Two of my dear friends moved from Washington DC to California. At their going away party, they gave gifts to all of the attendees — literal parting gifts.
In the parking lot of their apartment complex after the party, my husband and I decided to open our gifts. Both boxes were filled to the brim with ephemera. My box included: 3 yen, a knitted mitten Christmas tree ornament, 4 ticket stubs, a scratched CD, a bright pink magnet in the shape of a button, and about a pound more stuff. My husband’s box held: a broken Palm Pilot, a cracked copy of Microsoft Excel, a sticker that said “I used to be punk rock,” and two handfuls of other random trinkets.
The next day, I called my friends to find out about these special packages. They explained that as they were packing their lives for the move, there were items in their apartment that they knew they should throw out but couldn’t get themselves to do it.
“We had bizarre emotional attachments to all of the objects in the boxes,” one of the two explained. “We couldn’t throw the stuff away, so we wrapped it up to give to you and the others.”
“You know we all just tossed or recycled the stuff in the boxes, right?” I asked.
“Yes,” she replied. “But giving the stuff away as gifts was the only way we could get rid of it.”
“I get it,” I said, not really getting it at all.
A few days later, the idea started to resonate with me. Whatever it took to get the clutter out of their future home was a good idea to me. Seeing as I had no attachment to any of the objects in my gift box, I tossed and recycled the stuff immediately. A few conversations with other friends from the party, and I found that they did the same. The stuff had been dealt with and was out of my moving friends’ lives. The process of uncluttering was unconventional, but effective.
Have you encountered or tried a non-traditional uncluttering method? What do you think of my friends’ ephemera boxes as a method of getting rid of clutter — especially clutter with a misplaced emotional pull to keep? Any suggestions for how to say goodbye to clutter in a creative way? We would love to read your ideas in the comments!
This post has been updated since its original publication in 2008.