Day 100: Clutter (Mostly) Conquered – A Messy Victory

10,000 things gone! 

I did it! I crawled out from under the clutter.

I got rid of 100 things a day for 100 days or 10,000 things in six months. But however you look at the numbers, it all adds up to the same thing:

(image source)


It’s a slightly messy, mostly disorganized, skin of my teeth triumph that’s still trailing loose ends, but it’s all mine.

Regardless of the items waiting for drop off at the thrift shop, the finishing touches I want to put on some of the rooms, and the bits and pieces of overlooked clutter, I have arrived. Here’s a snap of the last 100 things:

It is almost impossible to describe how my life has changed now that I’m untethered from the thousands of useless, unattractive items in my home. But, I love a challenge, and that’s the direction I’d like to take my blog in if you’d like to come along.

Did I mention that I’m indebted to all of you for finishing this project? Well, I am. So:

(image source)

What did I learn from my 100 things, 100 days project? That my success had absolutely nothing to do with the numbers. It came from finding a way to sustain my efforts over time. To that end, the best thing I ever did was take a picture of my clutter and share it. Remember this:

and this:

and this:

How could I not pull myself together when I was living like this, and you knew about it? Seeing my stuff through your eyes turned out to be the best source of motivation I could ask for.

In a month, I’m doing a house exchange with my oldest and uber stylish friend Patty. I’ll post my after photos as I’m fluffing things up for her arrival. And, of course, I’ll continue to track Squirrel’s movements as we adjust to a bowl free existence. Why do I feel like this is just the beginning?


Day 99: What I Didn’t Do This Weekend

9,900 things gone, only 100 to go!

Before I tell you what I did this weekend, I should probably tell you what I didn’t do:

– I didn’t complete my project.

– I didn’t clean the whole house.

– I didn’t list my remaining clutter on craigslist.

– I didn’t meditate on simplicity.

–  I didn’t metamorphose my abode with contemporary accessories pulled from the ether.

– And, I didn’t dance interpretively through the open space feting my accomplishment.

Not me, so not Squirrel (image source)

I had planned to do all these things because Squirrel was taking the kids to Whistler for the weekend. (I had to stay home for a couple of social engagements.) Go ahead and get all googly-eyed over Super Dad – I did,  but you should know that he was staying at my parents house and was not without some help of his own.

Sadly, whatever took up residence in my sinuses last week moved into my chest and throat giving me the distinct impression I was drowning and preventing me from sleeping more than 2 hours Friday night.

My girlfriend called to check on me Saturday morning after I left an uncharacteristic 1 hour into her party:

“You should just watch movies all day.”

Ha! Watch movies?! This was my chance to complete my project unfettered by things like meal-making and the rapid fire questions of my four-year old.

By 7pm, I’d cried my way through Bridesmaids and chortled through Horrible Bosses. It loosened my congestion enough to drift off for 45 minutes, but I had only decluttered four things.

Later, I puttered around the kitchen polishing the counters and wiping grimy cupboards while adding three episodes of Sex In The City and Saturday Night Live to my TV tally.

I fared a bit better today uprooting lots of things from the master bathroom while I cleaned it for the first time in I don’t know how long.  I washed several of my jackets to take to my local women’s centre along with some toiletries, books and a couple of children’s toys.

I have to thank my friend for checking on me and planting the movie idea. It definitely kept my spirits up while my weekend plans went down the drain. My project, not unlike my children, has stubbornly refused to follow the path I laid out for it. The upside is that you don’t have to look at an actual photo of me interpretive dancing…yet.

Day 98: Grateful or Resentful?

9,800 things gone, only 200 to go!

Grateful for this?

I have to admit, when I’m decluttering I sometimes have conversations with myself that go like this:

“I can’t believe I’m the only one who throws things out around here.”

“Do they (family) even know how much work goes into this?”

“Are they trying to torture me with all this stuff?”

“So what if it’s eggs again for dinner, at least they can open their closets.”

Back in the nineties, when I wasn’t studying or trying to achieve the waif look, I made an effort to write in my Simple Abundance, Journal of Gratitude. My apologies to Sarah Ban Breathnach for not absorbing anything from her lovely book.

Gratitude hasn’t always come easily for me.

Exactly 15 years later, I’m beginning to understand, but it took this decluttering project and a rap lyric to get through to me.

My decluttering days have been alternately effortless and a struggle. On a struggle day, K’Naan came on the radio singing about his hometown Mogadishu and thanking Africa for showing him how to give. Someone else may have felt instant gratitude not to be weathering a civil war in Somalia, but I’m pretty invested in my own misery.

It wasn’t until I heard this lyric that gratitude took hold of me:

“It’s not every day you get to give.”

