Krissie: Le Sigh

Crap. I’m having trouble uploading photos on this computer and I’m damned if I’m going to spend ages battling with it (I’m in my office this morning on the regular Macbook, whose name is BabyJenny because Mini-Me talked me into buying it over a netbook).
So yesterday was a Fail. But it was an okay Fail, I guess. My BFF has screwed up her back royally, so I thought I’d go over and work there while she did her sewing (we’ve written together with great success in the past). But instead we talked, and I didn’t get much done. And then I got home and for some reason I didn’t get anything done at the house either. I think it’s because it’s so overwhelming. At least I managed the food okay.

I think the food and weight thing is doable because it’s no longer overwhelming. I’ve made solid progress that I can see (and it helps that everyone else can see it now, too). I know what to do, what to avoid (fried foods and Fast Food and sugar and white flour) and what I should wallow in (veggies). I’m solidly on the road there, and I’m starting back swimming in a couple of weeks.

But the house is making me insane. Totally. And I can’t move anything anywhere. There’s no place, and they haven’t brought back the dumpster. I feel absolutely frozen, not knowing where to turn. I have all this stuff I want to sell on eBay and I can’t get started on it, I have an idea where to hang some of the pictures I brought from my mother’s place, but all this other stuff is just lunking around (family term). And I can’t move. I’m going over to Montpelier to buy a hutch I saw in Craigs list (cheap) to put some of the stuff in, except I don’t know where there’s room to put the fucking hutch.

Plus there’s all there’s all this stuff I have to do. I have to drop by Earl Coolbeth and pay him the rest of the money for the headstone. I have to call the Lutheran minister in Princeton to see if he can do my mother’s service. Hmmmm. Maybe it’s not that much stuff after all, though the minister thing is fairly huge.

And I have to write. I have to. Both for my mental health and my finances. And everything always seems to get in the way.

Of course, my son’s still around (though we haven’t seen him much), and things seem to be up and down with Erin, and while I’m doing my best to detach that’s probably making me anxious. In fact, that was probably a lot of my anxiety last week. He’s leaving tomorrow, at least for a while, but then Richie’s sister is arriving and that brings its own set of anxiety, frustration and worry.

I think I’ll just bang my head bloody against a wall.

I don’t know what to deal with first — the house, so I can make a calm place to write, or my writing, so I can afford the time to put into the house.

LOL. now the image worked. Crazy time, I tell you. I need a tv show to come in and move everything out on the lawn, hold the mother of all lawn sales and then take everything else away. (Love that show). But failing that, it’s up to me. And I don’t know where to start.

61 thoughts on “Krissie: Le Sigh

  1. Marcia in OK says:

    Krissie – how was your yesterday a Fail? So, you didn’t do what you started out to do on your list, but you did other great stuff. You visited in a less stress for you environment with your BFF. Time visiting with a loved one is never a waste. And, you can add “getting out more” to your success side.

    And, I totally understand your feeling overwhelmed with all the stuff. My house got that way after my divorce. It was AWFUL. He didn’t take any of his stuff, and I had to pack it all. And, everything I kept seemed like a timebomb everytime I looked at it, or opened a drawer or a closet. Staying in the same house was not my favorite, but it was best for my finances and for my kids.

    Anyway, I started with one room at a time. And, I pretended I was moving. Brought home a bunch of sturdy cardboard boxes, packing tape, and sharpie markers. I labeled the side of each box. Linens, knicknacks X variety – not silver, but antique dishes for example, books, kids toys, pet stuff, etc. And, I would walk by, pick up something, and put it in the right box. Pretty soon, I had a path, then unearthed a sofa buried under clean/folded/stacked laundry (that’d been there so long, my kiddos had outgrown some of them, or the season had changed – UGH!). When a box was full, I taped it shut and put it in the garage.

    I also had a black garbage bag filing system for the amazing amount of paper trash, Goodwill donations, and other donations.

    Eventually, the room was empty except for its furniture. I shampooed the carpets and painted the walls. Then I moved onto another room. Same thing.

    As for the garage. I tackled one box at a time. Chose a type of thing to work on, and after it was boxed up a while, I had a clearer head for Love it, Trash, or donate it. So, I found a home inside for my love it stuff, stored the keep but don’t use now stuff in the storage shed, and made a kazillion trips to Goodwill. Thankfully, my local store has a covered drive up donation section. They wheel out a cart, and unload my car. I get the tax receipt.

    And, I now park my car in the garage. I’ve lived in that house for 17+ years, and the car was NEVER inside until about 9 months ago. WONDERFUL! Feeling.

