Just five things

Three links in the chain

Way back at the beginning of the year, I mentioned an idea a friend had to help get rid of the extraneous stuff that accumulates in life.  She suggested that we take on getting rid of five things every day.  That’s all.  Just five things.

Summer day

The idea, in case you missed it, is to somehow dispose of five items a day.  Recycle, reuse, repurpose, donate, or if it’s not suitable for any of those things (such as that favorite nightshirt that’s been washed so many times that the fabric has thinned and it will soon have more holes than shirt about it), throw it away.

Color bleed

Well.  (Followed by a deep sigh.)  I started out with good intentions.  The problem with good intentions is that they’re not much good without follow-up.  I don’t remember how long I kept up with the project.  I don’t remember when I stopped.  It seems like it’s been a long while, and in the meantime, stuff continues to accumulate in spite of my good intentions.


Starting today, I will go back to properly disposing of five things a day.  I have decided to make it a “finish out the year” challenge, in which I will do this for the rest of 2012.  Hopefully by that time it will carry forward into the new year as a habit, and I will continue forever or until I’ve pared down to nothing except what I consider the essentials for a happy life.

Bittersweet nightshade berries

Just what do I consider to be the essentials for a happy life?  I don’t know yet.  That was supposed to be part of the paring down process, discovering what I need, what I think I need, and what I’ve known for a long time I don’t need anymore.

Birdhouses. (Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Columbus, Ohio.)

Beauty of style and harmony and grace and good rhythm depend on simplicity.

~ Plato

Part of one of the murals at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

That’s really all I want to do — simplify.  I am starting with the “art desk” (as my oldest granddaughter calls it).  I realized that some of the things I used to do, or hoped to get around to doing again, are things I don’t have time for at this point in life.  The repurposed books, the collages I planned, and the sketching and drawing have not happened, and are not likely to happen.  During a recent early morning walk I came to the conclusion that I have to make choices, and my choices for now are photography and writing.  Those are the two creative outlets that bring me joy.  I may not earn a living at them, but those activities put a great deal of zing into my life.

There are all kinds of surprises to be found if you look up, look down, and look around. (Taken at Nationwide Children’s Hospital)

So it’s time for the piles of saved magazines to go.  The art supplies will need to be sorted.  I’ll keep what’s worth keeping for my granddaughters to use when they visit.

Taken at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

The art desk is going to be more than “just five things.”  I like to start with a bang, so to speak.  I’ve been putting off doing something about the situation with the art desk because I was putting off making a decision.  There was a time when I thought I might do it all.  Well, there just aren’t enough hours in the day for that.

Taken at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

The great thing about having made this decision is that I no longer feel the weight of those unfinished (or not even begun) projects hanging around my neck.  It’s a great relief to know what it is I want to do.

(Nationwide Children’s Hospital)

About some of the photos in this post:  As you may have noticed from the captions, some of the photos were taken at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.  M and I took a brief tour of some of the public areas of the hospital while we were in Columbus (the day before the Color Run).  Most of what you see in these photos are part of their new Magic Forest.  Isn’t it wonderful?

Empty labs and offices in a new research building.

Well, I think that’s about it for now.  By the time this post goes out, I should  have most of the art desk area cleaned up.  Anyone have any suggestions on what to do with a huge stack of old magazines?  (Mostly Yoga Journal and Sage Woman magazines.)  I’ll probably end up hauling them to the recycle center, but if anyone has a better idea, please let me know.

Thanks for stopping by.  I hope all is well in your world.  🙂

Just Five Things for today:

  • 27 books boxed up and ready to donate to the library
  • 1 box of miscellaneous computer parts boxed up and ready to hand over to M the Younger (explanation will follow)
  • 5 blouses, 1 pair of shorts, all too big for me, ready to be donated to Good Will

I did not get to the art desk as planned for a variety of reasons.  What I did do makes more sense for now.  I worked in M the Younger’s old bedroom, with the goal of boxing up at least one box of stuff he did not take with him when he moved to Colorado or when he moved back to this area for a while or when he moved to Pittsburgh.  My apologies to M the Younger’s lovely wife for shifting this burden to them, but it’s not my stuff to get rid of so M the Younger will have to take it and do as he will with it.  (Empty Nesters will probably recognize a certain reluctance to clean out the youngest child’s room.  Or maybe not.  I know some parents who have plans for those extra bedrooms long before the kids move out.  lol!)

I did make sure to get some of my own stuff taken care of as well.  All in all, a good day.  🙂

48 Comments on “Just five things”

  1. Oh, you’re very brave…just a day or two of doing that sounds brave to me, never mind multiple days…did I read correctly that you’ll be doing this until the end of the year? We have way too much stuff here in our home….things we haven’t used in years etc…so “letting go of stuff” would be a good “habit” to develop here too. Please keep us “posted” with updates, some inspiration might help get others going…me, in particular.

