A new tactic

Sometimes you have to move on

For many years, I have wanted to restore an old trunk.  Several years ago, I picked up one that had be thrown out with the trash.  It was in decent shape and I took it home with the best of intentions to either restore it to a measure of its former glory or create something new and creative with it.  I was sure if I couldn’t find a space and use for it in my home, I could sell it and at least recoup costs – all while learning some new skills.

I didn’t have time or space for that project where we living at the time but we were in the processes of packing for a new home with a planned workshop.  The trunk went into our project pile.  Where it sat.  It was moved several times when we relocated, needed space, even when we had a flooded basement. And still it sat and sat.

I purchased some supplies including a suitable paper liner for the top tray.  I did some research on best strategies.  I even looked at ways and places for selling.

But I had reasons (excuses) that I couldn’t get to it – no room in the shop for the project, lacking the proper tools, not confident about where to start.  And all the while it almost taunted me as an unfinished project that was not progressing.

Last Fall, I decided that I had been keeping this around taking up space for too long.  It was time to let it go and move on to other things.  Two factors that sealed this decision: 

  1. Other projects took priority because they were more interesting or current
  2. I didn’t have an connection or history to that particular trunk and it occurred to me that this was neither my story nor something that I need.

Finally making that decision allowed me to set this aside, albeit with some lingering resistance.  Doing so would give me more space to work on other projects, tell other stories.  I still have an interest in this project  but when and if I decide in the future to finally tackle my goal for a trunk restore, I am sure that I can find another one.

I considered trying to sell as-is but that would have taken time and didn’t want to reradd to my list or have it continue taking up space.  So, I emptied out and took it out to the road on Curbside Give Away Weekend, when people put out furniture, equpiment, toys and more out for free pick-up.  Some time during the weekend, it was taken away to a new home for someone else to use or restore. 


Reusing and organizing

Organizing and Reclaiming

Well, despite my best intentions, sometimes I fall back into collection mode.  I have learned that the best way for me to handle that is to recognize that it just a slight misstep and doesn’t have to mean that I revert to previous patterns.  One of the strategies that I have learned is to not let this slip discourage or undo progress but to face it head on  before it spreads.

Take the example of my  t-shirt collection.  I mainly wear T-shirts with logos or messages only when I am doing some work in the workshop or yard.  However, I continue to accumulate them through challenges and volunteer projects with the result that even though I clear periodically and don’t buy T-Shirts, this is an area that demands regular attention.  It is again at a point when my drawers are overly full and need attention. I keep this collection in a small 3-drawer dresser in our guest room and it is looking over crowded.  It is time for a quick clean.   Today was a cold and grey day so it was a perfect time for that task.  I set the timer for 30 minutes.

Time to do some reducing and organizing. Selecting a specific area, like a set of drawers, is manageable in a short time. A perfect 30 minute project.

It can be difficult to let go of some of these the accumulated T-Shirts because, as I mentioned, they typcially have been collected at events and, therefore, stand as testament to some affiliation or achievement.  Knowing what to do with them can also be a block to reducing and when I have thought of donating them, I think that they wouldn’t really have meaning for anyone not connected to the same event.  As I was sorting through, however, I realized that some still held strong positive memories but many, not so much.  I dedicated an hour to these three drawers, set an alarm, and determined to work quickly (not my forte) and get a start on the reduction.


Repurposed materials

I decided to cut the logos/images off the T-Shirts that were valuable memories but no longer worn.  I’ll collect them up and make something of them in the future.  Perhaps a quilt or wall hanging.  In the meantime, I drastically reduce the space required AND still have the reminder of the associated event.  I cut the rest of the shirts into strips for rags for the workshop and garden shed, where they will be put to good use.  An unexpected bonus of this approach is that some of the well worn shirts would not lastmuch longer and this way the most important part of the story is preserved.


Preparing to cut logos and images. When I have enough collected pieces with sufficient variety, I will make these into a memory quilt.


I turned this stack of shirts… 








…. to this collection of images and pile of rags.

Cutting 15 shirts to small squares for saving and strips for use as rags. NOTE: This process took 15 minutes beyond the original 30-minute timer; I had the time and wanted to finish this piece.  If that was not the case, could have put this in my to finish basket for small projects in case I have a small block of time.







