Box 5 of 9: Revelations
Posted in March 2013
on March 24th, 2013 by Susana Enriquez – Be the first to comment
How to Organize Your Greeting Cards
It’s been a year since I’ve visited that corner of the garage where my boxes of sentimental clutter lurk.
Nearly two years ago, I started on this journey to rid my parents’ garage of the nine boxes of random stuff that somehow were important enough for me to keep but not important enough to take with me on my many moves.
Within six months, I had gone through four boxes and had rid myself of my heliumless mylar balloons, bell bottoms, 100+ Beanie Babies, and Barbies (among other things). After that, I needed a break! And while on this break – which I call “Life” – I found a random box in a bedroom closet that contained more Beanies and more decisions. My parents’ house really is a Museum of Me.
Truth be told, when I work with a client, we can easily go through five boxes like this in one organizing session. So I’m a little embarrassed that it’s taking me so long to get through my stuff. But however long it takes, I’m soldiering on.
Let me introduce Box No. 5. The mix of stuff in it makes me think that my mom grabbed whatever stuff I left in my room when I moved out, put it in a box and moved it to the garage.
Do you see what I see? More Beanie Babies! There aren’t many things I can say with certainty, but I can say this: I will NEVER get swept into another collection frenzy. Ever.
This little collection will be my contribution to the garage sale that will be held next month at the school where my sister teaches. Done.
Besides collecting Beanie Babies, another hobby of mine was attending raves – you know, the parties with the thumping techno music that are held in secluded warehouses. And here’s yet another insight into my life: When I attended these raves, I wore clothes made of vinyl.
I can feel the judgement.
Ever wonder what happens to plastic clothing after being stored for about 15 years? Said clothing begins to decompose. This skirt used to be all red.
After acknowledging the good times that were had, all vinyl clothing went in the trash (where, some would say, it belonged in the first place).
Somehow, this non-vinyl-but-still-shiny outfit remained intact and is now destined for some lucky Goodwill shopper.
Underneath those fun finds were my newspaper clips from my days as a journalist. See how nicely organized they are?
But like many organizing projects in homes around the country, this one was partially finished. Underneath that binder, I found a small pile of my clips that were still in their full-page form, a box of plastic sleeves and a box of clasp envelopes (for sending copies of my clips to potential employers).
Because I already had a box of clasp envelopes, I gave them to my sister, who uses them for storing her tax receipts. I kept the plastic sleeves because I love them and I use them for everything.
As for my clips, well, I’m not ready to part with them just yet. So I set out to look for the perfect storage vessel for them and I found one: the Iris Scrapbook Case from Michaels.
As I placed each story in the box – oldest to newest – I came across something that was by far my favorite find.
This picture, which ran in the Ventura County Star in 2003, captures a moment of celebration with my friend, Stephenie, after we had completed our first skydive.
While I remember this moment clearly, I didn’t remember that the picture was published in the paper. See, sometimes you do need to have the stuff for the memories to be triggered. (Shhhh, don’t tell my clients!)
So there you have it. I’m a Beanie-collecting, rave-dancing, skydiving, journalist-turned-organizer. What will the rest of my boxes reveal?
Posted in February 2013
on February 28th, 2013 by Susana Enriquez – Be the first to comment
Less Stuff, More Experiences
I’ve placed “greeting cards” in the category of “Things That People Rarely, If Ever, Want to Get Rid Of,” along with things like books, pictures and clothes that don’t fit. We attach such a high level of sentimentality to them, yet we cram them into drawers, place them in random bags that are then stuffed into closets, or send them to their death in a dingy cardboard box in the garage.
But if you’re going to continue holding onto all those greeting cards (and you know you are), then it’s time to set your cards free and turn them into something that you can actually enjoy – like a book. A card book will make it easier for you to take a trip down memory lane when the need arises – assuming, of course, that you don’t toss the book into the bottom of a drawer.
Here’s how to do it:
1. Gather your greeting cards and organize them according to how you’d like to look at them. I like to first separate the cards by occasion (birthday, holiday, graduation, just because, etc.). Then I organize the cards in each of those stacks by date – I put the most recent cards on top so I feel like I’m going back in time when I flip through my finished book.
