Category Archives: Getting organized

Living out of a few boxes ain’t so easy.

All my stuff is in a storage unit except for: 2 suitcases, 2 boxes of files and office stuff, a box of random kitchen & bathroom stuff and a box of books. Oh, and the laptop on which I write.

Since I’m house-sitting for two different friends till mid-February I don’t have to worry about a bed, a refrigerator and the other necessities of civilized life.

But already I’ve had to trowel into the bowels of my storage unit, seeking this or that particular thing that I suddenly need and I KNOW IS IN THERE SOMEWHERE. But damned if I know in what box it lurks.

You see, in the throes of moving you simply can’t label every single thing that goes into each box. Where is the lined cutting mat I need in the design class? The sketch pad ? I must have a gazillion partially used pads tucked away — did I pack them with office stuff, art stuff, sewing stuff, random stuff?

And where is the white blouse my volunteer usher gig requires?

A friend suggests that every time I open a box and don’t find the thing I’m seeking, I write on the box for next time: “sketch pads not in here…” “no white blouse inside”.

I eventually found the white blouse, but I ended up buying yet another sketch pad.

Sandra Tsing Loh may enjoy living peripatetically, but it’s wearing thin for me.

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Filed under Baby steps, Downsizing, Envisioning a simpler life, Getting organized, Storage

Thank god for ex-husbands who are still friends

My ex has been feeling more anxious about my move than I am, so to calm himself he offered to help oversee yesterday’s Big Move. Stuffing my Stuff into Storage. Squeezing Drusilla’s foot into Cinderella’s tiny glass slipper.

My storage place offers a 16’ truck for such occasions ($20), and my plan was to pick it up at noon so the two strong lads I hired at $25 an hour would be ready to boogie after their morning final exams.

The truck was so huge (to me) and the s-curve of my driveway so challenging that I was grateful Martin could handle it instead. I’d have taken out the mailbox, the rock wall, and at least one fender.

I figured I needed a 10’x20’ space but only a 7×10 and a 10×10 were open, so I took them, negotiating the price down from $173 to $98 for the first six months. (It pays to haggle in the storage bidness…).

Mart decided to put the boxes in the smaller one and the furniture in the bigger one.

The first run was a truckful of boxes. Me taping and labeling straggler boxes as fast as they hauled them off. Carefully noting on top and sides the most significant box contents.  They stuffed that unit to the rafters.

Then came the furniture. I had gotten rid of most of the big stuff, or so I thought. But I forgot about all the chairs and tables. 8 dining chairs, 2 office chairs, 2 living room chairs. A dining table, several side tables, etc. none of which fold well. Mart wove the pieces together into an intricate web of legs – again to the rafters.

Oops! we forgot the oak commode in the guest bathroom.  And what about these lamps? Do the garden tools in the garage go?

It was all done well after dark.  Oh, and it was 18 degrees out. At least it was dry!

Then after the very last few boxes were placed I discovered that the lads hadn’t even noticed my labeling… most of the boxes were placed LABEL SIDE IN.

No way am I going to be going to the storage place hoping to pull out just this one box or that chair. It’s gonna be all or nothing when I need something. Like when I move into my next place, wherever/whenever that’s going to be.

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Filed under 101 Reasons to Downsize, Downsizing, Furniture, Getting organized, Storage

Friends: indispensable during a move

Even my cat, Bama, wants to help.

Over the past week I’ve also had major packing and cleaning help from Chris, Patty, Skip and Sue. Down and dirty help, especially from Chris. She and I have cooked a half dozen charity dinners in my kitchen, so she knows her way around my house, and we work really well together.

I can’t imagine tackling a job of this size alone. Friends are indispensible. A friend:

  • sees your stuff objectively and isn’t emotionally attached to it,
  • talks you through challenging decisions,
  • helps you stay on task,
  • keeps you from getting discouraged,
  • makes the work much less painful

And I believe they take perverse pleasure in being able to deal cavalierly with Stuff that’s not their own. A thousand hugs to all of you.

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Filed under Attachment - Vairagya, Downsizing, Emotional issues, Getting organized, Inspiration & encouragement

How am I doing?

People who know how much I love this house ask me how I’m holding up under the impending sale and move (of my stuff) into a storage unit.

Surprisingly, astonishingly even, FINE. I’ve been too busy to get emotional – or something like that. It’s been a process that I’ve thought about for a few years and began actively working on this summer. At this point the edge has softened and it’s just WORK.

