Norman Maclean was haunted by waters. I am overwhelmed by stuff.
I am no minimalist, as anyone who knows me certainly can divine. As much as I’d like to be all Zen and unattached, I like things. I like buying things when I travel. I am a sucker for shoes. And being surrounded by my favorite books soothes me in a way knowing they are at the library does not.
But having things involves moving things. And I am sick of moving so much stuff over and over again.
Part of the issue has been time. For so long, I was busy and rushing and never seemed to make the practically endless time needed to do a full sort-through prior to my lease running out and moving day fast approaching. As such, I’ve moved lots of junk not necessarily because I am so attached to every little thing, but rather because I just didn’t find time to diligently sort through the piles and instead just bought one more plastic bin to throw it all in until I got around to sorting. Which was obviously never.
Another part of it, the biggest part if I’m being honest, is that I am a keeper, not a thrower. And it’s not such a bad thing, but it has to be kept in check.
It’s time. I’ve been reading lots of house-y versions of self help books, articles with titles generally involving “clutter” “control” and perhaps a little “De-stress your life!” for good measure. I’ve been watching more “What Not to Wear” than I care to admit, trying to push myself to be brutal to my closet, even if I don’t get a trip to New York and $5,000 as incentive. And as much as these things seem like just another form of procrastination (and they sort of are), I have started dipping my toe into the process. I’ve put together three bursting garbage bags full of stuff for Goodwill and I’ve just begun. It’s tough, in a way I can’t explain but can bet people who aren’t naturally drawn to simplicity can probably understand. It’s sort of embarrassing, really, because I don’t want to think of myself as a material person, but I find it’s very hard to get rid of things.
The worst is probably paper things. They are everywhere, they are hard to keep neat, so many serve as reminders or seem somehow necessary. Things that really are necessary, like bank statements and pay stubs, I’d gladly run through the shredder but I guess that’s the cruel way things work. Clothes (and shoes!) are also challenging, partially because I’ve been the same size in both since about the seventh grade. My sister recently told me I have the same style I had in the seventh grade, which I think is (mostly) untrue but which got me thinking about things I need to dump, whether or not they might still fit. I am not as big of a bum as I’m making myself out to be. Please don’t report me to Clinton and Stacy.
Another thing that’s spurring my possession detoxing is the frightening appearance in retail chains of Christmasland (OK, since about the day after Halloween…) It’s been creeping up in the corners of Target and Wal-Mart for a while, but the serious emergence of gaudy trees, green and red festooned checkouts, and reindeer t-shirts makes me aware that Christmas is coming. (Just not as fast as they’d like to make you believe.) And Christmas means more new stuff…beautiful gifts, I’m sure, but stuff all the same. I need to tackle some of the current insanity if I’m ever going to make room for anything new. I refuse to buy any more bins.
There’s also something cool about this phase, even if it’s sometimes hard to see. I’m stepping into a new moment, this time in which I get to shape myself and my style. I don’t need to keep the random posters and concert stubs. Most of the garage sale furniture can head straight to Goodwill. And seventh grade was 10 years ago. It’s time for it to go.