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  • Oriana Skylar Mastro

Managing Your Stuff

Well, this has probably been apparent to everyone but me for a while, but things are not getting better here in Sydney. If you saw my recent posts on planning trips or packing, you'd know that I was planning a trip to New Zealand. I haven't had a vacation in over two years – and during that time, I had another baby, changed both my civilian and military jobs, moved temporary and unexpected across the world to Australia, where we moved twice, and bought a place. So yeah, it's been an exhausting, admin heavy year.

So, I won't dwell on the disappointment when the closure of the travel bubble was announced on Friday. But this was the last straw, so I've decided to move the family back to California. But, again, the amount of admin is insane.

So as I get the apartment ready to rent and try to figure out what to get back to the States and what to leave here, I thought I'd write about the admin task of managing your stuff.

First, this system is for people that are relatively organized already – it's about maintenance. If you have clutter around your house, first read Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying and follow her method. The biggest reason people are messy is you have too much stuff. But after that, you still need to maintain the order.

Don’t wait for spring cleaning. Everyone's situation is different, but it feels like our circumstances are constantly changing, especially because I've two small kids that are constantly growing. Divide the house into eight sections (you'll do one a week, and I find two months is the perfect amount of time between cleanings). I include an outdoor/car/stroller section in my eight categories. I set a reminder that alerts me every Wednesday when we do our house cleaning which room needs special attention this week.

What does special attention mean? It means deep cleaning, the stuff cleaners don't get (even you are lucky enough to have them). Moving furniture to vacuum underneath, cleaning the dust that accumulations on the trimming, on top of fans, whatever. It means cleaning my make-up brushes or wiping out drawers. You get the picture.

Go through EVERYTHING in that room. Decide if you still want it, if anything needs to be done with it, and then putting it away in its right place. I often change the organization system if we have a lot of new stuff. This is also the time to order anything you need for the room. So, for example, last week, I did my toddler's room and decided it was time for a toddler bed, so I had to order that, put his crib online to sell, order sheets/blankets/pillows for the new bed. His stuffed dragon had a hole in it that needed to be sewn. If something is broken, either fix it or toss it. Basically, do everything that you need to for that room to be ‘done.’

Have a donation plan. The next part of ‘paying the set of costs’ is to know where your most convenient donation center is. I go every week. I put a bag or two of stuff in the stroller and drop it off on my morning walks with the baby. It's pleasant and doesn't seem like an extra task. However, if you wait until you have mounds of stuff, I found there is an emotional hurdle to this process.

For work clothes, I often ask my RAs if they want anything before I donate stuff. That may seem weird, but I got through graduate school on hand-me-downs, and I really appreciated having nice suits, etc. I didn't pay for. I had friends that wanted my maternity clothes or baby clothes. So offer. Also, don't be embarrassed to ask. We came to Australia expecting to be here six weeks – and ended up staying a year. I didn't feel like buying whole new wardrobes for myself and the kids, so I asked colleagues around town. We ended up with tons of books, toys, cribs, beds for the kids, and work clothes for me.

Keep clothes aside for travel. I don't donate all our clothes. Instead, I have a bin I keep of 'travel clothes' – these are clothes I bring on trips and leave along the way. Top reasons I may do this. 1) I'm going from a work trip to a fun trip, and so I want disposable work clothes, so I don't have to haul them on the fun part 2) I'm going from a cold place to a hot place or vice-versa and want to lighten my load over time 3) I like to change into clean clothes after long flights but then don't want to carry the dirty clothes with me the rest of the trip. In the last category, I do this for the boys as well, who will inevitably poop or pee everywhere on the plane, and this way, I can just toss whatever they were wearing without regret.

OK, this last category of clothes you don't want, but you don't donate a bit obnoxious, but here it is: if you have a second home or a place you go a lot where you can leave stuff, it can be useful just to have a second wardrobe there. So that's what I'm doing right now for Sydney.

The problem is I’ll forget what is here a year from now and end up bringing stuff I don’t need. So I’m putting together an inventory with a program new to me called Canva. It's easy to use - I just dragged in pictures of items, used the effects 'remove background' feature, and added text and different color backgrounds. An example of a page is below. Anyways, this is probably a bit too much for most people, but I love the way it looks, and I've filed it with all our Australia stuff, so now I know exactly what was left behind.

So, this is what I'll be doing this week—going through the apartment, deciding what is going back to the states, what we are donating, what we are selling, and what we are leaving behind for next time. Wish me luck!

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