As you go through your cards, get rid of any that you don’t want. Many professional organizers will tell you to part with any cards that don’t have a personalized message. I disagree, mostly because I take such care in choosing the right card for someone and I feel that other people do the same.
A word of warning: Don’t spend too much time reminiscing or you’ll never get done!
2. Put holes in your cards. I like using this 2-Hole punch (the Carl HC-240) that I ordered from Amazon. The paper guides make it easy to center the cards perfectly.
3. Slide book rings through your cards. I use these 2-inch rings from Staples. For smaller card books, I use smaller rings.
Do all of this while you’re sitting in front of the TV and it will get done before you know it!
Here’s my book. The oldest card I’ve found so far is from when I turned eight (not pictured)!
Now what do you do with your card book? I keep mine in a memory box on a shelf – that way I can go through it whenever I feel the pangs of nostalgia. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it’s nice to have those memories handy.
Posted in 2012
, June 2012
on June 3rd, 2012 by Susana Enriquez – Be the first to comment
The Accumulation Games
This is what Christmas with my family looks like.
See all those presents? They’re all full of stuff.
Year after year I’ve watched as my nieces and nephews tear into one gift, toss it aside and tear into the next one, not really paying attention to what they received – much less, who gave it to them.
And the more I work in homes that have been overrun by stuff, the less I want to contribute to the stuff epidemic. So I decided that for Christmas (and all other gift-giving occasions), I would give less stuff and more experiences.
My sisters and their husbands received tickets to Jerry Seinfeld’s tour, along with babysitting for the night. I gave my nephew and two nieces – now ages 9, 8 and 6, respectively – vouchers that were good for a day of fun with me. They each got to choose where we would dine at lunchtime, our activity for the day – bowling, skating, miniature golf or a movie – and a spot for dessert.
So why am I blogging about this nearly six months later?
For one, it took several months for everyone to cash in their gifts. But it’s what happened after they did that made me want to write about it. About a week after we spent the day together, my nieces gave me these:
I had never received Thank You cards for the clothes, books and toys that I’ve bought them over the years. So that made it clear that I was on to something.
My youngest niece and I were the first to set out on our day o’ fun. First stop: McDonald’s (no surprise there). Then on to Golf N’ Stuff, our local spot for miniature golf.
After two rounds of golf, we played some skee ball. Then, my niece tried her luck at the claw game. And what luck – she got two stuffed toys in one grab! She couldn’t have been happier!
Next up: Baskin Robbins, a chocolate-induced coma and a nap on the ride home (for her, not me).
The next day was somewhat similar: Lunch with my other niece at a local pizza parlor, followed by miniature golf (minus the skee ball and the good luck with the claw) and frozen yogurt for dessert.
Two down, one to go!
One more trip to McDonald’s, a couple of hours of bowling at Buena Lanes, then back to the frozen yogurt shop.
Even though I didn’t get a card from my nephew, he still let me know that he enjoyed our time together.
Him: “Next year, when we go bowling, can we-”
Me: “Wait. Who said anything about doing this again next year?”
Him: “Well, it was a good present.”
Three days of eating junk food and hanging out with three kids was pretty tiresome. But it WAS a good present – for them and for me.
I could have made the kiddos come to a consensus and taken them all out on the same day. That would have been: A) easier on my schedule, and B) cheaper. But it was the one-on-one time that I was going for because I only have a few more years before they hit the age where they’re too embarrassed to be seen with me.
As for my sisters and their hubbies, they also enjoyed their night out. In fact, both couples said it was “the perfect gift.” They’ve never said that about any of the stuff I’ve given them over the years.
So if this doesn’t convince you that experiences are way better than adding more crap to someone’s life, read this:
Posted in 2012
, March 2012
on March 23rd, 2012 by Susana Enriquez – Be the first to comment
Another Day, Another Box
Let the accumulation games begin!
If you’ve watched TV, listened to the radio, surfed the Internet or paid attention to billboards you know that the biggest cultural phenomenon since the Twilight and Harry Potter series is coming today to a movie theater near you.
