Thursday, August 1, 2013
Less is More - Inspiration Thursday
"The less you own, the less that owns you. Dusting things, washing things, and running thing-related errands all take time. When you get sick and tired of sacrificing your free time for your stuff, let it go." - Courtney Carver from BeMoreWithLess
Clutter makes me crazy. Its hard for me to relax in a room where things need put away--with piles of papers and books, shoes and socks kicked off in the middle of the floor, three empty tea cups on the end table. I have very much become a "don't just put it down, put it away," type person. It makes so much more sense to me to just put it away once and be done with it. It makes it so easy to find what I need when I need it and then I don't have to bother with putting it away later and having it in the way in the meantime. I like things neat and tidy. It just makes me feel better and I am much more productive, too.
On the other hand, I think life is too short to spend a whole lot of precious time cleaning house. I want my house to be clean enough. It does not have to be immaculately perfect. Picked up, yes. Spotless, no.
Its a balance things, as are most things in life. One has to find a balance.
To that end I have been looking around the house at all I have accumulated there. I want to rid myself of all the unnecessary items that are just cluttering up closets, drawers, and shelves without contributing anything to our household. Clothes we don't wear. Dishes we don't use. Craft supplies we don't need. Board games we don't play. Books we'll never read. You get the idea. I feel like I have been slowly eliminating these sort of items over the last year or two, but I am feeling a real motivation to tackle it in a more dedicated way now.
In general I feel that we have a reasonable amount of belongings by national cultural standards. We own one car. Matt and I share one dresser (the same one Matt's used his entire life) and one closet for all our clothing. My holiday decorations fit in one rather small box. It seems like we don't have all that much by comparison to "the neighbors." But of course, we live in a consumer-driven world so that may not be the best standard to compare myself to. Despite the comparison I indeed own a shocking lot that I don't really need or don't really use.
And its harder to let go of than I would have thought. I add things to the Goodwill pile and take them back out again before the pile makes it to Goodwill. I keep certain items because they were gifts or I'd feel guilty getting rid of them. I think "that could come in handy someday." I rationalize that I have enough space to store it, so why not just keep it.
I think the answer is: because empty space is nice, too. It allows the remaining items to shine. And the unused item might actually go to someone who would use it.
So, I am thinking up a game plan for a systematic approach to having less cluttering up my home and life. There are lots of ideas in books and blogs for how to tackle this project. I could follow the lead of Ember over at Kindred of the Quiet Way and cast off one unneeded item a day for a year. I could also try the for-every-item-you-bring-in-give-two-others-away approach. I could go through the house room by room, drawer by drawer and evaluate the contents of each. Or none of these. Or all of these.
I am not sure how to go about it exactly. I fear being too rigid with myself, as I have a tendency to do. But I also fear continuing complacency about the clutter the builds each year one lives in the same place. I can feel our new house filling up already. Its so easy. Example: when I was packing to move to our house I was ruthless with the books and donated hundreds of them. And for the first time I had empty space alongside the book on the shelves. They weren't packed to the gills so it was almost impossible to get a book in or out. It looked nice. It was easier to find what I wanted. That empty space is now gone. I've acquired enough books (all for free mind you, which is part of the problem!) that the spaces have been filled in the year and half or so I've live there. Books are stacked on top even.
That space is gone in other areas, too, and I want it back. I don't want our "stuff" to grow every year, finding nooks and crannies to be stashed in. I want just to be surrounded by the useful and the beautiful...and not too much of the latter if it is not also the former!
As an urban homesteader type I figure I will always have the equipment and trappings that go along with that life--canning jars, journals, garden tools, knitting needles, brewing vats, reference books. That is fine. Its not as if I don't want any belongings or that I am striving for Gandhi-like minimalism. Not at all. But I am thinking its possible that I'd be better off not to hang on to hundreds of empty CD cases which have been boxed up for more than a decade. Or earrings that were a gift to me that I've never worn. Or a dozen different winter hats. Or bobby pins that I just can't figure out how to make useful in my hair.
That space would be better used as just...space. I'd derive more enjoyment from that use.