The Journey’s End…Almost

helloI can finally say that I am almost finished with the KonMari of my house. It’s been over a year since I began, but as I’ve said in earlier posts, life sometimes gets in the way. That and the fact that being retired gave me absolutely no concrete deadline to finish- and I’m a person who needs deadlines to keep me going. So let me fill you in on where I am in the process now.

Sentimental – Work Related

I spent 30 years in education all in one school district. 28 of those years were spent at one school. In those 28 years, I changed rooms only four times, so I didn’t cull much. And being a teacher, you keep everything – “just in case”. So I brought home with me the contents of a four-drawer file cabinet that contained every appraisal, certificate, note – you name it – that I received over 30 years. I knew I wouldn’t continue to keep all of it, but I needed to be in the right mindset to go through it all to make the decisions about what would remain. After being retired a year, I could feel that the emotional attachment was lessening, so I opened the tubs and began my trip down memory lane.

I read through my very first teaching evaluation when I was as green as green could be. It was done by hand on the old, familiar, white-pink-yellow carbon backed paper of the time. It was a 1st-grade science lesson that somehow incorporated the making of paper pinwheels that the students affixed to their pencils with a straight pin. (Our evaluations were called dog-and-pony shows back then.) Not surprisingly, I had plenty of room for improvement. I saved that appraisal. As I went through the folders, I could mark the evolution of technology by those appraisals – from handwritten entries on carbon-backed paper to handwritten entries on dot-matrix printed forms to handwritten entries on laser printed sheets to all-electronic input only to be printed for a signature.

As our technology improved, so did I as a teacher. I kept one appraisal from each of the varying incarnations, an additional one if I found one that meant more to me. I kept every single note I had from a student or parent. I kept all of the positive notes I received from my principals – and even a couple of the negative ones too. I kept a few pieces of student work that held meaning for me, and the 5th-grade signature t-shirts that we had made each year. I kept copies of the letters I wrote to my principals, superintendent, and the school board over various issues that raised my ire over the years. Yearbooks and lanyards stay. I kept the desk sign with my maiden name from my first years of teaching and the door sign with my married name thereafter.

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30 years of teaching

I laughed, I reminisced, and I read aloud bits and pieces to my husband. I gave thanks for those 30 years – for helping to shape the person I am today, for introducing me to incredible women who have become life-long friends, for putting all those children in my life, some of whom I am still close to today. Then I put the lid on the tub and put it on a shelf. I am grateful for everything those items represent but now it is time to move forward.

Other People’s Stuff

You can’t KonMari other people’s stuff but if you’re lucky, they’ll start doing it on their own. My daughter came home for a couple of weeks over the summer. More than likely, she will never live home again, so she was agreeable to going through her room and doing a final purge-and-sort. Her room can now serve as a proper guest room.

My husband, however, has had the biggest transformation.  I have felt like the walls of the garage were – both literally and figurately – closing in on us. But the idea of simplifying has caught on with him as well, so he finally tackled a good portion of his garage clutter. He had fives sets of 5-shelf shelving units. He now has one – ONE. He still has not parted with any of his Coke memorabilia, but the progress he did make has been astounding. And we now have more room to store his Coke stuff (out of sight, mostly), so I am okay with that. I kept some of my junior high t-shirts – I can hardly begrudge him this!

He has come to realize as we’ve gotten older that, yeah, he could do a lot of the home repairs and projects himself, but he doesn’t always want to. Paying someone else can sometimes be more economical – and less stressful. So that made it much easier for him to part with junction boxes, three of the five heavy duty staple guns, and numerous other workshop items.  Except for the metal tape measures – he has over a dozen of those – and I have no idea why.

Sell, Donate, Toss

I’m not a huge fan of having a garage sale – I like the money, but not the effort – but we had too much stuff to just give it all away, so we had our second and final garage sale of this process. And a large portion of what we sold this time were storage items –  shelves, bins, and crates. When you declutter, you have much less need for places to store things. And my husband didn’t bat an eye. He said if he kept the shelves, he’d find things to put on them. No storage, no flat surface – no clutter. We sold a lot, we donated a lot, and the trash/recycle men will be cursing us this week. But we both feel so much lighter and freer.

What’s Next?

This should have been the end according to the KonMari method but I have saved photos for last. If you follow me, you know I have over 60 photo albums and a few boxes of loose photos as well. This is a problem our children will never know because their photographic history exists on their phones and the cloud. But much like I love to read a real book that I can hold in my hands, I prefer printed photos for the memories that I want to keep. The holiday season is approaching so I will not tackle photos until January. I’m hoping for some cold, dreary days in front of the fireplace for that project. And there are still some small home projects that I want to complete before the holidays, so KM will take a backseat for the moment. But I will be back!

