Thursday, May 16, 2013

UnCluttering Explained

The other day I put out an advert of sorts on Pam's List, our local version of swap shop, wanting to sell, wanting to buy, activities, events, upcoming movies - pretty much an online bulletin board used by our community that Pam handles for all us, graciously and constantly. I figured why not put out my bit as I look to try on an old hat that I've done many times for many people, but never 'officially'; I felt ready to toss it out as bread on the water. This is what I wrote, slightly edited, naming the venture Less White Elephants.

Less White Elephants! 
(an uncluttering of your home or office by MJ)

Organize. Unclutter. Words that can bring winces of dread.Yes, you want to, but actually doing it? It doesn't happen. Life gets in the way. All that stuff gets in the way. It's too much. It really is too much.

That's what I'm here for. I don't cry over the broken statue you got in 4th grade that reminds you of Mrs. Mulberry, your sweet teacher, or the 30 year old wedding gift you never used but have been afraid to 're-gift', even when the giver is long gone. I promise, I'll take the blame if they pop up asking where that carnival glass compote lurks, it's in the contract. Those school books might make a good recycled table, but do no good molding away in stinky boxes. I'll help you know that those projects that you've hoarded supplies for, supplies that, oh dear! are now full of bugs! will not be done and can be done away with. Or maybe they can be done. We'll figure it out.

You'll learn it is okay, really okay, to let some things go, that three drawings by your children, nicely framed, are better than a wad stuffed in the back of the cupboard/trunk/attic. And that boxes of mashed photos aren't nearly as enjoyable as albums (people still have photos, yes they do). I'll get them safely into albums. Or we can do it together, as you wish.

Answer to the biggest question: No, you don't have to 'get rid of everything', just the things you need a hand getting rid of, things you have hauled around far too long for reasons you no longer remember or no longer need. And taking a second look at some things you look at every day and don't see anymore; rearranged, they can shine again or they can go away. I'll sort out the triplicates of spatulas and socks and torn linens and...well, you get the idea. 

Life moves along, cleaning up the trail behind you can feel very good in the right now. Do some now, do some later, do it all at once; it's your life, it's your call.

Local? Yes. Far away? Yes. You buy, I fly. References? Yes, just ask, I'll get them for you. 

Price - 25.00 an hour (with travel, accommodations need to be provided, preferably on site if possible) . The price may vary if outside help is needed, such as hiring a bulldozer. Just kidding. 

p.s. This is not a cleaning service, though that often is needed. No worries, I'll figure that out for you too. I've pretty much seen it all, so there is no need to clean up before I get there.

Welcome to the first step!


A few emails have come back but one in particular, which had nothing to do with using my services, struck me the most, because the nail of understandingl hit on the head was exactly the one I was aiming for. I asked for permission to share it here and she said yes, editing allowed. Thanks, Jenny!

T-shirts for tropicals
Dear MJ,

I saw your new job description in Pam's list.  This is long, involved.  You can just skip to the SOLUTION section to save time (obviously, I didn't).
You know I sold Godspeed.  It killed me to end my boat life to move to land.  I bet my possessions on board were equal to any attic with wedding through babies through retirement, many times including several generations of adult kids' goodies.  Gotta pare down.
First thing, pack my tools.  WOW!  So heavy.  So much storage space required when there are no cubbies and lockers...  Friends say:  You're moving ashore!  You don't need tools!  
Same thing with my extraordinary collections of West System, heat gun attachments, charts from Tobago to Bermuda, varnishing equipment, bungs and countersink drill bits, chafe gear, stainless and bronze fasteners.  My "boat art."    My fathometer [not the electronic kind, one I made].  MY GRINDER.  My bronze 20 lb Jim Taylor barnacle.  How could I let these go?  

What about all those well worn, comfy, no-worry-about-ripping-or-staining clothes?  Prized aboard; bag lady extraordinaire ashore.  And the myriad other things I sacrificed. Again, friends ask:  WHAT are you going to do with that stuff ashore?  
You've moved ashore.  You know what I'm whining about. 
SOLUTION?  Take pictures.  Sell it. Or give the stuff away.  WOW!  So much lighter.  So much more compact.  So much easier to handle.  To say nothing of storing.  And!  Pictures don't need maintenance. They never rust.  No eternal vigilance required.  Albums do not sink, taking you and your possessions with it. 
Not quite the same as WEARING the clothes or USING the tools, but still...  It takes time to stop torturing oneself [oh, no, what have I done?].  Resenting the pictures.  Accepting them as a replacement.  Then one day..... you forget to look at them.   AND --- YOU'RE A LANDLUBBER!  Uncluttered.  Free of WD-40 and muriatic acid.  Bottom paint.  [Warning: tearful episodes still occur.] 
Just a thought...
Best wishes,

We all have 'moving ashore' times in our lives, young or old, on land or living aboard. Tears shed won't outweigh the immediate and eventual lightness.

A man hoping to find wisdom traveled to Poland to see the renowned

Rabbi Hafez Hayyim.  When he arrived at the celebrated rabbi's house,
he was surprised to see that it was nothing more than a room.  There,
the rabbi sat on a bench at a small table surrounded only by the
numerous volumes of books he continually pored over in study.
   The seeker asked, "Good Rabbi, where are all your belongings?
Where are your furnishings?"
   Hafez answered, "Tell me, where are yours?"
   "Where are mine?" said the startled man.  "But I only
came here for a short visit."
   "So did I," the rabbi said.

traditional Chassidic Jewish story

Have a take a look around Thursday. Do something temporary.


  1. Yeah, but I still regret the wood plane I sold years ago. Everytime I have a wood project I wish I still had it.

  2. Sure, we'll regret some things but keeping ALL things for a rainy day maybe (or just buying too many 'I want that, even though I have six of them') can get crazy. Suggestion? Hit yard sales, craigslist, etc. You might find your wood plane and the hunt is fun.

  3. What a fantastic idea, MJ!! Good luck with your new endeavour. Being Innkeepers/Caretakers we travel for work quite a bit. I haved pared our belongings down to what we really need and a few things I absolutely love. It is very liberating. People need a nudge though. I predict you are on to something here.
    Take care,

  4. Karen, I'm not sure why your comment won't show up, but I'm posting it here. Thanks!

    "What a fantastic idea, MJ!! Good luck with your new endeavour. Being Innkeepers/Caretakers we travel for work quite a bit. I haved pared our belongings down to what we really need and a few things I absolutely love. It is very liberating. People need a nudge though. I predict you are on to something here.
    Take care,