    Sorry to ramble. Remember, you are not alone, other people need to deal with their own stuff/problems/relastionships. Be kind to yourself. And, Good luck with today.

  2. I spent two thirds of yesterday rearranging and cleaning my office. It’s strange how the universe works. I’d been thinking for a couple of weeks that it had to done and then we had a storm and the power went out and the hidden phone/internet/FIOS box went into battery back up and I knew when that went out it would beep like crazy. I’d blocked it with a bookshelf. So had to move the bookshelf to get to the alarm switch. So then I decided to do everything else.

    Every time I walk into my office, I smile. It’s so clean. And I love the new arrangement. And I so want to be in here typing away. : )

    So I say clean the living room, even if it means putting things in storage containers and sliding them under the bed. Make your space clean and liveable and you’ll feel so happy. And yesterday wasn’t a fail. You were refilling the “friend” well. Sometimes a day off to talk and laugh and do nothing is exactly what we need.

  3. If you have a friend who has done yard sales, beg, plead, and bribe them to help. It’s no fun. And if you have actual stuff to sell on eBay, search eBay first to find something similar and what it sold for and what you are willing to sell it for before you’d rather donate it. Then either put it on eBay or craigslist. Just one box of things at a time, if necessary. Yard sales are tough and take a lot of energy, but if you and Richie and maybe a friend take it on, it will be lots easier. Three seems to be the magical minimum number for making a sale easier. Two is the magical number for doing the sale at all. Just remember: at a yard sale, people will expect to pay very little, so don’t sell anything that you hope to make money off of.

  4. This fail stuff has to be nipped in the bud. One of your goals was to get out and socialize more. And you’re doing that. There is no fail!

    I wish I could come up there and help you tackle the mess. But Crusie has been decluttering and I bet she’ll be great help. Just to give you a plan or a place to start. Marcia’s idea sounds really good. One thing at a time is really the only way to go. Any chance you could call in your nun buddes (from SOM) and have them help you sort?

  5. Jane F says:

    Wow- good job! That sounds like hard work but a good method. It also seems like a process that might help break things down to bird by bird or box by box.

  6. Jane F says:

    As to the nun buddies, I think it could be a good idea. I know I would find it difficult to ask new friends to help me sort (but I get a fair amount of social anxiety).

    This idea may be for a later stage but what if you invited people over to help you with a particular task like the tarn-x throw down with mini-you? Kind of like old fashioned quilting parties.

  7. Kieran says:

    If you’re not counting on the money you’ll get from eBay, forget selling stuff on eBay yourself. It’s its own little job. You’ll never get to writing. Either bring all of it to an eBay store (they’re everywhere these days, at least down here) and be content with getting only a bit of the profit, or get it out of the house NOW and take a huge tax deduction–in other words, haul that stuff to GoodWill. I’ve brought thousands of dollars of stuff to GoodWill. But it would have taken a long time for me to make that money back, and my time is more valuably spent writing.

    When you figure out how much each page you write is worth to your income, you’ll start being ruthless about not caring whether you make money off the stuff sitting in your house. I say to myself, “Well, if I don’t write 5 pages, there goes X amount of dollars down the drain.” You can bet that gets me to my laptop!!!

    Every bit of time you waste on this overstuffed house situation–even if you’re keeping those assets to sell later–is draining your bank account in another way. You’re not writing pages when you’re frozen.

    A hutch to preserve those valuables is NOT what you need when you can’t move around your house already, is it? You need to fill your house with PAGES. *That’s* where your money will come, in my opinion.


  8. romney says:

    My personal advice is get rid of stuff before you acquire anything else – and that includes that hutch. Storage devices are clutter too. Its tempting to channel acquisitive impulses into another direction rather than tackling the real problem. I no longer go to Ikea to solve my clutter problems – it just adds to them!

  9. Dayna says:

    No fail at all in my opinion. You’ve had a lot, A LOT, on your plate since you started this blog and I know that the majority of the stuff you’re dealing with are things you’ve been dealing with for years. So you sat and chatted with your BFF. You did that because that’s what you were supposed to do at that time in that place. I think John Lennon said Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.

    As far as the house goes, take some of the massive amounts of creative energy you have and put it to work in your place. I think Marcia in OK’s way of clearing stuff sounds great and I know it works because I did that last week in my bedroom. I’ve been channeling my creative energy into making my home a place I want to be. It’s changed the feeling of cleaning and organizing my house from a massive overwhelming pain in the ass to something I want to do because I can see the end result in my mind. Calm, clear, serene, a place where I feel comfortable. I’ve found as I get rid of stuff, I’m able to set the energy in my home to a place where I like to be and it also helps me keep the energy where I like it when someone who sees the negative side of things comes in. As a matter of fact, I find that negative people have a lot less permission to run their crap through my house when I own the space. That, in itself, is worth the work.

