Even before I had cancer, wanted to reduce the clutter in my life. Despite the fact that my treatment is going very well, I have a higher sense of urgency around cleaning out the things I don’t really need. I suppose there is the fear that at some point I’m going to leave other people to have to deal with it all, and that’s not something I want to do to anyone else, especially my family.
There are some great quotes about clutter…
- “Don’t own so much clutter that you will be relieved to see your house catch fire.” – Wendell Berry, Farming: a hand book
- “Just because something belongs to you doesn’t mean you should keep it for the rest of your life. Things are meant to be transitory.” – Susan Wright
- “Clutter is found in so many shapes and sizes. We can find it on our kitchen tables, under our beds, in our cars, and in our heads.” -Katrina Mayer, KatrinaMayer.com
Unfortunately, none of them motivates me much to do anything about it. What does motivate me? The fact that movers generally charge extra for boxes full of books or other heavy items.
The Scope of My Clutter
- Stuff I Need to Do
I’m someone that needs to have things in front of me if I want to get them done. Once they’re put away, they’re out of sight, out of mind. Fortunately, for those things that need doing, once I’ve taken care of whatever it is, it can be filed or thrown away. Naturally, I have several of these piles about and prioritizing them is usually the issue in getting them done and out of the way.
- When I Bought Too Much
In some ways, I think I need to make a list sometimes of the things I don’t need from the store. I have somehow become a soap hoarder. I suppose it’s that the scent I really like is on sale this week and I didn’t take inventory of what was in the linen closet before I left home. Soap’s, of course, not the only thing that falls in this category, and the problem with these things is that while they’ll eventually get used, they are exceeding their storage space waiting. These are the things, though, that when moving time comes around, are a pain to deal with. Now I have to decide how much of these supplies need to move with me to my next place, and then once I’m settled, the growth beyond the seams starts all over again.
I have a few loose collections of things (i.e., books, music, movies) that I was once proud to display and no longer see the point of owning much less showing off. These are one of the harder things for me to clear out because there is some emotional attachment to some of it.
My CDs started as a collection when I bought my first rack stereo system in 1991. One of my first purchases was Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. I bought 14 CDs that day. And yes, if I wanted to, I could totally go look and tell you what the other 13 CDs were. My collection grew until I had over 800 and was running out of storage space to keep them. I have some interesting groupings in my collection. There is the set of Beethoven Piano Sonatas played by different piano virtuosos – each of them carries a little different emotion into the pieces as they play. I have a collection of Mozart and Haydn French Horn concerti and others in the Horn repertoire. I had my Barry Tuckwells, my Dennis Brains and Hermann Baumanns. These go along with the band favorites mostly played by Frederick Fennel conducting the US Navy Band or the Eastman Wind Ensemble. Then, there is the New Age stuff – mostly Windham Hill and Narada. There are some jazzier bands like Kiluea, The Rippingtons, and Acoustic Alchemy. Then there are the rock bands – Queen, The Stones, Pink Floyd and all the alternative stuff in between.
As you can probably tell, I’m still attached to a lot of my music. When I started going through it the first time, I weeded out the CDs where I bought the whole album for one song. Then, the next time, I looked at the groups I really don’t listen to that much and weeded them out, too. Next, I used the KonMari method of going through and deciding which albums and groups gave me the most joy – in other words, what would I continue to listen to down the road. When I was all done, I had about one box of CDs left. What helps, too, is that music is widely available in MP3 format, and I can buy just one song off of an album, and I only need a big hard drive to keep track of it all. Well, that and the Amazon cloud. Anything I buy there automatically gets saved. With other collections of things, that’s harder to do.
