Monday, January 25, 2016

Packing up: how to let go of stuff

I try to make January a quiet month because since we took over my aunt and uncle's cottage, life from September to Christmas is always 100% crazypants and right about now I'm ready for a break.  But this year has been different and we decided I would do our packing up now to minimize the pressure when it's actually time to move in July or so.

Clearly, we are nowhere near July.

I know, I know, July's a long way off.  Originally we were to be in a position to move back in April and do it gradually, but most of the people who were recommended to us for this project have turned out to be what my gut said they were.  Gut feelings: so important not to push them aside for the sake of being polite.  So it was just logical to pack now, while we're waiting for a new design for one key component on the house that's holding up progress on two or three others.

Of course, when I say 'pack', what I mean is 'get rid of stuff', which we were supposed to do before we moved into the condo but couldn't seem to do.  I know I've talked about this many many times over the years, and I am sure practically everybody here has heard of The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by now - it summarizes a lot of what I've discovered first hand in the last couple of weeks.  But until you're doing it under pressure you aren't forced to examine why you're holding on to things you don't use.

I get distracted by the colour and the pretty and I want to bring it home.

In my case, I realized the deep impact of my poor decision making skills, and saw that they are the result of unreliable levels of self-confidence.  The more stretched I am for time and energy, the more I try to avoid getting things wrong or running out of what we need.  So when faced with a choice I just buy two, or buy the thing that *might* work, or will work *for now* with the intention of replacing it later.

Then, once I have things, I have guilt about getting rid of them.  Either they cost a lot, and I feel like parting with them would prove I wasted money, or they came from someone special who's now gone, and I feel like parting with them will take that person even further away.  I'm sure you can relate!

Bark with moss on it feels timeless to me, and meaningful, but it doesn't need to be in my home.
Neither does bark that I want to knit the shape of.  I can go and visit it in the park.
I need more things to look like bark, aka, like something I can enjoy without bringing it home.

The other factor is that I love shopping.  I love finding something new to wear, or to look at on the shelf, or to refer to when I want a particular historical detail.  I love the aspirational quality of things that create a setting at our homes in which we believe we can shine the brightest.

It's inevitable if you put yourself in a position to buy things that you will be tempted, and of course, now that you can buy lots of things online, you don't even have the deterrent of not being sure it will be a good buy (you can research it) or not wanting to carry it home (they deliver.)

Finally: there is the emotional comfort of having things.  They create a soft barrier between us and the cold outdoors, a sense of a created space that is a reflection of our independent spirit, a resource just in case things go horribly wrong elsewhere in our lives.

Too many things become a blur - you can't make out the individual pieces any more.

What I found in this round of getting rid of stuff - and I got rid of a LOT last week - is that it is much, much better to be free.

The less you have, the smaller the space you can live in, the less you spend on real estate, the more liquidity you have to experience life.  Who doesn't want that?

The things you don't use every week have had their time.  Life changes. We are always moving forward, and even if you used something a lot ten years ago - if you aren't using it a lot now, it's ready for somebody else to enjoy.

The clothes you loved ten years and twenty pounds ago may fit again some day, but you won't look them same in them as you did then.  Let somebody else love and look beautiful in them.

The same goes for the home decor pieces you have long loved to look at.  If you've changed your colour scheme with new upholstery and they no longer blend with or stand out attractively from the rest, it's time to share the magic.

Cleaning is hard when you have to move a million unused things, and it takes up more of your time, which is the most precious possession of all.  Things that aren't in daily use get dusty.  If something is dusty, it's a clue you might not still need it.

Having one thing that fulfills many functions feels cleaner than having something for everything.  For example, a smartphone has the ability to replace reference books, leisure reading, a calculator, a landline phone, a stereo, a wristwatch, and more! And the only accessory it requires is a protective cover.  Which is small, so if you can't decide which colour you want, you can buy several (I bought three last time and now that the red one is chipped, I've moved on to black.)  (I did say I have a decision-making problem, right?)

Storage furniture is not your friend.  It seems like your friend, because it gives you a place to put all the things you aren't using right now and gives you a nice, clean looking space.  But if you aren't using those things right now, do you need them?  And if you put them into the storage furniture, can you even see that you have them?  Probably the storage furniture is just making it easier for you to have more than you need.

This is more pigeons than I would need in my living room.  No question.

So - if you read all this way to find out my advice on how to let go of stuff?  There's my advice.  And remember: things are just things - we aren't taking them with us, and their only purpose is to give us a positive environment today.  Too much of a good thing is definitely too much.

But this is just enough ice depth to skate on, if you had it over a slightly wider area.

Hope these insights are useful to you, whether or not you are decluttering, and I'll see you tomorrow.  Meanwhile, have a great day!


Pauline said...

Thank you! I'm a little late reading this blog but thank you! I've been trying to declutter but then recent health problems have forced me out of my house and into a room at my son's. Now that's space shrinkage! I don't get terribly attached to things, but still. You helped to restore my perspective. I don't really need all those things except perhaps socks. I still have way too many socks, only three handknits though.

Mary Keenan said...

Oh Pauline, how awful! I mean, great to be able to get this time with your son, but I hope the health situation is improving? I have to admit, I feel right now that if I could walk away from practically everything tomorrow I would do it, but that's a little more hypothetical than your situation ;^) Glad my words were timely and a help!