Tuesday, March 05, 2013

repost: matter

Metapost: my first attempt at the newfangled blogging thing ended when I decided I no longer identified with the name I'd chosen, and thus The Organized Geek was abandoned.  However, there was some good stuff in there, and I'll be reposting a few selected entries occasionally, so they don't get entirely lost to oblivion. 

Originally posted on 03.02.12, this post is about stuff and clutter.   This week's repost is a little late, due to my being out of town for much of last week. 

"Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful." --William Morris  


Most of us, here in 'civilization,' have far too much of it.  It's so easy to accumulate, even if you're not a shopaholic.  Gifts, souvenirs, things that might be useful one day, clothing.  Thingamajigs that were on such a good sale, you bought three just in case.

But now there are far too many things, and the piles are so deep that you can't even find *one* thingamajig, much less your two extras.  Perhaps the house is even fairly clean and organized, but there is just physically too much stuff in the way.  You get frustrated when you need to find something, because the space seems too full and you keep knocking things over.  You find yourself needing to spend an obscene amount of time cleaning, repairing, putting away, and dealing with your stuff.  That's time that could have been spent on something a lot more fun!  Imagine how much time, effort, and money you've spent just to box up, move, and unbox all your superfluous items over time.

That's how I feel.  It takes me too long to get dressed in the morning, because I just have too many options. It's not even possible to walk through most of the office/craft room, because of my huge boxes of fabric, and the last time I sewed something was probably 2006.  We keep saying we need a bigger kitchen because our stuff doesn't all fit in the cupboards, and I've given up on my once cherished notion of clear counters with no perma-clutter.  Dusting is a pain in the neck because of all the knick-nacks.

I can't help feeling that life would be less stressful if we weren't always having to move stuff around to find what we're looking for.   That means (dun dun DUUUUUN) getting rid of stuff.   Not everything, but just the junk that's in the way.  I want to clear the quantity, to make space for the quality.  Remove everything that isn't spectacular.

Until recently, I owned a truly ridiculous quantity of pretty costume jewelry.  It was literally impossible to close the lid on my jewelry box, and if I wanted to wear a necklace it was usually so entangled with all the other ones that I would give up and just not bother.  I had probably hundreds of pairs of earrings, and couldn't wear any at all due to my ears' recent manifestation of obnoxiously good taste.  I went through and purged about 75% of the necklaces and bracelets, and got rid of all but my three favorite pairs of earrings.  Those I paid an annoying amount of money to put new (gold) earwires on.  Now everything in my box is untangled, usable, and easily visible.  I've actually started wearing and enjoying my jewelry again, since I can find the piece I'm looking for.  As a plus, I brought the big bag of castoff jewelry to a friend's party, and everyone had a grand time going through it and choosing new treasures to add to her own collection.  I call that win-win!  I want that great feeling in more areas of my life.

Today I came across a fabulous new term: joy-to-stuff ratio.  This perfectly describes what I want to do in this decluttering endeavor: reduce the denominator in that expression.  I'm sure I'll set missions for myself in the future that focus on increasing the numerator, but one thing at a time.  Ultimately, it's all about maximizing one's own joy-to-stuff ratio.

There are three main barriers to getting rid of superfluous stuff, as I see it:

  1. Laziness.  This one's pretty straightforward to circumvent.  This is not to say that it's easy; just simple.  Self-ass-kicking is involved.
  2. But-what-if-I-need-it-someday syndrome.  This requires relaxing a bit.  The world won't end if I suddenly become a seamstress and only have one bin of fabric instead of four.  If I take up professional kazoo-playing, I'll go out and buy a damn kazoo.  The universe has a way of working out, especially for those of us who enjoy thrift shopping and yard saling.  I don't need to hang on to anything that's not awesome for me to have right now. 
  3. Sentimentality.  But my great-step-aunt-seven-times-removed gave me that moldy afghan!  I can't possibly get rid of it, or I'll be haunted by guilt for the rest of my life!

It's this last one that I want to take a stab at tackling right now.  Living a life of guilt is no fun, so I'm going to give myself permission to actually feel good about clearing space in my life, even if it means no longer hanging on to sentimental (but useless) items.  This is challenging.  So I'm going to periodically write a post about some sentimental item that I'm ready to allow to leave my life.  The memories are not the items, I won't lose the memory of that special person just because I no longer have a particular bit of clutter to dust, and there are no happy-memory police who will show up on my doorstep and ticket me for getting rid of a gift from a loved one.  I'm going to explore the memories here, which are really what's important, and then allow the items to go on their way.  Here goes!

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