Friday, February 3, 2012

40 Bags - bag #1

I am drowning in stuff over here. It's seriously affecting my quality of life. I think most people walking into our home wouldn't automatically think,"Wow, they have so many things!" but it's still too much for me to feel comfortable in. I feel jittery, anxious, and nervous when I'm trying to relax in my home. I feel claustrophobic and overwhelmed and like there is no place for the eye to rest.

I've been looking over de-cluttering and organizing blogs and websites and trying to figure out what I can do to get more happy when I'm in my home. There's a lot of information out there, and I've whittled it down to a manageable task.

I found an idea online that was called "40 Bags in 40 Days". The idea is that you get rid of a trash-bag full of stuff every day for 40 days. I think 40 is an arbitrary number but it has a sort of style that I like. I'm going to do this.

The rules I've invented for this project:
  • A bag can be filled with trash or donate items. I don't have to fill a bag of each every time. And I'm not saving things for a garage sale - a garage sale is more work, not less, and I'd have to keep all the stuff in preparation for the theoretical "garage sale day" in the future. This defeats my purpose which is to get it out of here.
  • I only have to do one bag in a day. When the bag is full I can stop working and do something else.
  • I don't have to fill a bag every day. I can take a day off when I feel like it. If I fill two bags on one day, that counts as two days.
  • I will take everything out of a space and then put back only the things I'm going to keep. I think this will help me when I'm making decisions. I would rather feel like I'm choosing things to keep rather than choosing things to get rid of.
  • I'm not going to get crazy about deep-cleaning or painting the areas that I'm working on. That's not what this project is about. I will wipe out/dust drawers and shelves, and vacuum closets and rooms as I go. That's it.
  • I'm not going to try to convince myself that 40 bags is all it will take to get this place in ship-shape. If I have to do another "40-Bags in 40 Days" I will. But for now I'm focusing on the first 40 bags only.

Today I started with my desk - a known and continuous source of anxiety. I took everything out of three drawers, working on one drawer at a time, fixed the hanging file rod that has been driving me crazy for years, and made fresh folders and categories. I think this will help me find things more easily. One thing I realized is that I don't know where Jake's shot record is. I made a file for Jake that has his important papers in it, and when going through the big pile of stuff from the drawer his shot record wasn't there. I have looked in all my usual stash-spots. Not there. I'm upset and worried. I remember that I had it out last summer when I had to show it to the school nurse. I keep having pictures flash through my head of where I've seen it - I think they are imaginary because according to my memory I've seen it everywhere from the top of the refrigerator to the napkin cubbyhole in my car. What happens to you and your kid if you lose his shot record?

I shredded a bunch of old tax records and bills. I threw away a ton of paper from my files because I realized something huge: just because something is valuable information doesn't mean I have to be the keeper of it. I'm sure it is all available on the internet, and even if it isn't, I haven't used the majority of the information in my file drawers up to this point anyway. It's not like I'm 20 years old or just starting out. I'm on the wrong side of 45, and I've been married for nearly 23 years. If I haven't used that information by now, I'm pretty sure I can manage to live just fine without it. I'm telling you, it was an epiphany.

One of the tips I read online was that when you are deciding where to put things you ask yourself, "When I need this, where will I look for it?" and I know that when I need generic information about, for example, food storage or home decor, I always look online before I look in my files. Unless there's a hurricane and the power is out. Which is why I kept some basic info in my files - first aid instructions, how to turn off the utilities, etc.

There is a fourth drawer in my desk but I'm tired of doing this for today and I've filled up my one trash bag. That means today is a success! The other drawer is there for another day.

*Note to self: stop picking up all the handouts when you go to emergency preparedness fairs. Stop tearing pretty pictures out of home decorating magazines. You don't need these things in your files. It's all online.


  1. I LOVE this idea. I have been doing the bag-a-day thing this week already--and I didn't even know it was a real thing! I think I'll start on my files soon...

    ...but I feel sick in my stomach today.

  2. Although I am all for making your home a place you love to be, I always ponder one thing~ who says we are all to be this way or that?

    Perhaps you are feeling overwhelmed because we are inundated by images of perfection. Nothing is as it seems in the media. Airbrushing, staging, and spending thousands afford for the images to be perfect.

    I find that life is full of this and that. I live near ruins of a Jicarilla Apache and am amazed at what is uncovered. Tons of shards from pottery,arrow heads broken etc, and more. Seems like man has always been collectors.

    So maybe having some photos of things you want to apply in the home, could be clipped and posted in a possibility notebook. I have one. I clip out photos of things I want to try. This does not mean I will ever, but possibilities allow for hope and dreams.

    I say keep the photos, make a simple list of papers you need or find important and shred the papers that do not match your list of needed papers.

    By the way, I have loved visiting and am a new anonymous follower!!


  3. I have two notebooks of brochures, patterns, instructions, etc. for my quilting and other needle craft projects. Each is in a plastic sheet saver. I'm going to start one in my kitchen for all the little papers and booklets about the myriad small appliances I have. I try to save them, but it's difficult to lay my hands on them when I need them. I am excited to get my kitchen small appliance notebook going.