Loft Life: Shredding My Life Away - Spinning Straw Into Gold Blog at - 321337

Spinning Straw Into Gold

Loft Life: Shredding my life away 
Feb. 4, 2014 8:31 am 
Updated: Feb. 6, 2014 8:38 am

Our move to Connecticut involved downsizing from 2100 sq. ft. to 1200 sq. ft. with a storage area of about 300 sq. ft. 

This seems to be a growing trend among boomers, so I don’t think we are unusual.

But, do the rest of you feel overwhelmed with the need to discard, dispense, give away, trash and shred the bulk of your life accumulations? It seems like bad stewardship to have spent my life accumulating all of this, and then not to disperse of it intelligently.   

I am becoming a shredder nonpareil. In fact, I am so consumed with un-consuming, I keep the shredder in my living room.

Granted the living room is one third of our 1200 square feet, so unless I want to add it to the dining area, which houses the dining table, buffet, server, chairs, and my 12-foot, regulation-sized, punching bag, or the bedroom, where the large screen TV (which we do not use because we do not subscribe to cable), the bed, the dressers and a chair reside, the living room is really the only place left for the shredder. And, since the living room (really our second bedroom converted to living space) also has our living room couch, chairs, tables and lamps, and our two desks and chairs, this is the natural place for office equipment like a shredder.

Many a day I sit in my living room and shred. I have ten years of banking papers all having to be shredded because in an apartment building with no fireplace (my former means of destroying paper), I can’t chance throwing even one piece of paper away that could contain personal financial information.

I don’t want to do this shredding task. Who does? I am not sure why it is my duty, since all of these papers belong to at least two people. But, I have somehow become the person obsessed with simplifying life, so I do it. I hate it. I feel like the few decades I may have left of life are going to be spent shredding.

When I am not shredding, I am sauntering down the hallway to our storage room to sort through the 400 boxes for something I need, wish to see again, or to give away.

 The boxes are all marked “basement” because all Realtors these days are obsessed with “de-cluttering” other people’s homes in the supposed effort to achieve a quick sale.  Never mind the housing market is in a gutter that no amount of de-cluttering will correct. 

And, never mind that removing all laundry supplies from the laundry room, and having no evidence of life existing in the home, or any personal activity whatsoever, is a major inconvenience. 

What they don’t realize is that when moving day comes, ALL of your belongings are now neatly stored in the basement. So ALL of the 400 boxes now contain your entire life in them and all get marked: basement.

Three years later my storage room contains 400 boxes marked basement. I can find nothing without going through every single box until it does or does not appear.

Like my muffin pan. Since it was not in a box marked “kitchen,” I have now, three years from the move, finally come upon it in my search for blankets for our guests.  Thankfully, I also found the blankets on one of my earlier searches for kitchen things.

I could just load all the stuff on a truck and throw it away. My father-in-law also generously offered to store it for me in South Dakota. I think finding my muffin pan in South Dakota could be more difficult than finding it in my storage room in Connecticut. My mother-in-law’s kind remark that she wished she were closer to help me with the sorting hit the mark much closer. I wish she were here too.

Throwing it all away seems irresponsible. I am not a pack rat. I do not like stuff. I want to live a simple life. Most of this stuff does not belong to me, or at least was not purchased for my benefit.

I mean, really, who is a muffin pan for? I would be happy with my homemade yogurt and granola, and not be sad if I never saw another muffin.

But, like the shredding, it seems to be MY job to open, unpack and dispense with every single pound of stuff in this storage room. We moved 17,000 pounds, 4,000 of which are BOOKS. I tell you, I will NOT move 4,000 pounds of books to our next destination. We have to get rid of most of them. There is just too much. And I can’t lift and carry heavy boxes, so I end up making seven trips to the apartment to unload one box, especially with books.

You know the organizational mantra: 3 boxes. One to give away, one to sell, one to keep. Right. With 400 boxes, three little ones won’t work. Any ideas on this you smarties?