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Don’t Buy the T-shirt

In our home, the “commemorative” t-shirt has become the symbol for the large amount of unnecessary clutter we have accumulated.  I knew we had a lot of t-shirts; that became apparent when I did the clothing purge at the very beginning.  They took up two full dresser drawers – and these were just MY t-shirts.  There was a fair number hanging in the closet as well.  I was just unprepared for exactly how many there were; and I’m just talking right now about the ones in current circulation:

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These are just the ones from the University of OKlahoma where my daughter attended college.  I have worn every single one of them, several multiple times.  But here’s a fact – she has graduated now, and while I’d still like to have a couple to wear while I’m rooting them on during football season, I was able to let go of more than half.  Also in current circulation are a couple of concert tees, a few from my college alma mater, my favorite professional sports teams, the university where my daughter now works, one from a local eatery that closed down after decades…you get the picture.  And keep in mind that I was a teacher – at multiple campuses.  So there’s the official t-shirt for the current school year, plus any other events we chose to celebrate with commemorative clothing – times two.

Purging the work tees was easy after I retired.  I kept a few to have made into a quilt and the rest were bagged up.  Piece of cake.  Used the KonMari folding on the remaining ones any my drawers actually have breathing room.  Sounds like a success, but wait!  There’s more…

Down from the attic come boxes and boxes of stuff we haven’t looked at for years.  Some still in old cardboard boxes that are crumbling in our hands, others in plastic tubs that have seen better days.  In addition to typical attic detritus, we find a couple of tubs of t-shirts, which wouldn’t seem to unusual I guess, until you realize the time period they are from…

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Some of these shirts are close to, if not 40 years old.  My dad built the rides at the Adventurer’s Inn Amusement Parks – when i was in elementary school.  I worked at the Dilly Dally Nursery School in the summer when I was 14.  I wore the Budweiser and Mission Impossible shirts in junior high school.  The yellow one was given to me by one of the kids as a thank you gift for being their camp counselor; I was 16.  (Remember when going to the mall and having a custom t-shirt made was all the rage?)  Yes, these shirts all date back to the 70s – and this is just a sampling of what was in that box.  But it didn’t stop there; open more tubs, find more t-shirts.

Why?  Well, my husband worked for Coca-Cola and Dr Pepper so there was no shortage of promotional tees from them – which we felt the need to save…and store.  Brilliant.  And my daughter was in band starting in middle school and we were on PTA, and if you are going to sell a t-shirt as a fund raiser, you of course have to buy one…EVERY YEAR.  And starting in 7th grade she became a member of an educational group that spent a week travelling each summer, and they were given a t-shirt for each day of the trip.  That’s five t-shirts every year…for six years.  You do the math.  And she was in band in high school, which meant so were we, so we all had new band shirts each year.  And of course she got tees for honor society and student council, etc.  Going on vacation to the beach in Florida?  Well, you must stop at a Wings souvenir store and get a t-shirt to remember the trip each time you go…for several years.  Visiting a potential college?  Of course you buy a t-shirt.  Going to a concert?  Your team made the championship? Won the championship? They’re going to Disney, you’re buying a t-shirt.  That’s all well and good, but here’s the real question…why are we KEEPING them???

Off to the storage unit at U-haul to start clearing out; tired of paying to store our excess stuff.  And what do we find?  You guessed it – more bleeping t-shirts.  I said a lot of ugly words, but I only have myself to blame, because evidently, this t-shirt addiction started when I was a pre-teen!  How on earth can I judge my family when I’m holding on to t-shirts that are 40 years old?

My husband and I had no trouble parting with the vast majority of the promotional tees and those affiliated with whatever organization, team, or school our daughter was a part of. I did a couple of video chats with our daughter so she could yea or nay her tees, and amazingly, she let go about 90% of hers.

This is just what came out of the storage unit.  After I chatted with my daughter, she informed me that there was another tub in her closet…and then we found two more in the garage.  In all, we had ten tubs, each holding roughly 30-40 shirts.  Close to 400 t-shirts in all…can that be right?  And we were paying to have some of these stored.

If you treat these as clothing in the KonMari world, it is a no-brainer, and nearly all of them get discarded in some form or fashion.  But what’s left now fall into the very difficult category of sentimental items and mementos.  When I pulled out those shirts that I’ve had since childhood, I was able to tell my husband a story with each one. That is where the joy comes from.  I can’t keep hanging on to them; they are yellowed and threadbare – the attic was unkind.  I’ve been given lots of great suggestions for what to do with them and how to keep the memory, I just haven’t made a final decision yet.

So my words of advice for today are these – don’t buy the t-shirt.  But if you do, know when to let it go.