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Sep 13, 2011

Tuesday Tidbits

Friends, if this image looks just like one I posted yesterday, it's because I never got started on my skirt alteration project -- I was paralyzed with anxiety after reading your comments, with predictions of time required ranging anywhere from 20 minutes to 3-4 days.  Whom to believe?  No, I think I'll just put this one on the back burner for a while.  Anyway, I won't see Stephanie for a week.  

I didn't so much as touch a sewing machine yesterday.  The whole day is a blur, to be honest; I felt very off-center.

You're probably wondering why I haven't mentioned the Singer 201 that Nicholas (aka Rain) was supposed to give (I mean "loan") me last week.  That's because we had to postpone the pick-up once again, but today I'm supposed to go get it for real.  Where am I going to put one more sewing machine, you ask?  That's a very good question and one I'll hopefully have answered before I bring it into the apartment.

Apropos of nothing, last night I watched a very entertaining screwball comedy I hadn't seen in decades, The Awful Truth, starring Cary Grant and Irene Dunne.  Have you seen it?  So funny, witty, and charming in a way that has completely vanished off the face of the earth, or at least off the screen.  If you want to see what sophisticated light comedy used to be, watch this film, or anything with Irene Dunne, for that matter.  Her type is no more.  I hope I don't sound like a crusty old curmudgeon; is there any other kind?

For those of you still reading this stream of consciousness, I feel like I'm in one of those "big shift" periods of my life -- oh, not so big a shift that I'd stop blogging or sewing or blogging about sewing, but for a while now -- months certainly, though most especially since I returned from vacation at the end of August -- I've been feeling like I need to purge a tremendous amount of stuff out of my life.  

If you saw what the inside of my bedroom closet (actually I have two) looked like, you'd probably run away screaming, which is precisely what I want to do every time I open it.  Actually, it's reached a point where I can't even get the door closed, so I scream daily.  Except it's more of an inner scream (don't want to alarm the neighbors, or the dogs), which manifests as lack of energy and a sense of feeling overwhelmed.  

Do you ever want to get rid of things, regardless of what value (to others, or to you, once upon a time) they might have?  I mean, I've found treasures in the trash and sometimes I think I should just put some of my own there and let other people find them.  Of course, the term "treasure" is relative, but I do have many things cluttering my life that I really have no need for, and they take up a lot of psychic space as well.  What to do?   

I used to sell stuff on eBay on a regular basis and I enjoyed it, but the photographing, posting, weighing, packing, shipping is extremely labor-intensive and I no longer have the time, or care to make the time.  Thrift stores (the ones that pick up at your house anyway) are extremely selective here in NYC.  Many no longer want old electronic equipment, for example, and won't touch any piece of pressboard furniture, let alone wigs.

Readers, I think I need to make a plan, something I'm not very good at and resist.  As you know, I generally just take things moment-to-moment, which certainly has its benefits, but also its downsides.  It hurts to watch the planners get ahead and I live with one.

I will leave it at that.  I was reminded of this old blog post I wrote not so long ago.  As you can see, planning and resistance-to-same is a definite leitmotif in my life.  It's always there and never fully resolved; hence, decluttering has its own listing in the MPB Archives (located on the right-hand column of this blog, as always).

We are out of time, alas.  I must address my many organizing tasks and I hope I've inspired some of you to address a few of yours, if you have any.

In closing, do you think creative types are more apt to be surrounded by clutter -- or is that just an excuse?

Any great one- or two-year planners out there?  What's your secret?

Have a great day, everybody!


  1. ah ha yours is the first post I read after just posting about hoarding being an occupational hazard for a vintage lover, and I include in that a sewer!

    I too feel like you and am having Sorting September but still I struggle to part with some stuff, although as I get older I get better at it.

