Monday, December 29, 2008

Dear Stimey—Ange

Today I'm going to solve someone's (Ange's) problem and improve her life. Or at least kill a few minutes of her time as she reads my response to her query that she posted at her blog Tis My Life:
Dear Stimey,

Even though I am a longtime stalker at Stimeyland, I am a new reader of The Junk Pyramid. I am in need of your decluttering wisdom.

Because we are in close proximity to family and friends, we often accumulate other people's junk. I'm telling you, it knows where we live, and it knows how to find us! We have so much of other people's clutter in our house: food containers that eventually get washed that once contained the in-laws' leftovers we never asked for (or ate), toys that were 'borrowed' from a friend to ease a transition (and avert a temper tantrum), magazines and books that I supposedly have to read (but never will), clothes that were needed after an unexpected puking or expected mud puddle incident (I think those got laundered? hmmmm), and of course the fine-accumulating library books and movie rentals.

So we have all of this clutter we can't get rid of until we remember to return it. Yeah, that remembering part is hard. And the locating of the junk is even more difficult in the off chance we do remember.

So what do we do? Donating it all to Goodwill is not an option. I did that last year and the tax write off did not balance out the fines and tsk tsks. The couch won't work, because that's where we put the clean laundry that my mother-in-law folds sometimes. The kitchen won't work because that's where all the shit we have to keep goes. My office? My bedroom? A spare room or shelf or table in the hallway, you say? Nice try.

Please share your wisdom. I'm sure I could put my children through college by saving on the fines alone. And my sanity would be much improved if I had a way to organize borrowed clutter (at least I tell myself that in one of my many voices).

the borrower of other people's trouble (and crap)

Ange then went on to provide more information about places where she could keep these items.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that you, Ange, need not to organize these items, but to get them out of your house.

First of all, that broken paper shredder you mention in your second post? Is it gone yet? Because unless you know how to fix a paper shredder, you'll never use it again. Put it in your trash can immediately.

Then go through the rest of the things on the bakers rack with a trash bag and a recycling box next to you. Throw away everything you don't need, won't use, is out of date. Recycle anything you can. Neaten the rest of the items.

Now I want you to dedicate a spot on that shelf for library books, rented movies, and anything else you get fined for if you don't return it on time. When you bring them into your house, put them there. Everytime your kids want to look at a library book, tell them to go get it. Read it to them then have them return it to its spot on the bakers rack. It may take some reminding, but they will eventually remember that there is a spot specifically for library books.

Mark your calendar for the day you have to return the books. Try to return them a couple of days early so you don't forget.

As for movies, try the same thing. After you watch the movie, take it out of the player and return it to its home. However, if late fines are a big problem for you, I will recommend Netflix to you. They are fast, easy, and never charge a late fee. There plans are as cheap as $4.99 a month, which is about the price of a rental, if I remember correctly.

Books and magazines that people give you to read are tough. I know I have a hard enough time reading the books and magazines that I choose. If you've had it more than two weeks to a month, acknowledge that you're not going to read it. Write down the title and who you borrowed it from in case you'd like to read it another time. Thank the person who lent it to you and tell them you just haven't had time to read it and you'd like to borrow it another time if possible. If someone has given you a magazine to read an article, maybe tear out just the article and recycle the rest of the magazine.

You mention several other things such as toys, clothes, and food containers that you borrow from people. I think the key with items such as these is to return them as soon as possible. The longer they stay in your house, the more likely they are to become your things. But because they don't really belong to you, you can't really declutter them.

This is what I suggest: get a plastic bin and fit it in the space between your garage door and kitchen. Put it where you'll see it when you walk by. As soon as your kids let go of the toy they borrowed, as soon as the clothes they borrowed are washed, or immediately after the leftovers dish comes out of the dishwasher, walk it to the plastic bin. You can move library books and movie rentals here when they are close to being due. Just make sure to put the books and movies on top where you will see them.

Whenever you leave the house, think about where you're going and whether you have anything to return. If you do, take it with you, put it on the front seat of the car next to you so you don't forget it when you get there, and give the items back.

Go through your bin once a week, say, every Sunday evening to see if there's anything you've forgotten in there. Make it your goal to have it empty by that time each week.

Ange, I hope this helps you out. Please let me know if this might work for you or if you see gaping flaws in my plan for you. This is what works at my house, but what works for me may not work for you.

Any suggestions from readers?


Niksmom said...

My only suggestion is that you need to come to MY house and help me! LOL

Navi said...

oooh, I think you'll be getting a dear stimey from me. I have lots of junk, I know how to organize it/get rid of it... but I've no idea how to find the time to do so. work full time have 3 kids one of whom is autie and I swear my days off are full of appts, so things tend to get stuffed out of the way, which means a mess is made if kids explore or if I'm looking for sthing.... I have this bad habit of hiding in the bathroom when I get home... ooh, look, I guess I already sent it....

Navi said...

oh, and I should also mention that the last time I bought a bunch of locking boxes to keep said kids out of stuff (my autie likes spices and likes to spread them everywher for example), well 90% of the locking boxes didn't get locked back up and 90% of the stuff didn't end up back in them.... b/c certain members of my family don't realize spending an extra minute or two save a half hour of cleaning/finding....

Ange said...

Wow. I think I love you. I will try it all out and see what happens! I am not sure what to do with then bin because we have no space there, but maybe if I clean up the crap piled up in that strange space, maybe I will. I think my biggest pitfall will be my husband having to follow through too.

I especially like your idea about writing down books, articles, etc. that I might want to read eventually. That's also a problem with why I don't return things on time....

Thank you so much Stimey for thinking through this process, because I was unable to!

Joeymom said...

The magazines and other items borrowed from other people are just like library books- so their place is on the baker's rack, and are to be returned as well. Clean the containers, toys, or clothes, and put them with teh library books right away.

Sue @ My Party of 6 said...

I have all that stuff that needs to be returned to people in my car. I hate having crap in my car, so whenever I am out and have a few minutes in the right neighborhood, I drop it off. Now if I just had the same attitude about crap in my house as I do in my car, I'd be all good...

BetteJo said...

No suggestions - just sitting here in awe of an organized mind.

Thrift Store Mama said...

I do what Sue does and other people's stuff in my car in the front passenger seat where nobody sits. If I've got a few minutes and kids are reasonably happy I throw a pb&j sandwich at them and have them eat lunch in the car while I organize the clutter in the car. I've also given stuff back to people by just putting it on their porch or in their kid's cubby at school.

the Laugh Lady said...

I love ELF. It's a service for thousands (or more?) public libraries around the U.S. that you can sign up for (free) that will shoot you an email to remind you to return your books, with the name of the book and when it's due. It will also send you an email reminder when they are overdue. See if your library participates.