The Hunger Games is the much-anticipated movie based on the young-adult novel by the same name. The book – the first in a trilogy by Suzanne Collins – is set in a post-apocolyptic world in which one boy and one girl from each of 12 districts are randomly selected to compete in a televised, gladiator-style battle to the death. The last one standing is immune from future lotteries.
Since The Hunger Games was released in 2008, word of mouth has propelled it – and the ensuing books, Catching Fire and Mockingjay – into phenomenon status. According to the New York Times, more than 24 million copies of Collins’ trilogy are in print in the United States.
So what does all of this buzz mean? When people become obsessed with something, they have a need to let the world know it by owning everything that is associated with that obsession.
Enter themed merchandise: I can wear a Hunger Games beanie, T-shirt and knee socks, accessorize with a pair of Mockingjay hoop earrings and a matching necklace, snuggle up with a fleece blanket and play the Jabber Jay card game in a room where the movie poster hangs on a wall and the Katniss, Peeta and Gale action figures sit atop a shelf (in their boxes, of course, since they’re worth more that way).
When I get hungry, I can crack open “The Unofficial Hunger Games Cookbook” and whip up Katniss’ Favorite Lamb Stew with Dried Plums while listening to the soundtrack (featuring songs by Maroon 5, Taylor Swift and Miranda Lambert).
After that, I can paint my nails with one of the 12 Capitol Colours polishes (one for each district, of course) from China Glaze.
It’s madness. (I do love this ad, though.)
And apparently, it’s no longer enough to own the plain ol’ Hunger Games book. No, no. Publishers won’t stop until they fill your bookshelves with:
I loved the Hunger Games trilogy and I am excited to see how the books come alive on the big screen (though I’m 99.9% sure that the books will be better). But beyond owning the books and the movies (and perhaps one nail polish), I’m choosing to keep my home free of Hunger Games clutter. You, too, can still be considered a fan even if you don’t own everything that is emblazoned with the “Hunger Games” logo.
Posted in 2012
, March 2012
on March 3rd, 2012 by Susana Enriquez – 1 Comment
Jason Wu for Target: Hype = Clutter
I think my boxes are regenerating.
I was helping my mom look for a picture that she had put away in a safe place (read: a place that made no sense and hence, the reason she couldn’t find it) and guess what I found? Another box full of my crap.
Did you think I was kidding when I said that my mom and dad’s house was a Museum of Me? As much as I’ve tried to leave their nest empty, the stuff somehow manages to hide from me.
It also should come as no surprise that among the contents of this box were Beanie Babies. That’s right – more Beanie Babies to add to the 100+ beanies that I donated to a good home last year.
This is what I found:
Holiday beanies (Valentine’s Day, 4th of July and Easter).
Birthday beanies. I was born the Year of the Horse and every few years my birthday falls on Thanksgiving.
Graduation beanies. Apparently, it was necessary to have two of them to commemorate the culmination of my academic career.
Random liberal beanie, miniature Christmas stocking and assorted tag protectors.
That concludes the beanie portion of this post. On to the rest of the random stuff.
Monsters, Inc. toys from McDonald’s Happy Meals (Mike Wazowski, The Abominable Snowman, George Sanderson and Randall).
An I Love Lucy lunch box (I really do love her – but not in colored, lunch box form) and a pumpkin candle.
And my favorite: mementos (pictures and ticket stubs) from a relationship I haven’t been in for about 9 years.
I don’t usually pack random things like this together. My guess is that when I moved out of my parents’ house, my mom packed up some of the things I had left behind.
So what to do with all this stuff? I allowed myself to keep the holiday and birthday beanies. I did, however, promise myself that I would get rid of them if I didn’t display them on their respective holidays. I thought that was fair. The Hallmark ornaments also stayed, as did the pumpkin candle.
As for the ex-boyfriend stuff, I decided to deal with it later along with the box full of ex-boyfriend stuff that fills up one of the five boxes in my parents’ garage that I have yet to go through. I can’t wait (insert eye roll here)!
Everything else will be donated. Good riddance!
P.S. In case you’re wondering, my mom and I never found that picture.
Posted in 2012
, February 2012
on February 4th, 2012 by Susana Enriquez – Be the first to comment
Box 4 of 9: Childhood Remnants
In a matter of hours, Manhattan-based designer Jason Wu will single-handedly increase the amount of clutter in homes across the country.
