Norton says: What are you without your stuff?

I’m not the only one that’s deeply disturbed by this advertisement, right?

“Let’s talk about Stuff.
The Stuff that lives on your hard drive, your devices and on the web.
It’s who you are stuff, where you’ve been and where you’re going stuff.
The stuff that connects you to the people you love.
But sometimes bad stuff can happen to your Stuff.
Your Stuff can get lost. Even stolen.
The thing is, stuff happens.
Which is why you need Norton.
Because what are you without your Stuff?
Better yet, without your Stuff…who are you?”

A Year Later: The Emotion of the Stuff Project

It’s been one year since I eagerly embarked on the incredibly daunting task of cleaning my childhood home, what I called “The Purge of 2010.” My goal was to clean at least 75% of the house in hopes that I would help my family and help myself in the process. I hoped to finish at the end of two months, working on the house like a full-time job.

If you followed along, or even if you’re just discovering this blog for the first time, you’ll see that the last time I posted anything was, well, 10 months ago… just 3 months after I began the project. Before I explain what happened in the past 10 months and what happened with the project, let me tell you a little bit more about what allowed me to start the project to begin with. (more…)

Day 27: The Kitchen

At the end of each day, I post a recap of what happened and what progress I made. I try to be as detailed as possible when tracking the project. Here’s what happened today…

Today’s Stats:

Number of hours spent: 7
Supplies purchased: None
Amount spent: $0
Number of (13-gallon kitchen) bags trashed: 2
Number of giveaway boxes: 0
Number of (33-gallon) giveaway bags:  0

Butt-Kick Tier 1: Clear out a kitchen drawer
Butt-Kick Tier 2: Clear out a 1/4 of the Kitchen


Alas, I’m finally tackling the kitchen. I expected the kitchen to be easy to clean because I figured that most of the stuff was old food to be thrown away or kitchen utensils/appliances that we don’t use.

Once I got started, I found that although there was old food and old kitchen supplies, most of the stuff in the kitchen doesn’t belong in the kitchen to begin with. For example in a single small area I sorted through I found:

  • A few picture frames
  • Earrings
  • Stockings, pantyhose and socks
  • An unopened bag of lentils
  • Magnets
  • Bills and bank statements
  • JUNK MAIL (ughhhhh)
  • Business cards
  • Onion, Apples, Garlic, Ginger
  • Mailing labels
  • Toys (Rubber balls, Tyco train)
  • A Raiders highlights DVD (We’re not even football fans, let alone Raiders fans)
  • A 12-CD Case holder, with a picture of Celine Dion on the front
  • And of course… coins and dead batteries

I sit in a spot ready to clear through, then realize that I have no idea what to do with all this stuff. Unlike the garage or guest room, I don’t know how recent the miscellaneous items in the kitchen have been used. I don’t know whether the items are important to my family or not.

If the house were completely clean and you gave me the list of items above, I could easily tell you where each item should belong. But right now with the house as it is, when I’m in the moment of sorting I can’t figure out where anything should go. Most of it doesn’t belong in the kitchen, but there’s no place anywhere else to put it.

The overwhelming amount of miscellaneous stuff in the kitchen is just part of the problem. On top of that, the organizational system in place is inadequate. I close my eyes and envision the entire kitchen completely empty. Then I start slowly filling the kitchen in my mind with the things I think are essentials: the fridge, the microwave, toaster oven, crock pot, rice cooker and so on. Then I think of the utensils, pots and pans, dishes, cups, serving bowls and so on. Then the food. Even when I envision the basic things that we would need to have in the kitchen, or the things that would be normal or functional for us, there is still not enough storage.

Not enough cabinets or drawers. We don’t have a pantry to store food. The kitchen is the appropriate size for maybe a 2-bedroom apartment for urbanites who don’t cook often, not for a family of four who cook and bake a lot.

