Monday, August 23, 2010


The shopping diet continues. When I really think about it, the big hardship for me is not buying books. This habit started in childhood- my mother really wanted to encourage reading and would buy me a book anytime I asked. I love to read and I hate when I don't have something to curl up with on a rainy afternoon or at night before I turn off the lights. But I think the true temptation is that they offer so many possibilities: I can read a novel set in the court of Queen Elizabeth I, learn about India, get some techniques from a famous chef, or solve a mystery before the wiley detective. Not really a bad deal for 15 bucks!

My new de-cluttering best friends, Judi and Marj, authors of the book Scaling Down: Living Large in a Smaller Space, introduced the idea of "clutter triage." You walk through the house and pick up as many things as possible that you can easily get rid of. When I triaged my house, I found that I had purchased many many books that I happily read once and then placed on the shelf to gather dust. So far I have taken four reusable grocery bags full to the used book store and the Friends of the Library, and still have plenty left.

Some of these books were like a badge of honor: I was proud of having read As I Lay Dying, so I kept it around. Since high school! I realized that I don't need the physical book hanging around the house to prove that I read it. So out when most of my anthropology textbooks from college (in the interest of full disclosure I should confess that I had never read some of them) and the modern classics I was forced to read in high school more than a decade ago. I also got rid of the books I bought over the years and then never read- they were basically a big source of guilt on my shelf. Admitting that I would probably never read them was like confessing a secret and feeling a sense of relief after.

In this midst of this, my awesome friend Beth shared an amazing discovery. There is a place in town that will lend you books FOR FREE! Even better, you can use your home computer to search their collection, order the books you are interested in, and the staff will gather them together in the branch of your choice! I am of course talking about the local library.

So now, when I browse over to, and get tempted by the many helpful suggestions based on my personal purchase history, I can easily resist the temptation but navigating to the library webpage and requesting that those same books be held for me. And that is how I have managed three weeks without buying a single book but still had something new and exciting to read all along!

By the way, my Under the Stairs closet is now monster-free. This was the closet I was most afraid of, tackled first, and checked off the list!

This is the "before" picture. The closet is narrow with a sloping ceiling and no light, which makes it a magnet for clutter and a catch-all for things I don't have another place for.

I took everything out of the closet and spread it out across the living room floor. Among the more inappropriate items were: an Angelina Ballerina doll with receipt from 12/06 that was purchased for a Toys for Tots drive, around 10 bottles of expired cleaning products, my ex-boyfriend's buffer (we broke up 4 years ago), and (thankfully only) one dead cockroach.

Three large trashbags later, the closet looks like this....

I had been putting this project off for LITERALLY TWO YEARS!!! The whole process ended up taking two hours. So the score stands as, Closets 0, Melissa 1.

I feel like a superhero!

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