    Agree with you on the ebay listing, sooooo laborious, although I am currently doing some, everything else is going to charity. I'm trying to be tough on myself but boy it's hard. Good luck with yours

  2. I feel your pain, Peter. I'm being forced into a "Sorting September" as I have to move by the end of October with less than 2 months notice. Which of course means going through clothes and books and heaven forbid maybe even my fabric stash *gasp* (I'm hoping to avoid the latter). Most of it will probably go to charity, although I'll probably sell the books even though I won't get much. I'm hoping to be strong and get rid of a lot of clothes I don't wear, but we'll see how well that goes.

  3. i don't need a post to put me off listing stuff on ebay LOL we've just replace our camcorder and the old one could surely raise a dollar or two??? i've yet to ever sell on ebay; encouragement please LOL

    I am the worst with two wardrobes are also bursting at the seams...even with garments that no longer fit but can't bear to part with them...ridiculous i know.

    You clearly need help and clearly i'm NOT the one to give it...*sigh* sorry :(

  4. I love Cary Grant. Sigh.

    I want to purge our house. A three bedroom house should have plenty of room for 2 people and yet it feels like there are things spilling out everywhere. The basement is finished so there isn't a whole lot of storage, but we should be able to fit everything we need and use in the space available. I'm just not one of those people who enjoys the process of sorting and organizing, I get trapped in the memories.

  5. I love love love The Awful Truth! Cary Grant's terrible tan, the dog, Irene Dunne's dresses, and most of all the fantastic comedy! I saw it for the first time only a few years ago and it had me howling with laughter. It has aged impeccably and is as fresh today as it was then. And now you've made me want to watch it again...

  6. I am in an extended rebellion against planning. After 20 years of corporate structure, which required daily, weekly, monthly and annual task lists, company goals, department agendas, and self-improvement plans (as if!), I have had it with that nonsense. The last actual plan I made was a written, step-by-step path to retirement, and then I ignored it completely and retired 10 years early. Now the extent of my planning is to keep an informal list of in-progress sewing and art projects since they tend to get lost in the mess.

    Which leads me to the decluttering. I frequently find myself in your condition, and I usually go ahead and scream. The neighbors are used to it and the dogs can just go outside. If the screaming doesn’t help, I’ll move away from the offending area and organize something else that’s more manageable. Since my sewing room turned into a nearly impassable firetrap (complete with goat path to sewing machine), I’ve never had such organized sock drawers or kitchen cabinets.

    The only thing advice I can give you is to take everything in very small steps. If you really must do something about your closets, pick a small part to do first. Just the hats, or just the shoes, for example. Good luck to you!

  7. Getting rid of stuff that gets in your way is easy. Look in your closet(or whatever) and ask yourself what thing or things bother you and make you want to scream and get rid if it right there and then. Take it to Goodwill, or put a donation out on the street. Isn't that where you picked up some of your sewing machines?? Send something back out there. It is good for your Karma.

  8. I have a practical solution for a place for you to start with your closet!! Sal over at Already Pretty does closet consulting and even if you don't want to afford her entire process, the first few steps in the process are tips for the sorting stage. I haven't done it yet myself, but I am going to shortly (as soon as the crazy bridal season slows down...). Sal has quit her job to be an inspirational bloggist/consultant/freelancer (seems to be a trend lately!! I need to blog more so I can get a book deal and well known so I can design clothes instead of just alter!!). Anyway, she offers a pdf of the first few steps for $5 on her blog... $10 if you want feedback...

    Anyway, not that I'm doing a commercial on Sal, but what better way to support each other in the blogging world!

  9. Cary Grant is an excellent antidote to the ailments of modern life.
    I once had a similar existential crisis of too-much-stuff, by proxy, for which my contribution was extensive research into organization litterature. The winner, hands down: (oh my, I see she has a new 'shed your stuff' book, that'd probably be an appropriate follow-up!).

