Getting My Stuff Back in Balance

Generally, I don’t do New Year’s resolutions. I tend to decide to do things throughout the year and then just get on with them. New Year’s resolutions come with to much pressure and they’ve always seemed forced to me. So I tend to avoid them. But this year is different. I have one New Year’s resolution and it has to do with my finances and my stuff. This year, I resolve to use up, complete, or otherwise deal with the stuff that I have bought/acquired but not yet used.

I’m not a big collector of stuff, but I do buy some things and, rarely, it backs up on me. Books are a big weakness for me, as are movies (since we ditched the cable these form my library of entertainment). I also have a collection of blank notebooks that I’ve bought at after school sales. I use these for ideas, notes and project planning because I work better writing things down than doing it on the computer. Don’t even mention the collection of pencils, pens, and notepads (all of them freebies that I picked up at trade shows and fairs) that is making my top desk drawer bulge. I have a ton of VHS tapes taking up space that I keep intending to convert to DVD. I have a couple of craft projects that have been pushed to the back burner, half finished. And we have a few board games, video games, and puzzles that were gifts to us that we still haven’t had a chance to play with. I don’t even know if they’re fun.

Normally, stuff doesn’t back up on me like this. I buy things and then I use them, or I’m very conscientious about completing one project before beginning another. I’m normally very focused on how I acquire and use stuff. I pick up freebies at a show and use them before the next show. I use up all the notebooks I buy at the back to school sales before the next back to school season. I read magazines before the next issue comes in. And so on. I’m also a relentless purger of stuff. When I’m no longer using or receiving value from something, I clean it out and donate it to the Salvation Army or Goodwill, or I sell it to a secondhand store. So I usually only have the things I’m actively using or working on in my space. My stuff rarely exceeds my ability to use it up in a timely manner. Its a nice balance and it keeps my house from getting cluttered and me from wasting money on stuff I can’t use or already have.

However, 2008 was a weird year. I had a lot going on and every time I thought I might get to sit down and read or work on a project, I got interrupted by some happening. Usually I have some interruptions in my life (as do we all), but this year it was non-stop. Some interruptions were good, some were bad, and some were just nuisances, but all of them conspired against me. Of course I was stupid, too. I didn’t realize just how much time was getting away from me. So I kept bringing more stuff in, so used to having everything in balance that I didn’t notice the pencils piling up, the extra sets of notebooks, the books piling up on the nightstand, or the unwatched movies collecting dust on the shelf. I sort of assumed it was under control, like always, until suddenly it wasn’t.

My neat balance of stuff vs. my ability to use it tipped in the direction of the stuff. As a result, I have stuff around here that needs to be dealt with. I need to read the books I have, watch the movies, finish the crafts, use up the notebooks, pens and pencils, and convert those tapes to DVD. There are other things that need to be dealt with, as well. But this is where I need to start. And I need to do it before I bring one more thing into this house. I have to get my stuff back in balance with the time I have to dedicate to it. Otherwise, the stuff is likely to bury me within a few years. It’s already made getting to certain things much more difficult. Certain drawers and cabinets are blocked by the stuff, making it difficult to get to the stuff lower down. I hate it because I never live like this. However, as out of control as it feels to me, I suspect that my stuff problem is still on a very minor scale compared to some people’s stuff problems. I can still walk through the house and there are areas that are as they should be. My stuff overload is limited to a few key things. I know people who have a much worse stuff problem.

So I have a goal for this year. Now that I am fully aware of this problem, I am going to get my stuff back in balance with my ability to use it up. That means that I will buy nothing new, except for perishable stuff and stuff that I need, until the current stuff has been dealt with. No more books or movies until these are read, watched, and older ones either kept, sold or donated. No more games until I know whether the ones I have are fun or not. No more picking up pencils and pens at shows until I’ve used up the ones I have. No more notebooks bought at the back to school sales unless I am out by September. No more stuff comes in until I have achieved my balance. This goal also means purging some stuff, as well. I need to go through some of my older stuff and decide what to give away and sell. I also need to complete the projects I have hanging around before I start anything else. Fortunately, this goal wasn’t hampered by Christmas. We always have a very small Christmas so there wasn’t even more stuff coming in that I will have to deal with. That’s the small blessing.

I have set a goal of using, tossing, donating, or otherwise eliminating one thing per day. It doesn’t matter how small or insignificant, at least one thing goes away every day until I get where I need to be. Yesterday I used up a free sample of shampoo and conditioner. It felt good to toss those empty packets. I also sent a bunch of the pens, pencils, and notepads with my husband to his office. They will be used much quicker there than I could ever go through them. I donated two packs of notebooks to the local school supply drive. I know they’ll go to good use. And I converted two of my videos (home videos) to DVD and tossed the VHS cassettes, freeing up a small space on my shelf. I’m currently sorting through my books to decide which are out of date and can be donated. I’m on my way, but I have a long way to go.

The good news is that I expect this year to be much quieter than last. Although the unexpected might crop up, I should have more time available to deal with my stuff. The other good news is that my expenses should go way down in the coming months as I work to deal with my stuff. This will also teach me a lesson to be even more conscientious about stuff and how much of it I have at any one time. When I look at the stuff I sigh and think how much easier this all would have been if I had realized sooner that my stuff was getting away from me. It’s a valuable lesson and one that I hope never to repeat.

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4 Responses to Getting My Stuff Back in Balance

  1. Ralph says:

    I have read that you should keep your VHS tapes for backup even after converting to DVD, but I’m not sure why, since if you copy the DVDs and keep them in a separate place that should be fine for backup. But in my case, we still have VCRs and space isn’t a pressing issue, so I probably will keep them for a while anyway.

  2. Irma says:

    I could have written this if only I had the time! lol Right down to the notebooks and free pens. I helped my mom get ready to move into a senior building, planned my wedding, my daughters hs grad party, started a Pampered Chef business, Got daughter set up for college. ugh. 2009 has got to be better.

  3. Janet says:

    Love this post. What an awesome and worthwhile goal. I wish you the best with it.

  4. Damon says:

    I like this concept, I am a packrat and have too much clutter.

    The concern with DVDs and VHS is that if treated correctly (cool, dry place), VHS won’t degrade.

    However, unless you buy the right DVDs, the ink in the disk can actually degrade over time, making it worthless.

    One way around this are to buy archival quality disks (I prefer Ritek / Ridata, and you can find them for about $20-25 for a 100pk online) The dyes in these disks are designed to last a long time. PS I always buy my disks online, they’re a lot cheaper than in the stores and I know what I’m getting. Just because your disks say Memorex on them doesn’t mean you’re getting the same disk every time…

    But that said, everyone tries to make everything cheaper, so if it’s a family video or something irreplaceable, I would seriously consider picking up an external hard drive that will be used only for these videos. Then be careful with it as well, and don’t use it for your day to day stuff. Wearing a drive out or putting a virus on there kinda defeats the purpose of backing it up.

    If you decide to go with the external hard drive and want to save a few bucks there (and have quality control), they are very easy to build. There are two components, the case, and the (internal) hard drive. You have a few things to watch out for.
    1. Make sure the case has good user reviews. Look for one with a lot of aluminum and cooling fans, these help keep your drive cool.
    2. You must match the INTERNAL interface of the case to the hard drive’s interface. Most common now is SATA II and you can find a case for about $35, and the hard drives go for about $1 per 10 gb.
    3. Make sure your computer supports the EXTERNAL interface of the external case. Almost all have USB, but there are a few that do not so watch that.

    Hope I didn’t ramble too much.

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