I have stacked up piles of children’s books, clothing, kitchen equipment, and bedding so far, ready for shipping to California, giving it to thrift shops, and finding space for some of it in the living quarters. But, this all seems so hopeless to me.  

Someone suggested I get a wagon. UMM. Does that mean buying yet another thing to get rid of after its use? I don’t want a wagon.  

There has to be a solution short of my spending my last years shredding and hauling, but, I don’t know what it is. I am open to suggestion.

Feb. 4, 2014 10:52 am
Randy here, I used to have a cabinet company. The first time I moved it I learned a fantastically valuable lesson and that lesson is this. The question, do you want to move it?, is a serious litmus test on ascertaining the value of any item that has questionable retention values. A box full of parts for compressor regulators, in the box were 5-600$ worth of parts that I might need someday. The thing I remembered about the accrual of all these parts was that they happened on the heels of a desperate bid to get my compressor running again, out with the old parts (into a box) and in with the new (future box parts). My modus operandi was to simply replace, not repair. Yes I knew a half dozen guys who would have quivered in anticipation if I'd offered them that box but in the end I knew that act, would entail another time suck round of interaction to implement so into the dumpster went the box. I did have many items I didn't want to tote that were very obviously useful so I sat these outside my shop under a sign that read (Closing, these items free to take). Nothing was left. At any rate it was funny. In the end there were other lessons, like, over 17 years can you guess how many sanding blocks I purchased and lost? When I moved, most of them turned up and at about the 15th block I went whoa, and out the door they went except for 3. No I didn't want to move them and furthermore, I didn't want to stow them. So for your muffin pan, I say put it outside the door. For your blankets, keep as many as you need, the rest go out the door. I'd take a box every week and unfurl it using the rules, with everything you intend to keep for future use, re-box it inside a box on which you paste a contents list. At least that way you end up with stuff you want/need in an easy access (relative) manner...... Now I know that's not entirely painless but short of a fire...
Feb. 4, 2014 1:09 pm
I think the key is to GRADUALLY begin de-cluttering. When our church had a rummage sale we gathered 4 carloads of "stuff" -- the following year it was 3 carloads. I can now see the floor in the future 3rd bedroom / hopefully soon ex-storage area / current hiding place for the cat who can't get along with one of the other cats and requires some alone time to retain her sanity. This year's project is going through a zillion boxes of books stacked in the back room. We have the obligatory sorting boxes - 1. Church library, 2. Local, newly started library in very small town, 3. PITCH, and 4. Keep. I am proud to say half are going to the church library, town library, and church yard sale; one fourth are remaining, and one fourth are deemed not usable and pitched (outdated medical books, etc.). I have forced myself to be ruthless in discarding old cookbooks - well, some of them, anyhow. Well, maybe semi-ruthless. But it is a start.
Feb. 4, 2014 6:02 pm
Since you have been removing the things you need from storage for the last three years, you can probably safely dispose of the rest.There are many charities that will pick up and remove the entire contents of your storage area. You can let go of all that stress and worry and if you ever need a muffin pan, you can pick one up at Goodwill or borrow one from a neighbor.
Feb. 5, 2014 8:28 am
I sympathize: I too am seriously simplifying my life. I'm decluttering an 8-room house where I've lived for 37 years with 2 packrats. Aargh! Some ideas to save your sanity and time: (1) Check out for motivation and how to deal with the "why only me?" frustration; (2) donate usable items through Freecycle, a terrific national movement to connect people who no longer need items with people who do; (3) hire local teens to help you; (4) take your shreddable papers to a UPS Store that offers shredding (ask if you can watch it); (5) so you can find the things you keep, rebox them them into smaller boxes. Make many copies of a blank inventory list form (like the one in the book "Slick Move Guide"). Number, label & inventory each box. Put a photocopy in a colorful master binder & tape the original to the box. Then when you need something, instead of wildly hunting through boxes, you can just check your control binder. Best wishes to you!
Feb. 5, 2014 1:09 pm