    • Robin says:

      Kathy (PP): I will not make any promises (because this one might be hard to keep), but I will try to add an update each day to my post with a general list of my “just five (or more) things.” I had to add “or more” because I have a lot more than five things today (and will update this post with my list as soon as I finish answering your comment).

      And yes, I’m challenging myself to do this for the rest of the year. I won’t be featured on any programs about hoarders, but I’m pretty sure I have enough extraneous stuff to keep me going at least that long and maybe through next year.

  2. Gracie says:

    Awesome idea, Robin! Perhaps you can donate the old magazines to a used bookstore, not sure if they will take them, but it doesn’t hurt to ask, I guess.

    Love the photos, by the way, especially those taken at the Children’s Hospital 🙂

  3. 5 things. That does make it more manageable – great idea. (and nice pix of the hospital – TX Children’s here is another kid friendly place. Environment makes a difference – especially for sick kids and their parents)

    • Robin says:

      Thank you, PhilosopherMouse. 🙂

      I was really happy to see all the magical stuff they’ve done at the Children’s hospital. I remember taking M the Younger (or Youngest Son) there for a consultation and the place feeling and looking very hospital-like even though they were trying not to. It was in the late 80s and things were still institutional in appearance.

  4. bearyweather says:

    Old magazines … some teachers in my building still have students cut them up and use the pictures or words … you could donate them to a school. Or just recycle …

    I have been accumulating stuff like that, too …. I really should start tossing things … but, I have to be in the mood to do it otherwise I do a lot of sorting and not much throwing away.

    • Robin says:

      I may end up recycling, Bearyweather. I can’t imagine the local school system wanting any of these magazines (especially SageWoman). Some of the parents would freak for sure (due to their religious beliefs).

  5. speaking of hospitals, they might be interested in those magazines. A lovely look at this children’s area today. it’s a big job to clear out but well worth it. I think five things a day is very manageable. Keep at it, you’ll be glad you did.

  6. Val says:

    Here in the UK, one good way to get rid of magazines is to give them to a doctor’s surgery for his/her waiting room. Can you do that, there?

    I actually made an opposite decision several months ago, to stop getting rid of things as I’ve been doing this for years – not in such a measured way as five a day, but almost constantly every few weeks or months – as I was getting too stressed out with the associated emotions. Nearly everything I have has such strong emotions attached to it. I tend not to acquire things that don’t resonate with me in that way. But if I do, then they leave fairly quickly!

    Another thing you can do is to put aside things to pass on to friends and family as gifts. For years now I’ve preferred to give people gifts of things that have been mine, rather than always buying new things. If the people receiving them want to then give them away or chuck them out, that’s up to them, but at least they know that what they’ve received has been loved to start with! 🙂

    • Robin says:

      I don’t know if we can or not, Val. My docs always have a lot of their own magazines in their waiting rooms.

      I like the idea of passing on things to friends or family. Thanks! 🙂

  7. jane tims says:

    Hi. I too have many accumulated possessions. I like the ‘five thing’ idea. I find it helpful to think of the house as a floating box… when I bring something in, it sinks a bit… when I take something out it floats… it feels good to have a more bouyant house! Jane

    • Robin says:

      That’s a wonderful way to look at it, Jane! I’ll have to borrow that idea from you. It helps to visualize what I’m trying to achieve. Thanks! 🙂

  8. Sallyann says:

    I’m not a brave as you … five things a day !
    I am in the thinking stage of holding a giant garage sale on ebay, a little bit here and there, just drips and drabs at the moment … actually I’ve only sold one thing but the first one was a bit of a learning exercise so I must do more. 🙂

    • Robin says:

      I sometimes wish I could use ebay, Sallyann. Alas, we parted ways years ago when I had issues with them that they refused to resolve. Oh well. The good thing about donating stuff is that it’s likely someone who needs it will get it. 🙂

  9. I like the 5 things a day project. I’m home in Oakton now, and there is so much clutter everywhere in this house, I wish I had more time here to get rid of stuff. Maybe I can toss 5 things a day while I’m here. We’ll see; there just isn’t enough time. But good for you, that you committed to doing this!! 🙂 Enjoy your blogging holiday!

  10. aFrankAngle says:

    Most of us have clutter in our life … both physical and mental. On the physical side, I tend to go into mass purging from time to time, but little-by-little each day makes much more sense – especially because it involves making a commitment. Good stuff Robin … and good luck!

  11. Deborah Lee says:

    I’m doing the same thing while I am re-doing my living/dining room. All the stuff is not coming back. I’ve already sent my mother’s crystal to a niece and have a nice big box of stuff for Goodwill. It is a good feeling!!

  12. Corina says:

    Five things. Wow. An excellent idea but so difficult to accomplish and follow through with. I should try it. Maybe start out with five things a week and work my way to five a day? That’s doable!

  13. I’m with everyone else….”5 Things A Day” sounds interesting. I know a few people in my family who could use that golden rule. I’ve found that I’m TOO willing to purge (my house is pretty darn empty). Funny how people with too much stuff want to get rid of this, and those of us with too little stuff want more!

