shop has been a much beloved institution on the island since 1978. (I’ve been going there since the 80s.) A few years ago the owners decided to call it quits, retire and do other things. They sold off everything and closed down. Then following a public outcry, they brought the store back to life and reopened.

The new version of the store has the same flavor as the old, but with differences that only a seasoned veteran would notice. But this post isn’t about the changes to my favorite store, instead its about the changes in me it forced me to acknowledge this week.

In the old days I would have walked through that maze of passageways and old rooms oohing and aahing in every nook and cranny and trying to narrow down what I wanted to leave with to a reasonable amount. There would have been ornaments, snowmen, nutcrackers, jewelry, and prints all vying for my attention and any number of things in the upstairs Halloween room screaming to go home with me.

This time? Didn’t happen. My heart didn’t race, nothing begged to be bought. I realized as I walked through the shop that I felt detached from it all. At first I thought it was because the store had lost it’s “aura” for me. Then I realized it wasn’t the store, it was shopping that had lost it’s “aura.” That’s when I knew I had truly turned the corner and that something more important had taken over the spot that the “desire to acquire” had formerly held. I told my husband as we drove away with my one tiny purchase, that I’ve come to realize that there are too many things that I want to do and that moving crap – I’m mean clutter – around, isn’t one of them anymore. I’ve even announced that as the holiday decorations come out this season, they will get severely edited. No more holding on to things out of guilt or  habit. If we don’t love it, it goes. Just thinking about it makes me feel like the Grinch – not when he stole Christmas, but when his heart grew ten sizes because he discovered the meaning of Christmas…and it ain’t about the stuff.

When did you turn the corner? When did you know that shopping and acquiring had lost its hold on you?

For months I have been working at getting my creative juices flowing again after a long lapse, and have been doing pretty well. I’ve made some summer dress and tops for Little M. I’ve mapped out sewing projects for the fall including sleep mats for school, her Halloween costume (Little Red Riding Hood), and some PJs among other things. I’ve made a ton of progress on my decluttering and reading projects. I’ve started working on my ancestry project that I talked about HERE. I’ve put out feelers about starting a Relay for Life team at my church. I’ve even been working on designing my own Christmas cards to make this year. I was feeling pretty good about getting out of the work work work, box-checking mindset with some great projects, then it all came to a screeching halt. What happened?  It took me a little while to figure it out.

I’m contemplating a move. Not like from the couch to the recliner, but from one side of the state to the other, or one coast to another. Let me explain. My husband is considering a career change of sorts. He would be staying within his same field, and even the same company, but it would be a different type of job and the next natural progression within his field. The thing is, to be considered, you have to be willing to move. Anywhere.

At first the whole idea of it gave me a knot in the bottom of my stomach…we are comfortable here, our families are relatively close, so much to pack, etc. The possibility of it threw me off my tracks. In the past, talks about moves were based on other factors, not a job change.  Then, my husband took the leap, and the more I thought about it and what it meant, the more I realized, we are comfortable here, and that is the problem. With excessive comfort comes lathargy, boredom, sameness, lack of growth, and that my friend, gave me an even bigger knot in my stomach. I love change. I love to grow, evolve, see new places and try new things. These are the things that inspire me, and keep me feeling creative without having to force it. And my husband, he needs a change too.

So, now that I’ve made the mental leap into the exciting possibilities for the future, my creative juices are boiling out of the pot. The problem is they are running amok with thoughts about the life we might lead – if these changes come to fruition – and not about the life I currently lead. Time to redirect. Time to refocus on what I can do now – those projects for Little M, and what takes on a heightened importance were we to move – decluttering, reading through and getting rid of the stacks of books and mags in the basement, and working on my ancestry project with my cousin who (for now) lives relatively close.

 

I am convinced that magazines have a secret life, and that when we’re not looking they multiple like bunnies. Maybe it’s their way of getting back at us for going digital.

My husband reads a ton of magazines, and with the exception of his beloved High Performance Pontiac and Auto Restorer, they all eventually make their way (with help from me) to the recycling bin.

My Mother-in-Law used to save all her old magazines for me to read because she knew that I would enjoy looking through them, and I did – up until the point I became a Mom and the magazines started piling up unread. Between the magazines she was sending my way and the ones to which I subscribed, (not to mention my husband’s collection) my house was becoming a glossy paper nightmare.

Finally I asked my Mother-in-Law to pass her magazines on to someone else, and I cancelled my subscriptions. Now I’m left with the carnage of my past sins – a stack of Parents partially read, a stack of Taste of Home (and a few other cooking magazines) barely flipped thru, and worst of all, a stack of Bead Style that I haven’t even given the time of day.

In a weaker moment I considered throwing them all in the recycle bin to be done with it, but that’s taking the easy way out and is wasteful on so many levels. Instead, I’ve decided to tackle the magazine monster like any other project – one step at a time (or in this case, one magazine at a time). I’ll work my way thru each one of them, scanning any recipes or articles that I want to save for later.

My BFF and I are already whispering about the possibility of a yard sale in the Spring, so as I go thru the stacks of magazines I’ll add them to the yard sale pile. Anything related to cooking and crafting tends to sell well. (In the event they don’t sell, there is always Craigslist or Freecycle.) In the meantime, I’ve got about nine months and a lot of reading to do before the yard sale – I better get busy.

I had several topics in mind for blog posts this week, but the one that is predominantly on my mind this week is CLUTTER. Clutter, as my husband will gladly tell you, is the one sure-fire thing that can turn me into a giant stress ball in a matter of minutes, and subsequently, him into a psychiatrist talking me down off the ledge.

It all started when I was a kid. I grew up in a somewhat cluttered household (entirely too many knickknacks) and it has been my personal mission since leaving home to be as clutter free as possible. I’m not a minimalist by any stretch, but I do love the calming feeling of clean, clear counter space and walkways, and the joy of less than full cabinets and closets.

Most of my adult life clutter has not been a problem in my house. Then twenty months ago I had a baby, Little M, and life got complicated. Stuff accumulates a lot faster with children and it is harder to find the time to sort it and get rid of it in my preferred methods (sell, donate, recycle). Now, I work at it everyday and two of my favorite blogs 365lessthings and unclutterer (and the fear of clutter related stress) help keep me on task.

So what’s the problem? 

The further along the decluttering path I travel, the more other people’s clutter freaks me out.  Especially when the clutter belongs to people I know, love, care about.

So what do I do? How do you not become a ball of nerves when you are visiting someone’s home and are afraid to lay down your car keys because you don’t know if you’ll find them again? When you have to clear a space at the table in order to eat a meal? When you have breached the subject of too much stuff – gently, and not so gently – but it falls on deaf ears? How do you deal? How do you stop fantasizing about backing a truck up to the front door, loading all the stuff up and hauling it away? How do you remind yourself that it’s not your problem, your home, or your life, and to just let it go? I don’t have the answers to any of those questions, and it frustrates me. A lot.