    You can do this. As that Australian decluttering guy on TV says, if it doesn’t have pride of place, what are you keeping it for?

  10. romney says:

    I totally agree. Your time is worth more than the effort it would take to put stuff on ebay. Even the evaluation of whether it is worth putting stuff on ebay takes time and is such a mental drain. Much easier, more effective and probably more profitable (if it frees you up to write) to just dispose of stuff. 3 boxes – keep, chuck, charity shop. And then you can feel good about giving to charity. Thats what I do, unless its something stupidly valuable. (and realistically, I usually just keep that stuff forever, not get round to selling it).

  11. AuntieJB says:

    When I feel overwhelmed by my stuff I ruthlessly purge.

    This means boxing it up and hauling it to Goodwill. As Kieran said, selling stuff on eBay is “its own little job” If you want to try to capture the money from the “stuff” bring it to one of those eBay storefronts that sell it for you.

    Sometimes I find that the stuff overwhelms me so much that I need to simply get it out of my spaces and out of my mind.

    This actually works well because when I’m in that frame of mind I seem to be more honest with myself about what I really need and want. And I don’t miss the stuff I get rid of. Ever.

    I still have too much stuff – and lots of things in my “Sell on eBay” pile. I need to take my own advice and get myself to the eBay store.

    Finally – take advantage of your friends – they love you and will be more than happy to help you clear the stuff.

    I promise.

  12. Office Wench Cherry says:

    I can’t help you with your son or your writing or call the minister for you but I can give you an idea about where to pick where to start with the cleaning.

    Since you need to write, maybe set a timer for 15 minutes for the cleaning but before you do that, gather up what you need for cleaning (garbage bag, rag for dusting, whatever) and go to your living room. Close you eyes, and hold up your arm like you’re pointing at something and turn in a circle. While you’re doing that, count to five and when you get to five open your eyes. You should be pointing at something. And it’s something specific, not just the west side of your living room. Maybe it’s the couch, maybe it’s a stack of books or fabric but you’ll know what it is as soon as you open your eyes.

    Deal with that one thing for 15 minutes. Even if whatever you need to clean is to big to finish in 15 minutes at least you’ve started and you can come back to that one thing in a couple hours and work for another 15 minutes. It sounds silly but I know it works because I’ve done it. If it’s a flat surface, maybe you have to ask Richie not to put anything on it and to remind you not to mess it up again either.

    I grew up in a tiny, cluttered, messy house and it seemed at times I was the only one concerned about it. One trick I used when we moved and I had a million things to deal with was to stand in front of something, hold my arms out to the side and deal only with was fell into my literal grasp. If I couldn’t reach it, I didn’t care about it.

    Another thing you can do is grab a plastic bin and starting at the doorway, put everything that you can carry that doesn’t belong in that room in the bin. Then go unload your bin and go back and do it all again for 15 minutes.

    I find that 15 minutes is just about the right length of time for some of these things, especially for me since I’m a crow and get easily distracted. For example, I’m supposed to be working now. LOL. I will be doing one thing and then see some shiny new mess and want to go clean that because I must CLEAN ALL THE THINGS!!! (Thank you Hyperbole and a Half)

  13. Lynn says:

    Ditto the cardboard box idea. I get cardboard boxes, packing tape, and index cards. Contents of the box itemized on the card in detail, tape box shut, tape card to side (so it’s visible when the boxes are stacked atop one another), on to the next box. Clutter in boxes is much easier to stack, and then each box can be dealt with once there’s space for it.

    If the clutter is so overwhelming that you can’t write, I’d consider doing a realistic assessment of how much money you lose by not writing vs. how much money it costs to hire someone to help organize. Even one clean room would be helpful, surely, and might be manageable with some help.

    Good luck!

  14. German Chocolate Betty says:

    I agree with Kieran. I too tend to think, oh, well, I could get some money for this. BUT!!!! (And it’s a big “but”…!) look at it this way: everything you want to sell on eBay must be researched, photographed, described, then even if you get a decent price (which you don’t always), you have to pack it up, bring it to the post office (or call for UPS or whatever — or be available for pickup), then deal with possible returns, etc. To sell something for 20 bucks, you invest what, 2 or 3 hours? You’re lucky to come out with minimum wage at the end.

