Thursday, December 30, 2010

There's got to be before and after. My New Year's resolution? Out with the old.

I recently had a sit-down with my professional organizer friend, Deb. You might recall; she gave me all kinds of good information about hoarders. And not unlike being pulled over by a cop and just getting a warning or finding out everything looks good (as good as it can) after a colonoscopy, learning that I wasn't actually a hoarder was somewhat redemptive.

Deb actually shed light on the fact that there are fewer true hoarders than the television show and occasional odd news story would suggest. Most of us fall somewhere along a very succinct clutter continuum.

I learned so much that day with Deb. And even though I was casually interviewing her about what life is like creating order out of chaos, talking shop with Deb definitely compelled me to take a look in the mirror.

Not really.

It actually made me take a look at all the crap I keep and never use, specifically in the prime real estate known as my kitchen drawers.

I have 10 drawers in my kitchen. It's safe to say that well over half of those drawers are affectionately considered junk drawers.

Stuff accumulates. Crap has no distinct place to be put. Life twirls in a fashion that doesn't sometimes afford the opportunity to put things away with precision. And in that spin cycle, junk drawers are born.

But Deb motivated me, not with a pep talk or a shaming lecture. She just told me about her life, her clients, some of her wacky experiences introducing calm in peoples' lives where there once were piles of clutter. Deb's so passionate about what she does. She's loving, non-judgmental, understanding.

That being said, spending time with my old friend made me feel the need to clean. I wanted become less chronically disorganized. I wanted to be able to find a screwdriver or a hammer without using a swear word in the process. I never wanted the passport fiasco to happen again (I won't relive that crazy time, but you can: I want to be able to find my 2009 tax return before I need it.

So I channeled Deb one afternoon. I decided to start this Out With the Old decluttering project by cleaning out a few kitchen drawers. Ready for some before and after pictures?

So. The top drawer in the first photo looked like this. It was filled with spent Starbucks cards, old ishy chap stick, dental floss containers, hair accessories and other stuff that I can't even remember due to their complete inconsequentiality.

Now it looks like this. I still have the bowl of paper clips, nails, thumbtacks and other incidentals, but now this drawer just has fabulous note paper, extra glasses. I'll add the other photos with minimal explanation. Suffice it to say that I threw out a whole lot of stuff I hadn't looked at for years. Keys to cars I no longer own. Pokemon cards. It goes on and on.

Over to the right is what Drawer Numero Dos looked like before.

And now, it looks like this, filled with fabulous cloth napkins, all an arm's length away from the kitchen table.

The third drawer down was like a middle child; appreciated when noticed, but easy to overlook. It used to be filled with this stuff....

And now I honestly don't know what to do with this free space. See what I mean?
Then there's the bottom drawer. It used to be filled with a vast, mangled mess of cords and connectors and wires to equipment I probably don't even have any more. And the dog leashes were the cherries on top of this crap sundae. 

This bottom drawer used to be called the Toy Drawer when the boys were little. They'd toddle over to the drawer, which housed an ever-changing sparkly, magical world of tiny, fun items. It was empowering for them and convenient for me, to have the fall-back Toy Drawer. Eventually it became the cord drawer, when their toys became more electronic and complicated.
There's not much measurable outward change to this bottom drawer, which is now just known as the bottom drawer. Or the leash drawer. 

But none of these four drawers are junk drawers any more. Most of the stuff in these drawers was sentimentally, reverentially tossed. All of this old stuff once had some meaning, held some feeling of necessity. And like a hairy mole on an old man's chin, this collection got bigger year after year. Because one of us thought these things would someday acquire importance or function.

But it's time to say goodbye to the old. Of course the random photos and special treasures I tripped upon while cleaning out these drawers found an appropriate new home.

It was so easy, cleaning out these drawers, breathing new life into old spaces. It only took about an hour. And I owe my new drawers to Deb's refreshing influence.

I don't usually make resolutions. I generally approach resolutions more flippantly than resolutely. 

But I would like to clear the clutter this next year, on so many levels. 

Here's to finding order in chaos, calm among disarray. Equanimity. Let's toast to equanimity. 

Let's also celebrate four fewer junk drawers. 

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