So when I’m grumbling about carting 100 more things out of this house, I take a minute to think about the alternative – being someone who can’t, that same person I was only a year ago, and, for the first time in my life, I’m starting to get this gratitude thing.

What I tossed today: 75 wall decals, 10 storage bins, 1 storage rack (all listed on craigslist), misc. garbage & cardboard boxes from the office.

Day 97: Decluttering – Would I Do It The Same Way Twice?

Hang on, you’re thinking, didn’t she already do Day 97. Well, you’re right. I’m stuck on Day 97. I’ve had a sinus headache since Saturday that’s kept me from doing much of anything except keeping my head very very still while eating carbs off my children’s plates and hoping for a face transplant. Sure there are more productive things I could do like taking medicine or drinking orange juice but that would require more tilt of the head than I care to do.

And since I’ve had lots of time to think and no energy to declutter, I propped my laptop up at eye level and decided to blog instead. Lately, I’ve been questioning the 100 things 100 days format. Would I do it the same way again?

I was beginning to think I should have imposed a looser time frame as in 100 things, 100 (or so) days. The deadline is making me twitchy. I’ve started running all sorts of Day 100 movies on the film projector in my head.

In one, I’m releasing 100 balloons to the ceiling surrounded by my loving husband, adoring children and minimalist art. For some reason the scene alway takes place in front of this couch:

In another, I find myself alone in an empty room staring forlornly at the scuff marks on the sofa we actually own and missing the bobble heads. But worse by far is the scene where I open the door and 10,000 things come pouring back in and one month later I’m reading my own blog for tips.

The truth is that none of these scenarios is likely. I love having 9,700 fewer things, but it will never be finished and there will always be scuff marks on something. I hope that I have gained the insight to live a little more purposefully, and I’m looking forward to blogging about that, and about my ongoing relationship with decluttering.

But first, Sudafed. Then Day 98, 99 and 100!

Day 97: Boy Smarts! And Squirrel Tales

9,700 things gone, only 300 to go!

I think the most unfortunate consequence of my foray into inventory is the long break I’ve taken from telling Squirrel tales.

I’ve missed sharing.

This picture tells two stories neither of  them particularly flattering to Squirrel or me.

1) Today we bought the children not one, but two sets of Halo mini figures. (This may be the best evidence so far that I’m being transparent with you. Of all the things I’d be tempted to not mention – this about tops the list.)

2) The recycling bin is right inside that white door but Squirrel prefers to stack recyclables on the counter right next to it and wait for the recycling fairy to work her magic. He’s rapidly losing favour with the recycling fairy by doing this:

This is the same man who turns himself inside out every time I leave a beer bottle cap on the counter. Not my best attribute, but a far lesser crime (in my mind) than mixing recyclables.

Let’s talk about today’s grievous toy purchase. As I’ve said before, my kids play with guys – lego guys, playmobil guys, and now, I guess, Halo guys. I can honestly say I’ve never regretted a guy purchase. Having said that, I loathe the video game Halo or any mention of war and game in the same sentence for that matter. I’ve taken an over my dead body approach to purchasing it. For some reason, it’s come to represent my last stand – and I’m taking it.

I don’t pretend to know anything about boys and guns and video games and TV violence but I’ve spent considerable time worrying about the subject. When my anxiety level gets too high, I consult my copy of Boy Smarts. The author, Barry MacDonald, has rescued me from a myriad of parenting sins. I highly recommend his website, if you’re struggling, as I am, with these issues.

The good news is that when I took the kids down to the playroom to give up some toys in return for their new guys, there weren’t any to get rid of. However, they offered up these two Playmobil beards which I thought was good of them.

As for Squirrel’s reliance on the recycling fairy and my occasional beer, the two pretty much go hand in hand. Surely a celestial sip or two is allowed under the recycling circumstances.

Back to my Squirrel tale. I revisited his office last night, this time on my best behaviour. That is, until I found two overflowing desktop organizers hidden in his cupboards and had a little tantrum. You see, Squirrel has used his “tidy office” status as evidence that the home clutter is mostly my creation. The discovery of his untidy secret sparked  a purge reminiscent of the early days of the project. I hardly had to count because what was falling out of the cupboards effortlessly topped one hundred.

Around 9pm, I found this:

Note that I already dealt with FIVE banker’s boxes FULL of cords and cables in the basement.

I had to give myself  a time out.

But not before doing this:

I have my wise and faithful reader galberry to thank for her suggestion in the comments on Day 92 to somehow mark things that aren’t likely to be used. If the packing tape remains this time next year – the files go!

I’m not really heartless, Squirrel actually moved his office out of the house a few months ago and neglected to take these indispensable files with him. I think a little booby trap is adequate punishment.

