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Release


Long post alert! Read on for some personal thoughts about organizing and purging.

I'm on track to be done sorting papers by the time we leave for summer travel this month. It's taken me about 6 months, so I guess it should feel satisfying.

Surprisingly, though, it doesn't feel great. I feel relieved to have freed up a little space, and to not have so many unsorted papers in storage. However, in many cases I didn't enjoy tossing things out. Many of the documents represented things I had worked very hard on. And others represented special memories, though weren't as hard to let go of.

Trying to sort in a central location and watch the kids at the same time...

I tend to keep things with sentimental value, but also for archival reasons. I simply like to keep a record and I like to sort through and go down memory lane. It bugs me if there is a chronological gap, so that is part of why I keep certain things. But to get more specific....

Things I found "easy" to get rid of:

-Sunday school teaching materials: I can always get more.
-Random artwork: If I don't remember who made it and the occasion, it doesn't hold value, unless I could use it to decorate.
-Sermon notes: I did keep a few print-outs of Andrei's sermons, but I came to the realization that the notes served their purpose at the moment WHEN I WAS WRITING THEM DOWN. I can go through and sort of make sense of them, but I'm a different person now...my 2010 self needed them then.
-Financial statements: Most things have an electronic record now.
-Hand-outs: They weren't given to me personally; too generic.
-Notes from former friends: I don't want to intentionally wipe them from my memory, but I don't need correspondence from every single person either.
-Sentimental items not easily identified (see random artwork): If I remember that so-and-so brought it back from Greece, I might keep it. But as the years go by I tend to forget, and don't feel as tied to those items.



Painful to get rid of:

-Things that represent accomplishments: Work, study, ministry, etc. Was my life fruitful if I don't have a record of it? What is my identity now if I get rid of all my pre-motherhood mementos?
-Artwork that can be identified: There's the person's name and date staring right at me. Their hands touched this very object and they made it with love for me in mind. I feel so guilty getting rid of it!
-Handwritten notes/cards: Same as artwork...I feel like I am throwing away that person's gesture of love! In many cases I keep them as I like the history there as well, but if I'm not currently close to that person, I might feel okay parting with it. Or if there are many notes saying essentially the same thing.
-Hand-outs with my notes: They represent a moment in history and I wrote the notes in order to read them later.
-Lesson plans: I spent hours making these. They're not just photocopies from a book. Using my teacher training, I planned out each step of the lesson, fully scripted, with sources, etc.
-Travel-related items. Yes, I may have visited the same tourist traps as everyone else, but the ticket stubs, notes, and photos are MINE. Even if I visited there again, it would be a different trip. And each itinerary is different, and travel companions, too! I love those memories.


Harder to decide:

-Contact info of people I'm not in touch with: Easier to find people online nowadays, but something makes me want to hang on to the pre-mobile phone numbers and addresses just in case.
-Lesson plans: I already mentioned the ones I worked hard on. I also have lots of photocopies of lessons from books. I worked hard compiling those, too. Although I threw many away, I decided to keep a few binders of lessons just in case I get some students and want a few grab-and-go materials on hand. But maybe I'll go back later and throw them away.
-Personal study materials: Bible study, Greek language, Russian, Teaching, hobbies, etc. My notes might not be so relevant anymore, but if I were to pick it back up, would some of those charts and handouts be helpful?
-Ministry notes: I had to go through all my old notebooks with notes from planning sessions, prayer meetings, phone numbers of orphanage directors, etc. They've definitely served their purpose and wouldn't be needed now since ministry changes all the time, but do I want to keep the memories or not? Some of the memories were so intense that I felt okay just scanning through them one more time and then letting go.
-Objects of beauty: Souvenirs, gifts, anything decorative, etc. I could maybe find a place for it in our house someday. I don't know if I'd miss some of the things if I tossed them. But for some of them it was hard to decide if I wanted them around or not.
-Old calendars: Relates to the point above. I've taken calendar prints and framed them before. We have many beautiful ones. It could kind of go either way.
-Manuals: You'd think that most would be online, but even for IKEA it can be hard to find instructions for items that were discontinued. So I had to put those in a pile to be looked at by Andrei. :)

How about you? Anything that you just have to hold on to or constantly put aside for another time?