Wu was the “who” that First Lady Michelle Obama was wearing on her husband’s inauguration. One look at the white, one-shouldered, chiffon ball gown that she wore was all it took for the nation to become obsessed with the designer.
With the launch of Jason Wu for Target on Sunday, Feb. 5, Wu will join the growing list of designers who have released affordable clothing lines at local retailers. In September, the Target launch of the Italian fashion house, Missoni, was met with such demand that shoppers scooped up all the merchandise within hours and crashed the retailer’s website in the process.
If this any indication, there is little doubt that people will be stockpiling anything bearing the Wu name. And it’s precisely this kind of hype that results in our homes being filled with a bunch of stuff we don’t need – or even want.
When everyone around you is grabbing stuff by the armful, feverishly loading up their carts, it throws you into a tizzy and makes you feel like you have to get as much as possible or risk being left with nothing – a mass hysteria, of sorts.
Even though I’m ambivalent about Wu’s collection, I feel like I should be part of the buzz that day – bragging about all the stuff I got that so many others couldn’t. It’s one of the reasons people shop on Black Friday. And it’s how I ended up with 100+ Beanie Babies.
So here’s some advice from someone who has gotten caught up in the hype on more than one occasion:
- If you really are a fan of Wu’s designs, browse the lookbook before the collection goes on sale and pick out the pieces you’d like to get.
- Get ONLY those pieces. But only if they will fit you NOW. None of that “they’re-out-of-my-size-so-I’ll-get-one-(or two)-sizes-smaller-because-I’ve-been-meaning-to-lose-weight-anyway” nonsense.
- Enjoy your purchases! Because if you don’t plan to use them, why buy them? (Unless you just want the Wu stuff so that you can rub it in your friends’ faces that you got something that they didn’t.)
For those who plan to flip their purchases:
- Take inventory. If you want to do it the organizer way, create a spreadsheet with the name/description of the item, quantities and what you paid. You can also add the selling price and the buyers’ information.
- Get to flipping right away! The value of the goods decreases proportionally to the hype.
- Don’t let the goods take over your house. Put them in plastic bins to keep the pet hair/odors and accidental spills from ruining your investment.
Happy shopping and selling!
Posted in 2011
, November 2011
on November 15th, 2011 by Susana Enriquez – 2 Comments
Box 3 of 9: The Dreaded Bin o’ Beanies
Strawberry Shortcake greeted me when I opened the box.
“Hello, my friend. I’ve missed you.”
And how did I respond? I shoved her into a bag destined for Goodwill. What a friend I am.
After forcing myself to let go of my Beanie Babies, I wasn’t looking forward to going through another box of stuff. My parents have space in their three-car garage for my remaining six boxes (they had room for all nine boxes!), so why bother? Someone else can go through all that crap when I die, right?
Wrong! I made a commitment to go through all of those boxes and I’m going to do it if it kills me!
Recently, one of my clients said something that I will soon be claiming as my own, professional organizer wisdom. He said, “The more [an item] means to you, the more it means to give it away.” And he’s right. It felt great giving my beanies to kids who would love them.
So back to Strawberry Shortcake. I didn’t send her off alone. She was joined by another doll and a walker. The stroller, though it held together well for the picture, was broken. It went in the trash.
I also said my goodbyes to my Barbie collection, which consisted of nine dolls (well, eight, plus one wannabe – hint: she’s the one on the end).
I couldn’t let them go without feeling one last tinge of guilt over not letting one of my dearest cousins play with them when we were of Barbie-playing age (I’m sorry, Marilu!).
Of the four male Barbies (Marbies?) that I had, I decided to save Prince Charming and the Beast for my nieces (ages 7 and 6) because I didn’t think that their Barbies had any male companions. I also thought they would think it was cool to have something that I played with when I was little.
Well, I would have been better off putting them in the donation bag.
I hid them behind my back and asked my oldest niece to pick a hand. She picked Prince Charming, so I gave the Beast to my other niece. She wasn’t happy.
“I want that one,” she cried, pointing to her sister’s new doll.
