Monday, May 19, 2008

To Keep or Not to Keep...

.... that is the question.

Now that I'm finally home and, knock on wood, staying home for awhile, I've been gearing up for another round of decluttering. I've got it in my head to tackle my bedroom first. Mainly because, while I was gone my mother "organized" all my piles of clothes by buying me new storage boxes and safely storing everything inside of them. It didn't get rid of anything but it did, according to her, make the piles less likely to get dumped over or dirty. What it really did was turn familiar piles where I knew what was in each of them into indistinguishable boxes and now I can't find ANYTHING. A room filled full of TOO MANY CLOTHES and I can't find anything to wear. Sad funny, huh?

The first couple days I was home I was frustrated by it, but then I decided my mom had done me a favor. I'd been meaning to deal with it all for years and she'd shown me how utterly crazy it all is that even after several serious rounds of cleaning and sorting that still nothing fit in the amount of space I have to store it all in! Yes, I have some legitimate storage issues, but that doesn't change that the space I have is the space I have. Pointing out that my closet is smaller than your average closet doesn't MAKE it roomier.

It helped of course that I had just come back from several weeks of contentedly living out of an entire apartment the same size as my bedroom and happily clothing myself out of a backpack not much larger than some women's purses! Hmmmm. Do I enjoy traveling because when I'm away from home I'm away from all my stuff? It's interesting to note that when I'm packing to be away, people often encourage me to bring things, certain I'll be unhappy without them or I will have need of them. I have to argue with people that I don't WANT to bring more luggage. How come I don't have this same "less is more" philosophy about what is in my house and what I bring into it? I mean, really, THAT is the question.

In any case, I've decided to deal with my overflowing wardrobe. Of course just jumping in and sorting would be too easy. No, first I had to go online and find all sorts of inspiring blogs and articles that will help me be in the right "mindset" and put me in the proper "perspective". This worked really well, I was all fired up, until...

I wandered across a blog where the woman was all "I want to get rid of stuff but the economy is really bad and who knows what the future holds and what if I NEED this stuff....."

AHHHH! I mean, within a few paragraphs I could feel my heart rate go up. She's right! What if this!? What if that!? Oh noooooo! What if they stop manufacturing women's clothing and the 67 shirts I already own aren't enough!!!! (I made that number up, I have no idea how many shirts I own - but they fill up many dresser drawers so whatever the number actually is, it's a ridiculous amount.) Sheesh, I can't believe how quickly I got sucked into the fear of being deprived.

But really, what if the world really does go to hell in a handbasket? Will owning more tee shirts (or trinkets or coffee mugs) really help one to survive in an apocalypse? More land to grow food? Yes. Guns? Sad but probably true. More skills? Definitely. But even if life as we know it turns upside down tomorrow, I'm guessing there will still be thrift stores stacked with extra shirts and puzzles and stuffed animals and mismatched plates and....

What it all boils down to, if you think about it, is whether one wants to live life with the belief that there's not enough to go around and you better hoard your share (and more) OR that the world is a bountiful place with enough for everybody. I believe that mind affects matter, our beliefs help create our realities. So it's pretty damn important that we consciously choose what we believe instead of letting other people or our own fears choose for us.

I have definite pack rat tendencies and I spend a lot of time complaining about them but fortunately, by and large my clutter is limited to physical locations. In most ways - emotionally, psychologically, opportunities, relationships... I've learned over the years the benefits of sorting through, cleaning up, and letting go, secure that whatever my future needs will be (and that I probably couldn't predict ahead of time what they might be in any case), the universe will provide. And I have to say that by and large the universe hasn't let me down. In fact, when this creed hasn't worked is always where I can see a connection to my personal logjams, whether physical or psychological, where my fear of letting go has prevented me from keeping emotional and physical space open for something new or necessary.

It's not that I think one should - unless it feels right for you - peel down to a pair of sandals, a robe, and a begging bowl. Part of my procrastination is undoubtedly tied up with a stubborn resistance to "do what I'm told" by all those decluttering experts out there. By that argument, nature is a very cluttered thing indeed and we'd all be better off if we clean out all those weeds and bugs and simplify life by paving over our yards. That sounds downright stupid, right? But really, taken to an extreme, that's what some of these decluttering experts sound like to me.

It's not how much stuff you have or don't have, it's the nature of your relationship with it. I have a lot of books. I went through them last year and found a lot of chafe on the shelves and now own less, which was helpful and good, but I still have a LOT of books. I felt guilty about that until I finally decided, you know what? Why should I get rid of something that brings me so much pleasure just because some productivity expert says I should? They don't drag me down pyschically, psychologically or physically. They make me HAPPY when I see them all around me. They make me feel rich in pleasures that are important to me.

On the other hand, having so much crap in the garage that I can't even get in the door, and not knowing what most of the crap even IS, drains me just thinking about it. Having lots of clothes but nowhere to put them makes me feel cranky. Having boxes full of holiday decorations but not the time or energy to use most of them makes me tired and frustrated. It's not about how little or how much I have, it's about having just enough to meet my needs and NO MORE.

And now, it's time for less computer and more coffee and cleaning.


Blogger Belita Rose said...

I stand behind the less is more philosophy. The less things I have that I don't need, the more things there are for someone who does need them. That's why I usually donate things to Goodwill, rather than trying to sell it. It does however make it difficult when it comes to knick-knacks. I just don't see the homeless needing a shelf in the shape of a boat?!?! But I guess people who would like it will buy it from Goodwill and then the money will go to someone in need. So there, still good.

5:24 PM  
Blogger Tanya Brown said...

My husband once said "They're called stores for a reason. Let them store the stuff for us until we need it!"

6:29 PM  
Anonymous alala said...

Some of my things (and nearly ALL of my books) have sentimental value, but the main reason I hoard so much of this stuff is not that I might need it someday, but that I want to dispose of it responsibly. Landfills are bad. They don't have Goodwill here in Germany. I could sell things for a pittance at a flea market if I wanted to get up at 3a.m. and set up my table in the right roadside lot on the right day, which I don't even know where or when... oops, rambling, sorry.

Upshot = I don't just want to declutter, I want to do it right, and my GOD is that turning out to be a lot of work.

5:24 AM  
Blogger Jaye said...

I've been through both sides of this mess. Wanting to throw everything except the bare essentials and then wanting all the stuff I could ever hope for.

I've discovered that while I like the stuff-lots of it- that I have, I am also paring down. I'm trying to make logical choices. If I have clothes that don't fit or are too worn, I get rid of them. If I have 2 of something and only need 1, I evaluate just how necessary it is to have 1 or 2 and go from there. So, slowly I am decluttering. I'm also doing something else! I'm passing stuff on to the boys! Mwahaaha!!!

10:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Loved this post!
All the things that I have been percolating inside my little brain.....
Sent it out to a few people... I know they will enjoy!

2:11 PM  
Blogger Stephanie said...

Oh, I am so like this too....I just cleaned out my studio, I can BREATHE! It feels so good, I can open the WINDOW!...BUT, I didn't actually get rid of all the much, just dumped it all in the basement...for that time that I can get to cleaning that out.

7:32 AM  

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