Today has seen the advent of depression and discouragement as far as our home-making project goes; what I thought were six still-packed boxes upstairs somehow morphed into TEN unpacked boxes and three duffel bags, and after beginning, gingerly, to poke into them, I can see that the project is not looking good. How on earth can it be that at not yet even 30 years old, John and I have accumulated so much junk and garbage?
To be fair, not all of it is junk or garbage – but I think I can fairly say that none of it is anything that we need, or perhaps even want. It has all been in boxes for a year or more now, which should have told us something. Would it not have been wiser to understand that in the last year, we made a search expedition for anything that we needed and wanted? And that what is left may have been better left unexcavated?
I am almost to the point of wishing that instead of opening the boxes, I had just carted them down to the garage, full, and left them for the trash pick up next week. But of course I don’t wish that, because as soon as I open the boxes and see what’s in there, memories and thoughts and feelings and hopes for future usefulness of the items come flooding in, and now the items must be dealt with one by one. My next week shall be spent trying forcibly to impress on my mind the wisdom of organizing and decluttering advice from my mom, my sister-in-law with whom I spent part of the recent holiday bemoaning Too Much Stuff, my friend Joanna, countless Real Simples that I’ve read:
– Gifts do not need to be kept. One’s responsibility to the giver is a heartfelt thank-you – but there is no need to store and move something that isn’t being used.
– There are better ways to keep memories than through physical items, and those that are attached to items already can be kept with less space – for instance photographing the thing and jotting down in a journal the thoughts and feelings associated with it.
– For me, at least: keeping things just because they MIGHT be useful in the future is not a good idea. The potential cost of replacing the item, if it turns out to be necessary later, is (probably) well worth the relief of the burden of keeping it.
– Just because a piece of clothing is good quality, still has wear left, is comfortable, is a good fabric, was expensive, was a good bargain, was a gift, or may come back into style some day, it should not be kept in the closet (or a basement box!).
This one is a huge struggle for me. I would love to have a wardrobe consisting only of comfortable, attractive, stylish, well-fitting clothes, but this goal seems to be almost impossible. Mine is full of comfy, old, lounging-around clothes that I am embarrassed even to wear to walk Maxwell around the neighborhood, juxtaposed to stylish, nice looking everyday clothes that are not that comfortable for wearing every day – and in the third corner of the triangle, really, really nice dress items that are very high quality (mostly gifts) that I have hardly any occasion to wear.
– I am not responsible for being the repository of other people’s memories. (This is also a struggle: I have many items that were given to me by someone else, because the thing reminded the giver of a third person and they want to pass that memory on.)
Perhaps I should note that this is all made much more difficult, because I do like things. John and I sometimes say that we would like to be minimalists, but I think that is only true relative to our current state. I love our books, and our furniture, and various things we’ve bought – little touches to make our house homelike. I love our new quilt, and some of the frivolous decorative items we received at our wedding – I love some of the things I’ve had since childhood. I do not want a sterile, empty home; I do not want each item we own to have to have a strict, utilitarian purpose to be allowed to stay.
I also love the idea of high-quality, long-lasting clothes. How do I resolve that with wanting a small wardrobe, and with wanting to buy one or two new things each year for fun? Somehow I have ended up with many too many things in the wardrobe.
I hope you enjoyed my interspersed, unrelated photos – they were taken after we arrived home on Monday afternoon, on a gorgeously crisp and clear day. I had to savor it, since, as we are heading into the Portland Winter, it might be the last I see for a while. I would have taking photos of the upstairs unpacking disaster, but it is too embarrassing, and not in a funny or endearing too-much-ice-cream-in-the-freezer way. I imagine it would be somewhere between depressing and horrifying, depending on your own state of clutter.
Post-posting edit: so as to make this post a little less whiney, I feel like I should add that the boxes are not tiny little book-sized boxes. No – these are the Home Depot “Large” size: 18″x18″x24″.