four tips for moving

We close on our new condo in exactly one month! But that means that we also have to move in one month. This is my ninth move in ten years (some local moves, some between states, and once internationally). I’ve only learned three things.

Pack one box each day in the month before you move. 

Declutter as you go.

Focus on getting rid of large items. 

Number your boxes and keep a brief list of what’s in each box.

I’m still new to the idea of minimalism and I don’t have time with my full-time job to fully de-clutter in the next month. This means that a lot of junk is still going to go with us. We have a lot of stuff to pack and move. I’d like to take a friend’s sardonic suggestion to just burn it all but I don’t think our neighbors would appreciate the bonfire!

That’s why it’s so important to pack one box a day when you move. Quite simply, it keeps you from going insane.

Moving does have one advantage: it forces you to take a look at everything you own TWICE. You have to pack everything and unpack everything so why not take the chance to rid yourself of anything that’s not worth the work of packing?

Numbering boxes and keeping a short list of the contents will make life easier when you get to your destination. But don’t waste time making a detailed list. “Kitchen stuff” or “bedsheets and towels” is enough to describe an entire box. You don’t need to or have time to list out the 35 kitchen gadgets that went in the box.

Putting a priority on getting rid of the big stuff saves you time, money and space. You may not have time to go through every tiny trinket as you pack but you can take a piece of furniture you don’t use to the thrift shop in a hurry. But your large items will be the hardest and most expensive to move. Make your furniture earn its keep!

Today we’re getting rid of four large objects. Decluttered items 39, 40, 41, and 42 are an office chair, a DVD player, a CRT television and a TV stand.

The Reckoning!

Cost: All free! I found the chair in our apartment building’s “free stuff” area in the basement a couple years back. The TV and stand once belonged to Josh’s mom. The DVD player was a second-hand gift from a friend.

Why I decided to get rid of them: We have duplicates of all of these. Plus the TV has a huge green spot, and we want to become a one-TV houeshold (we’re keeping the game consoles and DTV tuner though).

Fate: The chair went back into the “free” area in our apartment building. TV went to Best Buy for recycling and the DVD player and TV stand went to our favorite thrift shop.

Money lost on junk: Again, nothing this time. Total this year: $203.


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Decluttering tip #7: Stop keeping gifts you don’t like just because they were gifts

Everyone has gotten gifts they didn’t like. Many of us have felt like we have to keep the gift simply because it was a gift, or because we’re afraid we’ll be “in trouble” if the gift-giver suddenly shows up at our home and inquires about the gift. Before you let yourself be fooled into this line of thinking like I have, ask yourself these questions:

Is the gift-giver likely to show up at your home? (and by this I mean, are they likely to show up frequently and in the near future, not 5 years from now?)

Are they likely to ask about the gift if they stop by? 

In many cases, the realistic answer is “probably not.” Don’t get caught up on the “probably.” Get rid of the gift!

For many of us it’s not that easy. We are concerned that Aunt Norma will show up and ask about that ugly, fragile cake plate she gifted you at your wedding or the florescent orange onesie she gave you for your newborn son.

A friend of mine had a great solution to this problem: take a picture of you using the object. Put junior in the hideous onesie, snap a photo and mail it off to Aunt Norma. Then give the onesie to goodwill. Aunt Norma feels loved and you don’t have something in your house you hate. And in case she goes asking, you can always say that the object met an unfortunate fate at some point in time.

There are other gifts though that just sit around simply because they were gifts. I got this very pretty perfume bottle from my ex-aunt almost 20 years ago. I’ve never used it once. But I held on to it because it was a gift and because it was pretty.

How do you know if you should keep a gift? Ask yourself, Do you use it? Do you love it? Would you have bought it for yourself if you had the money to? Is it sturdy enough to be kept easily without special care? If the answers are a resounding no, no, and no, then be rid of it and your guilt.

Today’s decluttered object is #38, a fancy perfume bottle. 

~The Reckoning~

Original Cost: Free, a gift.

What convinced me to get rid of it: I only liked it because it was purple (so no, I didn’t love it), I would never have bought it for myself, I don’t use it, and it’s so fragile I’m perpetually afraid of breaking it.

Fate: Left it in the “free for the taking” area in the basement of our apartment building.

Total $ wasted on junk so far this year: $203.

Moving out of a hoarder’s home: what does and doesn’t work

I’m 28. I still haven’t moved out of my parents’ house.

In a way it didn’t make sense before because I’ve moved eight times since 2001. And now that we’re buying a condo I’m moving again! Yay! Argh.