The rest of the stuff in our new shared office may make up most of Day 98. My cup runneth over!

Day 96: There’s Been A Change Of Plans

9,600 things gone, only 400 to go!

“I thought we were gonna buy some fish. – There’s been a change of plans.”

– Mary Poppins

This scene in Mary Poppins affected me profoundly as a child. One minute Mary and the kids are on their way  to the market to buy fish and the next (on the advice of a dog) they’re off to rescue Uncle Albert from the ceiling.

Abandoning the shopping seemed almost mutinous to a child from a very structured upbringing. In fact, I don’t think I was aware there was a “change of plans” option until Mary brought it to my eight year old attention.

I realized last night that it was time for a change around here. You see, doing inventory has been like going to the market to buy fish when I’d much rather be serving tea on the ceiling – or, at least, doing some uncomplicated decluttering.

I’ll quote myself from my project page:

It had to be something I could do in 30 minutes and it had to be something simple enough to do with one eye open on days that I only got 4 hours of sleep because of a sick child in my bed or an evening with friends that – Oh my gosh, look how late it is! – carried on into the morning.

Squirrel and I spent a good part of the week at the pediatrician’s office with our oldest son whose learning style continues to refuse to be categorized. Bless his complexity. Then I expended the rest of my mental energy alternately worrying and brainstorming about his classroom needs.

It was a relief to blitz the bedroom last night with no other goal than to rid it of one hundred more things. With Squirrel’s dresser to raid, it was a piece of cake. I got rid of magazines, photos (doubles), garbage, buttons, socks, and tickets from various sporting events. On my side of the room, I decluttered picture frames, books, boxes, clothing tags, socks, and underwear.

I lay on my bed this afternoon staring at my uncluttered closet from a new angle and feeling nothing but relief. Thank goodness I no longer have to decide between fifteen pairs of pants and twenty two shirts. I need all the mental energy I can to keep up with my family. I’m sure I’ll revisit inventory eventually, but, for the time being, I’ll be keeping it simple, that is, when I’m not coaxing giddy relatives down from the ceiling.

Day 95: Mementos – Not A Measure Of Love

9,500 things gone, only 500 to go

I desperately wanted to knock off Day 95 yesterday. I should know by now that being desperate about anything doesn’t serve me well.

I spent a few hours in the morning inventory-ing the family room and living room. The numbers were small (28 things decluttered) but it was massively satisfying.

Check out my toy pile before:

And after:

There is nothing on the floor but the furniture in this room. Woo hoo!

As the days dwindle (only 5 left!), my decluttering is slowing to a trickle. But my thoroughbred brain is racing right along:

If I finish Day 95 this weekend, I can do the last five days this week, run a vacuum around the house on the weekend, and I’ll be done! Forever.

Then the kids want to eat lunch or go to the skateboard park and my decluttering plans are foiled again. Weekends are bad for that.

I lay awake next to my youngest son Sunday night wishing him to sleep so that I could jump up, inventory the laundry room, blog about it, then go to bed. The trouble was, I was already drifting. I reasoned that I could skip the blogging if I finished the inventory. I woke up an hour later tangled in Star Wars sheets. Youngest son: 1 Decluttering: 0

I resumed my inventory in his room this afternoon. I found another 28 things to get rid of. At 56 things, I wasn’t even close to declaring Day 95 a wrap.

I moved on to the oldest child’s room and, one hour later, had only brought the total to 68.

Then I hit the decluttering jackpot  – a Winnie the Pooh box on the top shelf of his closet stuffed to the gills with mementos of his first two years.

I must have saved every piece of paper his little hands ever sprinkled glitter on. The bottom of the box was covered with the ever popular non-toxic toddler art materials – macaroni and lentils. More questionable things I saved: his certificate of completion of Gymboree, his first Build-A-Bear’s birth certificate, 14 copies of his birth announcement and 9 photocopies of the first ultrasound (in addition to the originals) in which he looked just like a tiny mummy.

These items launched me well on my way to Day 96 albeit trailing plumes of guilt. You see, I didn’t even announce number two’s birth let alone take him anywhere that involved macaroni and glue. By the time he arrived (difficult pregnancy, long birth) all I could do was breastfeed and weep.

So, 16-year-old number two, if you’re reading this and wondering about your birth announcement, you should know that, although we got off to a rough start – you and I pulled through. You were the child of my decluttering, my crayoned companion, master of recycling, tester of toys and batteries, puzzle piece finder – a veritable worker bee. And I loved staying home with you.

If you’re interested in the latest inventory (family room, living room, kid’s bedrooms) you can find it here:

family room inventory (spreadsheet malfunction noted – will fix tomorrow!)

What I tossed today: clothing, artwork, DVD’s, books, batteries, paper recycling, toys