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Project Empty

The 2007 winter solstice, according to some mystical calendrical believers, started the five-year countdown to the end of history. Or the end of the world. Or at least the end of the Mayan Long Count calendar. What December 21, 2012 will mean varies depending on whether you ask José Argüelles or Fox Mulder, but I figure, hey, if there's the slightest chance that the world's gonna end, I'd better clean my house.

So began Project Empty: Get Rid of All My Crap.

Here's the goal: By the end of 2008, I have a sparsely-furnished, uncluttered, soothingly empty house containing only the essentials of shelter, comfort, hospitality, and enjoyment.

I figure there are five main reasons why I hang on to stuff that doesn't serve these essentials: it was expensive, it was a gift, it was my [mother's] [grandmother's] [etc.], it's irreplaceable, or someday it will fit again.

I've identified 66 separate chunks of clutter that I think I can clear in an hour or less. That's one for every ten square feet of house. I'll start right outside my front door--the porch, the threshold, the entrance to my domain--and work inward and downward from there to the living room (5 separate chunks), the bedroom (29 separate chunks, holy shit), the kitchen (19 chunks), and so on--bathroom, mudroom, back yard, driveway, basement.

I've also identified some handy Project Empty resources. FreeGeek will recycle my old computer crap for a small fee. The Vietnam Veterans of America will pick up usable goods any time, for free, right off my front porch (also? tax deduction). I can take paint and other toxic leftovers to the Metro Hazardous Waste Disposal Center where they will be properly handled, free of charge. The Rebuilding Center (seriously, one of the coolest places in town) will take usable house parts and lumber.

Next steps:
  • decide on the criteria by which I will allow myself to keep something
  • get some trash bags and a few boxes
  • photograph the 66 zones for before-and-after purposes
  • clear a zone or two for warm-ups
Wish me luck!


( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 4th, 2008 12:21 am (UTC)
I like the photography idea.

May the Force be with you.
Jan. 4th, 2008 12:22 am (UTC)
Heh. I'm gonna need it!

Thanks. And happy New Year!
Jan. 4th, 2008 01:16 am (UTC)
Empty House
I love the photo idea! I suffer from clutter-itis, and am determined to get it under control in '08 - starting right now. I am so tired of not wanting anyone to drop by because of my messy house. I have a few more 'stipulations' than you, however. I have four kids - so I won't try to keep their spaces clean and clutter-free (but hopefully they will get inspired). So I will focus only on the 'common areas, and my spaces' of the house. This consists of exactly 2 porches, one foyer, one mudroom, one living room, one dining room, one bedroom, two bathrooms, two stairways, one laundry room, one 'tool room', and one large and rather awkward space in the basement. My ultimate goal is to simplify, clean, de-clutter, organize and beautify my living spaces. I hope that I never again have to go out and buy yet another paint scraper because I can't find the other four I own! Good luck to you. I'll keep you posted on my own progress! I'm off to photograph my messes!
Jan. 4th, 2008 05:16 am (UTC)
Re: Empty House
You have an icon! Very cool. Welcome to LJ! ::points up to own icon:: I know a couple of pretty good icon-makers, if you want more.

We probably all have one chunk o' mess per ten square feet of house. I got one section mostly done tonight, and it helped me figure out what resources I need. LIke, right now, a place to put the big garbage till I can break it up and stuff it in the garbage can.

By the way, I ordered up my new 35-gallon garbage can today!

Step by step, it gets done. Good luck to us both.

Jan. 4th, 2008 05:50 am (UTC)
Re: Empty House
Yes, would love some help with the icons. I know you and Gen are always making them. Part of why I got an 8 megapixel camera is for the teeny tiny details for those.
Posting feels like really sticking iit out there.
Jan. 4th, 2008 06:45 am (UTC)
Re: Empty House
LiveJournal is a strangely private place, really. You can lock any post so that only your friendslist can see it, or even so that only YOU can see it (it's not a bad way to keep a journal).

If your entries are public, anyone can look at them, but the trick is finding them.

