Travails of decluttering and simplifying…

Packing churns up paper piles

Susan Caba
Resale Evangelista

I wish I could say the photos above and below are the “befores” of a make-over. Unfortunately, they are the “afters” of my efforts to de-clutter.

Well, to be fair, they are photos of the “in-the-midst-of” stage of the process of de-cluttering, getting rid of stuff, simplifying and preparing the house for sale. You just wouldn’t believe what comes out from the closets, the cupboards and under the bed!

I keep thinking of that old adage, “It’s always darkest before the dawn.” I also keep thinking of the Collyer brothers, Homer and Langley. They are legends in the pantheon of reclusive hoarders, due to their grisly deaths by debris.

Homer–blind and paralyzed, with matted grey hair to his shoulders, and dependent on his brother for everything–died in late March of 1947 while waiting for Langley to bring dinner. Langley perished crawling through  one of the booby-trapped tunnels that snaked through the wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling bundles of newspapers crammed into the brothers’ mansion. He was crushed when the tunnel collapsed. Homer waited a mere 10 feet away, starving and dehydrated. Their story provided fodder (uh-huh, pun intended) for books, movies and plays, including a 2012 photo essay in the New York Daily News.

Clutter before cleaningLike the Collyers, it’s the paper that’s killing me. Oh, the paper–the boxes of paper! Thank God Fed Ex shreds for a per-pound price. I would shuttle the whole shebang to be put through the pureeing process but I just know there is some vital document or precious photograph in amongst the dead bills, magazines and downloaded ebooks on everything from weight loss to money management. So I’m compelled to sift before shredding.

The process is hampered by the fact that I’m doing four things at once:

  • Staging the house for sale and therefore storing some things I want to keep.
  • Deciding what I can really live without–and I have to report that I’m getting better at discarding.
  • Packing both for storage and for a lengthy stint of travel and house-sitting, so I can’t just put everything in storage.
  • Continuing to work, which requires ignoring the mess around me and staying focused on the computer. (Hard enough when it’s just the normal mess.)

Not to mention the lack of a deadline. There’s nuthin’ like a deadline to focus the mind and speed the action.

As an airline family, we moved around the country frequently.Boxes, boxes, boxes

TWA covered the cost of packers. They could pack a four-bedroom, six-kid house in a matter of hours. That was great, except for one drawback–they packed everything. Dryer lint, loose screws, a chewed-up dog bone. There was no discretionary disposal of unwanted items until it was time to unpack.

(My advice? Do not unpack. Store carefully packed boxes in the attic, the garage, or a rented storage locker until you need something, and you need it now. The adrenaline surge caused by the desperate hunt results in a screamingly expedited unpacking experience. Although, yes, that could be how the Collyers got started. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.)

Oh, and I hate to admit this–I bought boxes. Not to mention packing tape, packing paper and bubble wrap. And stretchy plastic wrap, too. Luckily, I already had a black magic marker for labeling the boxes.

I had to get all that stuff, according to the guide to packing by Two Guys and a Truck.

“An unsuccessful packing job will lead to an unsuccessful move,” their website warns. “Proper packing paper, padding and boxing procedures are vital to protecting your belongings.”

Stay tuned…

(Photos below are posted as evidence that the house isn’t always disorderly!)


5 thoughts on “Travails of decluttering and simplifying…

  1. Lisa Tracy

    Reblogged this on My Word and commented:
    My very talented former colleague Susan Caba has now sold her house and moved, but you’ll want to read her thoughts on a process that mystifies and thwarts us all: The travails of decluttering …


  2. lisa tracy

    I’m with you. When we left the Philly area, the first thing I did was go out and buy several sizes of NEW packing cartons and the tape dispenser. I think it saved my sanity. After I moved, my sister used them. Then I moved again, and used them. They are now on their fourth or fifth family move, and worth every penny.



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