    (Maybe REALLY big ticket items would earn you a bit more, but there’s no guarantee. Sometimes things just don’t sell at all and you have to start over!)

    I mean, look at that list of the stuff you’ve got to do!!! Gaaaaack!! I get depressed just thinking about it. This is enough to drop me in my tracks — and in fact it did. I just donated stuff, because I really, really couldn’t emotionally cope with the hassle.

    If the stuff is OUT of your house NOW, you will feel better.

    Figure that your “profit” is the money you will save on therapy and other stuff trying to rescue your sanity.

    Remember: “profit” is not always measured in money, sometimes it’s measured in QUALITY OF LIFE!!!

  15. You are totally not a fail – ever. I understand clutter-related anxiety. The 15 minute rule is a good idea but I find finding a place to start can be really hard. So I don’t even bother.

    Having someone to help you sounds like a good approach – another person will have less of an emotional commitment to your stuff and may not find the task as overwhelming. I know your BFF is laid up, but maybe there is someone else who could help out? People often like to feel useful. Maybe trade lunch for a couple of hours of advice/assistance?

  16. Cindy says:

    I live in Southern California too. I think you’ve mentioned you are in Palm Springs, I’m in Riverside County, and we’ve been getting daily thunderstorms. My poor dogs are going insane. I’ve only lost power once, but I didn’t get anything accomplished. Good for you!

  17. German Chocolate Betty says:

    Yes, I was going to suggest hiring someone too. A professional declutterer will know all the best tricks, and, I suspect, keep you honest!

    (Good luck. Don’t envy you the job!)

  18. Cindy says:

    I agree with the comments above.

    1) You never fail. You blow me away with every post. I can’t believe how much you get done.

    2) Yard sales and eBay are way too much work… Maybe a yard sale is doable, but eBay is WAY too much work.

    3) Get somebody to help you organize, and donate, donate, donate. It benefits others. Plus you get a tax writeoff.

    4) Work on 1 room at a time.

    And don’t be so hard on yourself. I wish I had your willpower.

  19. A friend of mine recently hired one and it was like a miracle. She and her husband did most of the work but he was there with them and the momentum carried to when he wasn’t there. It’s like a giant weight was lifted from her shoulders.

  20. JenniferNennifer says:

    What they all said, plus:

    Write first. I have been reading your posts for 8 months and 10 days, and I can report back to you that days you write always go better.

  21. Barbara Cameron says:

    First, I want to say that my getting to this blog means that I got the advantage of some great advice earlier (especially Kiernan, German Chocolate Betty, Auntie JB, Office Wench Cherry,and Cindy…wow). I have my own idea but don’t skip ahead…

    My mother was a hoarder — she’s still alive but they don’t let her do it at her nursing home. There was a woman who took advantage of her and cleaned out some valuables or maybe I’d have the problem you do now of disposing of some of your mother’s nice things. But I had to bring enough of Mom’s stuff here and store it in the garage to get into the same problem you’re having. And the same thing happened with the feeling of being overwhelmed.

    One of the things I noticed with the hoarding shows is that the people get bogged down with the memories or value of what they have. Yet when they get past this and get their space back they are like different people. Do as others suggest about doing a little each day and not trying to box yourself in by doing eBay sales, etc. Your freed up space, renewed energy by being free of it, and your renewed tiem for writing/improved income will be awesome for you. And since Vermont winters are so bad, you need to get this stuff moving now or you’ll really feel trapped when cold weather hits. No one needs to be trying to carry stuff to the car and slip and break a bone.

    ** Try this little trick that has worked for me and for others: flip your calendar forward to a date that, if things haven’t changed dramatically in terms of clutter, you just don’t think you could stand it. Mark it down. Usually the problem is solved well before then, but if it’s not, then on that date you have to try a radical — very radical — different approach to purge. Trust me. It works!

  22. Excuse the language, but you might find this site useful:

    I found it a couple weeks ago and I can’t say as it’s changed my life yet. But I feel myself drifting in the right direction, which is something. It is very focused on the fact that all jobs are small when broken into appropriate bits. It offers challenges like “pick one drawer and clean it out,” reminders, other stories, motivational tips and even cleaning tips.

    A big part of their methodology is “20/10s”, which is basically work for twenty minutes, take a break for ten. It seems to me as if you’ve been doing a lot of that this year, but the reminders might help you stay focused on the one step at a time process instead of the overwhelming nature of the mess. Note that I’m saying this as a person whose sink is full of dirty dishes, laundry baskets overflowing, dirt and dog hair in every corner of every room, etc. But yesterday I had probably 150 books piled up in stacks around my bedroom and today I’m down to a couple dozen and the entire counter top in my bathroom is clean and organized. Okay, the tub’s dirty, the mirror’s a mess and the floor…let’s not go there. But small steps… and vinegar, she recommends vinegar a lot.

