I’m not the biggest fan of April Fools’ Day. Sure, there are a few gems to be treasured each year (I’m loving Google changing its name to Topeka and Whole Foods poking fun at itself), but for the most part it gets old after I’ve stumbled upon three or four pranks. Instead of writing a fake news story or trying to pull one over on you, I thought I would talk about when I’ve been a fool with uncluttering and organizing. Think of this as “learn from my mistakes so that you don’t have to make them yourself!”
Back in my clutter-filled days, I stored most of my clutter in cardboard or Rubbermaid boxes. I think my reasoning was that if I couldn’t see it, it wasn’t clutter. Lurking in my boxes were hundreds of sentimental doodads that had very little value to me, and even less value to anyone else. I had sugar cubes that I picked up while riding a train across the Soviet Union (Yum! 20-year-old sugar cubes!), keys to my mother’s childhood home (which had been razed a decade previous), and a green plastic hula hoop a boy named Chad gave me my senior year of high school.
When I chose to finally get rid of the clutter and live a more streamlined life, I decided that I would go through every box of sentimental clutter and weed out the things that really mattered from the other crap. (And, honestly, most of it was crap.) About half-way through the project, though, I lost my steam. I wanted to be uncluttered NOW! Handling all the sentimental clutter was also emotionally taxing — not all of the items were associated with good memories. So, in a fool’s move, I just threw away the remaining boxes of stuff. I didn’t even open their lids. Out with the old!
Except, in the following weeks, I learned that I had done much more than throw away boxes of sentimental clutter — I had also thrown away a box of items I had never unpacked after my move.
Want to know what was in that box? My social security card, birth certificate, passport, and two other forms of identification. For the rest of my life, I have to worry about someone unearthing those items in a landfill. Also, I had to go through the annoyance of replacing all of it. I had to pay to get a new birth certificate, take off work to go to the DMV to get a new driver’s license, take off another day to go to the Social Security Admin, have a new passport photo taken, pay for a new passport, put a watch on my credit … and the entire process took more than seven months.
Who was the fool? I was the fool.
Although it’s a laborious process, it is always a good idea to go through everything you have when uncluttering. If you get to a point where you just want to throw it all away without looking at anything, walk away from the project for awhile. Take a break. Don’t give in to the temptation, no matter how good you think it might feel. Yes, you can replace items like those I lost, but doing so causes more clutter in your life than handling things properly.
Have you ever been an uncluttering fool? Have you learned a valuable organizing lesson the hard way? Share your story in the comments.