I haven’t posted in a couple of days because, well, lots of reasons. Busy time at work (month end can be like that). Getting back to roller derby. Morning workouts taking time from writing. But also because I’ve had to shift my method of getting rid of stuff.
One thing I can have problems with is long term time estimation. If there is a long time before something happens then there is always a long time before it happens. At least there is until reality slaps me in the face with a reminder that there is only a short time. That’s what happened here. Jules informed me that we had less than two months until we moved. Not really enough time for me to leisurely filter things out. Nope, I need to “get a wriggle on” as Jules says.
But as I’ve said before, sticking me in a room and telling me to go through everything turns into me working hard for 15-30 minutes, getting overwhelmed, and then being distracted by things. And I can’t rely on Jules to constantly keep me company while I do everything. So I’m trying to come up with ways to do this that minimize the “supervision” I need with this to keep on track. I have some thoughts, but suggestions are always appreciated.
Giving away something that was given to me is difficult. I guess I feel that on some level I am rejecting the gift or the gift giver. But am I really honoring that relationship by letting that potentially well thought out symbol become meaningless background noise? Or worse, am I assigning meaning to a last minute, “Oh shit, I have to get Val something” selection? Either way, the importance is in the relationship, not the token.
These are from yesterday and today. Each one was a gift.
A flask from the Throttle Rockets, a Rat City Rollergirls home team. Roller derby for those unfamiliar. Jules got this for me early in our relationship. She knew I liked derby and that I needed a flask. This was the only one that she could get that combined both at that time. I have since purchased a larger one that I use more often – this was my “loaner flask”.
A handmade belt from an old SCA friend. I got it at my then local group’s Yule party. I cherished it but never got a chance to wear it.
Two wooden spoon/drumsticks. That’s right. Drumsticks with wooden spoons on the other end. A thoughtful gift, as I like cooking AND drumming. But they don’t work well for either.
A hand held Sudoku game. Kate got me this for Christmas many years ago. And I played it A LOT. However I have gotten out of my Sudoku phase and it has languished for several years.
A biography of Johnny Cash. Another present from Jules, this one from about a year ago. I’ve wanted to read it but just couldn’t. I can’t really explain why. The book (like many others) just feels wrong. Not content but how it feels in my hands. Okay, maybe I can explain why, but not until just now.
This morning I remembered the topic I wanted to write about on Friday. The problem was I didn’t actually remember what I wanted to write. I had the topic but not the details. So I went about my day, keeping the topic in the back of my mind. And this is actually quite apropos to the topic – why am I choosing minimalism?
Minimalism to me seems the best choice for living with intent and meaning. Too much of my life has been chasing money to afford more stuff and a larger place to put the stuff. And then getting myself stuck in bad situations because I can’t afford to do anything else. Or staying home doing nothing because I can’t afford a vacation, or a weekend away, or a day trip, thanks to a large chunk of my income going towards rent, excess services, debt repayment, or more stuff to assuage my overall dissatisfaction. There’s a reason it is called the Rat Race, that unthinking process of work, buy stuff, work.
That’s not what I want to do anymore. I want to do stuff, not own it. I want to be able to go to a roller derby tournament somewhere. I want to take Jules to see the full solar eclipse in 2017. I want to spend a week in a cabin on a storm drenched coast, with the winds howling, a fire roaring, and my dog snuggled next to me. I want to write.
But that is hard to do when all of your money goes to other people for things you don’t need.
These are the first skates I bought, five years ago, before I started playing roller derby. At the time I knew that I wanted to try playing and knew that I would need skates. So I picked these up at the Oaks Park skate shop. Just a few weeks later I would have to make a choice between joining a roller derby league and buying Devo tickets. I chose derby and that has made all the difference. Three or four months after this I ended up buying better skates. For those keeping track, that means these have been sitting around for four and a half years. No, I’m not going to throw them out. They will go to my league’s loaner gear.
I had a great idea for a post yesterday. It was going to be amazing. Then life happened. Had to deal with the old cell phone company about an unexpected charge in the morning. Worked much later than I usually do. Ran out of the limited hours in the day and did not write anything. So not only no post but no decluttering.
Does that mean I get to skip a day? Well, it could. Nothing wrong with that. I don’t have a deadline for this. The only ramification would be that a few things stay around longer. No need to beat myself up over that. But this week I decided to make up for it. Yesterday would have been six items and today is seven items. So I present to you my thirteen items.
From upper left to lower right:
- Duffle bag with some brewing gear. I haven’t made mead since moving to Portland.
- Three packages of metal shot. For the wrist rocket I don’t use.
- Juggling sticks. They light up and are really neat but I don’t like their feel and balance.
- Trophy Queen purse. This belonged to Jules but wasn’t her style so she gave it to me. My style has changed.
- Leather flyswatter. Kind of cool concept but doesn’t work for me. Never used.
- A bunch of jars I used for infusing vodka and brandy. I used them as recently as last year, but I can buy fruit infused alcohol now.
- Shelves to a bookcase that fell apart.
- Makeup case. I’ve had this for years. The entire time it has held jewelry that I’ve never worn.
- The jewelry I’ve never worn.
- Three bottles of bubbles. Out of everything I’m moving into declutter, these are the most likely to be taken back. Because my dog sometimes likes to chase bubbles.
- Belt pouch. This was given to me by a friend because she no longer uses it and I have one in a different color. However this one is too small for me.
- Arm warmers. I think they’re cashmere. Maybe angora. Again, an old style of mine.
- A shoulder pouch. It matches the belt pouch I’m keeping, but I don’t like it.
