Tuesday, March 22, 2011 I'm on a spree. I've been clearing out or "editing" as my friend Shawn calls it. There seems to be a lot to edit out. We have been acquiring things this year. We have some things from my grandparents home that was shared with us by my parents, we have some more treasures from our friend Shawn. I recently refinished a buffet that we acquired from "freecycle." We have nearly a million art projects our kids have done that fill every surface. They are all special. We have too much stuff. It's time to edit.
Mostly in my life up until now I have gotten rid of things after they are worn out. They are used up, barely thrift store material. It hasn't been editing as much as disposal. I simply haven't had to deal with deciding what to do with things that still are usable. I thought I knew how to clear things from our home.
Over the Christmas break we were in New Mexico and I was enthralled by the show "Hoarders." It seemed so crazy that people would become overwhelmed by their stuff. It was so crazy to see THOSE PEOPLE. Clearly I am not a hoarder--I'm not really even a "stuff" person. I'm not really a big consumer. I've read Barbara Shearer and her ideas on how to clean a little bit at a time. I even follow some of her suggestions.
But I see how it happens. It is when I become the owner of too many things I like or even love. It is hard to let go of things I still value. It isn't my actions, it is my brain. In fact, I have a new problem in my life, one I haven't had before. I have to learn how to "edit" the good stuff so that my life has space in it. And I am not sure I know how to do this yet.
I am craving bare spaces--table tops without things on them, shelved that aren't packed to the brim. It isn't easy. Although Mel is supportive of the idea of getting rid of stuff, his ideas about what to edit out aren't always the same as mine. Sometimes I place things in the bin to get rid of and people take them out again. I have realized that things I give my daughter do now get rid of clutter in my house. They are part of the chaos of her bedroom. I have always known that I can't save every scribble the boys create. I know they love the process, not the end result and I have become ruthless in my disposal of their art, but they are still winning. They are full time creators and I can only clear things out part time.
However, to blame my family for the excess in my home would be folly. It is me. I am seduced by the memories and the dreams that are held in the material possessions that make up our lives. The wine glass from my first marriage, the Hudson Bay blanket given to us by Mel's dad that the tenant used for her dog, baby clothes from Sela's first year, books I loved, books other people might love, purses, shoes, an old VCR, a pile of power cords from a previous business, vases I use in the summer, cookbooks, art, old costume jewelry I used to love...I wonder will I need it again, I wonder if I will need to re buy it, but even more I notice I am tethered to the disappointed dreams of an alternative life I am not living. I feel my own inadequacies in the things I am unable to let go. It is as if my dreams and my material possessions have become one. And in my ties to \what is old there is no room for the new, the fresh, the needed, the desired. I have become a product of my past, sometimes mired in my past failures.
As I read this, I realize I don't have any criteria for my editing. I don't have a tried and true way to assess whether or not to keep things. I think my default in the past has been "do I love it?" This has worked with less stuff but is failing me now. I realized there is something about value and something about usefulness I need to consider. I think the question that gets in my way is: "Is it valuable?" It keeps my house full and my spaces covered. In my head there is a mythical garage sale or listing on Kijiji that never materializes. I wonder how people learn this. Do we all have to find our own way in a bountiful society? Is this a private struggle for everyone or have I missed some fundamental lesson from my family that has a tendency to hang on to things? I think I will have to find my own way with this one.
I am pretty sure it is time to change the questions. I know I am committed to keeping usable items out of the landfill. I feel a responsibility to sell or donate or freecycle the things I am editing out. I think if I can create a meaningful framework for myself, I can more easily send things out the door. I can feel kind and bountiful rather than like I need to squeeze every penny of value out of the things I am editing out. I can allow myself to believe that more beauty will come my way and it is my job to complete the circle by sharing my extras with others.
I think I will try a 3 question approach:
1. Do I love it?2. Have I used it in the last year? Will I use it in the next year?
3. Who might really be able to use this? How do I get it to them?
I'll let you know how it goes.