Since we’re staying put for a while it’s time to grow up and empty out my old room. But my parents are hoarders, so this is easier said than done.

Exhibit A: their basement (there’s a bar under there somewhere)

Exhibit B: Their offices

Alright, the living room isn’t so bad:

But my own room needs help.

About half of that is my sister’s and my mother’s stuff. But that means the other half is mine. I was a hoarder too. Oh I want to cry.

How do you move out of a hoarder’s home?

These strategies DON’T work:

Trying to throw things out.Your trash will be edited and you will find it right back where it started. Hoarders can’t bear to see anything go to waste, particularly if it has meaning to the person it belonged to, even if it has no meaning to them. When I went home last spring I tried to purge a 55-gallon trash can’s worth of primary school projects and souvenirs. I found about half of the items back in my bedroom the next time I returned. 

Removing everything all at once. The sudden substantial loss will be easily noticed by the hoarder. It will also add to their stress and make them more defensive. They’ll work harder to keep the stuff around and this will make life harder for you.

Trying to tackle the clutter while the hoarder is around. They will notice what you’re doing, and they will panic.

These strategies do work for me:

Pack up anything and everything and take it off the premises. Then dispose of it where the hoarders can’t see you and where they won’t find the items.

Get your friends and neighbors to help you. Quietly explain the problem to a few neighbors or friends that you trust. Ask them for a little space in their trash cans so you can discard the items you need to be rid of. They will likely be more than happy to help. The holidays are not a good time to try this though, as most of our neighbors weren’t around and I didn’t want to interrupt those who were.

Just keep swimming, just keep swimming!

What makes this all so frustrating is the amount of energy it takes. There’s only so much we can fit into our car.  There are only so many times we drive up to Philly from DC each year. It’s exhausting to have to do all of this just to throw things in the trash in another state. But as you’ll see in the coming posts, I did get rid of some stuff and it’s better than nothing!

Just remember — you’re moving OUT not in with a hoarder. It’s hard to get the stuff out and keep your sanity. But leaving will keep you more sane than staying.

Just what I needed, 300 square feet more to fill with junk! (minus one book)

We don’t need this book on homebuying anymore because we BOUGHT A CONDO!! Squee!

Item 37, one book on how to buy a home.

Unfortunately we now have 300 more square feet to potentially fill with junk. The 1200 square foot place was 2/3 the cost of the 900 square foot places we looked at. Strange.

The Reckoning!

Cost: free. It was a semi-permanent loan from our realtor last year.

Fate: We gave it back to her!

Amount of money spent on junk so far this year: I’m not even going to talk about the idea that I could be wasting money as I go off to sign papers for a mortgage that will bind me to bank for the next 15 years…

 

It’s been a hard week for our drinkware (items 35 and 36)

I usually don’t ruin this much drinkware in a week!

We found that this mug has a nice crack (too small for the camera to see unfortunately) but definitely not safe for drinking anymore.

This sport bottle has a little problem.

That would be mold. Growing IN the plastic in spite of the dishwasher. Yich.

The Reckoning!

Cost: free! Bike bottle came with the bike, mugs came with my husband’s dishware purchase.

Why I decided to get rid of them: Really, would you drink out of either of these? It’s broken and I’m not replacing it!

Fate: Trash for the mug (I already have a pencil cup at work) and recycling bin for the bike bottle.

Money lost on junk: Phew, nothing this time. Total this year: $203.

Challenge for you: go through all of your dishware. Find the broken or unsuable stuff and trash it! (and then send me pictures of the piles of stuff to post so my junk doesn’t feel lonely in a landfill! Pretty please?)

Musing on going home for the holidays…to a house of hoarders

i don't know who holds copyright on this. no infringement intended.

My parents are hoarders. My dad’s mostly one of those “I can’t bear to throw anything away because it it’s wasteful” hoarders. His case is so mild that I’m not sure he’s a hoarder so much as a compulsive saver. It’s only one week of newspapers completely covering his half of the dining room table, not weeks of them, for example.

My mother does have an honest-to-gosh hoarding problem and is the one of the pair that I’m truly worried about. She struggles most with the emotional attachment to completely usesless/worthless objects and feeling too overwhelmed and ashamed to do anything about it (I doubt I’m helping with that one by writing this post. I’m sorry, mom.) She’ll buy anything cute even if there isn’t space for it. Stuff is love for her.

