Meet my husband Steven, the King of Anti-Clutter. Good thing he’s got Cadence and I (whom he lovingly nicknamed Tornado One and Tornado Two) to make sure he keeps a healthy balance of chaos in his life, and keep him from going overboard with his anal retentive ways. 🙂
Hi, my name is Lori…
…and I am a junk drawer failure.
It’s okay, folks. I’ve come to terms with it. We all know the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. And I have a big one.
I’ve already written about it at length in previous blog posts. Here are the links if you’d like to refresh your memory…
The sad part is, even with my well-deserved victory decluttering and organizing last year, somehow we’ve come to this…
A disorganized drawer filled with a random assortment of useful items. And that’s the biggest problem here. As much as it irritates me to have to sift through the crap to find a tube of chapstick or a breakfast cereal coupon, I can honestly say that every item in the drawer at the moment is not junk. No lies people. I could make you a list of stuff in the drawer right now and not have to throw out one piece of it.
Now, if we could just keep it organized…but that’s a goal for another day.
So, I’ve had a couple nights where it has been hard getting to sleep this week, and inevitably I have found myself watching reruns of Hoarders. It’s somehow becoming my newest obsession. I can’t help myself. If I’m flipping through channels and see that it’s on, I immediately tune in. And even when I am absolutely mortified by what I see (like the lady named Mary whose hoarding had caused serious structural damage to the house, and who had resorted to sleeping on one small section of her mattress which was covered in cat feces and soaked in urine), I can’t look away. God help me, I can’t look away.
The opening credits of the show say that 3 million people in the US are compulsive hoarders. 3 million. That’s a whooooole lot of hoarding going on people. And even if I am nowhere even close to Mary’s ballpark of hoarding mania, this Excavation project has certainly opened my eyes to some of the more ridiculous things I’ve been holding onto.
Case in point–Cadence’s birth announcements.
For those of you following this blog, you know that Cadence celebrated her 2nd birthday almost 2 weeks ago. Yet, somehow, these announcement postcards have survived two years and two moves, following us from place to place. And honestly, I can’t even tell you what my rationale was to hang onto them this long. Obviously we ordered way too many, but I just couldn’t bring myself to toss them right away.
By the time we were packing to leave Arizona, Cadence was already 10 months old, so it would have been the perfect time to trash them, yet somehow they made it into a box instead of the garbage. I guess maybe I thought I should hang onto them just a little longer, in case we accidentally missed someone when we mailed them out. At this point, that excuse is more than a little moronic.
S0, it’s time to say adios.
I am a birth announcement postcard hoarder no more! Woohoo! I feel so liberated. Onto the next.
I don’t know that I ever fit completely into any of the high school cliques. I played a few sports, played drums in the band, took a few Honors classes and earned above average grades, wrote for the newspaper, rounded out my schedule with art and photography classes, and was inducted into both the National Honor Society and National Art Honor Society, all while holding down part-time jobs as a cashier at the local Hinky Dinky supermarket and an assistant teacher at Bethel’s Tutoring Tots Preschool. I hung out with the kids that partied, but never partied myself. I spent my freshman and sophomore years in a long-term relationship and my junior and senior years running from relationships. I guess you could say I was something of a contradiction.
But, if I was really going to be classified, you could say I was a bit of a nerd. Yeah, I admit it, and I’m proud. I’ve always been a bookworm, and if I could have it my way, I would spend the rest of my life as a student. I love school and, with the exception of math classes, I love learning. I love sitting in class, listening to lectures, reading books and taking notes. I love having debates and philosophical conversations. I love hearing other people’s points of view and asking questions to learn more. Truth be told, I tend to go a little stir crazy when I haven’t attended a class in awhile.
Yeah, I know I’m weird. Don’t judge me.
Unfortunately, my addiction to all things knowledge-related has significantly increased the amount of clutter in my life. I have file cabinet drawers full of notes and writings and class assignments from high school and, until the math book purge earlier this week, I have been schlepping around every book and textbook I ever used in college. For every story or article or assignment I write, I have at least 5-10 drafts tucked away in a folder.
Here is just a small sampling from my Concordia College New York years…
Tucked away in these binders is every syllabus, every page of notes, every quiz, every exam, and every writing assignment for every class I took in my four years as an undergraduate.
What can I say? It’s a sickness.
I’ve got research papers…
And pages of notes…
A syllabus for every class…
And even quizzes.
