Saturday, August 18, 2012

What to do with it all?

Clearing out the excess generally leaves you with piles of stuff. Big piles. Eventually, though, you get tired of the trips up and down the stair to load the bags and boxes in the car for a trip to Goodwill. What to do?

You have a couple of good options:

1) Sell it on Craigslist.

Craigslist can be a great option if you want to get rid of stuff and make a little money at the same time. It's easy and free to post ads, but the downside is you may have to wait a while before you can sell any of it (especially the big stuff, like furniture). Or, worst case scenario, nobody wants to buy it, leading you to question your taste and sanity in purchasing it in the first place.

2) Give it away via Freecycle.

This is my personal favorite route, best used when I'm more interested in gaining space in my home than in recouping some of the money I spent originally. I gave away a bookshelf, two CD books, and a curtain rod and curtains yesterday. Seeing that stuff go out the door with individuals who would use and appreciate them was fabulous.

Another huge bonus with Freecycle is that the stuff is unlikely to wind up in the dumpster -- never a guarantee with donating to Goodwill. In fact, more merchandise ends up in the dumpsters there than on the shelves. This is particularly true of clothing, which is inexpensive and easily obtainable nowadays due to manufacturing. I recommend Freecycle for almost all clothing in good condition (no stains, holes, tears, or other blemish), that way you can guarantee that the clothes end up with someone who needs them and will use them.

Although I've sold a thing or two on Craigslist, my primary concern has been to reclaim the space in my apartment, and Freecycle has allowed me to do that in a timely manner.

What methods do you like to employ when getting rid of unwanted/unused items?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Concerning Collections.

Stop any random person on the street, in the store, or any other place you frequently go, and ask them "Do you collect anything?" Chances are very, very good that the person will say "Yes", and proceed to tell you about their comic/DVD/doll/sports memorabilia/action figure/mug/etc collection or collections. It's very rare to find someone who doesn't collect anything at all.

Collections can be a sneaky, money-eating, dust-catching, space-hogging nightmare. Even worse, once you are no longer enthused about that collection, you keep it because you spent so much money and time obtaining them. It's like you have a sense of obligation to these things because you brought them into your life, and the thought of getting rid of it all ("wasting" the money you spent) makes you feel guilty.

Let me tell you one of my own collection stories.

I once had 60 Barbies, more or less. Sixty! All in boxes, all beautiful, all sitting on shelves... in the closet. They were there because I had no shelves appropriate for displaying them outside of the closet.

One day, I got tired of it. Of spending money on something I rarely even looked at. Of having a closet full of things that I worried about -- will the boxes get damaged? The cellophane windows cracked?

So one-by-one, they left. I sold at least 20 at a yard sale prior to deploying. Two or three months ago I took them, by fours and fives, to Goodwill. Just yesterday I took the last three, and I sold my last special one on Amazon last week (a Lord of the Rings giftset with Barbie as Arwen and Ken as Aragorn).

I no longer have any dolls, and I'm okay with that. More than okay with that, actually. Other people have assumed the responsibility for them. I no longer have to dust them, store them, or worry about them. Many, I'm sure, are being enjoyed by little girls all around my neighborhood.

In the future, I will simply save photos of the ones I love from the Internet. It's free, I can still enjoy them, but they won't have to take up residence in my home.

Do you have a collection that you no longer want? Don't let it tie you down anymore. Gift pieces you know a family member or friend would enjoy. Consider donating it to the Goodwill -- they always want good quality collectibles for their auction cases. Do some research online and see if any of it is worth the cost of listing, packing, and shipping to sell.

Don't let things you no longer want own you.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Comparison Trap

We've all done it. Compared ourselves, our stuff, our lives, to other people, to their stuff and their lives. Usually, we only look at the negative. "So-and-so has a better job, bigger house, newer car, etc, than me."

But how often do we consider the potential cost of that "better life" for that person? They may have sacrificed their relationships for that job, their savings for that house and car, their mental and emotional well-being in an endless pursuit to get "bigger", "better", and "more".

Having more doesn't make you happier. People in the U.S. have been waking up to that realization since the housing crash in 2008 and 2009. We've come to realize that the best things in life aren't things -- they're our families, our friends, our pets, our hobbies, the travels and other life experiences that shape us and our perceptions.