  23. Hi Cindy, yep it has been unusual weather here in the desert. We also had a wind storm (which means sand storm)along with the rain. So yeah, icky clean up. Will have to do the windows. Again.

  24. Tricia Halliday says:

    Put everything that you are getting rid of, selling, etc in one room. Shut the door. It is not a long term plan but in the short term it might help.

  25. What Tricia said. Do you have a room you can just shove everything into for now? Then maybe after the current book is done and you’ve had some distance from it, tackle it little by little.

  26. Dayna says:

    Love the title of that site. since I have the mouth of a longshoreman, it appeals to my sense of humor. The short time thing, 15 – 20 minutes, is great. A lot of times is just takes that 15 minute breakthrough to get started. When I start looking around and thinking I’ve got to do this and that, instead of thinking about it, I just start doing it. Even if it’s just a tiny little pile, well that’s one tiny little pile I don’t have to look anymore. It works and trust me, when it comes to me cleaning or laying around, laying around wins hands down. 🙂

  27. I want to add a couple of things to this.

    1) With as much as you do every day, make sure you itemize every single thing you put in the boxes. Trust me, when you get back to that box you’ll never remember exactly what was in it. And if you suddenly need something, a quick scan will tell you if it is in a box without you having to search through each and every box. (Says the person who ‘packed’ the important papers -daughter’s birth certificate. Which should have been in the safe deposit box at the bank.)

    2) One of the easiest ways for me is to take clear packing tape and tape 2 strips across the end of the box. Then put masking tape on top of that and write on it. As things get re-packed or the box emptied, you just peel off the masking tape and put on new. I like to reuse rather than pitch and there is just so much writing and crossing out a box can take before it scrambles -your- brain.

    3) I don’t know if you have a place to put the boxes as you go, but I don’t. So since even my garage is cluttered, I’ve had to pick a corner and clear it out and that is where the boxes get stacked. Then you have floor and furniture space.

    4) The biggest problem you will have is keeping what you have cleaned clear. It is so easy to start dumping things back in the clear spot because it is clear. I’ve had a running fight with my family over this because I refuse to move on until what was cleaned gets cleaned back up. Otherwise we’re just moving the junk around and it took me years to realize why I just couldn’t get ahead.

    5) I’m in the process of reclaiming my own house, so many, many FGBV’s to you. Make sure you take time to do stuff for you (WRITE) or you will get totally frozen and the depression is going to kick in. {{{HUGS}}}

    Now I need to follow my own assvice and clear off an end table that is recluttered and this kitchen table I barely have room to sit down at!

  28. AuntieJB says:

    Unfortunately the “shut the door” philosophy didn’t work for me. The room got really full and I couldn’t use it (it was the room with the cat’s litterbox and he needed to get to it!) So I called my BFF and she helped me purge the room. I no longer shove everything into one room. I try to deal with it as it comes… but that’s tough.

  29. why do you think yesterday was a fail? because the to do list that you had in your head didn’t happen? you go to a therapist, don’t you? i know i don’t know you, or your situation, so please forgive if i trespass, but my understanding is that you’ve BEEN seeing this therapist for a while. and yet, you are still very hard on yourself and don’t appear to be making progress on that. so the question becomes, are you not confiding in the therapist? or is your therapist not helping you?

    frankly, from the pictures you’ve shown of your house, you ARE overwhelmed. and very close to hoarding. and your therapist should definitely be helping you with that too because if you didn’t have some mental thing going on with all that stuff, it would be gone by now.

    i guess where i’m going with this is that you need help, and i don’t think the person that you are paying to do so is performing in a way you need. please consider getting professional help with the house. you are stuck in a vicious cycle (which allie at “hyperbole and a half” chronicled beautifully – and hysterically – at some point). you make to do lists that are vastly too ambitious, then you fail. then you hate yourself for failing, which falls into a death spiral of “i can’t do anything right” and then you are too overwhelmed by it all to do anything. lather, rinse, and repeat.

    we can comment about how it wasn’t a fail until our fingers fall off. if you, krissie, don’t believe it (and clearly you don’t), it doesn’t matter. please get yourself help with this.