Book hoarders are a special breed. We buy books because we intend to read them. We’re almost ADHD in a bookstore – the shiny new books call our names, and they replace the next one on our reading list until it grows into something we might not be able to finish in our lifetimes. Books are things that I usually regret having donated after I’ve sent a box off to Goodwill. I had a sizable collection of short story anthologies and Story magazines. I’m still kicking myself for getting rid of those when I moved last. While I don’t re-read them daily, I do enjoy a really good short story and those anthologies were full of them. It wasn’t until later that I realized I couldn’t get those books in an ebook format. I still have a lot of books on the shelves and in boxes downstairs. Most of them didn’t make it out of the boxes after I moved 3 years ago. That should be a tell-tale sign that I don’t need them, right? You’d think, but with books that rule doesn’t work. For the most part, I went through and got real about what I would really read and what I wouldn’t. Those that I wouldn’t read went directly into a box for Half-Price Books. Books are another good subject for KonMari. I looked at which books and authors I’ve really enjoyed, and I made a collection of those. Everything else that fell into the “meh” or the I can read it but don’t need to own it anymore pile, went into a box that once read, they’ll go to HPB, too. I think I’m down to just a couple of boxes of books out of at least a dozen.
One of the hardest things I did was sell all of my instruments and my sheet music before the last move. While I still have moments of sadness and nostalgia over that, I couldn’t play anymore and I felt that I needed to give someone else the joy of music. I still hold hope for buying a really nice keyboard one day, and in the meantime I’ve got my bodhran.
- Stuff with Emotional Attachment
I’ve got a couple of plastic containers under my bed that house the things that I’ve kept over the years that I just can’t seem to get rid of – The latch hook rug I made when I was 9. The copper relief picture I made in 6th grade. The portable curling iron from junior high. They don’t seem like things that would be important, but they are. Luckily, those 2 boxes haven’t grown in the 35 years I’ve been an adult, so I can be content schlepping those around.
The various holiday decorations need a good culling out again. To be honest, I have no idea what I have anymore. I haven’t been able to put up a tree since I moved from the Tri Cities six years ago. Neither of the places I’ve lived since then have been big enough for a 9 foot Christmas tree. I’ve taken the lights out and put them out on the patio, hung the stockings a couple of years, but the rest of it has been growing and needs work. Same for Halloween and Easter decorations. I’ve not really had anywhere to put anything so they’ve mostly stayed contained in boxes the last six years. The garage is cold and a mess, so… UGH.
- Stuff That Can’t Be Donated
This very category was the inspiration for this post. I’m sitting here in the living room looking at a pair of air fresheners. The scent doesn’t do much for me, but it doesn’t smell bad, either. And… there are 2 of them sitting here that I could just plug in and use up, or I could throw away because it doesn’t do anything for me. I feel guilty throwing it away because I spent money on it and it would be a waste. Extra shampoo, soaps, cleaners and the like fall into this category. It can be used, but it’s been opened and no one will take it. I think those of us with clutter have a bunch of stuff like this.
I know, I know… boxes are bad. I don’t keep them all. I still rent, and until I decide to buy my own place, I’ll hang onto certain ones that help when I need to move again. Let’s face it. Moving boxes are expensive, and most of the boxes out there are flimsy. The ones I keep are mostly the boxes for the entertainment system – the TV, receiver, speakers and blu-ray player. The boxes for the glassware and dishes. The nice heavy duty ones for the really breakable stuff. When I own my own place someday, I’ll get cavalier and throw all those extra boxes out. I’m sure there will be a couple of exceptions, but I won’t have a garage full of cardboard.
Where does this leave me?
Well, my garage pretty much looks like a minor disaster area. This is probably less about the clutter itself than the failure of the process to get rid of it, and getting some of the Christmas stuff out in the middle of it. Last night I went down there and reorganized the dishes boxes as well as some of the Christmas stuff. I re-consolidated a couple of bags of bubble wrap and other packing materials. It’s a little better. Tonight I went down and cleaned up the potting soil and planters. Next will be to do something about the Christmas boxes that are still out, and then move on to documenting the donations and getting them boxed up so that I can call the big blue truck or whoever else will come and pick up my stuff.
Upstairs, I need to finish my taxes and then I can go back to the last of the CDs. I should probably start trying to read some of the books before bed. It’s been tough for me to concentrate on books lately, though. Maybe that should be part of my criteria; if I can’t stay focused enough to read it with Chemo Brain then it needs to go.