Monday, July 5, 2010

Move Out, Get Organized (Part Two)

by Chris McGinty

So here we are, modern day, and I may be moving out of my house very soon. My dad owns it and doesn’t want to keep it. I had the thought which was to put everything in storage before the move so that I don’t have to mess with it later. The reason why is because I realized that even if I somehow end up staying I have a great opportunity here; store everything and start fresh. The idea is to put absolutely everything into storage and then pick a number of items to pull out each day, and throw away half of them while organizing the rest as I go.

Which brings me to the alternative if you’re not in the position to move: Store everything and start fresh. And I can’t emphasize enough that I mean everything (though I will give you a couple of exceptions in a moment.) I tried something very similar to this a couple of months ago using my closet as a storage and suchlike. The problem is that when you do that you have not created an actual boundary. If you need something, you get in the closet and pull everything out and make a mess. If everything is in storage then sure you’ll make a mess of storage, but you keep your living space in order. And keeping your living space in order is what it’s all about.

Here are my suggestions. Get more storage space than you need, so that when you realize that you underestimated you’ll be fine. This is not a forever thing and you can downgrade in a couple of months if need be. Don’t stack things any higher than your chest, or the chest of an average size person if you’re particularly tall or short, because no matter how well you stack things, they seem to find a way of falling if stacked too high. And leave some sort of walkway between things. Oh, and possibly some space right at the front.

I keep talking about storing everything. If you’re not moving then I guess there are a couple of exceptions. You don’t have to move furniture. It’s too big and bulky for it to be reasonable to do so, even for a purist-extremist like me. I would even say that you can keep a week’s worth of clothing. And a few dishes, but I want to make a point about dishes real quick. You probably don’t need as many dishes as you have. My suggestion is if you have a dishwasher, empty it, and then start putting dishes in it that you’d like to keep around as you start this process. Keep only what can fit in there without breaking the dishwasher. If you have no dishwasher, fill your kitchen sink(s).

Understand that the biggest reason to do this if you’re a serious pack rat, or at the very least close enough to a serious pack rat, is because for a month or so you’ll learn to live in a space that is not so cluttered. If you start making too many exceptions to the store everything rule, you lose that little lesson. So let’s deal with how to not live too long without the things you most value.

When you start the process of moving things to storage, start with the stuff that you already keep boxed up. You probably don’t get in there very much anyway. When you start packing boxes or plastic bins designate some for things you’ll want to get back soon, and one for stuff you’ll want back immediately. Also, since you will be throwing things away, have a box or bin for things that aren’t trash, and you may even keep, but you think you might be able to part with if you have to.

When you’ve moved everything out but furniture, a few dishes, a few clothes, and your toothbrush and shampoo (actually anything that you regularly buy, consume, and buy again doesn’t have to be counted here because you don’t hold onto it indefinitely) count how many things you’ve kept, and note how many things you must throw away according to your percentage. Skip this if you threw out a significant amount of stuff while packing.

Store the boxes with the stuff you’d like to get out sooner at the front where you can get to it easily. Don’t pick a crazy number like 100. Pick something reasonable like 10. Like I said, one value of this is learning to live in a space that’s not cluttered, and if you drag boxes at a time back to your place, you don’t get that benefit. As you bring things home, find a place for them. This way as you bring more stuff your place doesn’t seem anymore cluttered.

As I’m doing this I will be doing more than organizing. If I own a movie that I haven’t watched, I will watch it when I bring it home from storage. I will read books. I will play video games. In some cases, when I’m done with them, I will sell them, give them away, or throw them away. In other cases, I will find a place to store them. You don’t have to do this. This is more of my way of justifying holding on to all this stuff. If it has a use, I will use it.

It’s like resetting your life in a strange way. And if you’re a cluttered, disorganized person it gives you permission not to be. The only thing is that if you’re going to go this extreme to get organized, don’t be a cheese ball about it. Stay the course. Only pull out a small number of items each day. And don’t buy replacements. It’s not a loophole cos I just closed it.

As you do this process I would suggest another thing to do. Once a week bring home a box of stuff that you haven’t organized for purposes of things you’ll want to bring home soon, things you’ll want to throw away, and things that can wait until later in the process. This way you start to get a feel for what you have. Of course, after you’ve organized this stuff take it back until it’s officially time to bring it out. Actually, throw away the trash. If you normally bring home ten items a day and throw away two, and you throw away ten items from you’re a box you just went through, then for the next five days just bring home the eight items you’re keeping and don’t worry about the two you’re supposed to throw away.

This seems like a big undertaking. And guess what? It is. But it’s a perspective changer. That’s the biggest reason to do it. You view the stuff you own from a point of organization, boundary, and restraint. I read once that it takes 21 days to form a new habit. Whether that’s true or not, doing your reorganization this way may have a habit changing effect.

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