No, I’m Not Keeping ALL My Books

Wow, that Marie Kondo book thing hit a bit of a nerve. In addition to the article I posted two days ago, I’ve seen numerous more hot takes since then, from both sides of the “give away your books” debate (yes, purge ’em and no, keep ’em), to snarky twitter-meme roundups (one and two). They been propagated (and re-propagated) by enough of my book-loving friends on social media, that I can understand why a different friend of mine threatened to cut a bitch if she (to paraphrase)

saw that “Marie Kondo is wrong keep all your old books including the Y2K guide to AOL” article one more time.

Okay, she just promised to yell a lot, not to “cut a bitch.” Maybe that’s what I’ll do if I have to see these articles too many more times.

Continue reading “No, I’m Not Keeping ALL My Books”

A Qualitative Judgement

Well, the decluttering death march continues at its snail’s pace.

Yeah, that’s hyperbole. Not so much about the “snail’s pace” bit, but more the self-indulgent and ham-handed analogy. After all, struggling with the quote-unquote burden of too much abundance in my life and home is the Firstiest of First World Problems, wouldn’t you say?

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Nesting

Mr. Mezzo and I spent last weekend playing tourist in Boston–a long weekend scheduled ostensibly to celebrate his birthday. In all honesty, that was just a convenient excuse to take a day off from work and enjoy the city sights without having to worry about T schedules or keeping a designated driver to get us safely home from the T station.

Our hotel room had a windowsill-sized balcony–seriously, I don’t think it was wide enough for me to close the door behind me when I stood out there. Perhaps because it wasn’t the kind of hotel balcony likely to get a lot of foot traffic, a small bird had built its nest under the corner of the balcony awning.

Back when I lived in the heart of Philly, I remember being constantly awestruck by the continued preponderance of nature and wildlife in that urban setting, and the unending creativity shown by these creatures in building their homes among the asphalt and concrete.

The epitome of blooming where one is planted.

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Taming the Paper Dragon: Again

I’ve written before about the challenges of dealing with paper clutter in the house. Well, the last several weeks of gloomy-time meant that I’d been letting all the mail pile up again in a big way — aside from those few essential bills I’d pull out and handle as soon as they arrived. So a big project for me this past weekend and the last couple of evenings has been to once again try to tame the paper dragon.

In addition to handling the most immediate paper accumulation from the last couple months, I also emptied out a couple boxes of longer-term paper accumulation. You know, the kinds of paper piles that built up in other busy times during the last year, but then got shoved into a box in some last-minute cleaning frenzy before an anticipated visitor’s arrival.*

And, after this accomplishment, I am now turning my analytic attention to the other main source of paper influx, aside from catalogs.

My overabundance of magazine subscriptions.

Continue reading “Taming the Paper Dragon: Again”

Creating (a) Space

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I’d been holding the hope that we would be all the way unpacked and organ-imized at the one-year anniversary of moving into our “house on the hill.”

Well, we still have a few weeks till that anniversary — 24 days, to be exact — but I’m ready to call it: I will not be making that hoped-for deadline.

buried-boxesQuite frankly, the momentum for unpacking and all has ground to a complete halt during the last few months.

There’s plenty of good reasons for that. First, there was The Cruise, which took us out-of-town for more than a fortnight, and which required a certain amount of packing/unpacking of its own accord. There’s also the fact that one of the benefits we wanted to create by moving north from Philly was the ability to spend our weekends up at the lake in NH — and we’ve certainly spent a few of our summer weekends happily living out that intention. And then there’s been a few busy patches at work (she says, putting it ever-so-mildly).

But as I began to be aware that the one-year anniversary was approaching and to realize that I was going to miss my secret goal, I started looking at the ways I’ve been giving zero effort to unpacking, and I asked myself what other factors might have contributed to this stop in momentum. And I began wondering if those other factors had both a practical and an energetic dimension to them.

On the practical front, we’ve hit the stage where some of the unpacked boxes are definitively things we want to keep (old tax files, my cross-stitching supplies, etc.) but that don’t actually have any storage furniture to be unpacked into. (Some of our old furniture — including the filing cabinet and some shelving units — got jettisoned during the move, either because it was too old to be worth keeping, or because the ceiling in our finished basement — which is where these items are intended to be stored — is just a teensy-weensy bit too low.)

The energetic front is sort of linked to the practical lack of storage furniture: I didn’t have a vision for the room where the unpacked boxes are currently living.

———-

Let me set the stage to make this all (I hope!) slightly more comprehensible. The architectural features of the house mean that the finished basement falls roughly into three separate rooms, plus a wide long hallway. These “rooms” are open to one another, but still function as separate areas of space. When we moved in, we knew that the first room at the bottom of the stairs was going to be a little library/reading nook area, and that was, for the most part, set up pretty quickly. The hallway was wide enough that we could put up shelves for my prodigious CD collection (plus our movies), which was perfect because the third room, where the hallway leads to, was where we wanted to set up a media room. Those CD shelves were also taken care of pretty quickly, while the future media room and the undetermined center room were where the tons and tons of unpacked boxes waited for attention.