    This actually helped -me- more than the intended recipient I think :-). I can't tell you how much the hook for the keys right by the door has been good. But really, the point I was getting to is that she advocates not having a whole overwhelming revolutionary organizing event, but starting right where you are, and then chipping away at the mountain only as you can bear it. I think that's a much better way to get somewhere, or at least it works much better for me, backlogs give me the heaves.
    Anyway, courage, you can do it, or at least you can do -something-..

  10. I'm anal and love organization. Everything in my sewing room closet is in labeled plastic storage bins, patterns are kept numerically and I have an excel spreadsheet listing all my patterns so I know exactly what I have and I purge on a regular basis-especially clothes I don't wear. The older I get, the less stuff I want around and the easier it is for me to get rid of stuff. I can't watch HOARDERS any more because looking at all their crap makes me antsy and want to go to the nearest cupboard or closet and throw stuff away regardless of what it is-and I don't have lots of clutter. Too bad you don't live closer to me-I'd throw things away for you. Someone at work complained her house was too full of stuff and she didn't know where to begin to clean and get rid of it. I told her I would go through it and help her. She ended up renting a storage unit and putting her clutter there.

  11. Hello, my name is meg and i have a junk problem. don't plan, just do! Grab a garbage bag this minute and just start filling it with clothes you haven't worn in one season. Even if you like it, or think you will like it again; if you haven't worn a summer object (etc) this season or last chuck it.

    Then take everything and drop it at a clothing donation drop box immediately (before you can think too much about it or where everything ends up) and don't think about it again. box up that xtra coffee maker, those dishes you never use but are still most likely nice, unworn shoes and just purge. I too have been getting rid of stuff and it feels great! i'm much more circumspect about things i buy now and feel i'm less likely to fill my closet with things i don't absolutly love. That way when you dress for the day everything in there is awesome and will make you feel great.

  12. Saturday's basement flooding from a city sewer line failure has kicked my de-cluttering and streamlining into high gear. Not many belongings that matter were destroyed -- a below average (but nonetheless serviceable) Simplicity serger is the notable exception; I placed it on the floor a couple weeks ago to temporarily use its table space for something else. The special insurance rider that covers such catastrophes was not attached to our homeowners' policy. So ... the direct cost of hiring appropriate personnel to do the serious cleaning and sanitizing is an out-of-pocket expense. The longer range view, however, is this: the basement will now be cleaned, painted, and minimally repopulated with far less stuff.

    The urge to purge (sorry!) has already extended into piles of books, papers, and thrifted "goodies" that weren't in the basement at the time of the deluge. Now that the process is irrevocably underway, I want clean, empty spaces everywhere.

    Also, as inconvenient and expensive as this incident is in my little world, it's like a gift compared to the violent and involuntary de-cluttering that so many New Englanders have been forced to do. I keep that in mind to keep my perspective.

  13. Hi Peter,
    after months and months I have decluttered my sewingroom anex study this weekend. I must say it gives me a lot of space on my desk but more inportant in my head. I have the urge again to sew, punch, embroider, knit and so on.
    So perhaps you have to grab the bull by the horns and get a move on your decluttering!!! It really hepls you to feel better.

    Greetings Marja

    Ps OMG the Dutch version of Project Runway started last week in Holland, it is a joke, it's a parody on the American version, you should see the character that they took on for Tim Gun, it's an outrage. The creations are bulls*** compared to the American version, no give me yours and I am happy.

  14. The Awful Truth is one of my absolute favorites! Love Cary Grant and Irene Dunne's chemistry.

  15. I don't know if creative types are more likely to be surrounded by clutter, but I do know that a certain amount of clutter is required before one can create. I've read a lot of interviews with artists who describe their processes, and it always involves testing this and that to see how they look together. One person's clutter is another's necessity.

    About 6 weeks after my periodic purging of possessions, I used to have an urgent need for one of the purged objects. I had a very neat apartment and was not at all creative.

    Now I have a rule. For every new thing I bring in, 2 things must leave.

