I want to emphasize: I don't recommend this plan of action for anyone. It depends on (1) your having a lifestyle that allows you to drop everything else at a moment's notice so that you can declutter nonstop for two weeks, and (2) your being willing to risk your health. (I got six hours of sleep in the final forty-eight hours of decluttering.)
However, in case any of you are faced with an absolute deadline for decluttering - as we were - here's how our decluttering went, as recorded in emails to my stepmother. (Because I was writing to a parent, I didn't talk much about the tons of housecleaning I was doing at the same time.)o--o--oSeptember 19
So we got this last Friday:
What we've been doing for the past four days: cleaning, decluttering, and filling donation boxes.
Tomorrow's task: a run to Goodwill. September 20
Took to Goodwill [by a U-Haul van] nine small boxes of fragiles (china, pottery, and glass), seventeen medium boxes of clothing and household goods, and ten larger household goods that wouldn't fit into boxes. [Most of these were donation boxes we'd been gradually accumulating for months.]
Tomorrow: ReStore. September 21
Overnight (because the movers were due at 9:30 AM): Decluttered path to the bookcases. Recycled three cloth shopping bags' worth of papers. I'm not sure how many trash bags went to the dumpster; I lost track.
Today: Donated to ReStore [by a U-Haul truck, with the help of the movers] nine 6-ft bookcases, two short bookcases, a bookcase for CDs, a small dresser, and a large dresser.
Tomorrow: Arrange the furniture in Joe's bedroom, finally.September 22
It turns out that, when you hit your head three times in two days, your head gets cranky and demands to have ice put on it periodically. Fancy that.
So today was a short workday, darn it. I moved my bookcases out of Jo/e's area (they'd been hemmed in by Jo/e's couch, which was too heavy for me to move; the movers moved the couch, bless them), shelved magazines, filled donation boxes, and took out another bag of recycling.September 23
I donated hundreds of vintage magazines to a travelling private library I did some volunteer work for in the 00s. They're Philadephia-based and were kind enough to pick up the magazines on short notice. Joe decluttered his bedroom area so that we could move his furniture. We moved another of my bookcases out of his space, and I shelved books. I nearly finished decluttering the middle area of the apartment but ran out of steam at the end of the day. More donation-box-filling done. The dumpster is becoming alarmingly full.
Tomorrow: We move Joe's furniture. Honest. September 24
Wednesday's tasks: Not moving Joe's furniture, alas; he needed more time to declutter his area. So I decluttered and cleaned my
area some more. Put Mother's file folders into my big file cabinet till I can sort them. Boxed up more donations. The dumpster is now full; it won't be emptied till Wednesday.
Me to Joe: "Can we put the broken vacuum in your area and pretend that we both have our own vacuum?"
Tomorrow's tasks: Finish boxing donations. Finish decluttering. Find discreet places for my cardboard boxes. Move Joe's furniture. I need a 48-hour day, please.September 25
Decluttered some more. Joe's back was out on him all day, but he managed the driving. I'm up to five hits on the head so far.
Sold Mother's old croquet set to a local antique shop for a token amount.
Dropped off a large bag of old medicine at the police station's drug box (saying, "Expired medicine!" to anyone within hearing distance, yet still feeling sure I must look like a drug addict). Dropped off old batteries at the city hall next door.
Donated [by U-Haul van] four boxes and five larger items to Goodwill.
By the time we got back from Goodwill, the sun was setting. I've been getting half my usual amount of sleep, so Joe and I agreed it made sense to rise with the dawn and work then. o--o--o
I didn't record our final, nightmarish forty-eight-hour purge. I'm now prepared for dwelling in hell; I know what the work there is like.
As of today, the inspector still
hasn't shown up, but except for bits of Joe's area, the apartment looks like I've wanted it to look, ever since we moved in three years ago.
I now realize that, at the pace I was decluttering (a couple of hours a week, with no effort to arrange tasks like getting the donation items out of the apartment), it would have taken us forever to declutter the apartment. To be exact, it took us eighty-five hours to declutter and clean the apartment.
What remains to be decluttered (and yes, we aren't finished) is:
* One hundred boxes of papers, mainly inherited from my mother, which I need to go through.
* Hundreds of LPs and dozens of cassettes and CDs that I inherited from my mother.
* Joe is a fabric artist who keeps his fabric collection in plastic storage cartons on wire shelves. However, he has more fabric than plastic storage cartons, and more cardboard boxes than wire shelves. We're trying to deal with that at the moment.
In terms of cleaning, this is what I still have to do:
* Wash the rug.
* Clean the windows and window frames.
* Clean the microwave.
* Figure out how to resolve the toilet-ring problems.
Beyond that, I have finally reached that paradise at the end of the rainbow, where all that is left is maintaining a clean, uncluttered apartment.
So completing a massive decluttering operation is possible. It really is. All it takes is time and sweat and stress and quite a few bruises and aches from hauling stuff out.
Plus, lots of chocolate.( Last week's shopping list )( This week's meals )