My condominium is small. When I first looked at the place nearly 30 years ago, it seemed quite large. Well, it was empty when my real estate agent and I unlocked the door. I remember thinking, wow, all that closet space!

Of course, all the rooms, and the closets, are now full. As my cousin says, stuff expands to fit the space available, plus two boxes.

So, stuff. Too much stuff.

I’ve been cleaning my office as long as I’ve lived here. At least that’s what it feels like. I have a lifetime accumulation of books, paper, and assorted dustcatchers. Some of these have sentimental value, such as books that have been signed and personalized to me. As for the knick-knacks, they too have sentimental value. Then there are those files of newspaper clippings, saved because they that might possibly find their way into a book. They sometimes do. I once clipped a small article from the San Francisco Chronicle and kept it for several years, vowing that I would use it, some day. And I did. It wound up as an important plot point in Bit Player.

I’m such a paper magnet. Through the years I’ve written down story ideas and notes for plots. I still have all those pieces of paper. If I ever get writer’s block, I’ll know which file folders to mine for material.

These days, of course, I can copy the URL of a pertinent article and paste it into the work in progress.

I’ve rid myself of old bank statements and old contracts for books that are no longer in print. Making an effort not to keep anything past a year, unless it’s tax stuff.

Letters, remember those? Missives written before the advent of email? I save letters. The ones from my grandmother are tucked away in a folder, and they are important to me.

What do I save? And what do I throw away? That’s a question Jeri Howard asks in Bit Player, as she sorts through old letters written by her grandmother to solve a decades-old mystery.

Clothes? Since I retired from my day job some years ago, my wardrobe is decidedly casual. I start a donation box and when it gets full, I take it somewhere. Most recently, a local thrift shop. Books go to the Friends of the Library for their book sale.

However, getting rid of stuff is not a matter of opening a large garbage bag and sweeping the offending stuff into the bag. Clearing away clutter is a very personal thing. It involves decisions about what to keep and what to throw away. Sometimes the answer to that conundrum varies, depending on the mood I’m in at the time. Lately, the refrain of, “Maybe I’ll need this something,” is giving way to, “Why am I keeping this?” And that’s a good thing.

I’m not at the “Hoarder” stage yet but sometimes I wonder. At least I got a short story out of the subject. It’s a cautionary tale, called “Pack Rat.”

5 thoughts on “Decluttering

  1. To me, it makes a huge difference whether or not there is someplace for the “clutter” to go, besides the dump. The local secondhand store takes used clothing; thank gawd. I took two large black garbage bags there last week and it felt so good! Next I need to find a goodwill store that takes vases that came with flower arrangements, curlers (remember those? I’ve never used them but if they sit much longer in the collecting box in my porch, maybe I’ll decide to start. Collecting boxes that sit too long are the bane of decluttering! I end up needing something I put in there, or deciding I still want it), old Ole and Lena jokebooks, and so on and so forth. I hate to throw anything that someone else might want, or use, in the garbage.

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  2. As usual, an interesting article, Janet, something you always do. Until recently I had a box filled with all my writing that hadn’t seen the light of day since 1986. I finally told hubby to throw it away. I didn’t even want to go through it. Too tempting to keep something. After all, if it hadn’t been opened for 35 years. I went with I don’t need it. Now I must read Pack Rat. I can relate.


  3. Keeping my desk decluttered is a constant struggle for me. I also have a box I keep in the closet to toss clothes that either don’t fit or I don’t want anymore. As for the rest of the house, it is pretty sparse. We have moved twice since our kids left home and I downsized each time with boxes of “stuff” that at one time I thought were treasures. Good post!


  4. Oh, my, I so need to declutter. I have a bag of hubby’s clothes (way too big for him) ready to go and that’s about it. I do get rid of papers now and the, but doesn’t make a dent.


  5. I could have written that post, Janet. I regularly fill a bag with clothes and take them to the local agency for homeless and others. Every time I finish a story or novel I clean my desk, which just gives me room for more clutter when I begin the next project. I feel like I’m shoveling sand against the tide. Every writer I know can relate to your post.


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