Add me to your friends list (if you want to) by clicking on the little head next to my username, then clicking on the little head-and-plus sign you see on my user page.
Jan. 4th, 2008 03:33 pm (UTC)
Re: Empty House
I added you to my friends list. But do all these email correspondences show up on LJ? They did on mine? I didn't mean for everyone to have to see this stuff.
Jan. 4th, 2008 05:04 pm (UTC)
Re: Empty House
Our comment conversation is showing up on my journal, but not on yours. When you comment here, I get an email. When I answer you, you get an email.

Hang on: I'm going to go comment in your journal now that you have some posts, and you can start to get the hang of how this works.
Jan. 4th, 2008 05:32 am (UTC)
wow. that is really awesome!

i am a notorious hoarder... i do end up using stuff, even if months or years later... but not everything i've stuffed into every nook and cranny. although i do have to say that my room, the porch, my closet and the attic are the worst. i've managed not to clutter up the front room, the kitchen or the back room...

i made myself not buy any christmas clearance stuff this year. it was really hard, but i have so much wrapping paper, ribbons and so many boxes of cards that i'm determined to use it all before i buy more.

i love the way you describe breaking things into chunks. it makes it so much more manageable sounding!

my biggest problem, whenever i do start cleaning up, is that when i clear a spot and move on to another, i somehow end up cluttering up the clean spot again.

i'm going to try to tackle the attic first. my dad has been after me for months and there are boxes up there i haven't touched for years.

the best of luck with your project!!
Jan. 4th, 2008 06:14 am (UTC)
It's so great to hear from you! Happy New Year.

Just the act of not buying sale stuff is a huge step forward, don't you think? Part of this process for me is finding out what I've already got, so that I don't "re-buy" inadvertently. I love the feeling of systematically using up stuff that I've over-bought in the past (I'm working my way through several different moisturizers and shampoos now--I'm terrible about toiletries!).

Good luck with your attic. It was a bit frightening at first, but I can really recommend breaking it up into smaller pieces. My 66 Chunks include slivers like "bedside table, top," which is distinct from "bedside table, drawer," and "bedside table, lower shelf." You wouldn't believe how approachable it becomes that way!
Jan. 4th, 2008 04:12 pm (UTC)
I've been doing something like this in the last couple weeks, myself. My criteria is: will I want to pack it and unpack when next I move?

Now, I'm not planning on moving anytime soon, but gah, for a single person I have a lot of crap.

Jan. 4th, 2008 05:02 pm (UTC)
Hi Llaras, and thank you for the tip. Great way to make the first cut! I'd constructed all kinds of scenarios--including one that involves "imagine that you have an hour's warning to get out of your house before a disaster strikes: what do you take with you?"--but never that simple one. I will use it.

It's absolutely astonishing how much crap we all have, isn't it? I don't know a soul who isn't overloaded with junk. Seems to be human nature. At some point need bleeds over into want-want-want, and beauty bleeds over into kitsch, and sentimentality seems to make pack-rats of us all!
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 6th, 2008 10:30 pm (UTC)
Actually, part of the impetus for this project was that my housekeeping service has taken to straightening up the little bits and stacks, and cleaning around them. The place has been both pretty clean and pretty neat for the last three years. The miraculous feeling I associate with tidiness seems to have worn off.

I felt ready to tackle the next great mystery of life: actual simplicity. So far, so good--albeit very slowly.
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 7th, 2008 06:10 pm (UTC)
I know just what you mean. I'm not sure how much of it has to do with age. I think we naturally compete more strongly for our share of the goods when we're younger, and that means paying attention and being in the mainstream--as you say, reading magazines and getting haircuts.

I don't do either of those things much anymore. I rarely shop for anything but groceries and household items. I avoid malls like the plague. I haven't had broadcast television on since before I bought the big screen, more than a year ago now. I get my news from blogs, where the advertising tends to be for books, movies, documentaries and other blogs (which I obligingly consume).

Maybe I live in an echo-chamber of my own making, I don't know. But it's pleasantly quiet in here.

I think that may be why this cleanup project has become possible, now that I consider it: the quiet in my mind is seeking expression in my house.
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )



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