When she realized it was the Beast or nothing, she took it. And I learned a valuable lesson: Don’t give the girls anything unless the items are identical!
After all that drama, my spirits were lifted when I saw that all of my Barbie clothes and accessories were still in their respective Ziploc baggies. Did you think I was kidding when I said I was organized as a kid? Here’s the proof:
Into the donation bag the baggies went!
Not everything in the box went away. I did keep a few of my baby things: a towel, several blankies and a pillow with a cover that my mom cross stitched.
I have to admit that going through this box wasn’t so painful. I’m almost looking forward to the next one! Almost, I said.
Even though I won’t be reaching my goal of going through all the boxes by the end of this year, I hope to squeeze in another two boxes so that I end the year in a good place, from a mathematical point of view (6/9 = 2/3 of the way done).
Posted in 2011
, August 2011
on August 11th, 2011 by Susana Enriquez – 2 Comments
Box 2 of 9: Fashion Revival
This is getting tough.
Compared to boxes 1 and 2, which were full of memorabilia and clothes that were out of style and no longer fit, this box was different. Different because I didn’t want to give away my sweet, adorable Ty Beanie Babies! They weren’t hurting anybody sitting in a box in the corner of my mom and dad’s garage!
But I could hear Peter Walsh’s voice in my head saying, in his Aussie accent, “You have to give your collections a place of honor.”
Damn him! And the fact that I’m a professional organizer who should, as they say, walk the walk!
So I cracked open that blue, Sterilite container and pulled out 106 Beanie Babies: 52 regular Beanie Babies (including one platinum membership bear), two of the larger Beanie Buddies, four Ronald McDonald House Charities bears and 48 McDonald’s Happy Meal Teenie Beanies (Yes, I ate nearly 50 Happy Meals to get those – good thing I had a fast metabolism back then!).
Among these beanies are two cardinals and one bear cub commemorating baseball cheaters Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa during their 1998 pursuit of Roger Maris’ home run record; two walruses (walri???) that have the same name as the boyfriend I had when I bought them (I hope that’s not the reason they joined my beanie family, but I think it is.); and a Valentine’s Day bear given to me by a guy years after I stopped dating him (I found out he had a girlfriend. Can you say, ‘guilty conscience?’).
I obviously had money to burn. And working in a mall just a few stores away from Beanie central – AKA Hallmark – didn’t help (nor did the fact that my best friend worked there and set aside the best beanies for me).
Next step: eBay. I couldn’t give away my beanies without confirming that they were essentially worthless. Well, consider it confirmed. Most of the beanies that sold recently on the site went for a paltry 99 cents – or 1/6 of what I paid for them! A select few went for as much as $14.99 – but for every one of those, there were five or six others that hadn’t sold.
As soon as I came to terms with the fact that I would never recover the money I spent, it became clear that my only option was to get my beanies in the hands of kids who would love them. But which kids?
One perk of being a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers is that we can tap into the wisdom of organizers across the country via a listserv. Why am I telling you this? Well, three weeks ago, a fellow California organizer asked the group for advice on getting rid of Beanie Babies. It’s like she knew I had a bin of beanies that needed to be dealt with (she actually had a client with a beanie problem that was more serious than mine)!
These are the recommendations she received:
- Beanies for Baghdad and Barry’s Beanies put Beanie Babies in the hands of our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan so that they can distribute them to the children there.
- Stuffed Animals for Emergencies (SAFE) collects new and gently used stuffed animals and distributes them to emergency organizations, children’s services, hospitals, homeless shelters and other places that help children during times of crisis.
- And in general: children’s hospitals, police stations, ambulance companies, elementary schools, animal shelters (one organizer said she rolls the beanies in dried catnip and gives them to her cats when they are restless or cranky).
While those were great suggestions, I:
A) didn’t want to pay to ship them anywhere (haven’t I spent enough money already?) and
B) liked the idea of my beanies going to local kids.
I thought about giving them to a pre-school, but I didn’t want to wait several weeks for school to start. Then I remembered a friend telling me about Casa Pacifica, a center in Camarillo that offers emergency shelter care, psychiatric and psychological treatment, educational programs and overall support for abused and neglected children. Perfect!
