Friday, April 20, 2007

Clearing the Clutter

I was still on a business call when the clutter in my office overcame me and I pulled all the books out of their shelves. There are three six foot bookshelves here; two in my office and one in the living room. When I unpacked in July, I crammed books onto the shelves as they came out of the boxes with no regard for the natural order of things. Before we moved to Colorado from New Hampshire I gave away all but the books I felt I had to keep and all the movies on VHS tapes. Books and movies are heavy and really, were they worth dragging across the country twice?

Where does all this stuff come from? It was chaos. Seymour Hirsch was next to Christopher Moore; Faulkner, Rushdie and the Fodor’s Guide to Northern California were side by side; Chuck Palahniuk was scattered between all three bookcases; and writing how-to books were cozied up with Updike, Robbins and Mastering the Complex Sale!

Clutter paralyzes me and I’ve fought my packrat instincts all my life. I’ve also been nomadic and left a lot of things behind.

Weeks ago when I bought Rightsizing Your Life, Simplifying Your Surroundings While Keeping What Matters Most I was ready to start right in on the spring cleaning, but until yesterday I didn’t know where the book was.

I can live without just about everything I own. I learned that a few years ago when I moved into a one bedroom apartment. I brought only my clothes, bought the things I really needed and I lived in that tiny apartment for a year. It was cozy and the truth is I didn’t need much and I always knew exactly where everything was. I had space to think.

Of all the things I’ve lost or given away over the years, I never missed any of them, except some old photos I lost in a divorce. Some years later I look back and realize losing those pictures taught me that material sentimental attachments aren’t important. What I keep in my head and in my heart is what matters.

My friend Laura’s parents moved from a large home to a condo several years ago. Her father offered the family heirlooms to his children and then carefully photographed and catalogued all the things he loved before he got rid of them. What a brilliant alternative to keeping a basement full of boxes that never get unpacked.

Part of the grand life transition plan Scott and I have is to downsize/rightsize (does anyone else find the proliferation of new non-words a little annoying?) so maybe the two of us can someday move into a dwelling smaller than one that could shelter a family of six.

It’s been six years and five moves since I lived in my tiny, organized apartment and despite draconian purges before each move; we still can’t park in the garage. Saturday, all that will change. I am on the warpath to clear out the excess.

Note: Books and my collection of every Woody Allen movie released since 1969 are exempt.

If you had to reduce your worldly possessions down to the bare bones, what couldn’t you bear to part with?

1 comment:

Leslie said...

We are a society of consumers - it is distressing. We seem to think that 'stuff' will make us happy - but it doesn't do the trick, does it? What do you really need? It is a very, very good question.

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Literary Quote

It is worth mentioning, for future reference, that the creative power which bubbles so pleasantly in beginning a new book quiets down after a time, and one goes on more steadily. Doubts creep in. Then one becomes resigned. Determination not to give in, and the sense of an impending shape keep one at it more than anything.


Virginia Woolf