You guys are awesome. Good to hear from you again Randy. Thought I lost you. I will take some of these suggestions to heart. I LOVE the Inventory LIST idea. I am great with lists and then can locate things before even visiting the storage area. I think getting through HALF of the boxes in three years is really pretty good. Some things can't be tossed willy-nilly unless I am sure nothing of personal ID value is in or around them. But, I can rip open a box and toss most of the leftovers. I have been giving some of my cookbooks to the PO ladies in Southwick, MA, across from my church. They seem to appreciate being thought of, and I am so liking that they will be used. Thank again y'all for reading, commenting, caring, helping. I need your names. Only Randy ID's himself. Why is AR doing this? no names, no pictures. ugh.
Feb. 5, 2014 1:13 pm
And, you will all be happy to know that much of what is now gone was donated to our church's rummage sale--including that monstrous TV which is now OUT of the bedroom. Yay!
Feb. 5, 2014 6:49 pm
Hey Marjorie - luv2cook here - - I totally agree with the ones above. I too am a "boomer" who is trying to unclutter my life. As you go through the rest of your boxed life - just take a deep breathe - and let it go. The thing to remember is that though you may be letting go of an item - you will always have the memory and that is what you'll always keep. It might help to journal while you're de-cluttering and make notes of what you achieved each day or week - what you discarded and why - what you kept and why. But definitely make a list of what a box contains and tape it to it - and number the box. Then keep a master list of each box (number) and contents list. You can do it Marjorie!!! - one day at a time. Love you girl!!
Feb. 6, 2014 7:48 am
From Bibi: You are doing the right thing, Marjorie. After clearing out the homes of both the in-laws and the parents, the experience made very clear that I hold on to a lot of unnecessary things. I'm overwhelmed at the thought of going through all my closets, or the garage, or the attic (shudder). At the same time, like you, I realize how much I spent on that "something" I had to have at the time, that may wind up in a landfill. I like luv2cook's idea about journaling, though. There is something about a person's handwriting. I found the last Christmas card my mom sent before she died, and seeing her handwriting made her memory very strong. I'm glad I kept it.
Feb. 6, 2014 8:08 am
Oh thank you Bibi and Luv for your great comments and ideas,
Feb. 6, 2014 8:38 am
From lutzflcat: Marjorie, here's one thing you can do to ease your stress…forget the shredding. There are professional and secure document shredding organizations that don't charge an arm or a leg for this service. In my area, at least three times a year, our largest university sets aside a weekend where they'll actually shred for free. I did the "de-cluttering" when I retired four years ago, and it was an exhaustive effort. Dress for Success was the recipient of our business clothes, the rest went primarily to friends and Goodwill, Salvation Army, and the Hospice Thrift Shops. I love dishes, glassware, tablecloths, napkins, etc. My husband often reminds me "…remember, every time something new comes in, something has to go out." The books I can totally relate to. We did MANY long-distance moves in a relatively short period of time, and transporting those books (many even college textbooks from years ago) probably cost us a fortune in professional mover charges. We have a wonderful local charitable organization (Friends of the Library) to whom we donated our books which they resell. The hardbacks and paperbacks that we both read simply for pleasure are recycled among friends. You just really need to determine what is relevant to your current lifestyle. Once you've done that, get rid of what isn't, and just move on. Perseverance always wins in the end, so hang in there, and good luck.
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As a freelancer, I write about food, travel, entertainment and health. Publishing began as business/health writer for Orange County Business Journal, drama critic for Orange County Register, LA Times, and Irvine World News, and food critic for Orange County Register's 13 city papers. I follow hubby around the country, so next destination in IL/WI was freelancing for Stateline Business and Rock River Times (my Lunch with Marjorie column is still online there). Now in CT, I write about life in New England, travel, continue Lunch with Marjorie, and have other ventures happening. I have consolidated all my writings at Click on MENU for the growing list. Please leave comments! Thank you so much for reading. Marjorie
My favorite things to cook
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grand marnier souffle, which my husband and I make together.
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kidney lasagne...hey, we were trying to save $$. lol
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