I know. I’m crazy. But even with my recent commitment to decluttering my life, I still can’t bring myself to get rid of any of it. I figure as long as it is all organized in binders that can be neatly placed on a shelf in my office, it’s not really clutter. Hell, I’ve even pulled out some of my old notes and assignments to help me in grad school and planning a few of the courses I ended up teaching. So, until the weight of my old schoolwork falls off the shelf and buries me beneath a mountain of paper, or begins to cause structural damage to my home, I’m not giving it up.
I’ve always had a thing for pocket knives. Perhaps it was because my father always carried one, and my grandfathers always carried one. And maybe it was because they were always more than willing to hand it over at my request so I cut a stubborn piece of tape off one of my Christmas gifts or whittle the bark off a stick.
I loved whittling. I could spent hours skinning the bark off a stick and making the wood underneath even and smooth. Had I actually been able to get my hands on a decent sized piece of wood, I just might have been able to whittle me a semi-realistic looking animal or something, but usually I was just whittling small sticks that I found in my backyard. When I was particularly motivated, I even tried to make myself a bow and arrow, though I could never get my crooked arrows to fly very far since my bow was nothing more than a broken tree branch and a piece of kite string.
Oh well, I had fun anyway.
It’s funny that I never actually owned a pocked knife myself when I got older. I guess I just never thought I really needed one. Plus, at the risk of sounding sexist, it was always just sort of a guy thing. I mean, sure, I always wanted to borrow my dad or my grandfathers’ knives, but part of the draw was that the knives were theirs. They were always well-worn and broken in and warm from their pockets. And I could use them as much as I wanted, as long as I was careful and took good care of them and gave them back when I was finished. It was just one of those little things that we could share.
The first time Steven came to spend the Christmas holiday with my family in Nebraska back when we were dating, my dad and I decided to buy him a pocket knife for Christmas. It was just one of those things that he didn’t have and always said he could use, but he never got around to buying for himself. Dad and I headed to the Cabela’s store in Kearney, and picked out a black Swiss Army Knife that we thought would be right up Steven’s alley. It had a couple knives, a file, a corkscrew, a bottle opener, a can opener, a pair of tweezers and a toothpick.
It was a great little knife, and Steven loved it. He took to carrying it in his pocket with his keys, taking almost everywhere with him for the next couple years. It came in handy for cutting open mail and packages, for opening beers as we tailgated in the parking lot before Mets games, for just about anything we needed.
I’m not even quite sure when it happened, but sometime before we left New York in 2007, something on the large blade of Steven’s knife broke, causing it to hang loose from the handle and fall out of place after you closed it. Like this…
Nothing we could do seemed to help make it fit tightly in place again. Steven seemed perfectly content to keep carrying it, but I made him put it in his desk drawer for safekeeping instead. The last thing I wanted to do was to rush Steven to the Emergency Room if the blade popped open in his pocket and severed his femoral artery or punctured one of his testicles.
No way Jose. We’re not taking any chances.
We probably should have just gotten rid of the knife then, but we kept it around thinking that it was still useful…just not safe to carry. Of course, once it got buried in the desk drawer, all hope was lost. It has actually been MIA since the move in 2007.
When I ran across the old knife tonight, buried deep in a drawer of the office caddy, Steven’s response was, “Oh, hey, where’d you find that? I’ve been wondering where that was.”
I just shook my head and threw it in the garbage before he could come up with any excuses to hang onto it any longer.
And he calls me a packrat.
Adios broken Swiss Army Knife. You served your time well. Go in peace.
After getting sidetracked by the bag-o-coupons yesterday, it was time to get down and dirty with the dreaded junk drawer. But, before I could really give it the attention it needed, I knew I was going to need a system. After all, we do have a lot of things in the drawer that are useful (really, I’m not lying), and I needed a way to make sure things stayed organized after the decluttering.
Armed with one of our Bed, Bath & Beyond coupons that was due to expire today, Steven and I hit the store to see if we could find something that would work. While it may seem a little counterproductive to bring something new into the house when the whole goal of this project is to get rid of things, we were actually successful in finding something that worked.
But first, the junk…
Okay, so we’re suckers for rewards cards at the stores we frequent. Promise us a $5 gift certificate for every $50 we spend and you’ll have no trouble getting us to sign up. Steven’s BestBuy and my Barnes & Noble and Borders rewards alone have yielded us hundreds, maybe even thousands of dollars of merchandise over the years.
Neither of us is really keen on carrying a thick, heavy wallet (and those who know me well know that the one time I ever carried a purse was to sneak snacks into a movie, and I had to borrow the purse), so we were excited when stores started offering these nifty little keychain cards instead.
Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for the excitement to wear off.
See, these cards are great in theory, but they are just as annoying as the actual wallet size cards. They clutter up your keychain. Add more than three or four of them, and they are not longer comfortable to carry around in your pocket. The worst part though, is that it took all of nine days for the barcode to wear off.
