Monday, June 16, 2008

Just Write Something..... Anything....

That's what I'm saying to myself right now, just put my fingers on the keyboard and start pushing some of the keys down. I'm forcing myself to type because I still can't break this strange resistance I've developed recently to posting anything here. I've been absent for a week and I can't really tell you why. It wasn't intentional, but it's not the first time this has happened. Sometimes I just get in a place where I can't think of anything to say that seems interesting, even if the week before the very same ideas sounded downright fascinating and I could hardly wait to get time to post about them.

Plus, I've been fighting a "something" - I think it's a combination of seasonal allergies (which I've never dealt with like this before!) and a sinus infection. I'm getting better, but slowly.

And I've been "getting stuff done". Slowly. But at least I'm working inch by inch. I can't seem to find a project and stick with it, so I'm chipping away at a dozen projects at one time. I've sorted out magazines in the living room and tossed some. I've weeded some but not all of the garden. I've cleaned some old bottles and jars out of the bathroom. Yesterday I sorted two boxes of books and magazines that have been sitting homeless in my bedroom since last year. Of course I still don't have a permanent home for some of it, but at least it's sorted. Remember What About Bob? "Baby steps."

A couple of days this last week we had a lot of smoke in the area, blown in from a forest fire on the other side of the mountains. Hot smoky days and me, we don't get along so well. So that slowed me down a bit too. This fire was in a community that we're familiar with and sadly, seventy four (at last count) homes were destroyed. That was on my mind a lot, while I was sorting and repiling and trying to make sense out of my overabundance of "stuff". Seventy four families lost all of their stuff and here I am with more stuff than I can comfortably manage. I felt sort of guilty about that. Next I thought " I wish I could give these families some of my stuff" and then I felt guilty about that! Because if my stuff is causing me to feel overwhelmed and dragged down and confused, why would I want to foist it upon unsuspecting, innocent people already in far more serious and legitimate crises than my petty personal angst about clutter. And then I thought, this is sad and I'm pathetic, to be stuck in such a problem of my own making. Well, not entirely my own making, and I have a whole stack of justifications and rationalizations for how I got here and I'd be glad to drag them all out and share them with you, but the bottom line is that it doesn't really matter now how I got here as much as it matters that I can only get out of this mess (literally, pun, weak haha) by myself.

Somehow, suddenly, with no effort, this year I've shed a long habit of bringing new stuff into the house. It feels so good. And it's made a big difference already, just not adding more crap to our home, regardless of whether it's lovely crap, or oh-so-shiny crap, or useful crap. I even went shopping while we were in the city, to celebrate this new found freedom. Hold it, I can see you getting very confused by that last statement. But, you see, I'm not aiming for purity of action, I only want some sort of workable compromise between things and me. So I went shopping. And I was tickled pink to discover I didn't want to buy things even when they were right there, on the shelves, jumping up and down and saying "Look how pretty I am don't you want to take me home I'm on sale and I might be the last one and you won't get another chance and tra la la la la!" I only bought some fabric and supplies I needed for a specific project and .... well, the point here is, I only bought a couple of things that weren't on my list. And that's plenty good enough. AND, I didn't feel deprived at all. I didn't feel empty. I felt full and satisfied and happy.

And oh, speaking of feeling happy about not buying things, I feel like a celebrity because Crazy Aunt Purl mentioned me in this post! I enjoy her humor and her warm, heartfilled ponderings but she was definitely a phenomenon before I ever discovered her and I think I've only left a comment on her blog a half dozen times in all the years I've been reading her. I have this thing about not wanting to act like a stalker (unless you're currently famous but I knew you before - then you're only famous to other people and just a crazy friend to me and all bets are off - mwahahaha) and she gets more comments per day then I get daily visitors to my blog. So when she reposted my comment about nonconsumerism in the body of her post and then wrote a wonderful personal essay about her own efforts, I was honored. The only thing is, if I'd known so many people were going to read my comment, I would have been more eloquent. And I would have spelled "hundredth" correctly. Blush.

So, I've got the not bringing things into the house part of the equation worked out pretty well. The surface layer of stuff is pretty easy to deal with too. It's out in the open where I can see and use it and so I already know which stuff is sitting there unused. If it's visible but turned invisible, it goes. If it's useful, it just needs to be put away (if it isn't already). It's the layers underneath that are my newest logjam.

As I uncover and unpack I'm always thrilled when I pull something out and my first thought is "WHY do I have this?!" That's an easy toss. But then there's other stuff. I pick it up and exclaim "Ooooh, I forgot about this!" or "I love this!" or "I've been looking for that!" So, here's all this stuff, right. And I haven't seen or used it in ages (weeks, months, sometimes even years). The question is this - which of these things, if they are properly stored or displayed, will I now use or enjoy? Have these things been ignored simply because they were out of sight? Which need to be found a storage or display spot and given a chance, and which should be passed on? The slow way to answer this dilemma is to let these excavated items sit around awhile until they become the surface mess and the answers will become obvious. But that would take ages and I don't want to spend the next decade of my life decluttering. I have to come up with a faster solution that's emotionally painless enough for me to execute.

One thing I uncovered yesterday was a gift from my sister, still in the package. It had been unwrapped, but then wrapped back up and slid onto a shelf. I couldn't, for the life of me, remember receiving it. So I called my sister up and asked her. She remembered giving it to us but couldn't, for the life of her, remember when exactly. I said it was kinda cool because I don't know if I liked or thanked her for the gift then but it was something I really liked now, and it was like getting a gift all over again. We had a good laugh.

I felt a lot better after talking to her because she TOTALLY sympathized about how overwhelming clutter can be and how she's surrounded by boxes and stuff and can't seem to get ahead no matter what she does. I felt like I had a comrade-in-arms in my fight to downsize. So, okay, I forgot to mention that my sister had a tree fall and cut her house in half last year. And then had to have much of it rebuilt. But hey, I've been to her house and I know that some of her stuff issues predates the house-slicing-with-timber incident. (Literally - "Timmmm-berrrrr!" Except, thank the heavens, no one was home at the time to yell it. Except the cats. Who, apparently, all had some of their nine lives left.) And although she might have had her tree, I have my five kids and that's got to count for at least one measly falling tree. Too, I probably have a genetic predisposition towards this sort of thing because my mother is.... oh, wait, we share the same mother. So I can't count that on my side only. The point is, I felt better after talking to my sister. (Our other sister has the good sense to move every couple of years, which seems to have purged any and all pack rat tendencies straight out of her personality. So, she's not on my list of people to call for sympathy.)

In the meantime, there are still plenty of spots in my house with easy fixes to work on while I wait for a solution to the more compacted areas. And no, now that you're thinking of What About Bob, dynamite is NOT an option.


Blogger Connie Carpenter Macko said...

Two (kind of) random thoughts:
1. Is it wrong to have something just because seeing it makes you smile? I mean I know we often call that stuff art... but couldn't it apply at some level to just "some stuff"? (probably doesn't help you purge... and you don't want or need help justifying! hee, hee)
2. Try this: You are ultimately in control here - that can be viewed as a luxury. I live in someone elses home (MIL) with other peoples stuff (MIL and DH) and where as I DO have control over leaving... leaving is not my choice. So, I live with the accumulation of other folks stuff. Overwhelming doesn't cover it here. Do you watch Clean Sweep ever? We might win a spot on the show. Ponder that each time you realize you have a legal right to throw out your own stuff!

Not whining though... just saying!

Anyway - we're rooting for you out here!

6:20 PM  

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