Happy Homemaker, Ph.D.

A novice homemaker's attempts to use her engineering Ph.D. to serve her family

OM at Home – Letting Go of the Clutter – Part II

I’ll try to keep this post more brief than the last. ¬†ūüôā If you missed yesterday’s post, you can find it here.

I’m on a purging mission at home, trying to figure out what things are most worth keeping and getting rid of the rest. ¬†This task is not easy for me, perhaps because I haven’t been disciplined or motivated enough to do this much before, and I’m a pretty sentimental person. ¬†But, it is getting easier.

In addition to the influences I mentioned in my last post, spending a week in January going through some of my mother-in-law’s possessions as my husband’s family tried to clean out part of her house showed me some reality, too. ¬†Not everyone values the same things, and clutter can be a tremendous burden when left behind.

Some of the questions I’m asking myself are helping me to be more realistic and to actually smile as I send some things to the trash and some to better homes:

  • Could someone else use this more than I am (or than I have in the last year or more)? ¬†(I don’t need those books for singles as much right now.) ¬†I can get pretty excited imagining a friend or stranger benefiting from my things!
  • Would I rather keep this or that, since I only have room for one (applied to books, notebooks, t-shirts, etc. so far)?
  • Would this be a mess for Chad and Clara to go through should something happen to me?
  • Would it be worth it to them to keep or would it be too difficult to¬†decipher¬†in this form (i.e. my boxes of papers to be made into scrapbooks – when time allows…)?
And, the most effective so far (besides the first question listed):
  • Would I notice if this was gone? ¬†(This is a bit difficult when I’m finding old “treasures” for the first time in years and¬†reminiscing, but if I didn’t remember the item was stored in that box, would I really miss it?)

I’m not as good with what may be standard questions like, “Have you used (or worn) it in the last year?” ¬†I’m having more success thinking about “If the Chapman tornado would have taken this away, would I be upset?”

On the OM/business side of this, my “stuff” is inventory. ¬†Inventory is costly to keep. ¬†Businesses quantify these costs as “holding costs,” and these can be as much as 40% of the item’s value annually! ¬†Why do you see end-of-season sales and after-Christmas specials? ¬†A store can only hold so many goods, and what is displayed needs to have the most potential for making higher profits. ¬† In developing inventory models (to figure out how much inventory is appropriate to meet customer needs and keep costs lowest), total costs consider ordering costs (How much does it cost us to acquire the good?), purchasing costs, and holding costs.

So before you take home that “free” item or jump on that “great deal” at the store, consider if it’d be worth paying 20-40% of the item’s value each year to keep it in your house. ¬†Also, consider that excess inventory hides problems within systems (See my post regarding A¬†Sea of Inventory.), and clutter can decrease efficiency and productivity. ¬†I also agree with Amy’s e-book (free for those who “Like” her Raising Arrows Facebook page) that holding on to our “stuff” is a heart issue that needs ¬†some serious consideration as we seek to become more like Christ.

I’m definitely a work in progress, but I’m off to a great start! ¬†During today’s nap time, I’m going to try to go through the marching band music and drill charts I’ve saved for about 15 years…


Note: ¬†My husband’s encouragement, support, and great patience in this personal process is also a huge key to the success I feel! ¬†Thanks, Chad!¬†

Leave a comment »

Operations Management at Home – Letting Go of the Clutter – Part 1

I could not believe what happened this weekend!  I feel like my house Рand even my life Рhave been transformed!  The actual changes are small, but significant.  For me, getting started on a project that seems overwhelming is the most difficult part.

We’re still working to move my office downstairs to make a room for Baby. ¬†That in itself wouldn’t be bad — if I hadn’t neglected the upkeep of that room for the three years we’ve been in this house. ¬†Add to that the numerous boxes of books and notes I brought home from my school office, and we’ve had a big mess in our basement for weeks. ¬†I’ve worked, little by little, to move and organize books, but so much was still to be done.

