By Nancy Browning, Guest Blogger
In yoga class, our teacher had been reading a passage about releasing, and one thing it mentioned was “I release all clutter.” That thought brought me feelings of deep peace, along with a sense of panic. I was sure that if I released all clutter, it would create a string of garbage extending into outer space. I also knew that I’d been giving away furniture and knick knacks for the past few years. While in theory this should have made my house as light and airy as a Pottery Barn catalog, instead it seemed cramped and overflowing with collectibles.
My solution was to trade time with a friend, where we would work together, be cheerleaders for de-cluttering, and have some fun at the same time. So Terri and I decided that if we spent just a few hours each week at each other’s homes, we could finally deal with our clutter.
Our first session was yesterday. I’ll start at the end and say that Terri left telling me how much fun she’d had. We started at 12:30 and ended at 3:45, and it went very fast. And I am looking at the very organized bookshelf she created yesterday. When I look at it, I can feel myself relax.
We started with a pleasant salad lunch of greens, nuts, dried cherries and blueberries, feta cheese, and a diced apple, topped by a tangy balsamic dressing. We were going to work for an hour and then break for the fruit Terri had brought—fresh pineapple, grapes, and a banana. While eating lunch, we made a plan. We’d go to the basement for empty boxes and to retrieve the items I’d saved to donate to a charity garage sale. Then we’d concentrate on the room I live in most, one of the messiest—my office, which can be seen from the kitchen.
Terri took on the bookcase, putting papers she couldn’t deal with in a box, while I hung pictures that had come in from the garage. Then we took everything off some high shelves, where items had been shoved without any organization. We dusted and only returned the knick-knacks that truly belonged. During this time, I was getting reacquainted with some objects I’d forgotten I owned, and Terri was commenting about my wonderful artsy collectibles.
Even though the plumber called and truncated the last of our visit, where we were to celebrate with homemade lemon bars, I was happy with the results. Terri took her lemon bar home, and she enjoyed it enough to call me later, with thanks. Actually, it was I who should have been thanking her. Ideally, we will continue with one week at my house and the next at hers. Now I have hope that some time, maybe within the year, my house will be de-cluttered, and so will Terri’s. It was much easier to decide to give away things with Terri's encouragement.
Twelve Tips for De-cluttering with a Friend
1. Have a plan and discuss it beforehand
2. Include food and breaks
3. Limit your time to 2 hours plus eating
4. Focus on one area
5. Work together
6. Confer while working, so that something you really need doesn't get lost in the process
7. Have a place for things your friend can't be asked to deal with, such as your important papers
8. Make decisions together about what to: a) keep b) throw away c) give away d) sell
9. Dedicate areas for things to: a) keep b) throw away c) give away d) sell
10. Plan where you will store the things you keep, to what charity you will donate your stuff, on what website you’ll sell your stuff.
11. Give your friend some discretion, such as letting her arrange your bookshelf
12. Allow yourself to be pleasantly surprised by her arrangement/decisions
About Nancy Browning: Professor emeritus of cultural diversity, Nancy divides her time among many pursuits: writing that ranges from picture books to young adult and middle grade fiction to adult short stories, cooking gluten-free and creating a gluten-free cookbook, editing scientific grants and papers, doing yoga, walking, working on every kind of needlework imaginable, singing, antiquing, and spending time with her friends, family, and three cats. It’s no wonder that housekeeping is not at the top of her list. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.