A few weeks ago, a friend of mine asked me how my "Get Rid of One Item A Day" campaign was proceeding. My reply went something like this: "Welllll ....."
As you may recall (but probably not), in January I decided that the best way to get rid of things we didn't need was to do it slowly. With that, I decided every day in 2020, I would find one thing to throw out, donate or recycle. For accountability (to no one but myself of course), I would log each item, thinking this would keep me on task.
Things went along swimmingly for about two months (exactly as long as I had predicted) before all the junk drawers, closets and nooks and crannies in the basement had been substantially liberated of old, broken and useless items.
As spring (and lockdown) "sprung," I took to projects around the home, which included cleaning (and subsequently, decluttering) the garage and basement, two goldmines for things outdated or no longer useful.
Since I wasn't going to clean either area on a "one item per day basis," nor was I about to document every old shoe, dried up can of paint or broken piece of leftover molding, let's just say I far exceeded my goal; by how much, I don't know, but it was a lot of stuff. So, that's exactly what I told my friend.
Anyway, I still think it was a good idea because it got me moving on getting things a bit more "shipshape" around the house. So, that's the update. And, here's the piece I wrote back in January (remember January? I know, seems like 10 Dog Years ago), just in case you're looking for a new challenge around the house.
NOTE: No New Year’s resolutions will be made, broken or injured in this piece.
I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. I’ve always felt I don’t need a special occasion to promise to do, be, start or quit something that will presumably change my life, only to stop doing, being, starting or succeed in quitting that same thing 30, 10 or even five days later.
Besides, if I’m honest with myself, my life at times has tended to be one big New Year’s resolution, filled with broken promises, unfilled goals and claims of, “I’ll start tomorrow, or next week, or when I have more time,” so why do I need a special day to make yet another? But don’t feel sorry for me. I’m doing fine, broken self-promises notwithstanding.
I say this as a preface to an idea I hatched after something I noticed while on a walk Saturday.
As I passed a large home in the subdivision adjacent to ours, I saw a seven-foot (approx.) inflatable snowman, lying on its side, the wind repeatedly knocking its head against a tree in the front yard (likely not the preferred functionality or position listed in the written setup instructions included with the unit).
At first, I wondered if this scene mirrored the current holiday feelings of those living in that home. Then I thought, “That blow-up snowman was such a great idea when they bought it. And now, look at it, lying on the ground, still tethered to the ground and to that family, but quickly turning into a liability right before their eyes. I wonder how many years it will take before it has worn out its welcome like so many other ‘household great ideas’ before it?”
We all have them, those things that seemed – or maybe were – great ideas when we bought them, but then one day (for many reasons) we no longer need or want them, or in some cases, can’t even stand the sight of them sitting uselessly in the garage, hall closet or basement, doing nothing but taking up space.
That gave me an idea. “What if, I thought, “I could get rid of something – anything – I didn’t want or need every day for a year?” Within 10 minutes, I had convinced myself that this was an idea worth pursuing.
I know what you’re thinking. “Dave, this sounds awfully New Year’s resolution-y to me. What happened to your principles?”
You’re right, it does appear that I laid the groundwork for a New Year’s resolution, but in my defense, I had the idea on December 28, a full three days ahead of the standard resolution start date. Furthermore, and more importantly (and this is critical evidence in my case) after I returned home that day, I immediately started on my daily “Journey of Elimination.” (I thought about having t-shirts made, but then I figured they’d just be something I’d have to get rid of at a later date anyway, thus blowing a hole in the entire initiative. And, after rolling the name around both verbally and in my mind, I earmarked it a “working title” because I’m sure I can come up with something better.)
What was my first victim? Glad you asked. As I returned home, I spied a 10-foot length of black plastic hose that had once been used to carry excess water away from the house that had been extracted by our sump pump. Several years ago, we replaced the hose with a more permanent solution, yet the hose hung around in our garage, refusing to leave. (In its defense, we never asked it to leave.) It’s excuse? “Someday, you’ll need me again, even though I’m full of holes and right now, I’m just taking up valuable garage space.” (When you read that last made-up quote, I hope you had the Allstate “Mayhem” character in mind; I did.)
Sunday, it was a folding chair, once part of a set of four with matching card table, but now, shelved due to disrepair. Like the hose before it, this chair had already served its purpose, and now, after years of great and reliable work, it sat with nothing to do, waiting for someone to finally make the decision to jettison it like an NFL coach with one too many losing seasons behind him.
And so, it goes. Today is Day 3, in which I must find something that will vacate the premises for good (“good” having a double meaning in that it will be gone forever as well as for my well-being). I have to say, as someone who has thought about simplifying my life and trying to get rid of things that are no longer useful or that, frankly, simply bother me every time I see them in and around the house, it’s already making me feel better.
Let me also say that I made a few rules for myself because for me, the road to failure is paved with good intentions that lack rules. First, I’m not going simply throw things in the trash. I plan to always consider the best way to eliminate them from my life (i.e., offer it to someone else, donate it, recycle it or otherwise responsibly dispose of it). Second, I won’t get rid of things that belong to others in the family, without their express permission (no matter how much I may hate the sight of their stuff). Third, I won’t dispose of anything just for the sake of keeping up the “streak.”
That said, any and all things – large and small – are fair game. (Family members and pets are off limits; probably goes without saying, but it’s always best to have these things documented.)
I’m thinking today is an “old clothing” day, where I go through some things that I no longer wear and donate them. After that, who knows, but stay tuned. Maybe I’ll provide updates. (I can almost feel you rolling your eyes.)
I figure like any challenge (notice I didn’t say “resolution”), the first 30 to 60 days will be easy, as my enthusiasm peaks, and I start to experience visible results. Then, around March, it will get more difficult, and I’ll have to work harder and look deeper to find both the motivation and the personal “junk” that will keep this initiative alive.
Yet, I’m committed. It’s a reasonable, doable challenge that I think will make me feel good about myself and have positive, visible results in the end around the house. And, I’m hoping a residual long-term benefit will be that I become more judicious before I buy anything new or throw out anything old. And when I do get rid of something, I expect I’ll also become more judicious in how I do it, so it has the least impact on the Earth, but maybe also has a positive impact on someone else.
But let me be clear, this is NOT a New Year’s resolution.
With that said, Happy New Year everyone. It’s time to put 2019 behind us, pursue what’s really of value to all us in 2020, and to dispose of the things we don’t want, need or simply can’t stand the sight of anymore.
And if you do make resolutions, I hope they stick.
© 2019 David R. Haznaw