Friday, July 30, 2004

Stuff

All my time lately has been spent dealing with stuff. It consumes most of the hours of my day. Days were spent going through boxes, closets, and drawers at my parents' house. When I am home in my apartment, I am usually packing. Seven years in an apartment means lots of stuff. I'm giving things away. I've been donating a bag of books about once a month for the last year or so to the public library. The crutches, leg immobilizer, and Cryo-Cuff from Hamilton's knee surgery a few years ago was donated back to the health center. Massive bags of old class and teaching notes have gone to the dumpster. Files folders that aren't beautiful and completely pristine went along with those files. I've been trying to make choices about what notes, handouts, etc. will be useful to me in my career. I've been to the Salvation Army several times recently with bags of clothes and just... things. Where did I get all of these THINGS?! A few weeks ago, I went through all of my ground spices and dried herbs. If I didn't know what it was instantly; if it wasn't labeled clearly; if there wasn't a recipe I knew I used it for; if its smell was faint; if I couldn't remember buying it (when or why)... it went in the trash. Duplicates of anything were chucked. I've gotten rid of most works of fiction that I have already read. The only exceptions are novels I intend to read, and there are only about 10 of those. I have kept a few books I've read (Bridget Jones Diary and Watermelon and Rachel's Holiday by Marian Keyes ) because they are my favorite trashy books! I have read them more than once already, and I intend to read them again. I think there are two fiction books I kept because of sentimental reasons: Wicked and The Magus. Still, there is so much stuff. So very much stuff.

I've always been drawn to books about reducing clutter. My favorite is the very strange yet very inspiring Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui (the books that nearly drove Hamilton nutty! I went around the apartment for months after reading it, eyeing things of his I wanted him to throw away!). Life Laundry is one of my favorite (favourite?!) BBC America shows. Why? I grew up around stuff. Lots and lots of stuff. With my ADHD brain, stuff never really blends into the background. It makes me feel unwell. And still, I am a messy, messy person. Keeping things tidy takes enormous effort. I really try, but it doesn't come naturally to me. I come from messy stock, and "my people" hoard. It's a hard legacy to overcome, but I'm trying.

I've written a lot about the great sorting out of my parents massive home, after they have lived there for a quarter of a century. My father sent an excerpt today from advice he e-mailed to several of his friends. I will take it to heart. I'm already NOT regretting getting rid of that Bundt pan. I figured I couldn't ever remember actually making a Bundt cake, and so it was time!

We're off tomorrow for points Northwest, and to get away from this cabin that's overflowing with innumerable ghost objects from the past. My advice, pick up the throwing away things pace. When you look at something, don't think about its former value, or its value as a monument to some past moment, think of it as a "space occuppying lesion" - that's medicalese for cancer. Only keep those objects that have a clear, and obvious, utility in your current and future life. Things are important if they are used on a daily basis. Things might be important if they are used in every week. All other things are probably not important. Redundancy is also to be heavily considered. Four can openers are only necessary if you plan frequent can opening contests. An Angel Food Cake Pan is only important if you make such cakes every week, or maybe every month. Just because a screwdriver hasn't rusted through is no reason to keep it. One can only hold one screwdriver at a time. And people rarely read a book more than once, including classics like the Bible or Tom Sawyer. Things given to you by others are not a life sentence. "It's the thought that counts" works both ways. Throw away the gifts, keep the thoughts. When you take down a picture, try to remember the last time you really saw it. If you can't recall, chunk it. And then go back over the things you've decided to keep and relinquish 50% of them. After that, go back over the things you've decided to keep and relinquish 50% of them.

These are important rules. Learn them well. I think a major cause of premature death is drowning in stuff...


Now go throw something away!