I've been pondering this topic today because that dreaded milestone is coming up in just a couple of months: my 10-year high school reunion. I've been thinking about what I've done, where I've been, how my life has gone in the last ten years. I don't have a fancy big-money job -- just two barely-over-minimum-wage jobs. I don't have a degree from a fancy four-year college. Just an associate's degree from the community college in my hometown. I'm not married -- my longest relationship was only a year and went downhill for quite some time before we finally called it quits.

This wasn't where I thought I'd be ten years ago. I started feeling the dread of seeing my classmates -- those who'd gone the "traditional route" and went to a four-year college, got a degree, maybe went on to graduate courses, got a good job, got married, and now have the nice house in the suburbs with the picket fence and 2.1 kids. Suddenly my own life was lacking by comparison.

But then I thought about what I DO have: life experience. I've been places and done things that most people couldn't imagine. I spent five years in the Army, was stationed 4 places in the US and attended temporary training at 4 other locations. I did a tour in Afghanistan and found joy in the small things -- a phone call home, a stunningly clear view of the stars in the black-out nights on our COP, eating kabob and naan around the smoky brick grill with our Afghan counterparts.

I've struggled, yes, but I've survived and have done so on my own. Though I'm not rich, and maybe scarcely squeaking by more often than I'd like to admit, I'm financially independent and don't owe anyone for school loans. I've learned, through my interactions with others of widely varying backgrounds, that "my way" isn't the only way, or even the best way. I've learned to coexist and admire differences, to look for our similarities, even when there is a language and/or cultural barrier in the way.

Maybe I haven't found "the One", but at least I don't have a failed marriage (or marriages) haunting my past. I'm still optimistic that the right person is out there -- I just have to be patient and live my life, not sit around waiting for that person to appear.

Maybe the grass isn't greener on my classmates' side of the fence. When I look at what I "have", instead of what I "don't have", I'm starting to appreciate just how good the last decade has been. It can only get better from here.

One Small Spot at a Time.

I've noticed that focussing on one spot -- be it a table, a countertop, a section of the floor, a shelf, the sofa, etc -- is a real key to success in reducing my possessions. If I take it all in at once, things become overwhelming, stressful, and I stop before I even get started. I was stuck in that phase for months, maybe even years. Then I found blogs on minimalism and found the infamous quote from "Fight Club" by Chuck Palahnuik:

"The things you own end up owning you."

Oh, boy. That hit me right between the eyes -- because it was true. I no longer owned my possessions, I was owned by them. My time, my money, my mind, my effort, my health, my body -- all of it no longer belonged to me. Instead, the whole kit and caboodle were stamped "Property of Heather's Stuff", and all working unceasingly to maintain and care for all. that. stuff.

At that point, I got sick of it. The clothes in the closet that I never wore. The knick knacks that collected dust on shelves, tables, in cabinets and hidden behind shelves. The books I never had time (or even the desire) to read.

I wanted it gone. But I didn't know where to start. So I started with a tabletop. Then a shelf in the bookcase. Then came the laundry basket. And so on it went.

I'm seeing clear space in my home now -- space not occupied by anything but open air (and occasionally one - or more - of my cats). It's freeing me up to do the things I want to do -- read, call my mom, lavish affection and attention on my cats -- rather than pressure me to do the things I "should" do.

So I'll keep taking it one small spot at a time, and enjoy life that little bit more afterwards.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Floor space

I've discovered the beauty of floor space. Open, clear, uncluttered floor space. Granted, it's just a small spot right now, but that spot will grow.

And grow.

And grow.

It'll be a wondrous thing -- even if my carpet is grungy and gross.

Side note: WHY do apartments have carpet? It gets all stained and never comes clean, but surely springing for hard floors would be cheaper in the long run (no hiring people to come clean the carpet, no replacing the carpet when it gets too worn or stained, etc).

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Subtraction, not addition.

Subtraction is good. Very good. In this case, it's fantastic.

8 - 5 = 3

I started off with 8 bookcases. Seven feet tall, shelves the length of my arm, and still there weren't enough to hold all my books.

Well, not anymore! After doing a bit of shifting around this morning, I can confidently say that I now have 3 bookcases of books. I've taken 5 SHELVES OF BOOKS to the bookstore to trade in -- that's a heck of a lot of books (and a heck of a lot of store credit!).

As I shop my shelves for reading material, rather than go to the bookstore, I know that number will dwindle further. Ideally, I'd like to have two bookshelves, with room to spare.

Time to sell the extra shelves on Craigslist and make a little money back. :)