It is all very well and good to go on mad tears through your household, weeding out that which is no longer useful and beautiful, and passing it along to its next stop on the train, a person, a holding bin for persons unknown (a.k.a. Goodwill, Out of the Closet, the consignment shop, etc), the recycling station or the city dump. For anyone. I’ve not met a single person who doesn’t feel new winds blow in where old stuff leaves.
For a sector of us, though, it truly awesome in the non-new-millenial sense of the word: huge, inspiring and, the part the hipsters and lazyfolk tend to blip over when bandying the term about over everything from naked ladies to a McFlurry, not a little terrifying. (Although both of those things can be kind of terrifying, if you’re paying attention.) Because serious weeding or decluttering or whatever-you-call-it means addressing some pretty deep attachment issues for pack rats and clingers and other absolutely human folk whose response to a great and scary (or awesome) world is to stuff the cracks and fill the holes with stuff.
I get this. I do. While an almost irrational fear of vermin stops me just shy of hoarding, I feel a strong attachment to the stuff I imagine will anchor me in time and space. Or, as my alcoholic mother was wont to say when she’d show up to my place of work looking for money (to pay the rent, not buy booze, although in retrospect, I’m sure I was contributing to the Franzia fund, as well) and see her fancy-schmancy ad gal daughter with the corner office literally down at heel, sporting a 12-year-old shirt I’d bought new for five bucks, “You do like hanging onto things.” And this was a lady who in her richer days had an entire room devoted to crap which we literally called “The Junk Room.”
But this project of physical de-cluttering has had an interesting, not exactly intended tangential effect: noticing the less tangible clutter that clings to me just as tenaciously as the rest of it. Some of it is emotional (jealousy, or, as it was expressed to me recently, “lack of sympathetic joy”), some of it is digital (four Macs plus 6 hard drives, I’m looking at you) and some of it is mental.
Okay, all of it is mental.
This particular “salute” is about acknowledging the intellectual roots of my clutterphilia, and hopefully, addressing them in a way that will be helpful to you as well as to me. I have no particular expectations of curing myself in three weeks (although I live in hope!); as I say in the intro and new footnote to the main 21-Day Salutesâ„¢ page, these little exercises are meant to focus my attention on something, which in turn serves to kickstart a new program of…whatever. Looking on the sunny side. Cultivating gratitude. Or even more mundane, cleaning-type stuff like scraping a layer of filth off my apartment or tackling the hive of old photos and memorabilia that fills me with dread rather than love.
Fall, with its crisp weather (hallelujah!) and its new school year shininess is as good a time as any to start a project like this. And I’m hoping that shaking a few more things loose will make this year’s sabbatical in the PacNW even more fruitful. It’s all about laying groundwork, baby. Plus, I’m moving. There! I said it out loud. And while I’ve let a lot go, I’ve miles to go before I sleep in another place, unless a gigantic windfall blows in and I can suddenly afford two homes.
I don’t want two homes, though. I don’t want two of anything anymore, except original equipment like eyeballs and kidneys. (And boobies. Let’s not forget, we’re smack in the middle of breast cancer awareness month.)
One small thing I am going to add, rather than subtract, and that I would like your help with: treats!
They can be time-based or physical, but I would like to tie them, the additions, to the subtractions, in a way that’s mathematically responsible (i.e., a sound ratio) and that honors these actions. So, for example, for every four bags of clothes or goods I haul off somewhere, I allow myself one coveted, precious object to remind me of this step forward. Or for every boxful of books, I allow myself an hour to browse for one new one. You get the drift.
I’m welcoming ideas now, to help me keep my enthusiasm up and my eyes on the prize, as it were. And I will likely ask for help on individual entries, as well. Because I have good ideas, sure, but lots of them are still buried under mountains of crap.
Let’s get to it then: away with files and clothes, ideas and notions, bric and brac. With a little luck, enlightenment and fine ideas (and a few truly delightful doodads) will breeze in to take their place.
After all, nature abhors a vacuum. Of course, that phrase was coined pre-Dyson. But still…