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!

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Day 94: The False Security of Categories

9,400 things gone, only 600 to go

I can see why I avoided the china question for so long. It’s easy not to question an item when fits a recognizable category.

You’ll remember early on in the project that I often struggled to recognize things in my own home. There were plastic bits, toy parts, pieces of string, broken chalk, silly putty, nuts and bolts, silly bands and odd-shaped batteries I’d never seen before. I found plastic pieces from the car, McDonald’s toys, bike tires, furniture parts, spiders and fries. Gross!

But when something fits a category like fine china, it pretty much sorts itself. Who cares if there are 80+ plates that I don’t use?

It’s all china and it belongs in the china cupboard, right?

Yikes! That’s the kind of thinking that got me into this mess in the first place. So with all your comments and suggestion I garnered the strength to set aside the 16 pieces I actually want and need.

I’ve listed the other 131 pieces for sale. Gulp! Thanks for holding my hand through this. I’m delighted to have these useful pieces in my rotation.

It’s easy to fall into the keep it because I already have a place for it trap.

It can happen to anyone, even Squirrel.

Ski Base Layers

Ski Socks

It looks like I’ll have my work cut out for me in tomorrow’s inventory. For those of you who are waiting for it, here’s the rest of my kitchen inventory.

kitchen inventory

Better get yourself a coffee.

What I tossed (listed for sale) today: 131 pieces of china

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.)

Day 74: Office In A Box – Or – A Box Full Of Clutter

7,300 things gone, only 2,700 things to go

For one terrifying month in February of 2007, Squirrel and I owned two properties. We closed the deal on our current home before the first one sold. It was a dark, dark day for the accountant when we applied for bridge financing. I dealt with the stress by culling and cleaning. Squirrel hid out in the office of the old house working.

And working, and working, and working. In fact, the day before the new owners moved in, Squirrel was still in there working. No one could figure out how he houdinied himself out at the very last minute.

Today, I found out.

It’s a mystery to me how he’s been productive these past few years without his five tape dispensers.

It kind of makes you wonder if he ever sits around in his new office and wonders: “What ever happened to my hand shaped button?”

Or:  “I know I packed that rock somewhere.”

One thing is bugging me about those tape dispensers. I used them frequently and remember loving them. But I hardly ever use tape anymore. In fact, I donated all five dispensers. Has anyone else’s tape habits changed in the past 5-10 years? What the heck were we all taping back then?

And, does anyone care to hazard a guess what someone tells themselves when they pack a box like this? Don’t hold back. Squirrel has a pretty good sense of humour about his habits.

What I tossed today: I called this whole box 100 things, but I swear there were about a hundred dried up pens alone in there. Since it had been in storage for close to five years, it was easy to determine what we could live without. I kept one ruler, one stapler, a few pens, a box of envelopes and some labels. The rest I donated, recycled or tossed – with the rock.

Day 63: Go Write A Blog About It! The Blog As Couples Therapy

6,300 things gone, only 3,700 to go

All of a sudden, Squirrel has started leaving different types of piles around the house for me.

These are for recycling.

And these are for donating.

Anyone who has been following my Squirrel knows, this marks a huge departure from his bucket days. It’s true, he’s come a long way, or, I should say, we’ve come a long way.

Any couple knows that navigating shared space is tricky. Especially if you have fundamentally different opinions on where to store Power Bars (him: the ottoman, me: the kitchen).

There were red flags of course. Snacks in the magazine rack. Four year old frozen vegetables in the freezer. His Dad’s old jock strap in the dresser drawer.

I guess I’m reading this Lifescript article way too late:

There has to be some acceptance of the idiosyncrasies if sharing a home is going to work.

The truth is we both stubbornly held off on acceptance for a very long time. Each of us nagging the other endlessly over such things as his wet towels on the bed or where I put my keys.

Lifescript has some advice on this too:

When you truly love your partner enough, these small quirks and pet peeves become irrelevant over time or even something to laugh about.

Ha ha ha ha ha ha!  Lifescript. Really? We added two kids and a move to the mix and 12 years later these small quirks became big buckets of wasted stuff and expensive mistakes ($250 for a new key fob).