Now what? Even if I get rid of all the things we don’t need in the kitchen, there won’t be room to fit the things we do need. Given how the kitchen is the area used most often and given how my family has been with stuff, keeping stuff in a spot temporarily while we get stuff fixed (like maybe installing a pantry) simply can’t happen. There isn’t such a thing as putting something somewhere temporarily. Not with them, not yet.

I feel stuck. Even after I’ve broken down the project into smaller more manageable pieces, it still feels unmanageable.

Unnecessary stuff still manages to creep into areas they don’t belong. The clutter in the house is still too overwhelming and horribly disorganized. I think once we scale the stuff down into something manageable and once we have organizational systems in place, things will get easier to clean, organize, and maintain. Right now we’re just dealing with the massive purge.

One thing at a time I guess.

Tier 1 (drawer) accomplished. Tier 2, not. And still no pictures.

Day 26: Two Steps Closer to Normal, One Step Back

At the end of each day, I post a recap of what happened and what progress I made. I try to be as detailed as possible when tracking the project. Here’s what happened today…

Today’s Stats:

Number of hours spent: 9
Supplies purchased: None
Amount spent: $0
Number of (13-gallon kitchen) bags trashed: 1
Number of giveaway boxes: 4
Number of (33-gallon) giveaway bags:  2

Butt-Kick Tier 1: Bring out donation items to storage, sort through stuff on the floor of the guest room
Butt-Kick Tier 2: Finish the guest room


It’s been two weeks since I last cleaned. A series of events occurred that led to a severely depressed mood, and so I made the decision to step away from the project for a bit so I could piece myself back together well enough to actually get some work done. I’ll get into a little more detail about why I was absent in some upcoming posts. In the meantime, my sister and mom did some of their own organizing, making my return today much smoother than I anticipated.

The progress on the guest room was about 75% complete when I left, then with my sister’s help I returned to find the area about 83% done. As has been the pattern when I near the completion of an area, all I wanted to do today was just get the guest room finished.

I’m also keeping in mind that my preliminary and final deadlines (of Nov. 4 and Nov. 10 respectively) still stand. In order to be able to finish up the living room, dining area, and kitchen by the deadline, I need to finish the guest room in one day.

The “One Step Back” I’m referring to in the title of this post is this sad news: I don’t have a working camera with me. Therefore, I have no pictures for today, nor will I have pictures for the rest of the week, unless I can either 1) find the battery charger for my mom’s digital camera, or 2) find someone who is willing to let me borrow their camera for the next few days.

Not having a camera is unfortunate for three reasons:

  1. It totally kills the consistency of documenting my progress
  2. I can’t share the photos for you all to see, and
  3. The work I did today is the most visually striking progress I’ve made thus far on the project.

This leads me to the “Two Steps Ahead” part of the title. Not only did I accomplish the Tier 1 goal for the day (i.e., sorting through the floor stuff in the guest room), I also accomplished Tier 2 (i.e., finishing the guest room), AND helped my sister move in to the room. We moved in her bookshelf, filled and organized it, and she brought in her guitars and school stuff. Basically all we have left to move in to the room is her clothes.

There’s finally a “normal” looking room in the house.

Accomplishing more than Tier 2 was just the first step forward. The second step?


I’ve mentioned this briefly before, but my family has been living without hot water due to a broken water heater for years.

At first my dad didn’t want to get it fixed because he realized that having it off saved us some money and didn’t think hot water was much of a necessity. After a few winters with freezing cold showers, my mom wanted to get the heater fixed. Unfortunately by then clutter had built up around the water heater that we couldn’t get to it. Even when the heater was accessible, my family was too embarrassed to get someone to fix it because of all the mess.

Today, my mom somehow figured out how to fix the water heater on her own, saving us hundreds of dollars from hiring someone as well as some embarrassment. After seven years, we finally have hot running water again.

Guest room done, hot water, but no camera. Tomorrow I tackle the kitchen and dining area.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna go take a hot shower.