  16. We had the rule once too, Laura. Thanks for the reminder!

  17. Peter, here is my 3 part rule for dividing up stuff.

    Category 1: If someone came to my house and stole it, I would miss it. Hard.
    Category 2: If someone came to my house and stole it, it might be slightly inconvenient, but I wouldn't be crying/hunting for an immediate replacement.
    Category 3: If someone came to my house and stole it, I would be so happy that it was gone that I wouldn't care about the stealing.

    If you've got stuff that you fantasize about being able to sell, or wish that it was Just. Gone. "magically" that is your Cat. 3 stuff.

    This classification works because it removes the consideration of utility. I was raised by Depression babies, and my mom wouldn't throw stuff out until it was used up. If I use the criteria of dividing things into "used up" or "still good" it doesn't help me, it makes me feel forced to keep that "still good" thing even if I hate it or it doesn't work for me or it was a waste of money that I ought to try to get my money's worth out of.

    The "if someone stole it" is magical thinking, but it works.

    I went through my overstuffed closets, moved all the Cat. 3s to a holding zone (the upstairs closet which is never used except by an occasional visitor) and am dispatching it from there. Since I reorganized with these criteria in my mind a lot of stuff has gone to the curb or to Goodwill, and a little has been sold on EBay. Somehow I am even less attached to and more objective about the Cat. 3 stuff now that it's not mixed in with my stuff I still want to keep.

    But if I hadn't had that closet for a holding zone I'd have just gotten rid of the Cat. 3s right away. It's such a relief just to have it out of my sight.

  18. Peter,

    I thought you a man of six sewing machines, and now you're up to eight. Good thing you aren't collecting men (vinyls excluded).

    The obtain/declutter cycle is the tide of so many of our lives, and here's my theory; there is an art to what we surround ourselves with, a type of art which isn't taught or discussed.

    Our own creative evolution is what surrounds us.

    Planners miss so many of life's spontaneous glints, and we are poor for life's orchestrated splendor. There's always a trade-off.

    As for clutter, I see it as inspiration piled high.

  19. What you need is one of Don Aslett's anti-clutter books. I used to have "Clutter Free, Finally and Forever!" He breaks down the cost of owning stuff for you -- the mental and emotional toll, sure, but also the cost of storing, moving and maintaining stuff. You will never be so glad to get rid of your extras after reading his books.

    In fact, I probably should pick up another Aslett book. My house is a DISASTER.

  20. I spent the last two weeks of August with my husband, his siblings and spouses, going through my in-laws' house and prepping the contents for auction. My MIL collected stuff (depression glass, thimbles, Precious Moments, every card or note ever sent to her, etc.) and crafted stuff (doll houses, train sets, crocheted ornaments). While they were definitely not hoarders, there was SO MUCH to go through. And because of their health in recent years, nothing had been dusted or cleaned for a long time. We took one night to go through and pick what we each wanted. Then we brought in our kids and let them do the same. Finally we started boxing what remained (which filled the 2-car garage) and throwing away the true trash. This was really good inspiration for ME to clean out my own house. Now when I buy something, I picture my kids having to deal with it someday. It really makes me not want to acquire more stuff when I picture my son saying to his sister "WTF did mom want with ALL THIS CRAP?"

  21. A lot of unnecessary crap does tend to weigh a person have a camera, let's see the closet.

  22. You live in brownstone Brooklyn, no? Do like your neighbors do and curb it (as in take to the curb and leave it there) all, preferably on a weekend morning. It'll take care of itself. No need to deal with persnickety donations pickups.

  23. I feel for you, Peter. I am like you in a lot of ways. I am a GREAT planner, but I fail to carry through on the plans I make. I often think I could make a great living planning and making lists and schedules - for someone else to follow...

    I wish I had an answer to your de-cluttering dilemma, because then I would have a solution for my own. I REALLY need to pitch mounds of stuff, but I obsess that once I throw or give something away I'll need it the next week.