Luckily, stores just let the cashiers key in customers’ phone numbers, which is how we’ve been racking up the rewards for the past, oh, five or six years now. So, why are we still carrying these useless pieces of plastic around? Good question.
Digging a little deeper, Steven and I discovered that, somehow, we have become the proud owners of 17 pairs of scissors. Neither of us remember ever buying a pair of scissors, but nevertheless, there they are. My theory is that the sock fairy has finally begun feeling guilty about leaving us with half-pairs of socks, so she decided to make up for it by leaving behind stray scissors as collateral.
It’s either that, or one of us is a kleptomaniac.
As of today, we are officially down to 16 pairs, since we decided to toss this one. We figured between them being dull and rusty enough to require a tetanus shot in the event of an accident, we could probably do without them.
Like most people, (except maybe the Iphone users who should just go ahead and have the damn things surgically attached to their hands once and for all), I have a love/hate relationship with cell phones. I enjoy the convenience of being able to send random text messages to my husband to please pick up more diapers on his way home, and love the fact that I can check my email, my Facebook, and keep more than a dozen games of Words with Friends going at a time.
What I hate though, is the way the damn things seem to be on a self-destruct timer that begins counting down the moment your sign your new 2-year contract and leave the store. I also hate the fact that I am never able to just get rid of the old phone when I get a new one. Somehow the phone or the case or the chargers just seem to hang around.
Well, hang around no more. Goodbye old Samsung charger and cheap cell phone case. You’ve served your time well, now get out of my junk drawer!
So, this is only hitting the tip of the iceberg when it comes to things that I have held onto longer than I should have for nothing more than sentimentality (just wait until I start tackling the boxes in the basement). I’ll admit, I’m a sucker for hanging onto little trinkets that have certain memories attached to them. I guess I’m a bit of a tactile person in that way. I like to have a little thing that I can actually pick up and hold in my hand, a little thing that helps me hold onto the memory.
While this isn’t necessarily a bad trait, I do think that I am guilty of holding onto things that that I really don’t need, even for the memories. I’ll set something aside, simply because I want to look at it one more time, or because I don’t want to throw it away right at that moment, and then it just gets shuffled off or misplaced or tossed in a pile and suddenly becomes just one more piece of clutter.
Case in point–Cadence’s 1st birthday candle.
Yes, Cadence’s birthday candle. It’s been hanging around for almost a year now. I’ve taken it out of the drawer a few times, telling myself that it’s time to get rid of it. I’ve got dozens of photos of her first birthday. I’ve got the memory of her first (and now most of the 2nd) year of her life burned into my brain. I’ve got a whole year of stories written about her, and videos shot of her doing the crazy cute things she does. Throwing away a candle that burned for less than a minute on her first birthday cake is not going to erase all of that. So, into the trash it goes.
You might think it’s a bit cliche that a writer has a pen fetish. But I do, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. I love pens, pencils, markers, writing utensils of any kind. I’m super picky though, and I tend to hoard my favorites, squirreling them away where no one else will find and use them (in my backpack, tucked into my notebooks). I leave the ones I don’t like as well out where Steven and I can use them to write shopping lists or address envelopes.
This pen, in particular, was not one of my favorites, and has been hanging out in the junk drawer for about two years now. We noticed it leaking about three months ago, after Cadence decided she wanted to draw with it, and ended up with ink all over her face. Still, it took this long for us to finally say sayonara.
Okay, so normally I hold onto instruction manuals, especially for things that require assembly because there’s nothing quite as frustrating as taking something apart to store it for awhile, or move it, and then not being able to figure out how to put the darn thing back together again. Right now, we have a file cabinet drawer full of instruction manuals, many of which I’m sure will be showing up on this blog at some point in the coming months, because I’ve come to a couple of realizations…
1. Most products are pretty darn foolproof. Unless there are secret compartments or self-destruct modes, it’s probably okay to just press the buttons and figure it out for yourself.
2. Like my husband says, most product manuals are either available online, or can be scanned ourselves and saved as digital copies. While the writer in me will never embrace my husband’s ideal paperless lifestyle, I think he might be onto something with ridding ourselves of these useless manuals once and for all.
So, we’ll begin our anti-manual campaign with this one. After all, I think we’ve mastered the intricacies of Cadence’s favorite Busy Ball Popper toy–turn on, push button, giggle like crazy and chase errant balls, repeat, and replace batteries when necessary. Piece of cake.
And once the trash was hauled away, we were able to get ourselves and our junk drawer organized. Hell yeah! I fought the junk drawer and…
I won! 🙂