My friend Amy at Raising Arrows¬†¬†is offering a free e-book to “Only Likers” on the Raising Arrows Facebook page¬†entitled Letting Go of What You Own, A Biblical Approach to Decluttering. ¬† I downloaded the e-book a couple of weeks ago. ¬†The book is short, only about 7-8 pages, but I didn’t have time to read it all before I needed to leave town for a few days to be with my family. ¬†I left the file open on the computer, though, and for the few days after my return, Chad asked if I had read it. ¬†He had. ¬†(Not that he really needed to. ¬†Relative to me, at least, he’s much better at discerning “clutter” and avoiding it.)

I read the book last week, and I began to reevaluate many things. ¬†(I think God was already working on my heart in this area, so combined with that, the book, and some potential nesting instinct kicking in, I’m making some progress.)

One was the shelf in our biggest closet that was filled (nearly to the ceiling in places) with primarily books on Christian living that have, unfortunately, been nearly untouched since… probably my days in Nebraska (about 6-7 years). ¬† I felt like I was hording a resource for myself for no good reason. ¬†Wouldn’t it make more sense to donate the books to our church’s library where others could benefit – and I wouldn’t need to store them?

Saturday, I went through the closet.  I picked out books to share with family, friends, and the library.  Chad and I picked out some books to sell at the local used book store.  While Chad went through our video library, I pulled out my books, creating shelf space for the notebooks from classes that I feel are more necessary to keep as references for the time.

The space-making donations gave me a sense of accomplishment, but so did actually throwing away some of my long-kept notes. ¬†On one of my first trips up the stairs, I handed Chad a few folders of organic chemistry notes and asked him to put them in the recycling before I changed my mind. ¬†Organic chemistry? ¬†My roommates at the time could tell you I hated those classes! ¬†Why had I clung to those notes? ¬†In my first job out of college as a rubber compounder, the college classes I took that would have been the most helpful were in organic chemistry, but I hadn’t learned enough to really help – AND I DIDN’T REFER TO THOSE NOTES EVEN THEN! ¬†That was 12 years ago. ¬†Why had I clung to them – and moved them 6 times across 3 states?

I came to my Computational Techniques notes, two semesters of required programming for chemical engineering majors. ¬†I seriously think my FORTRAN programming days are over. ¬†I thought that after graduation, but we did use FORTRAN in my simulation class in graduate school. ¬†But, I never pulled out my notes from those undergrad classes to help with my grad class. ¬†I was able to relearn what I needed to without that reference. ¬†I threw the notes away with a feeling of success! ¬†I learned how to program better through those courses, and the logical approach I learned I carry with me – without those notes. ¬†(One sheet in my folder had an index of the programs I had written. ¬†They are all on 3.5″ floppy disks (remember those?) – somewhere in the house still. ¬†UGH!)

There are some things I’m not yet ready to part with. ¬†I kept my notes from some other undergrad classes that I likely won’t need – unless I plan to take the PE exam someday to get my engineering license, but next time, I think the Statics and Electrical Circuits and Controls notes can go. ¬†I’ll likely hang on to my Engineering Physics resources a bit longer. ¬†Some classes hold memories for me that I think I fear will be lost if I let go of my physical reminders.

But, there’s a practical side to consider right now. ¬†Baby is coming. ¬†Soon. ¬†And Baby is much more important than my silly college notes or trinkets or texts! ¬†I have to make choices. ¬†I have to be realistic. ¬†(Am I really going to go back and study statics on my own for fun with a newborn and a toddler to care for and supper to prepare?)

I’m excited to have finally jumped over this hurdle of getting started with “purging” and letting go of my “stuff!” ¬†I still have a long way to go to get to where we have only what we need, but with each paper I threw away, I felt a new freedom! ¬† ¬†The feeling is somewhat addictive, and I’m already thinking of how I may be able to schedule going through one room a month to try to keep things better under control once we have this starting point.

In my next post, I’ll plan to share with you some of the questions I asked myself that helped me decide to throw away or donate the things I was going through. ¬†Perhaps they will be helpful for you, too! ¬† I’ll also share an operations management (OM) concept regarding “inventory” that also makes practical sense in our homes.