Day 86: Recluttering! What To Do When You’ve Overstepped Your Boundaries

8,600 things gone, only 1,400 things to go

I trod the slippery slope of decluttering someone else’s things last week and found myself in the unusual position of putting it all back today.

I blame my upbringing. As kids, my sister and I were taught two things: 1) work is sacred and 2) you don’t touch other people’s stuff. So when Squirrel took offence to my decluttering his file cabinet last week, I tried to shrug it off, but my conscience kept chattering at me.

It’s his stuff…It’s his stuff…It’s his stuff…

Funny this little voice had nothing to say when I raided his basket collections, toiletries or  T-shirts. But this was a filing cabinet – full of files! No foodstuffs or footwear to be found. And they were files that represented a lot of time and work to Squirrel.

(Did I mention that Squirrel’s profession is selling high density storage systems? I’m only just seeing the irony in this.)

I asked myself one question: “How would I feel if someone decluttered my writing?” And that’s when I found myself in Squirrel’s office recluttering.

As I put the files back, I could see they were probably not files that would be referenced frequently. And by that I mean, I doubt Squirrel will look at any of them ever again. He’s spent the last week marvelling at the miracle of the iCloud and sighing heavily when he has to explain it to me for the second and third time. If you could store files on the moon, he’d be the first to get that dialled in.

So, it’s obviously not getting rid of the paper that bothers Squirrel but perhaps the time it represents. I get it. I throw fits every time I lose an email I spent more than 5 minutes on. However, I took the liberty of sourcing some advice for us. About half of the files he saves are printed quotes, easily retrievable from the desktop, the iCloud, the moon. To his credit, Squirrel follows all these “paperless” rules except one:

Place a filename on every document worth keeping. In our office, if a document does not have a filename, it gets named or tossed out. This is true whether it is a paper or electronic document.

From: How to Go Paperless: Bury the Paper Before it Buries You

I doubt Squirrel would find it necessary to name a quote, which leaves the other half of the paper he saves – completed jobs. These files contain, drawings, dimensions, bills, parts lists, even some chicken-scratched details only he can understand – definitely worthy of a file name. By following the naming rule, Squirrel could cut down his paper storage by half and I could easily declutter the nameless files without any guilt. Sure hope he’s as excited about this as I am!

And just in case you think I’m going soft – some things around here are still totally unacceptable:

Trick or treat???

What I tossed today: 80+ computer and TV cords and cables, skis & boots, snowboard boots, potty, curling iron, bike seat (all listed (some already sold) on craigslist.)


14 thoughts on “Day 86: Recluttering! What To Do When You’ve Overstepped Your Boundaries

  1. Oo I hope that method works! With my hubby, it’s is few (20 or so) remaining books. Most have not been touched in well over a year. Some are study guides, which make sense to keep, but he swears he can’t find the info. in the remaining books online, so they stay for now.

    Glad I’m not the only one stressing over other loved ones’ “stuff.”

  2. You are brave Christine!

    I’ve attempted to, er, “encourage” my husband to get rid of things he simply refuses to part with. Like a snowboard collection (he hasn’t gone snowboarding in at least 10 years).

    I’m sure it was frustrating having to re-clutter the filing cabinet after you got it cleaned out.

    Hopefully he’ll come around, but if not — at least you can get control of your belongings. 🙂

    • Recluttering was surreal. But, in a way, I wanted to let go of something. I’m a little nervous about becoming a decluttering maniac, so as long as nothing was rotting in there, I decided it was a pretty good thing to practice letting go of. Pretty sure he’ll come around though.
      As for your ex-snowboarder – would he consider repurposing his boards as wall art – in the garage??? : )

  3. Recluttering?!!?!?! That sounds like my worst nightmare!!! Well, good for you for taking into account your husband’s feelings. If it were me, I’d be tempted just to wait until he forgot about it and shred that stuff on the sly. Wait, does that sound like I might have some experience in that department? Erm….

  4. I refuse to throw out other people’s stuff unless it’s really obviously rubbish, I don’t even like moving it. If you aren’t sure then you can’t tell how valuable it is. Out of all that useless junk, some random pieces are really valuable. You can’t guess which ones, you have to ask.

    Time since something’s been used isn’t always a clue to it’s value. I have things that haven’t been used for 20 years. I’d love to be using them again right now, but I know it might be 10 more years. I know my partner has similar stuff.

    Decluttering isn’t always so simple.

    • You’re right. It isn’t simple. Squirrel has some random belts and straps. I nearly tossed them all but I’m glad I didn’t. One of them turned out to be a part to a very expensive bike seat which we later sold. I had a moment of panic though. Fortunately, he also has some very obvious rubbish that keeps me going.

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