As we unpacked, we kept consolidating the geography so that a higher and higher percentage of unpacked boxes were in the center room, the room we simply began calling “unpacking central.” By taking this approach, we were able to get the media room clear — or, at least, clear enough — so we could start setting it up. The decor is still what we’ve been calling nouveau dorm room, but the core elements — big screen TV, soundbar, PS3 — are there, and we can deal with having milk-crate shelving for the time being.

And then there’s unpacking central.

———-

It was actually really helpful for a while not to have any other vision for the center room aside from its current role as unpacking central. The unpacking process, as a whole, has required me to really come face to face with all my hoarding/shopaholic impulses — facing up not only to the shame around that specific behavior pattern, but also to all the emotional baggage and patterning that led me to be a hoarder to begin with. Quite frankly, it’s been hard emotional work. Good work, important work, work well-worth the doing. Absolutely worth the effort. But hard, nonetheless.

Amidst that hard work, I definitely appreciated not having the extra burden of pressure in thinking “We could already have our ______ (game room, exercise room, whatever), if only I could get my fucking act together!

Yeah, it was nice to not have that piece of internal monologue running.

But my recent spate of inaction had me wondering if I had now become just a little bit too complacent in that room’s identity as “unpacking central” — like, somewhere in the back of my mind, was I thinking “Well, we don’t even know what we’re gonna use the room for, so what’s the hurry to finish cleaning it up?!?

So tonight, Mr. Mezzo and I did a little bit of talking and visioning about the kind of hybrid storage/crafting/creative nook we want to create for that center room. We don’t have everything figured out, but enough is settled that we can take advantage of Massachusetts’ tax free shopping weekend with an Ikea run tomorrow to get a couple storage pieces.

Two birds with one stone: start creating and carrying forward a vision to help re-inspire me towards the unpacking, plus some furniture pieces that mean unpacked item actually have a damn place to go.

So maybe we won’t hit the one-year moving anniversary. Maybe by Yule, instead…

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Image credit: http://doingitwright.wordpress.com/2013/07/13/the-5-laws-of-moving-house/

These Precious Things

The final (Day 20!) prompt from Writing 101:

For our final assignment, tell the tale of your most-prized possession. If you’re up for a twist, go long — experiment with longform and push yourself to write more than usual. [. . .]

How long is long? That’s entirely up to you to decide. You can go with a set number — 750, 1000, or 2000 words, or more (or less!). Alternatively, you could choose your longest post thus far in the challenge, and raise the bar by, say, 300 words, 20 percent, three paragraphs — whatever works for you.

I’m not exactly sure I’m going to push the “longform” angle too strongly. After all, I am long-winded even in the lightest of breezes. (A quick survey of prompts 11-19 from the Writing 101 experience reveals an array of posts ranging from 615 words up to 1,040. And that doesn’t even take into consideration the posts where I get extra-ranty: this morning’s post about Burwell v. Hobby Lobby went to 1,255, while my attempted takedown of George Will went on for a full 1,609 words.)

So I don’t know how much “longer-form” this will turn out to be when compared to other long posts I’ve posted, but if nothing else, I will write something that surpasses the 1,040 mark (the longest of the set of Writing 101 posts I’ve written in the last week.)

———-

These precious things
Let them bleed
Let them wash away
These precious things
Let them break their hold over me

~ Tori Amos, Precious Thing

I’ll admit, my first thought when contemplating writing about my “most-prized possession” is the same one I have whenever I’m asked to name my favorite move/book/song: Just one?!?

I am a collector, you see.Which is really just a polite way of trying not to call myself a hoarder.

Invertigo-Fun-in-Limbo-1During the move and the endless unpacking process, I’ve had a chance to really think about various possessions and ask myself about my level of emotional connection to them. To ask myself: what is that value of this to me? Is it precious? Is it prized? Or am I just holding onto it from inertia?

And there have been a number of objects that, when interrogated through that lens, have made their way straight out of the moving box into the Goodwill box. But there are still a lot a lot of Things left, which is where my habits of clinging and attachment and cocooning myself for protection come strongly into play.

I read once somewhere about how a key distinguishing feature between a hoarder/clutter-bug and someone of a more minimalist persuasion boils down to the level of emotional meaning the clutter-bugs infuse into objects. (Too lazy to look it up right now.*) I can’t speak to the minimalist perspective because that has never been me, but I can sure say I’ve lived — am living — the piece about infusing objects with emotional weight.

And the strength of those emotional attachments create the spiderwebbing that has kept me bound to so many things. The books I have held because they symbolize the years I spent in grad school, or my spiritual journeys through neo-paganism, Unitarian Universalism, and buddhism. The veils and hip scarves from when I took belly dancing classes and was more comfortable in the movement and miracle that is my body. The artwork and knick-knacks that remind me of different childhood years, different homes, the seasons and tides of my life. These precious things hold memories for me, which makes them harder for me to release.