  30. Kieran says:

    One more thing, not to get harsh: reading about how much stuff we have and about how we’ve developed really cool systems involving storage boxes and lists to keep track of that stuff–we even have TV shows and blogs about organizing our stuff–makes me feel that in this country, we have too *much* damned stuff. We’re effing prisoners of our stuff. It’s ridiculous how much stuff we have, and its suffocating us!!!

    Get rid of the stuff!!! That’s my new motto.

  31. Lee says:

    Habitat for Humanity, Goodwill, and the local bookstore-to-fund-literacy-efforts are my current storage devices of choice. Maybe the local school is conducting a coats-for-kids drive this fall, or would like magazines to cut up in Art class? Or maybe some local nursing homes would like them? Think creatively and I’m sure that even in your small town and its environs you can find someone to take stuff off your hands. We used to donate adult and children’s clothing, toys, bedding, etc. to the local homeless and battered-women’s shelters and it was always gratefully received.

    And it sounds like you need to call in favors – people to help you sort, people to pack it up and haul it away so you don’t weaken and try to reclaim some of it, and people to distract you while it’s headiin’ on down the road …

    Kieran makes an excellent point. The value of your time is twofold – what you get paid for writing, and what you lose by not writing. Ebay sounds like a great deal, but I know several people who work long and hard at it, and at best it’s providing spending money rather than paying their bills. Wouldn’t you rather be spending your time doing what makes you happy – writing – rather than struggling with stuff you’d rather be done with, and that may never sell no matter how you price it? Then you’ve lost the price you paid to post it, and all that time waiting for it to sell, and still have to junk it!

  32. No wonder your Frozen, much of the stuff belonged to you Mum and there’s probably still stuff that you DS left behind. All these things have an emotional attachment, but you know need them to keep your memories alive. They’re just things…stuff. As others have said, get help. They’ll probably come in with a truck and take the lot to Good Will where others will get good use out of them.

    My contribution to cleaning was to attack the refrigerator. I took everything out that looked suspicious or out of date. It surprises me how long stuff lasts, mayonnaise from last summer for example…I know it’s appalling, we’re heading for summer again. But like ketchup these things were made to last thousands of years.
    I washed down all the shelves and runners and the fridge is sparkling. DH is finally getting ruthless and has chucked his computer magazines, next are all the books…it’s a long process.

  33. oneoftheotherjennifers says:

    Yes. My new minimum sale price on ebay is $100. If I’m not getting $100 for it (as established by the COMPLETED LISTINGS prices, not the selling for (dreaming of) prices) then it’s going to charity. My old minimum list price used to be $30. I figured out that after fees, mailing supplies, etc., I was making $4 an hour.

    My experience with yard sales: don’t sell anything you wouldn’t be happy just to give to a good home. The $1 you’re going to get for it is nothing. It’s a disposal method, not a money maker. It’s better just to write it off on your taxes if it’s the financial aspects you’re interested in.

  34. C.G. Morrison says:

    Flylady or something like her. The fifteen minute stuff does work.

    I start at the doorway and work my way around. Other methods might work for you. Do just a little bit at a time. Then stop, and write. Go back to it when you take a break from writing. Have a coffee or whatever, play a computer game, do fifteen minutes of tidying and then back to the writing. It’s your job. It’s okay to make it a priority. And it’s also okay to take time for you. That’s part of why you started this blog.

    If something is valuable, take it to a dealer, list it on Craigslist and insist on cash and pick up, or find a friend or family member who would love it. I know you have very few close family other than your kids, but cousins, nieces/nephews, children, etc, might like mementos too. If you’re going to keep it, use it, and maybe get rid of something else (although I have to admit, I have some stuff I love that I don’t know how/when I’m going to use.)If it’s only sort of valuable, then donate, as others have said, and get the tax benefit. I’m not sure tag sales are the way to earn big bucks, quite frankly, and why do it for little bucks.

    It’s going to take a while to get all of this done. That’s okay. Getting professional help is good. If unaffordable, get friendly help.


    You’re doing the best you can. Some days that’s better than others. That’s okay.

    Re: the kids. You do have to let go. My son is currently jobless and living with a friend, and we’re giving him gas money and what we can, but he knows he needs to get over the anxiety and just keep applying for jobs until he finds one. (Ask me how I know about the stuff below.)He’ll always be our child, and we help him as much as we can, but he needs to be independent and he knows it. He’s working with professionals to get there.