"A Slob Comes Clean" blogger Dana K. White (she's got a few books too that are great) talks about the "container concept" where you're confined by a particular shelf, dimensions of a room, and ultimately, the size of your house. So theoretically you can hoard all you want, until that space is filled up. What I've been trying to do is look at a space and say "no, those boxes aren't bothering anyone, BUT in that spot I could keep that other thing that doesn't have a designated home." This year, I purged Sunday school supplies (which are still waiting for a home) and made room for school supplies. So instead of buying another storage cabinet, I made room. Technically, if you have the space, you can keep all your duplicates of things. But most of us don't. And it is good to be forced to think about what you really need.

They also say that clutter is "delayed decision-making." I agree, but sometimes those particular decisions aren't top priority, like in my "undecided" category above. If I'm sitting there agonizing over a single item, can I just skip it for now? Some people would just get it done, and it's a blessing if those decisions come easily to you! But when you only get 5-10 minutes at a time to sort, you can't always put in the thoroughness you would like. So if I shoved some of those old lesson plans and vacation souvenirs back in the closet, it doesn't mean the cleaning job was a total failure.

Trying to keep things from being reintegrated before I can deal with them!
So, I guess with that long explanation, you can see why it has taken me basically all this year to go through those boxes. Marie Kondo in her tidying method separates sentimental items from more "basic" items such as clothes and papers. And rightly so, maybe it would go faster. But in my case they were all mixed together, either in the same box or by the type of experience. Working in full-time ministry, it's pretty hard to be emotionally unattached, and I'm sure lots of jobs are like that. It's easier for me to get rid of certain teaching materials, but I still remember those students fondly, and I had to process that loss as I sorted through papers that had their names or handwriting on it but were otherwise meaningless.

By the way, I filed a lot of those sentimental items, but there are projects there waiting, such as putting travel mementos into a nice format. I don't think Marie Kondo would have me going straight to scrapbooking even though it would be more fun than purging. ;)

As I said at the beginning of this post, my progress doesn't exactly have me jumping for joy. This is partly because most of the piles were contained in boxes/closets and didn't affect the overall look of the home. While working to sort papers, I had to ignore all the other clutter in the house, and that didn't feel very satisfying. I get distracted easily and it took a lot of determination to stay on-task in lieu of doing something that brought more of a visible result. I still need to clean up a few of the remnants of the sorting process.

Also, where was I reading that decluttering actually activates a part of the brain that is also connected to pain receptors? I can't remember the exact explanation, but if that's true, you can imagine how throwing things out can trigger a reaction.

The next step will be travel and then getting ready to start homeschooling with an actual curriculum. My next step in KonMari is "Komono," which are allll the smaller categories of things and we'll hopefully get to a lot of those little by little. For example, I'm already generating a HUGE pile of various cords and chargers and old electronics, which I'm hoping Andrei will help sort. It can be difficult figuring out where to recycle things like that. For sorting purposes, experts suggest getting "like" items all together in one place to see how many you have/need. I've gotten together a big pile of various adhesives, too...duct tape, glue, etc. I do like having them accessible in several rooms of the house, so....I'll need to think about that one. I think we own about 2 pairs of scissors per room. :)

I'd better stop here!

I don't have a nice before/after shot...just boxes that are now empty! :) 




Comments

  1. I kind of love sorting and decluttering--right now my Mom is in the USA and helping with some major cleaning and sorting at my grandparents' home and I wish I could be in the midst of it, haha!
    The decision-making can be hard. I think each international move has made me more reluctant to accumulate anything in the first place, because it is hard to get rid of things that you truly like and appreciate but don't fit within your luggage allotment. I have a travel journal that I'll paste ticket stubs and the like into and keep my own notes on trips. I save all cards/letters for a while but do periodically go through and get rid of some. A generic Christmas card with nothing but a signature is not likely to be kept for all that long, though may be repurposed into a craft for the kids at school. :P

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I like the design/room arranging part of organization, playing furniture tetris and stuff. Sorting through the actual items, not so fun. Going through these piles, I wish I had done it before we moved rather than bringing it all with us, but pregnancy will do that to you. I love generic Christmas cards...well, the pretty, magical ones. I hang them every year practically until springtime. Not sure what I would do if I had to fit everything into a few suitcases. If I had to pick just a few precious items, I'm not sure what they would be! I do see things losing value over time.

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  3. Well, I just make sure the lesson plans are both in my computer's hard drive AND in the "cloud"....and off they go! People don't tend to give me artwork. Perhaps I wish they did. Anything at all "old" is impossible for me to let go of.....even old doilies or linens that are threadbare. Books....books are almost sacred to me, so that's tough. Yipes; feeling stressed just reading this.

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    Replies
    1. That makes sense. The way my computer files are arranged is another story.

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