After calling them to see if they would take my beanies – they said yes! – I packed them up (minus four holiday-themed beanies that I kept for decorating) and delivered them. As a bonus, I threw in these non-Ty bean-bag toys:
Some of my beanies will go into the welcome packages that are given to the kids when they arrive at Casa Pacifica. Others will be given to kids to comfort them when they receive medical treatment. The rest will go to center’s store, Cloud 9, where kids can purchase them with play money they have earned for good behavior.
So even though I’m left with this:
I feel that my heart, like the Grinch’s, grew three sizes knowing my beanies went to a good home.
Posted in 2011
, June 2011
on June 21st, 2011 by Susana Enriquez – Be the first to comment
This box may look small, but inside lurked a fashion revival.
The 1990′s revival of the 1970′s to be exact. Yes, I embraced bell bottoms and wide-leg pants in all of their hippie glory!
Here’s a sampling of the goodies I found:
- Four pairs of denim bell bottoms (the awesome pair on the right with all the buttons belonged to my sister)
- One pair of black-and-white, wide-leg pants
- One pair of cotton bell bottoms (also my sister’s)
- Two vests – one denim; one patchwork with fringes (which I don’t think I ever wore. Really.)
- One colorful shirt I bought at a thrift store
Why did I save this stuff for 17 years or so? Two reasons.
I thought they would make great Halloween costumes. And they did. One year. When they still fit.
I was also holding onto them for my daughter(s) for when the trend returns. When I was in high school, I thought it was so cool when my friends wore clothes their moms wore back when they were young. It’s only now that I realize that in order to do that, those moms were violating the cardinal rule of clothing retention: If you haven’t worn it in a year, it needs to go (but NOT into a box in the garage).
The problem with holding onto stuff for your children is that if you don’t have any, like me, you have to hold onto the stuff for a long time before they’re even old enough to decide if they want to wear your funky, button-down bell bottoms.
I would have to store those bell bottoms for at least 20 more years to get to that point. That’s not happening. So into a bag everything went. Destination: Goodwill.
If my daughter(s) ever express interest in wearing funky old clothes, I can always take them thrift-store shopping. Who knows? Maybe some my clothes will still be around.
And how random is this: In the box, I also found the crown I wore on the day of my First Communion and my candle.
Perhaps finding those two items is a sign that I should reconnect with my religion. That remains to be seen, but in the meantime, they are going into my box of memorabilia.
Posted in 2011
, June 2011
on June 13th, 2011 by Susana Enriquez – Be the first to comment
« Older Entries
It turns out empty nests aren’t as devoid of stuff as the name implies – at least in the UK.
According to a recent article in the Daily Mail, British parents are storing nearly £2.5 billion ($4.06 billion) of stuff that their children have abandoned.
It happens in the U.S., too. My parents’ garage has been home to nine boxes of my stuff for years. Total value: I don’t know, but not even close to £2.5 billion.
How does it happen? When you leave mom and dad’s house, it’s usually to move into a pint-sized dorm room with as many as three people. Even if you wanted to take your little league trophies and high school yearbooks with you, you wouldn’t have room for them. So you leave them behind and on occasional visits back home, you add to the collection.
But, kids, you shouldn’t feel guilty for leaving your stuff behind because it seems that parents benefit from it. The story says parents “enjoy looking after their children’s old stuff – one in five still sees their child’s old bedroom as belonging to them, even after they’ve flown the nest, and one in eight say they enjoy the ‘nostalgia’ that keeping their childhood possessions brings.”
It makes sense: as long as parents have their children’s stuff in their home, they can pretend that their children are only gone temporarily. They don’t mind what organizing guru Peter Walsh calls memory clutter, because seeing the stuff triggers happy memories of having a full house.
Benefit or no benefit, I’m working on whittling down the amount of stuff I’m storing. I’ve already gone through the contents of one box and I’ll be starting on the second box this week. I figure that if I tackle one box every two or three weeks, my parents will ring in 2012 with a nest that is downright empty.
If you’re a parent who would like to use the prime real estate in your home for the things you love – like scrapbooking and exercising – instead of for storing your kids’ long-forgotten baseball card and Cabbage Patch doll collections, set a deadline and have them stick to it!