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OGRES has been in hibernation.....

I look back at how long it's been since I started this group, and I think, "Geez, shouldn't I have gotten rid of more?"

In truth I've gotten rid of a lot, but I still have habits of buying and acquiring that keep the house more cluttered than I'd like. I think books are the hardest thing, and beyond that; toys and sentimental items. I'd had this idea that I could clean the whole place by the end of 2008, but that just wasn't possible. I have it on my list of things to get done for 2009 though.

Anyone else battling any clutter demons? Should we scrap this mostly un-used community, or do we still have stuff to talk about?


Currently, I've been reading two books about decluttering: When Organizing Isn't Enough by Julie Morgenstern and Does This Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat? by Peter Walsh. Each goes into the how to declutter your life, but they are doing it from two radically different perspectives.

In Morgenstern's book, she uses the acronym SHED to create a system where you get rid of clutter in order to make room for the next phase of your life. If whatever item is part of the past, and no longer useful to you, it should go. Then, once you've gotten rid of all the crap which is "no longer you", then you're able to dig down deep and find your true self. That makes it sound more touchy-feely self-helpish than it really is.

Peter Walsh's book suggests that perhaps the reason people are so fat is that they have too much stuff cluttering up their lives. At first, one would think, "Bwuh?" as did I, but he makes some sense. He does say up front he is not a doctor, and that his book should not be considered as medical advice, merely his experience in helping people declutter. Mostly, he says he keeps seeing that the triggers that make people eat are the same reasons that make them hang onto clutter, and so therefore if you declutter, some of the triggers will be gone, making it easier for you to slim down.

Maybe decluttering has become big business in the self-help world as more books on the subject keep popping up from time to time. Personally, I'd like to see a decluttering book that also tackles entitlement.

As for the big question of do they work? Well, not yet, at least not for me. I'm slowly getting through stuff and tossing where I can. However, Peter Walsh's book has given me the push I needed to re-design how I use my kitchen and where everything goes so that cooking is easier, quicker, and more enjoyable, and that's a huge deal for me.

How the fictional half stays clutter-free

I don't know how many folks out there read crime fiction, but a series I recently got into was the Tarot Card series by David Skibbins. The protagonist, Warren Ritter, reads tarot on the street in Berkeley, California, and gets messed up in murder (and is messed up in general, really).

As he is hiding from the FBI (looooong story), he lives simply and has almost no possessions to speak of. His bookshelf has seven books on it. That's it! Seven. Yet he still reads.

What he does is if he reads a book that he really likes and thinks he should keep, he goes to his bookshelf and decides if it's truly better than any other book on his shelf. If it is, he takes a book down, puts the new one up and the old book goes away. If it isn't, the new book goes away.

Now, while I'm not ready to pare down to a seven-book bookshelf, it does illustrate a good foundation of de-cluttering in not creating more clutter. He still has the same number of belongings as he started with.

Garage Sale!

This weekend I held my very first garage sale (technically it was a yard sale, but whatever). I go to garage sales all the time, but this was the first one I've ever held by myself in my very own yard. It went pretty well. This winter I went through my storage stuff and cut down my stuff by half. I got rid of clothes, book shelves, kitchen stuff, and general crap. During the garage sale, I decided I didn't want to get rid of my easel/chalk board and kept it and at the very end I sold my desk for $10. We took the rest to Value Village (a whole car load of stuff) and I feel a bit lighter. The prospect of moving all of my junk was just so unappealing for me that I just had to do it. I probably still have too much junk, but at least it's sorted and I have claimed some uses for it.

Ask yourself why?

Recently Greg and I purged our clothes closet. It needed it badly and we disocvered clothing we thought we'd lost (such as my summer shorts that I hadn't seen since September last year). The floor is now visible. This set me off on a tear where I wanted to de-junk the entire apartment almost to the point of just throwing everything into a Glad ForceFlex bag (after all, you can stuff a whole piano in just two bags according to the commercial) and tossing it into the Dumpster at the bottom of the stairs.

I stopped and asked myself why I was doing this. Why do I want to get rid of everything? Since I'm not part of a doomsday religious cult I wasn't doing it for reasons of showing devotion to the leader. I'm also not moving into the Cascades to live as a hermit.

After a few minutes of thinking, I basically got down to the idea that I want to be able to USE my belongings and not have them just sit around collecting dust because I can't find what I really want to use. So, there's some organization in here on top of purging.

So ask yourself why you want to be rid of your extraneous stuff. If your answer is, "So I can get new stuff!" then let me know because you've got some Tough Love coming.

Where to get the reusable produce bags

A comment from a previous post asked where I got the reusable produce bags. I got them from the Daisy Dots Store on Etsy. She makes them herself.

