By Nancy Browning, Guest BloggerCleaning is a voyage of discovery.
Here’s the good news: Queen’s bookshelf (that would be my bookshelf) is in perfect shape after two weeks in the house of clutter. That’s because there is almost nothing like organization and cleanliness to motivate one to maintain such. Well, there’s always a good party or a family visit, but even then, things can be shoved into a box or hauled to the basement. Believe me, I know.
So, have you been wondering if I made good on my promise to work at Terri’s? That was Part B of the de-cluttering plan—to repay my friend and co-cleaner, Terri, by working at her house. When I brought up the subject, she objected, “But I can’t give you a nice job like you gave me; I really want to tackle my garage.” Terri felt bad that I had given her such a pleasant chore (beautifying a bookshelf), whereas the work she wanted done wouldn’t be as easy or nearly as much fun. I assured her that when I’d moved, several of my good friends had dared to venture into my huge unfinished garage that extended the entire length and most of the width of my house; they’d helped me throw out or recycle most of what I found. If Terri had protested more, I might have mentioned the desiccated mouse we’d found. Fortunately, she accepted my assurance that I would be glad to work in her garage. The only problem we’d had was scheduling.
So, as we took our daily walk, I mentioned that my meeting had been canceled, and I’d have time to help in her garage if she was free. “But it’s not ready for you,” Terri protested. This seems to be a big issue—wanting our homes to be in some kind of shape before they are cleaned by our friends. I suggest you (and Terri) just get over that one, fast!
Instead of walking me home, we went to Terri’s and decided to take just an hour in her garage. Her biggest motivation was that there were old textbooks that she wanted to donate during the book buy-back at our local university, and any book they didn’t buy, they would send to Africa.
Once again, we started with food. Since this was an unscheduled work day, we ate grapefruit and considered getting smoothies when we were done. We found that our needs had changed slightly from those of the previous work day. We required a thick-tipped permanent marker, packaging tape, and a pair of scissors.
We somewhat warily opened each sealed box, wondering what it held. The homeschooling books were put into two boxes for a friend who also homeschools her children. The books we planned to donate were put directly into the car once each box was full. We only saved useful items (file folders and some unused paper). Terri had the willpower to keep only one memento of her son’s schoolwork. We found some family heirlooms, law school textbooks (and I learned that Terri had attended one year of law school), and some things that were easy to throw away, such as a doll made from a 5-lb. sack of flour that had been used to teach high school students about taking care of a baby. Terri was glad to be reunited with her icicle Christmas lights (we labeled the box in huge letters) and the child’s tea set she had been looking for to have tea time with her granddaughter.
While finding the expandable rolling cart to transport the books to campus, a Pakistani rug fell from its place above the cart. Terri said she’d had it for over 30 years, but that there was nowhere to put it. We tried a few places, and now it is ornamenting the beige wall-to-wall carpet at the foot of her bed. We both agreed that having things and not using them was such a waste.
As we headed out the door to the university, we noticed that we had spent exactly one hour, to the minute. Terri told me, “If you hadn’t been here, it would have taken me three days.” That’s because she would have looked through every piece of paper, reminiscing and wondering what to do with each item.
We donated her books, then went downtown for lunch. Our day ended with refreshing blueberry lime sorbet, as we sat outside on this warm afternoon, talking. We had both enjoyed our day, and we had gotten one step closer to having houses with no clutter.
Ten Tips for De-cluttering for a Friend
1. You can schedule a date or be spontaneous about the time to clean.
2. Don't worry about cleaning before you clean.
3. Don't protect your friend from cleaning that isn't "fun."
4. Put things in their place right away (like books in the car, rug in the house).
5. Don't slide into your old habits (like keeping Styrofoam™ when you won't need it).
6. Look at cleaning like a voyage of discovery (finding the tea set, rug, and Christmas decorations).
7. Celebrate afterward with food and relaxation.
8. Set a time limit, even if you are fine spending more time. It helps you to focus.
9. Collaborate with your friend, and give her advice if she asks for it, but don’t be offended if she doesn’t take it.
10. Be motivated by donation deadlines, such as for charity garage sales, etc.