Then in addition to my sentimentality, there’s a whole other complex that imbues objects with disproportionate value to me. The trauma-driven need for safety: the desire to have supplies on hand hand so that I can be prepared for life’s twists and turns. That’s where the different stashes come into play. Office supplies, candles, kitchen tools, clothes across the various body sizes I’ve had during the past couple of years. Never know when a lemon zester will come in handy.

Add these two complexes together, and no wonder I’m having such a hard time releasing the clutter. Especially when you factor in two other threads.

First are the items that I know I don’t want to keep but that have such familial baggage around them I haven’t figured out how to free myself. Some day I could tell you a whole damn story about this antique china I got floating around with nowhere to live and no real soul-resonance for me. I know these items should not be in our house, I have known it to my bones since the lightning bolt of awareness hit me back in early February. But I hold such intense layers of fear around the shit-storm I would cause if I tried to get rid of these items that I remain paralyzed, stewing in my childish immaturity.

Also, I know that amidst the stuff-mountains inspired by these various complexes rest objects that are legitimately of sufficient value — whether emotionally, spiritually, or practically — that they are truly precious. I might eventually get myself to a place where I am living an incredibly minimalist life, but even in my most zen-like of imagined homes, I see a coffee maker, my journals, my wedding ring on my finger.

These precious things. Let them break their hold on me. Let me continue to examine and discern and piece by piece, may I release and be released.

———-

Well, this did not rate as “longform” for me, but it’s been an odd, upset kind of night, so this is quite literally the best I can do with this topic in this context. So, 946 words it is.

* Scholarly blasphemy! Someone come rescind the Ph.D. I never finished! (Oh, wait…)

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Image credit: http://artsmeme.com/2011/09/21/invertigo-dance-theatre-fun-clutter/

basket of magazines

Lead Me Not Into Temptation

I’ve done a halfway double down on the 5×5 goals tonight. Not on account of choir tomorrow. (Which I do have. I’m just hoping I’ll still manage to get tomorrow’s “quota” handled on tomorrow.)

Let’s call tonight’s double down a combination of playing catch-up and covering my ass (in case tomorrow’s rehearsal does throw me off-track).

Anyhow, one of the things I tackled tonight in the “everyday cleaning and clutter management” category was to get a (partial) handle on however-many days of accumulated mail. (Checkbook-balancing and bill-paying are definitely on the agenda for tomorrow morning or during lunch break.)

Now, one of the biggest categories of mail these days is the mail we call “junk”: advertising mailers, credit card offers, and lots and lots of catalogs. I’ve gotten pretty good at discarding the first two categories with ruthless efficiency,* but the catalogs have ended up having a slightly different ritual of their own.

basket of magazinesHere’s how the system works. I put a basket in the living room specifically to hold catalogs, and as new ones arrive, I just keep adding them to the front of the “stack” until such time as the basket is full. Then I sit down and weed out all the duplicate catalogs until the basket holds just the most recent catalog from each company.**

I’ve been doing it this way for a number of years. Why? I wish I had a better answer for that question. At this stage of the game, the pattern has become so unconscious and unthinking that it’s hard to recapture whatever reasons I may have had to do this in the first place.

I think I wanted a rich collection on hand to give me ideas whenever a holiday came around where I needed to buy a gift for someone. I think I wanted sources of inspiration as I lived surrounded by parental hand-me-downs hoping someday to have/create a home environment that was more authentically expressive of my soul and passions. I think I hoped that being able to glance through catalogs and imagine having things would allow me to develop a deeper level of discernment around which desired-for purchases were items that would actually enrich my life and which were more passing, addictive, covetous moments.

That last thought/hope certainly never came to fruition. Not that I’m trying to suggest that my ongoing shopping addiction is caused by having catalogs in the house.*** However, I don’t think it’s been a great help to have them around. Better than nothing insofar as having a way to (somewhat) contain the paper monster, but still: probably not a great help to have them around.

So tonight, as I went through the accumulated mail, every catalog went right into the recycling bin. Over the weekend, when we’re gathering up paper for the recycling run, I’ll probably make a good dent in the basket, too. And, as new catalogs come in with the day’s mail, I’m going to experiment with tossing them straight into recycling with the rest of the junk mail.****

Will it have any great effect on my shopping issues? Who knows?

Will it have an immediate effect on the amount of paper clutter in the house? Why yes, yes it will.

And I’ll celebrate any win I can get.

* Except, of course, in stretches of time when I let the mail pile up unexamined. Like now. (Also, for the record: “ruthless efficiency” as regards credit card offers includes a trip through the shredder. For the offer paperwork, not for me.)

** There are, yes, a few companies that just go straight to the discard pile rather than being part of this whole ritual of commerce and covetousness. But not as many as you’d think, and definitely not as many as there should be.

*** After all, who needs catalogs to spark temptation when there is the Internet and the corporate media machine?

**** Or tossing most of them, if there turns out to be a catalog that is honestly timely and relevant to some purchasing decision of-the-moment. Hey, this is all about practice, not perfection…

———-

Tonight’s soundtrack: Gipsy Kings, Este Mundo.

Image credit: http://www.organizedhousewife.com/2012/11/02/practical-solutions-boundaries/