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Decluttering: Paper

Before I started going through all of my papers, I never would have claimed to be a paper hoarder. I thought I was pretty good at throwing old junk mail out a couple times a week and filing things that are important…and forgetting that a lot of time I tend to shove paper in file just to get it out of my sight. Now that I’ve been through it, I have to admit that I had a problem.

Case in point:
awful paper

Did I even know what I kept in this file? Not at all. It was just junk that had probably accumulated on my desk. I think I found one useful file in all of this. Same for my other three file boxes. I found some business receipts, some old W-2s, and other once useful documents, but mostly, I found junk. Wadded post-its, old syllabi, the orientation folder from when I worked at Target from approxiamately 5 minutes back in 2008… Readers, I found Japanese homework. I haven’t studied Japanese since 2005. I don’t even know how that got filed since I didn’t buy that folder until I started Tiny Dino Studios in 2011.

And my file folders weren’t even the worst part. Check out my craft drawer:

messy paper in messy drawers

1. The drawers are just plain messy, but I’m not organizing yet, I’m still in the decluttering stage.
2. What even is that jumble? I don’t even know.

I think things like this are a symptom of not spending enough time in my studio. I give myself just long enough to complete my project, but not enough time for clean up, so when I go in to start something new, I just shove the leftover stuff from last time out of sight. Also, I don’t have a trash can in my studio. I really should remedy that.

I don’t have any pretty pictures to show you, because even though my files boxes are functional and I know where all my important stuff is, the rest of my studio is still a disaster. The files boxes and binders are waiting patiently on my desk for their turn to find a home.

What was important in this project was gather all of the paper into one place and sorting it one piece at a time. Like the books, it was a bigger job than I expected. It took me a few hours to find and rifle through all that. In the end, I threw away four bags of what was essentially trash that I had been carrying around for years, which was extremely satisfying.

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Decluttering: Books

Books are the number one hardest thing for me to get rid of. I thought it would be yarn or fiber arts related goods, but selling my drum carder taught me that I’m just fine without it. Books though. For more than half my life books have been my identity–I was a reader, a writer– it was mandataory that I have a large book collection.

Our bookshelves were messy
Our bookshelves were messy

Because of that, it took me a few weeks after purging my clothes to make it over to my bookshelves. That’s right, shelves. I have one in the bedroom, two in the living room, and my husband has three in his office. (I didn’t touch his books, and he flat out refused to get rid of them on his own. He even rescued a few volumes from my discard pile.)

Yes, that is a doorknob and a half-knit sock you see.
And the tall one had become a place to keep things out of toddler’s reach.

I had two rules. in discarding.
1. I had to really love the book, and want to reread it and / or use it in future in order to keep it.
2. If I loved it, but had the eBook, I had to get rid of the paper copy.

For whatever reason, I didn't think this would be such a huge job when I started...
All of my books sorted into piles

Out of about 300 books, I only ended up keeping 100, most of which fit on the one bookshelf in the bedroom. The rest are all art/business related books, so they will live in the studio, and even then, there are only about a dozen. Most of the books I am gettind rid of are old books I either couldn’t or didn’t want to sell back to the college bookstore. For some reason, when I was in college, I wanted to keep all of my English-major related books.

He's been very helpful through this whole clutter culling process, so much so that I've accidentally thrown away some important thing Felix decided we didn't need anymore.
Felix is helping sort books.

I haven’t cracked a single one of them in the five years since I graduated. Obviously, I’m over it.

Not surprisingly, the books I kept were by the authors I love the most, John Irving, Barbara Kingsolver, Thomas Hardy, The Brontes, etc. The rest are about gardening and farming–all of the things that make me dream and give me joy.

Secret, most of the discards are still in boxes on my back porch as I slowly find places to donate them.
The Final Sort. The keepers in the front, the discards in the back

One surprise was that I kept only two knitting books. I am discarding some gorgeous pattern books (interested in snatching one up? Stay tuned, I’ll have them up for grabs in a few days), because I almost always knit from indie patterns on ravelry. Downloading patterns takes up so much less space.

Now I have all of my books in one place, organized by author and subject, and easy to find.

There are roughly 60 books here. Most of the young adult books and the Harry Potter books went to live in the kids' room.
The end product

I expected to me be sad to see so many volumes go, but I feel lighter for having pared down my collection to only my favorite books. And, next time we move, we’ll have 200 fewer books to haul.

What are the books you can’t live without?

PS, You might have noticed that I didn’t blog about purging my closet. It’s always been easy for me to get rid of clothes, I have little emotional attachment to most garments, and generally only buy what I need to get by for awhile. I would like to be more intentional about what I bring into my collection in the future, but being in the middle of a pregnancy, clothes only cross my mind when I complain about how all my maternity pants are still too big, and all of my regular pants are way too small.