The endlessness of the work and the logistical organizing of what needs to be done when is the most stressful. I am not good in the logistics department, so I’ve been fortunate to have friends and family members talk me down and through some mental tangles.

Once you start getting rid of stuff, and once you realize how little other people value your stuff when you try to sell it, it begins to lose value in your own eyes. It becomes, well, STUFF.

After my mini-sabbatical in California after the house closes on 12/11 I’ll be back in town, staying with dear friends, taking my time to figure out what’s next.

What’s clear is that my friends and family are my greatest treasures. All else is just STUFF.

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Filed under Attachment - Vairagya, Downsizing, Emotional issues, Envisioning a simpler life, Getting organized, Inspiration & encouragement, Priorities, Selling stuff, Spiritual lessons

My daughter, my angel

I don’t know how anyone downsizes out of the big family home alone. The job is immense and takes five times longer than you could possibly imagine.

My daughter has been here for four days – left her usual job as Household Administrator and Sanitation Engineer in Oakland, California so she could perform a ramped-up version of the same duties with me in Vancouver, Washington.

I kiss the ground on which she walks.

Together we have sorted, tossed and packed unbelievable amounts of stuff.  Evidently my belongings were stored under pressure, because when a cabinet door is opened, its contents explode into a heap fifty times the size of the cabinet dimensions. Kind of like one of those paper-thin sponges when you add water.

I have this thing about like being packed with like. Kitchen pots with kitchen pots. Sweaters with sweaters. Tstchotchkes with tstchotckes. This makes packing a challenge, especially for volunteer help who just want to get the stuff stuffed.

My daughter notes, correctly, that when you pack really heavy kitchen pots you need something light and fluffy to cushion and fill the box so it is still carryable. So I have pots and sweaters in a box, tstchotckes and towels in a box, books and undies in a box.

You get the idea. Like with unlike. The boxes are labeled, but not so specifically that I could actually find the blue sweater without searching through all the boxes in which sweaters may be the only cushioning material.

Boxes are now piled in every room. Goodwill is better off too. I sure hope I have sufficient storage space!

Despite all this concerted effort, when Heather leaves tonight I’ll still have days of work ahead.

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Filed under 101 Reasons to Downsize, Downsizing, Family issues, Getting organized, Storage

Youth employment opportunity!

Young helpers

Young helpers

As I prepare my house for selling, there is altogether too much that needs doing which I don’t have time to do.

And let’s be honest, I also don’t want to FIND the time to do these tasks, because who wants to demoss the roof, wash windows, or pressure wash the sidewalks? Not me.

There are scads of companies out there (see Angie’s List, Craigslist, or the Yellow Pages) who do these tasks for a healthy fee. But I’d rather pay an eager unemployed young person with the unsullied energy that accumulates during the long jobless days of summer.

So I found one of Obama’s campaign former campaign organizers who is currently helping out in the local mayoral race part time, but still needs to eat.  It just so happens his parents have a pressure washer and a hedge trimmer, so the equipment is covered. I’ve got the window washing supplies, the rake, and the lawn mower.

For $12 an hour miracles are happening around here and Eric and I are both happy campers. My grandsons idolize him and want to help too.

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Filed under Baby steps, Getting organized, Resources

Stuff: never mind the quality; feel the width…

tailor_measuring_2“Never mind the quality; feel the width…”  a catch phrase popularized on a “60s British comedy show about two Jewish tailors always trying to palm off cheap materials on their customers.

I was going to do a spreadsheet inventory of everything I own,  marking a “K” by each thing I planned to Keep and an “X” by everything I wanted to get rid of.  The reward would be in seeing progress as X’d things were deleted.

But after inventorying two minor rooms (entry hall and guest bath)  I realized the process could go on till the Second Coming — and if everyone was raptured except unbeliever me , nobody would be left on earth to buy my stuff. Plus you’ve got to be pretty anal to list every book and piece of music.

So I decided that I’d start counting that sort of stuff in shelf inches instead.   Feel the width!

Here’s how I measured up this week:

  • Sold 24″ of books to Powells for $74
  • Gave a 20″  selection of political and gardening books to our Democratic Party for the annual auction.
  • Bringing 42″ of books to the Friends of the Library sale
  • Gave 6″ of sheet music to the local arts magnet school
  • Bringing 3″ of choral music to our church choir director
  • Tossed 4″ of ancient violin music in the recycle bin

That’s 99″ (8’3″). Seems like a lot, but almost every room in my house has bookshelves, so there’s much much more where that came from.  I’ll measure and report back…

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Filed under Baby steps, Downsizing, Getting organized, Paper and books, Selling stuff