Clearing out the office and finding stuff we didn’t know we had. Or, dealing with your Stuff.

In order to allow The Plan (read more about that here) to actually be come The New Reality, we needed to remove all our belongings from our office/guest room, including everything in the room’s rather full closet.  The whole experience was a great exercise in what I like to call Going Through Your Stuff (or S***, if you prefer), which I recommend everyone do on a regular basis.

So often, I’ve found that the out of sight, out of mind cliché really does hold true with stuff.  Once you find space for stuff in a closet or drawer or other out-of-site space, you tend to forget about it.  I try to make DH and I go through our closets and drawers at least once a year.  It is amazing what we find to get rid of!  I also try, especially with our wardrobes, to practice the one in, one out rule (“OIOO”).  That is, if I buy a new pair of shoes, I must find another pair to part with. I’ve found that OIOO is actually surprisingly easy to follow–and that’s saying something because I really like shoes!   This simple rule can really help maintain order in the closet.  (As a side note/full disclosure: I am quite obsessed with organizing closets–especially clothing closets–and plan to post more about my obsession soon.  I could talk about hangers at great length, which I am no longer ashamed to admit.  I think the closet section of the Container Store just might be the best section!)  Anyway, I’ve noticed that OIOO doesn’t work as well on other kinds of stuff that is not so easily grouped into neat categories–stuff like what was in our office.

I was determined to use this opportunity to go through all the stuff we had to move out of the office, because there is really no point in moving from place to place stuff we don’t want or need.  That is just a total waste of time.  So this is the process we followed to complete this project in (mostly) one weekend.  I highly recommend you try this if you never have with at least one closet (or room!) in your house.  You’ll probably feel much better and much less cluttered.

Once the wheels were in motion for our project to get started (mainly, when I handed our deposit over to our contractor) and I knew this would really be happening, I collected copy paper boxes from work and brought about 25 or so home.  Most of them were easily filled with DH’s CDs and books, but I made sure that he looked at his collections carefully to evaluate if there was anything he could part with before just packing everything in boxes.  We started created the following “get rid of” piles: Freecycle, Craigslist, sell, donate, recycle, and trash.

I went through my desk and bookshelf and found some interesting things–some of which I’m embarrassed to even admit I still had!  I think the worst offenders were the several letters from past boyfriends I found at the bottom of nicely labeled box that read “cards.”  Perhaps this doesn’t seem that egregious, until you consider that I started dating my DH over 11 years ago… 

I also paired down my stationary collection, and started some new, more efficient, storage systems for things like coupons, address labels, business cards, and other odds and ends (maybe I should post about that sometime?).  I also found several lists/piles that I was able to convert to googledocs–another of my favorite space and time savers!

Eventually, our piles needed further deliniation; we added a new type of “recycle” (electronics) and created several separate “sell” piles (Half-Price Books, B&N Textbooks, Amazon.com, local record shops).  We immediately started posting the items on Freecycle that we wanted to get rid of quickly, and by Monday or Tuesday following our big weekend clean-out, all but 1 item had been picked up.  Some of the things that found new homes via Freecycle included: movies on VHS, some games that we never play, a plastic 3-drawer file thing on wheels, about two years worth of old Vegetarian Times magazines (with some recipes already removed), and a few pieces of maternity clothing that I couldn’t return but didn’t wear because they just never fit right.  Everyone seemed really happy with their new items, and we were happy to be able to get the stuff out so quickly.

We found that you can recycle almost any kind of electronic device or random cord at many Best Buy locations.  We brought in some random cords and a no-longer-functional wireless router to our local store and they happily took them for their electronics recycling program.  Much better there than in a landfill!  Another of our favorite places to get rid of stuff is Barnes and Noble’s textbook buyback program.  All you do is type in a textbook’s ISBN number and the website will tell you what Barnes and Noble will give you for the book.  We found around eight books that Barnes and Noble would buy back, for a total of over $100.  Considering we definitely didn’t need these books anymore (some we couldn’t decide if they were mine or DH’s!) and that Barnes and Noble covers the cost of shipping and makes the entire process super simple, this was a pretty sweet deal.

One of the biggest purges came in the paper department.  I thought I had been pretty good about keeping paper clutter down, but I’m starting to think I was delusional.  We probably ended up parting with 10+ grocery bag-sized bags of paper recycling.  Seriously.  Neither of us realized how much paper we had from our college days (I’ve already completed a masters degree and as I’ve mentioned, DH is working on his PhD), so much of what we were able to recycle came from that genre.  But there were plenty of other types of papers to go through. 

If you’re planning a massive paper purge, I recommend keeping two piles–one for general paper recycling, and one for papers that need to be shredded (old bank statements, medical bills, etc.).  If, once you’re done, the “to shred” pile is substantial and probably would cause smoke to rise up out of your home paper shredder, I’ve found that it is best to take the whole pile to a place like Office Max or Office Depot and have them put the whole lot into their secure shredding bin.  They charge by weight, but the per-pound charge is very reasonable and saves you the trouble of feeding countless papers through a shredder that can only handle a few pieces at once.  For a few bucks, you get way more space and save yourself the time of shedding for endless hours.

If your paper purge will involve magazines as well, as ours did, I recommend the following system.  First, round up any magazines older than one year (do this for each type of magazine you have).  If you have trouble with getting rid of them outright for fear that there might be something in them worth keeping, then set a goal of leafing through a certain number per day, tearing out any “must-keeps.”  I often do this on my train ride to and from work.  If, like me, you often find things in magazines that you want to investigate online, keep a pile of those and investigate them right away, and then recycle the torn-out pages.  File any articles you want to keep for reference in an appropriate place (recipes in a recipe binder, for example).  If the magazines that remain still have life left in them and are not too out dated, consider posting them to Freecycle, giving them to a friend or family member that could enjoy them, or donating them to a local charity (oftentimes domestic violence shelters appreciate donations of this kind).  If the magazines are outdated (e.g. news magazines, issues you’ve completely ruined, etc.), toss those in the recycling bin and be done with them.  Of course, if you never tear things out of magazines or feel the need to revisit them in anyway, recycle them as soon as you’re done reading them and save yourself the trouble!

So that’s actually the shortened version of our weekend purge.  But we did it.  We got the entire space cleared out.  Here’s a few pictures of where most of the action for The Plan will take place (our “before” pics):


And here’s a post-purge pic:

Looks like we’re moving out!  But not to worry.  Remember that The Plan is coming!

Do you enjoy going through your closets as much as I do?  Do you have problems parting with your stuff?  Do you follow OIOO??

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5 thoughts on “Clearing out the office and finding stuff we didn’t know we had. Or, dealing with your Stuff.

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