It really wasn’t until I started blogging about it that I could begin to appreciate the humour in our situation. Photographing the quirks, cataloguing the pet peeves, tempering my frustration with (a little) kindness. I could have called him a packrat after all! I really began to let off some steam. And, if the new type of piles are any indication, I think we’re finally communicating.

If only I read this pertinent tip 12 years ago:

There are two Cs that will lead to a lot less stress in your new adventure together: communication and compromise.

Even so, it still may have taken us 12 years to discover our own unique way of communicating.

Just the other day, Squirrel was pointing out a few little things (blow dryer, hair clip, elastic band) that I left on his dresser while I was rushing out to cover a sales call he couldn’t make because he was mountain biking in the Chilcotins. I simmered for a moment – then replied:

If it bothers you that much, go write a blog about it!

What I tossed today: I donated and/or tossed 100 more toys, parts, and pieces.

Day 58: How To Do Less Laundry And Have More Time

5,800 things gone, only 4,200 things to go

I got rid of one hundred more things from my closet today.

That brings my clothing donation total to three hundred things. If you add in the kids clothes, I’m guessing that total would be more like six hundred things.

I have a secret plan to raid Squirrel’s closet.

There has to be at least one hundred T-shirts in there that could go. Along with the suits, ties and jackets that he hasn’t worn in 10 years, I’m pretty sure we can round out the family purge at about one thousand things.

I can tell you without reservation that all these clothes have robbed us of more time than just about anything else we own. There’s the time spent shopping for them. Then the time spent laundering them. And the time spent looking for them when they get lost in the mountains of laundry that I haven’t had a chance to do because I’m shopping for the clothes we can’t find.

Squirrel and I have spent a lot of time arguing about the laundry. He tends to think of laundry hampers as long-term storage. (In writing this I made a quick count of his personal laundry – 89 items of clothing in 4 laundry bins.)  I like to do the laundry when my one bin fills up. But that’s just me.

I guess I could find more productive things to do than counting dirty laundry but, this arguing by the numbers thing is starting to work for me. A couple of days ago Squirrel gave me 35 CD’s to donate. And a few days before that, he voluntarily wrangled up 30 items of clothing. At this rate we could hit a family total of one thousand items of clothing donated in about 10 more days.

But, I’ll have to be stealth. He’s a stubborn one.

What I tossed today: 100 items clothing, purses and costume jewelry from my closet

Day 49: Stuff and Stuff – There’s A Name For It!

4,900 things gone, only 5,100 things to go

Squirrel came to me sheepishly last week and gave me this:

This was printed on the inside:

I didn’t know whether to crack up or cry. In one way, it’s brilliant – I finally have a name for these arbitrary collections. In another way it’s frightening how deeply embedded this behaviour is in his consciousness.

Squirrel was in fourth grade when he made this collection. Mr Hassard was his teacher and was, by all accounts (especially this eloquent one by Chris Stenberg) – quite a guy. He was the teacher that made Squirrel learn the poem “If” by Rudyard Kipling and that makes Mr. Hassard more than alright with me. But, I digress. I think it’s clear that whatever Mr. Hassard was teaching, it wasn’t organization.

What did I do with this box of assorted treasures? The only reasonable thing a person could do in the circumstances. I sorted, catalogued, and photographed them:

135 thumb tacks, 36 nails and screws, 14 keys, 23 buttons, 5 golf tees, 4 alan keys, 2 crochet hooks, 3 coins, 2 pencils, 1 nail file, 1 elastic band, 19 pieces plastic, 12 metal, 11 wood, 8 uncategorized

Then I made this cool I-Spy for my kids:

I-Spy an earring, an aspirin, a match…

I know it seems like a lot of work for a box of things that ended up in the kitchen garbage, but I’m deeply fascinated by the thought process that allows someone to store an earring with a golf tee or a crochet hook with an alan key.

Or recently, an Ugly Doll with Dewalt bits:

Or a Scooby Doo poster with a Swiss Army knife:

Besides, I couldn’t shoulder the bewilderment on my own anymore  – and if one of you, just one of you, sees this post and cries out:

“Why? Why Squirrel? Why?”

…then I will feel like I have an ally and that makes all things (even Stuff and Stuff) infinitely more bearable.