    BTW, are your kids working with voc-rehab, because they probably qualify, and that could help with the bills for your daughter’s/son’s schools as well? If your daughter had a breakdown, and still isn’t functional, there should be other stuff going on to assist her. She should not be taking tons of loans to pay for school. And she may qualify for SSI. Regardless, there are professional people who can help her especially, and possibly your son as well. You can’t fix the relationships and that’s okay. But you might want to steer them into looking for other kinds of help, both personally and job-wise. Their calls.

  35. I’ve been using a professional organizer since early this year. We are down to the last place: my walk-in closet. For a small apartment, it’s a big closet. This woman has been a lifesaver. When we are done for the day (and we only work in 3-hour increments), she takes EVERYTHING that I didn’t want to keep. The trash goes in the trash, she takes the recycling to the recycling site, and she takes the rest to Goodwill and sends me a receipt and a list of everything in the load. The only thing I don’t know is what to price things at to estimate my charitable giving. There’s probably a web site …. But this way,it doesn’t hang around and I don’t have to do the work of getting rid of stuff (and I’m usually wiped out afterward anyway).

    There will undoubtedly be other stuff to get rid of after she and I are done (I’m using her just this last time, then it will be up to me to keep the place as uncluttered as I can, to unclutter some of the small corners or piles of stuff, and to implement her suggestions and plans as I can (I have been only semi-successful, but I have hopes).

    But this place looks so much different than it did at the beginning of the year. I added a chest of drawers and a small bookcase to my bedroom for folded clothes and overflow books and it made a huge difference to both my bedroom and my living room.

    I highly recommend a pro, even if it’s just for one session with the worst area of your home. Then get a couple of friends, or just Richie and you, and do the same thing with the rest of the stuff as she showed you how to do.

  36. Micki says:

    This is great . . . I know it sounds like a hassle to label everything in your keeper boxes, but if you don’t think it’s important to spend 10 seconds labeling it, maybe it’s not important enough to keep.

    I really need to declutter my kitchen . . . I’ve got shelves with some useful things on them, but I can’t reach the stuff. Also, I need to organize my cans (I love cans). I think I am allowed cans, just I have to impose a limit (I’m thinking 12 are more than enough empty cans.)

  37. Micki says:

    Another plus thing about this write-a-lot, clean-a-little method: our bodies need to move every hour or so. So, getting up to clean for 15 minutes (or 10 minutes or even just 5) helps get the circulation moving again.

    What can you do in five minutes? Well, time yourself sometime. It’s really enlightening. In five minutes, I can start a pot of tea, empty the dishwasher, get out a cup and tea bag, and stick a piece of toast in the toaster oven. If I have ten minutes, I can have toast, a fried egg and cheese and a piece of fruit or some tomatoes laid out next to my plate as well.

    Or, in five minutes, I can have the living room floor vacuumed, and the vacuum put away. (Can’t “cheat” and do the hallway and stuff while I’m up, though — that’d take more minutes.)

    Fifteen minutes every day adds up to almost two hours by the end of the week. That’s seven hours by the end of the month, which is practically a full day of house-cleaning . . . .

    Everyone has such great advice here. (-: If I were home, I’d go clean something for five minutes!

  38. Micki says:

    I was skeptical because I already know all about Flylady; I thought, why do I need Flylady with potty mouth? BUT, UFYH has wonderful gifs!!!! That’s going to be motivational, if I only treat myself to the gifs after I do my daily cleaning. So glad you shared this.

  39. My boss’s husband died in April. She moved into a beautiful, spacious condo last month. She has the opposite problem of too much clutter right now. She doesn’t know what to do to unpack and organize her things into the space. She’s hired a professional organizer who is going to come, assess, and help her make proper use of her space so that she doesn’t just start unpacking and make everything hopelessly cluttered.

    If she likes this woman, I’m going to hire her to finally, finally help me unclutter the room that is supposed to be my office. If I can finally accomplish the uncluttering of that room, I will be ecstatic. The rest of my house is fine.

    Then, with that room uncluttered, I will bring one box or plastic tub out of my storage unit. I know there are things in those tubs that I want to display here at the house. There are also many things that I thought I would want when we packed up Mom’s house prior to sale that I probably do not need or no longer want.

    One box at a time and anything is doable.

  40. Flylady didn’t work for me at all. It was demotivational, if anything, because I’d look at all the things I could be doing and should be doing and just…not do it. I think with Flylady I had a feeling that it was trying to teach me how to be a better person, cleaner and more organized and useful and industrious, and I guess I didn’t respond well to that. UFYH has more of a flavor of “yes, you’re lazy and overwhelmed and aren’t we all, but your life could be a little more comfortable if you spent ten minutes on x today and I’ll cheer you on for every small step you take.” Maybe it’s the gifs that make it feel supportive instead of stressful!