    What do we do?

  24. I remember when Cary Grant died, the main newspaper in Melbourne re-ran an interview someone had done with him a couple of years earlier. It was titled: "Meeting Mr Right." Sums it up, really.

    I daren't even start to think about my own clutter, despite knowing that I'll be moving interstate in a few months, and I simply have to pare it all down. It's such an overwhelming task.

  25. oh Peter, I feel your pain! It is such an awful lot of work to get rid of things and make space. It has been months for me. I got rid of so much that I was able to make some home improvements and I am finally almost finished. My house is being painted now and soon I can push the furniture back into place and go back to living in the house instead of being consumed with this project. It has been very stressful. The reward is coming soon.
    Push ahead, you will be glad you did. I am so sorry, but, yes, I did make a plan. Does that make me less likeable? But here is the fun thing about plans - as you achieve each milestone, you can celebrate. That is a little fun, not much, admittedly. But, when you finish and put it all behind you, it creates more time & space in life for all the creative stuff. It was hard, but I gave away stuff until even that was too much work. In the end, I paid a junk hauler to come and take away stuff. (I was de-cluttering on behalf of young adult children, so it was a LOT OF CRAP, let me tell you)

  26. I don't find that hoarding is conducive to creativity, although it is something that creatives have a tendency to do. However, I have seen creative friends of mine literally sink into a swamp of their hoardings - thousands upon thousands of things that they never use anymore. Well, I guess they kind find them. I have moved continents twice in the last ten years and houses several times within that frame so I have got used to clearing out stuff that I don't use anymore. And that's the real point of creativity: you USE things to make other things. You don't sit on a pile of stuff. I have found that tidiness, organization and ruthlessness with possessions massively increases my output of created objects. Don't fool yourself that because you've GOT stuff, you are actually MAKING anything.

  27. How about Freecycle or a Swap Party?

  28. Peter, I hear you on the ebay selling. I have some items worth too much $ to give away, but yet I can't get up the courage to sell on ebay. Maybe instead of a sew-along, we need an ebay-along?

    My office/sewing-craft room is at the "too much" point again, where I can't decide where to start due to too many competing projects. That puts me squarely in the "accumulator of sewing stuff" category rather than the "sewer of stuff" category.

    On a decluttering/organization blog, I pointed out that most of the tips for deciding on books seemed geared toward fiction or college text books. Jeri Danski found a tip somehwere that basically said "do you trust it?". I'm needing to apply that in addition to the "how much would you miss it if it disappeared?" criteria.

  29. Totally agree with dkl. My weaving guild suffered a big loss, we lost a very, very kind woman. Good teacher, inspiring projects, always up for encouraging a beginner or slipping them some tool. Alas, it took 3 people nearly full-time and well over a year to even begin to clear out her stuff (just the inside of the house, not the 5 sheds in the garden or the full basement). Seventeen looms piled up rotting under the leanto alone. The best textile library you've never seen. The whole guild rushed home and started getting rid of stuff like you wouldn't believe..

    Maybe Peter you're too young to imagine other people stuck with getting your crap out to the dumpster and saying to each other 'why did he need 8 half-working sewing machines? couldn't he just get one that worked?'. Luckily you haven't had to do this for someone else yet. But it'll come, darling, both ways, it's only a matter of time. You may as well get ready now..

  30. OK, I'm doing a swap party before the weather turns cold. That's it. Fabric swap party and whatever is left at the end goes to the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse!

  31. Late to this party, but I feel the pain!

    Do people put stuff out on the curb in your neighborhood? Because (as a plan-resistant comrade and stuff-challenged person) this is approximately my process: step one, pick 5 things I can live without, the bigger the better, and step 2, put it in the trash can, on the curb, or at the charity drop-off. Repeat until I can live with myself again. I refuse to "organize" what is basically cr@p; it takes too much mental energy. Only organize stuff you know you are keeping.


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