The Drawer

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Everyone has one. We don’t like to talk about it. It is nasty, distasteful, and, if we ignore it, we fool ourselves into thinking that it will go away. But it doesn’t. It makes us feel like less of a person because we have one, but no one really knows what to do about it. We are all plagued by … THE DRAWER.

You all know what I am talking about. I asked Ron the other day where a paper clip was. He looked at me like I was crazy and merely said, “The drawer.” It’s that drawer, closet or inconspicuous corner that everyone has, into which everything that doesn’t fit anywhere else eventually finds its way.

I have one.  Every time that I open it, something odd magically appears. Last time I opened it I was looking for a AA battery. I found, among other things, a mask for mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, an old shopping list, staples (no stapler), needles (no thread), a hex screwdriver, and a small bottle of mouthwash. I did not find a AA battery, however I found three D batteries, none of which worked.

Clutter. The most organized person still has a couple places that just seem to catch everything. The hutch in the kitchen used to be our place. Everything that Jim had in his pockets — screws, money, phone, sticky notes — would end up on top of the hutch. It looked awful and was the point of contention between us when company was coming over — “Please clean the hutch — again!”

Don’t think that this applies to just the household. You guys have it, too — in your garages, barns, and shops. You know, all those places that are off limits to one or the other person in the house. (“How dare you think of cleaning the garage; you might put something away and I would never find it.” On the other hand, we would welcome you to pick up things in the house.) Don’t think that I am pointing fingers at anyone, for I am just as guilty. On most days, one look at my desk and you would ask if there were even a desk under there.

This is the perfect time of year to de-clutter. I know what you are thinking: You did that last year at this time, and the year before. Somehow clutter has a way of returning, but there are ways of keeping it to a minimum. Most of us would like to live a simplified life with a little less clutter and usually have just a couple trouble spots, but then there are those who have reached or almost reached the status of “hoarder.” Either way, there are creative ways to declutter that do not have to be painful.

I know this all too well. A year ago at this time, we started to go through the whole house and basement, shelf by shelf and room by room, and then proceeded to the garage and barn. Jim was a collector and saved everything. We found paper towels stuffed inside of Wal-Mart bags stuffed inside of boxes. Needless to say, we had a few royal burnings. By August everything was gone, through. Even so, this year I still have a few trouble spots (you know — THE DRAWER).

I make light of this situation, but it can be a serious problem for some, and for others it is just a nagging sense of being overwhelmed and defeated. There are actually professionals who can help us deal with clutter. Here are some of their suggestions to help take on the mess:

1. Whatever you do, do not try to tackle it all at once, it will be overwhelming. Instead, focus on one area — a room, a closet, or even so small as a drawer. It helps to make a list of areas and check them off as you go.

2. Work only as long as you are making progress. When you start to feel defeated, look back and see how far you have come and remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day.

3. The two above methods work well for some. As for me, I am more the “dig in and do it” type. However, for each area you can try the 12-12-12 method. Choose 12 items to throw away, 12 to donate, and 12 to keep and put away where they go. There is also the 4-box method where, again for each area, you have 4 boxes, one each for trash, give away, keep, and relocate.

4. When it comes to clothes, especially for us gals, it is hard to get rid of anything, because even if we haven’t worn it recently, each item holds a special memory or we will wear it when we are that size again. I know, I have some of those pieces. Oprah Winfrey gave notoriety to the “closet hanger experiment.” Hang all clothes in the reverse direction. After wearing an item, hang it right, and after a certain amount of time you know which ones you actually wear. This fits in with the “project 333” method: choose the 33 items that you wear in 3 months (or whatever numbers work for you).

There are also some tips of what not to do when decluttering:

1. Don’t buy storage pieces like totes until you have sorted through the house and know where they will eventually go — organize first and buy second. Nothing is more frustrating than having things packed nicely in totes only to find out that they won’t fit on shelves or under the bed or wherever they were intended live. Don’t forget that good old cardboard boxes work just as well for some items, and the price is right.

2. Don’t set time limits. If you allow yourself only so much time to get through the clutter (a day, a week), you will be disappointed and feel defeated. This is not an easy task, and you don’t know until you dig in exactly what time frame you are looking at. Remember, it didn’t accumulate in one day, why should it go away in one?

3. Good enough is good enough. No one has closets or drawers or basements that look like those in home decorating magazines. This is your space; as long as you are content with it, then it is good enough.

The number one reason that clutter happens in the first place is that we don’t know what to do with some things. Not everything fits nicely in one category. Mine is the mail. Now when I get the mail every piece is either thrown away, filed, or dealt with the same day (if a phone call needs to be made, bank statements dealt with, etc.).

As for THE DRAWER, I have rationalized that it is not a product of clutter, but rather a tool of decluttering for all those items that just don’t fit anywhere else. As a matter of fact, I am headed back to THE DRAWER. I still haven’t found that paper clip!

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