    Love the kitty picture by the way. I love the “hunting” look.

  14. Chloe says:

    thats a great idea, i probably have heaps of things i need to get rid of too
    lovely photographs, the first one really grabs my attention

  15. A noble project! Every time Hubby and I mention sorting out the left-behind stuff to his youngest, he thinks we’re going to sell the house 😉

    Some magazines can be composted, if they’re not on the glossy paper. I’ve seen some yoga publications that would work…same goes for that nightshirt, if it’s not nylon!

    • Robin says:

      lol, Marie! I’ve gone off on these occasional forays into de-cluttering often enough now that everyone around me is used to it. 🙂

      I never thought about composting the magazines. I think the Yoga Journals would work well for that. I never thought about composting that nightshirt either. It’s cotton so that should work.

  16. tedgriffith says:

    Hooray for simplifying. Each year we do a thorough spring cleaning of our house and garage. As we do it, we ask the question “Have I/we used this in the last year?” If not, then it is headed to the “disposal” area unless there is a very specific reason to keep it. Now, if I could just figure out how to clean out the ‘clutter’ in my mind! 😉

  17. milkayphoto says:

    Kudos for you for giving “five things” another go. It isn’t easy decluttering one’s life…I tend to go in spurts of LARGE episodes of decluttering followed by a time of letting things slide. Right now, I am back in decluttering mode and it feels so good! Why do we continue to fall into the same pattern? Sigh. Well, something to work towards I guess in this journey that is life.

    What a lovely place the Children’s hospital has created! The large wooden animals are fantastic!

    • Robin says:

      Thanks, Tracy. I have been decluttering in fits and spurts too. That’s why I decided to commit to five a day for the rest of the year and see how that goes. So far, so good. 🙂

  18. Ellen says:

    I think that the need of getting rid of stuff is associated with the internal need of letting go. When I feel my life is getting too mesy, first thing I do is tyde my place up, when I feel I`m overwhelmed, I need to get rid of overwhelming stuff. It seems to me that it`s easier to start from outside, it`s sort of visualizing your inner feelings, or something like this, don`t know if I`m clear …

    • Robin says:

      Very clear, Ellen. I know just what you mean. I often do the same. Cleaning up my physical world seems to make a shift internally too, decluttering there as well. 🙂

  19. dadirri7 says:

    an inspiring post robin, in the developed world we have far too much stuff, the problem with consumerism rather than sustainable living …. we have also been paring down all year …. going deeper each time …it feels so good, but there is much more to do .. we both accumulated lots of stuff from our parents … and are keeping stuff for the children … do they really want all those old things? hhhmmm, more recycling coming up!

    • Robin says:

      Good question, Christine! I’ve been asking myself the same thing: Do my children (or grandchildren) really want all these old things? Most of the time, the answer is no, something I’ve discovered I am quite fine with as I don’t want them living with things they’d rather not have but keep for sentimental reasons.

  20. *sigh* I need to do the same thing!! I really, really, REALLY want a new desk, but it has to be a smaller desk so I can have the photo wall behind it that I’ve wanted for the past few years….which means I have to get rid of a whole lot of stuff that’s in my current desk before I can even think of buying a new one (although I found the perfect one!!)

  21. Marianne says:

    Robin, thank you for the glimpse of the Nationwide Children’s Hospital. The artwork is lovely and likely very enjoyable for the children. The five things idea is a great one. I too, feel the need to simplify my possessions to the bare necessities that make me happy. I still have work in that area as well, in fact, I make a commitment to have one shelf of a bookshelf cleared this week. It’s good to know others who are spending time on similar activities. Thanks for the post and excellent photos as well. 🙂

  22. […] Just Five Things project (which I promised I would update occasionally) has been going well.  I have several boxes of M the […]

  23. CMSmith says:

    I came here from your blog today. This is a good idea up to a point. How do you know when you are done?

    I have cabinets and shelves full of sewing materials (my art desk). I probably should face facts too. Boy is the idea of giving up on all of that a hard one to face.

    • Robin says:

      Well, Christine, that is the $64 dollar question. I’m hoping that I will somehow, magically, know when I’ve reached the right level of Stuff. 😀

  24. Dana says:

    So inspiring, Robin! Marty and I have recently set an intention out to the universe that involves being able to buy our first (but very small!) home. This “Five Things” issue will be one that we’ll face threefold (or tenfold!) if our intention comes to fruition any time soon. If that dreamy little house on the market ever becomes ours, we will have to take a serious look at all of our stuff (ahem, mostly Marty’s bikes!! SEVEN OF THEM!) and pare it down to what can reasonably fit in less than 500 sq feet. It’s no mean feat, but the excitement of this new intention is really stoking my motivational fire. 🙂

    • Robin says:

      SEVEN bikes, Dana?? Holy cow. Yeah, I can see how you might need to pare things down a little. 😀

      Wishing you lots of luck in finding and buying your first dream home. May it come true.

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