New Project

I also set aside 10 golf shirts with company logos.  I plan to cover the logos with a patch or design of some type so I can wear or donate them.  I didn’t have the time to begin that today so I took the shirts that I removed from the drawers and put them in a basket on a shelf in my closet marked “30 minute projects”.

Improved Organizations

I reduced the number of shirts in the drawers dramatically, leaving only ones that I continue to wear when I exercise or do work around the house or garden.



I put clothes that no longer fit or suit, as well as a number of T-shirts that I realized didn’t really have an emotional attachment but are still in good shape – in a bag to donate  While I was at it, I collected some items already set aside for that purpose and bagged those up too.

Result – 1 1/2 garbage bags of clothes and a bag of bed clothes taken out to the car to drop at Value Village on my next trip to the city.

Time well spent

In less than hour, I cleared some space in the drawers.  I do have another small collectin of shirts that are in a plastic bin with off-seasonal clothes.   Maybe I’ll put some unused T-Shirts back in rotation – or perhaps I’ll just take the plunge and donate some or cut  as logos or rags or donate.

What is your T-shirt strategy?

Do you have  a T-shirt collection?  What do you do with T-Shirts from runs, school events or promotional activities?  Do you wear them regularly?  Use them for night shirts? Donate them?  Discard them?  Share any suggestions in the comments.

KTS – A Two Part Challenge

I’ve broken my Keep The Stories project to a two part challenge. The first step is to capture the moments so you can tackle the second part and reduce the “stuff”.  It’s a simple idea but not always as simple in practice.

Part 1: Capture the Moments

Find ways to capture the stories of your life – from the everyday routine to the once-in-a-lifetime moments. Express your stories in ways that work for you. Use the same approach or mix it up as the mood strikes you. Use one style or many, in sequence or in combination.   Keep your creation private or share it with the world in print or online.

  • Shoot a photograph
  • Scrapbook (digital or traditional)
  • Write a song, a poem, an essay – or a blog post
  • Make an audio recording or a short movie
  • Stitch a quilt
  • Paint a picture
  • Incorporate the object into a unique piece of art

How will you capture your moments?

Part 2: Reduce the Stuff

Once you have captured the story, it is time to let go of the stuff.  Having a ritual might help.  In my case, I’ve decided to tell the next chapter and include what happens next to finish the story.  I’ve created a worksheet for telling the stories and have a section for the next step for each item. So far I’ve   identified donate, reuse, recycle/freecycle (http://www.freecycle.org/ to find a location near you), trash (sometimes it is the best or only option but I use this as my last resort).

I am accepting that it isn’t necessary to keep the things we associate with memories and finally getting rid of the stuff, though there is a still a way to go.

Take the challenge to keep the stories and lose the stuff.  Reduce the clutter, reorganize and change the way you think about the things. Recycle, repurpose or donate.

Do you have rituals that help you let things go?  Share in the comments.

Keep the stories – Lose the stuff!

I’m a collector. Some might say pack-rat is more accurate but, to be clear,  I don’t keep everything indiscriminately; I am big on recycling, reusing and donating. My problem is that I keep too much because I struggle to part with things that were gifts or that are associated with a trip, event or occasion.

For years, I have most often captured memories pictures and memorabilia. I am able to evoke many wonderful experiences – and some not-so-wonderful ones – by looking through these collected photos and artifacts. This can be nostalgic, even comforting. But there is a huge downside to this approach in that it tends to make it hard to let go of things because they evoke memories of people, places and activities that have been important.

In the past, I would start with the best of intentions to par down the various flotsam and jetsam accumulated through my life, an effort that more often than not ended with me traveling on a trip down memory lane perhaps making, at best, a small reduction in the amount of stuff.  Sometimes I convince myself that I might use /display / repair / re-purpose some particular item but usually it just went back in the box.  Which inevitably meant that I still needed to keep the box, even when I reduced the number of items it contained. I was eager to get more space and clear the clutter but struggled with letting go.

Recently, it hit me.  It is so simple! I don’t know why I didn’t realize this years ago.  In fact, I did realize that but didn’t take action on the connection.  What I am really collecting is stories.  I don’t need the stuff to keep the stories.  Instead, I need to make sure that I record the stories so I can release the associated things, hopefully to a new life out of storage and to use as intended.

And from that  realization, the origins of my Keep the Stories project.