  41. julianna says:

    Is Richie helping you declutter, or are you doing that thing where you take on all responsibility yourself to avoid upsetting him? Because even though a lot of it is your family stuff, there is still plenty he could do to help. He can get rid of the piano. He can find an ebay business or consignment store to sell off valuables for you (he can find the store, pack up the stuff, and drive it there. And if the nearest store’s too far away and it would cost too much in gas to make it worthwhile, then maybe it’s not worth selling it anyway). He can bring stuff to Goodwill. After his sister’s gone, he can bring some stuff to store at the Big House (but only as a temporary spot to give you room for sorting, not as a permanent solution). He can take pictures of sentimental items so that you can have the pictures, and not have to hang onto the items. He can talk to Mini-Me, your kids, and any other relatives to see if there are items they want. He can research professional organizers and find their rates so you guys can make an informed decision on whether to hire one (money well spent!), for how long, and at what stage in the process (maybe a few hours at the beginning, then again in a couple weeks?).

    Also, all the advice about fifteen minutes at a time is great and I totally agree that it usually works really well. But maybe it’s time for the full-out kamikaze approach. Get a bunch of heavy-duty garbage bags, toss in everything you see that you can bear to part with, have Richie load each into the car as soon as it’s full. Then once he’s got a carload, he drives it to Goodwill while you keep filling more bags. Once you get on a roll, you might be surprised at how much you get done. The last run of the day, you can ride with him and you guys can have a date as your reward for a hard day’s work. Obviously, that isn’t a long-term sustainable approach. But one day’s work, working so fast that you don’t have time to dwell or obsess, can get so much done that you see a visible difference. With a big chunk done, it is easier to function both physically (more space to maneuver) and mentally (sense of accomplishment and momentum, so you can focus on writing and go back to 15-20 minute decluttering breaks).

    Best of luck! (And seriously, seriously consider hiring a pro organizer. I know money’s super-tight, but dealing with this yourself is having a negative effect on your income-producing writing.)

  42. Reb says:

    A few thoughts that I don’t think all the wonderful comments above have covered:

    * Go write in the log cabin. If the weather’s borderline, put a heater on. It’s a peaceful place that’s away from all the clutter and stress. Use it.

    * Does your area have professional auctioneers who deal with estate sales? Here, if you’ve got enough stuff to get rid of, you can get an auctioneer to come out, assess the stuff, pack it up, take it away, and sell it for a commission. You’d have to make sure they only took stuff you wanted rid of, but it’s a lot easier than a yard sale and probably as profitable. They’ll deal well with valuables as well as cheap stuff.

    * I agree that it sounds like you’re tackling different stuff here than with your therapist. Does your therapist read refab? If not, maybe you should show it to her.

    Good luck!

  43. That wasn’t a ramble, that was a wonderfully encouraging way to handle things. I need to focus on one room and really hunker down. I’d feel a lot better if one room was clear.

  44. I’ve sold bunches of stuff on eBay in the past, so I know the drill. It can be a time sink if you’re not focused, but if you can figure it out and get it together it’s actually fun. I’m not planning on selling a whole lot of stuff at this point — just the figurines and some magazines to begin with. And I’ve already done tons of research on the figurines.

  45. Office Wench Cherry says:

    I do the five minute thing too, it’s amazing what you can accomplish. I tend to do it in the morning when I should be getting ready for work. We tend to think of cleaning as an all or nothing activity but a few minutes a day really make a difference. Kind of like exercise.

  46. Kate Ramos says:

    Ok so I can see your problem cause I had the same one. Stop trying to sell stuff. I do that too. I think this is worth money, why not try ebay or craigslist. The thing is, its too much work and way too slow and uncertain. Give it up and dump everything – and i mean everything – at goodwill. Heck get a uhaul and bribe your son to fill it and take it to goodwill. and then it will be OVER! And tax deductible. Remember haven’t used it in the last six months you don’t need it! Seriously, Uhaul and goodwill. I know you need money but it isn’t worth it. You will be able to make real money because then you will be able to write. Isn’t that worth more?

  47. is the piano functional? if so, a dance school may want it for live classes. or find someone who teaches piano, and ask if they know someone that can use it – free if they pick it up. it may be easier to part with if you know it’s going to a good home.

  48. Mariana Chaffee says:

    these are all good suggestions — here’s mine: tiny, tiny projects. One shelf. One corner. Descrete accomplishments, leading to accumulated satisfaction. That old idea, Baby Steps. Good luck.

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