Furthering the bagless revolution

As I've said previously here, I now try to use reusable bags almost exclusively so that I don't have to bring home extra plastic bags which will either get thrown out (boo!) or will sit in the pantry until I have enough of them to stuff a small couch at which point I'll remember (sometimes) to take them back to the store for recycling. I'm trying to reduce the amount of clutter that comes into my home. The ecological benefits are a bonus.

So, on top of my six green (color, not ecological soundness) grocery bags, I now have a few reusable produce bags, and I have a couple of furoshiki. What are furoshiki? It's a Japanese cloth used to wrap or carry things. This website has a lot of good info on them. You can also search on YouTube for furoshiki and see how many different ways there are to tie this sucker.

So, over the weekend, I was doing some produce shopping at the local farmer's market and Whole Foods. As I couldn't find anything at the farmer's market, I did most of my buying at Whole Foods. I bought some white nectarines, some pink lady apples, nearly fainted at the price for rainier cherries, and took my purchases to the registers where the cashier looked at my reusable produce bags and said, "Oh, my gosh! Where did you get such light bags?" I gave her the name of the Etsy store, and then as she was finishing up the weighing of the fruit, I pulled out my red arrow pattern furoshiki, and did the hand wrap tie (tesage bukuro). I put the fruit into the makeshit furoshiki bag as I waited for her to make change. She handed it over, saw the furoshiki and went bugnuts again. After showing her how I tied the thing into a bag, I said, "I'm trying to see how many plastic bags I can not bring home."

She got this dreamy look in her eyes and said, "What a wonderful thing to do."

Alas, this did not garner me a discount other than a few cents for bringing my own bag. However, I was glad to see that that day alone I kept six plastic bags from coming into our apartment.

Talk about getting rid of extraneous stuff:

Chasing Utopia, Family Imagines No Possessions

AUSTIN, Tex. — Like many other young couples, Aimee and Jeff Harris spent the first years of their marriage eagerly accumulating stuff: cars, furniture, clothes, appliances and, after a son and a daughter came along, toys, toys, toys.

Now they are trying to get rid of it all, down to their fancy wedding bands. Chasing a utopian vision of a self-sustaining life on the land as partisans of a movement some call voluntary simplicity, they are donating virtually all their possessions to charity and hitting the road at the end of May.

“It’s amazing the amount of things a family can acquire,” said Mrs. Harris, 28, attributing their good life to “the ridiculous amount of money” her husband earned as a computer network engineer in this early Wi-Fi mecca.

I would find it really hard to get rid of my wedding rings, which this couple is doing. But I understand their reason for doing it. I admire their ability to just get out there and follow their dreams, and their blog if fascinating. I've dreamt of doing something like, just getting rid of it all. Man, what a relief! I asked Sonja the other day (she's living with us for awhile), "Are you feeling stressed out while you're here?"

She said, "Actually no, I'm feeling much less stressed, and I think it's because I don't have any of my stuff."

That just stuck with me. Stuff is stressful. At least, for some of us. Maybe most of us, maybe without us realizing it.

A year of reusable bags

I've been using reusable grocery bags for a year now. I have six of them, and usually only need to use five for an average grocery run. Had I been using plastic grocery bags, I would need seven to eight for the same amount of groceries. So, that means that I've probably kept 350 plastic bags out of our apartment.

Yes, I still end up with a few like when I need to stop at the store on the way home from work because I realize we need something and don't have any reusable bags with me. Still, that's a massive amount of clutter that just isn't in my pantry anymore, and it feels good to have it not there.

I've ended up using these things for all sorts of uses. I currently use one to put paper waste in when I'm dejunking so I can take that down to the recycling bins when I'm done. I've also used them to ferry stuff around to and from the theater.

Not a bad amount of usage for a bag that cost me ninety-nine cents.

I cleaned the fridge. Mostly.

I am totally caught in the act of cheating by my own photos. By which I mean, if you notice the oranges in the produce bins, you'll notice they DON'T MOVE. I didn't clean inside the bins, just everything else. Hey, I was going to, and then I noticed I was late to a panel on "Working as a Professional Artist." Apparently if I finish my photography degree I'll be a "professional artist". I don't even want to think about that, so moving right along.....







It looks so much better. It's funny how just something like the fridge can affect my mood. After the front was cleaned off, every time I went to open the doors (and in an average kitchen with two small children this happens frequently), I just felt more relaxed. I have this theory that if the whole house looked like this, I'd just never get anxious at all. Greg laughs when I say this. He also laughs when I talk about how if we get the house to a certain level of uncluttered-ness, we'll never have to spend an entire Saturday cleaning again. He thinks that as long as there are children, THERE WILL BE MESS. He's probably right. I'm in denial. Happy, clean, organized, zen-like denial.