My parents have a basement that is the size of our entire apartment. It’s filled up to my shoulders with boxes, laundry baskets, old furniture, piles of magazines, catalogs, books, videos, childhood games, you name it. It was the coolest room in the house during the many years we didn’t have air conditioning. And it was completely unusable.

Their two in-home offices fit similar descriptions. Last time I opened the fridge there wasn’t an inch of space. When I finally did locate the six bottles of salad dressing I was looking for, all of them were two years expired. I could go on but I think you get the point.

Understanding How We Cope With Hoarders

Dealing with the hoarders in your life seems to fit the pattern of the Kubler-Ross and Kessler’s five stages of grief. I’m realizing that understanding where you are in the process makes a huge difference in how you choose to react when you return home to hoarders.  Where do you fit? Let’s see where I am right now: 

  • denial. No, my parents don’t have a problem. It’s normal that I was never allowed to have friends over as a kid because the house was a disaster, right?” Ah, the ignorance of my childhood and college years.
  • anger. This happened when I visited over the summer after the salad dressing incident when I didn’t feel like I could even eat safely in my parents’ house anymore.  I threw a fit and that puts it mildly. My mother was in tears. Not helpful.
  • bargaining. Funny, when I went home in November (first time home since the salad dressing blow-up), I came home and I could see the surfaces on the first floor of the house again. Huh? Apparently my begging and bargaining over the phone between these two visits had temporarily convinced my mother to try to clean up in order to please me (or to shut me up, take your pick). And it worked, until I realized that the junk had mostly moved to other parts of the house.
  • depression. This part I’ve been navigating with the help of a wonderful psychotherapist. Realizing that my mother is dragging herself into a deeper hole and that I’m not helping has been a struggle, especially since I’ve been dealing with my own self-destructive coping behavior. But my psychologist insists that I have to choose the next step to be happy when I go home.
  • acceptance. My mother is probably never going to stop being a hoarder. My father is no help. I’ve never gone home with this attitude before. But if I want to actually have a good time and not be stressed while I’m away from my home, I need to make this happen.

How can I accept that my parents are hoarders? My psychologist suggested mulling over these thoughts:

  • You can’t change other people. 
  • Hoarders do not hoard to spite you or make you miserable.
  • Hoarding is a psychological coping mechanism.
  •  You have every right to carve out a physical and psychological space that is safe and comfortable for you.
  • You have done all you can for them already. They have made the choice not to get help and they have chosen to live with the consequences.
  • This is not your fault.
  • You are not your parents.
  • Parents aren’t always right. 
  • You need to do what is best for you. Do what you need to do to take care of yourself.
  • Relax. And leave the house! Go have fun on your own.

We’ll see what happens. I hope these strategies will make my holiday (and yours) a little easier. If you have a family member who is a hoarder, I’d love to hear your strategies for coping with a trip home for the holidays.

I have too much time on my hands! (items 33 and 34…two watches)

I procrastinated at work today by reading a few of those “you’re old because nobody born after 2000 will grow up knowing what these items are” lists (floppy disks, anyone?)

Anybody surprised that watches are on some of these lists? We carry our cell phones everywhere with us. When we get to work we turn them off and turn on our computers…which also have the time at the bottom of the screen, just like TVs tuned to the news stations. Every office I’m in has a clock on the wall.

Better yet, now that I’m decluttering my life I’m discovering I have more free time. I don’t need to know what time it is because I’m not rushing everywhere nearly as much as before.

I suppose they’re an accessory (how many watches do most women own?) I do like to wear one because I like to think it gives the impression that I pay attention to time.

But do I really need THREE?

(It’s actually worse than that. I’d gotten rid of the fourth a few months ago.) What’s even sadder is that I bought one of them because I misplaced the first one for a while, then naturally, found it again.

If only I’d been more of a minimalist to start with, maybe I wouldn’t have misplaced the one watch. Could’ve saved myself $55!

If you decide to get rid of your watches, don’t just trash them. Try to find a watch repair shop. Family-owned ones like Ecker’s in Bethesda are often happy to take the donations to resell or recycle the parts. Yay for supporting local businesses!

from www.eckersclocks.com

Mr. Ecker's parrot is pretty cute too.

~The Reckoning~

Original Cost: Purple one I got from the ‘free box’ at college. Goldtone one was $55!

What convinced me to get rid of them:  My “no duplicates allowed” rule. And both of them gave me rashes, so I guess they were bad for me!

Fate: Donated them to the watch repairman.

Total $ wasted on junk so far this year: $203.