July 2005: My Personal Story

On A personal Note

People often ask me “Is your house perfect?” I always answer honestly and say “No, it’s not.” It’s not about perfection, it’s about progress according to Donna Smallin in her book, The One-Minute Organizer Plain & Simple. Great little book, by the way! As long as we are moving in the right direction, that is the main thing. I know so many people who will not start a project because they can’t do it the way they want, which would require taking a year off work and ignoring their families to achieve that perfect system for their photographs, for example. Now, how many of us can do this? Not many, so take a step, make a move. It’s like weight loss - one small change gets you closer to achieving your goal, than no change at all.

I have struggled with this clutter thing since I cannot remember when. I think it got really bad when I had my first child. I wanted to have all the latest and greatest books, toys, videos, etc. I would go out and buy all this stuff. Then came garage sales and so I stocked up on more goodies. Well, before I knew it, I had a lot. Then the kids started school and well I could not bring myself to throw away one single scribbled on paper or prize ribbon or first pair of ballet shoes, as I was certain I would either be a bad mother if I did or my child would end up being a world famous artist, ballerina etc. and surely want to know where her first painting, drawing or ballet shoes were. So began, the hoarding.

I started buying and reading books on organizing, but nothing clicked! I collected a lot of tips and information.

Well, all of a sudden, my children were four and six and we were moving to Oakville from Montreal. The problem was I was totally disorganized. I had gone back to University to further my education. I was Vice-President of the Home and School Association of my daughter’s school and my husband now lived in another province five days a week! Not to worry, the company my husband went to work for would pack and move us. I have never been so overwhelmed in all my life! Even the packers were overwhelmed, as the nice man who came with his notepad and opened up my cupboards and estimated the time and the number of men it would take to pack up the place, GROSSLY underestimated the job! One of the packers said he had to go for a driving test but would be back. He never came back. Two men worked well into the night (and I had helped them earlier in the day, even though I was not supposed to). Well, I actually went to sleep that night with strangers packing up my belongings downstairs! But I had my two kids in bed with me so I didn’t care what they did with my stuff. My husband who was going to be around the day of the move, was not! His company decided to do a major launch and publicity bit and oh well! My friends (who I tease about being worse than I am with clutter, got the last laugh when the movers had to call in a second truck to pack up the rest of our stuff! By the way, we did have a big garage sale and sold a lot of stuff before packing and moving (not enough apparently).

Then we arrived in beautiful Oakville. We moved from a four bedroom home in Montreal with no garage to a four bedroom home in Oakville with a two car garage. So what’s the problem you ask? Well, it appears we had too much stuff! When the movers who were unpacking us kept bringing in pieces that I kept relegating to the garage as I had no idea what to do with them! I even started asking the movers if they wanted some things! I was desperate! I felt overwhelmed, once again!!! Too much stuff!!!

We celebrate Christmas and Hanukkah in our house and between that and birthdays, we just kept collecting and not being able to throw away a lot. I always remember being at a garage sale and a child was crying because the parents were selling one of his toys! I was not going to be that kind of mother! Instead I was the kind of mother who cared more about the toys than the kids did! Finally, I began to let go. I let the kids pick out toys they had outgrown and organized a garage sale and let them keep the proceeds! It was a lot of work for me and cost me money in advertising etc., but they were happy because they made about $50.00 each.

Well one day, I read Don Aslett’s book “How to lose 200 lbs in a weekend”. It clicked – it clicked so much that I did lose 200 lbs in one weekend! It felt so incredible! I have not missed one thing I have ever given away or thrown away! I really get it now that we must get rid of the old to make room for the new! Now I don’t have the time or patience for garage sales and so I bring things to Good Will, Salvation Army Thrift Shop, etc. Also, I make it a point to pass things on to neighbours, friends, etc. I was always good about passing kids’ clothing on because I have nieces and nephews and cousins who can use them but toys, books were close to my heart! Now I go through things regularly and only keep my very favorite books and drawings etc! I realize that if you try and keep everything, you don’t know what you have, it gets lost and wrecked from being shoved in overcrowded boxes, drawers, whatever and you don’t actually get to enjoy it!

I can’t tell you the feeling of peace that I have when I walk in my front door and there isn’t so much stuff! It isn’t perfect but it’s home and there is room to breathe! When people stop by, I am not afraid to invite them in! There is room for them and their stuff!