There. Thirteen in one day. Now you may say “Val, it’s easy to get rid of stuff you don’t use!” To which I would reply “If it is so easy then why did I keep them for so many years?”
Some days get busy. Right now my work and sleep schedules mesh in such a way that I have a bit of time before work and a bit of time after work before bed. I don’t have a huge window for cleaning out the bedroom and the closet. But I have told myself that the effort will be worth it. After all, if I’m not the kind of person who can do it all at once then I have to be the kind to do it a bit at a time, like sharpening a bird’s beak on Diamond Mountain.
As I mentioned before, decluttering does not means getting rid of large, meaningful things. In fact I’m likely to be getting rid of small things or stuff that just happened and never got cleaned up, especially later in the week.
Two pairs of shoes, one of which looked good but was too small and never got worn, one of which I wore five to seven years ago. A pile of old socks that needs a new home. A plastic machete purchased for a costume I never finished and can’t remember. Old throwing knives I purchased used as a starter set years ago when I had time and space to practice.
I will admit that in some ways I am new to the concept of “minimalism”. While I have known for years that I “have too much stuff” and “need to do something about it” there wasn’t any reason behind it other than frustration. And whenever I did any research about it I ran into opinions and methods that seemed extreme. People competing to see who could keep the fewest things like some bizarre contest. Getting rid of everything and only replacing things you “truly need”. Major lifestyle overhauls that need to be done right now!
And I floundered. Because none of those methods or ideologies worked for me. And then, in a moment of pure serendipity, I found the Minimalists Podcast. Now I’m not big on podcasts. I had only ever really listened to one podcast years ago and I decided to look up that podcast to see whatever happened to it. It was still going so I downloaded a podcast app for my phone and started downloading. Well, I happened to look at the list of Top Podcasts and saw the Minimalists Podcast and decided to give it a try. After all I was trying to downsize my life. And it worked for me. The way they present it – here are some ideas that have worked for them or others, take what works for you, modify to fit you – made sense to me. I’ve taken some of their advice and mixed it with ideas I found elsewhere. I’ve finally figured out my why.
Not to say that they don’t have their detractors. I’ve read comments ranging from “they don’t say anything new” to “they aren’t extreme enough” to “they don’t think capitalism is bad”. But to all of those people I say this – how many people have you gotten to reduce their footprint in the world? How many people have you helped off the treadmill of seeking happiness through item acquisition? No, I’m never going to be in the running for title of Minimal-est and have everything I own fit in a grocery bag. But I am going to pare down because of the ideas and encouragement I first found in that podcast.
Here is what is going away today. Yarn, needles, and a knitting book from when I decided to try knitting. That experience has made me appreciate knitters even more. A small metal pail that I picked up at work one day to keep office supplies in. A book that I read 9 years ago and kept “just in case” I wanted to loan it to someone.
Once I had settled on a seven day cycle for removing extraneous items from my life I knew I would start on a Sunday. Not because of some belief that a new week is a special place to start. No, just because it will be easier to remember which day of the cycle I was at. It is already going to be challenging enough without adding unnecessary mental and emotional overhead.
With the extra time I wanted the item I chose to have some importance or meaning, even though I can’t really explain what that would entail. I just knew that it would be more than an old pair of socks. And this morning I figured out what that item was:
My massage table. Twenty years ago I studied to be a massage therapist. It was something I really enjoyed and would gladly have left my IT job to pursue it if I hadn’t hurt my wrist. But I kept the table. Kept it in a closet, in a storage unit, or under a bed. It has been used perhaps three times in twenty years. The only time it hasn’t been under a bed in the last seven years is when I switched bedrooms five years ago. It meant something to me in the past but it can go to someone who will use it.
But that’s not all. While I was pulling the table out from under the bed I found even more stuff that can go.
These are saddlebags for a motorcycle I had even before I studied massage therapy. I got rid of the bike and never got another one. I’ve used them to haul stuff from one place to another when I moved.
Dog coat and boots purchased in the winter of 2008-2009. It was so cold my dog could not stay on the driveway or street but the snow was too deep for her to walk through, much less go potty. Even though she hated these they kept her safe. They have been in the saddlebags ever since I moved here from Wisconsin.
And there they go. It’s amazing how deciding to remove one thing can lead to the discovery of other things that can go along with it. It is also amazing how removing that one thing can change how you see things – from where I’m sitting I can now see at least ten things taking up space that could make someone else’s life better.
It isn’t easy to change a habit. The ingrained autopilot routines can catch us when we’re not paying attention. Just grab the remote and start channel surfing; pop open the laptop and play games; pick up the phone and check social media.
We have to put stuff in the way of those easy paths if we wish to change. Not because those habits are bad but because they impede us from being who we want to be.
My biggest reminder at the moment is this:
That is a leather bound notebook of hand made paper. I bought it months ago, wrote in it once, then left it on a shelf. I would see it and think that I should write something. The notebook now resides on my laptop. I have to consciously acknowledge the notebook’s existence and purpose every time I turn on the laptop.
And in the past few days I have written more both in and out of that notebook than in the past year. Will I keep up this pace? Who knows. I will be getting back to other things in life that mean something to me.
And I’d rather choose between meaningful things than meaningless things.
Decluttering does not come naturally to me. I tried many times on my own under the thought of “I should do something about this”. But I get overwhelmed or bored so I stop. Or I make a bit of progress and then never start again because it was too much.
None of the methods I had heard about really seemed like they would work for me:
- KonMari – gathering everything in a category and then processing that single category required a lot of work just to set up – what categories to use, what things fit in which category, the process of gathering everything together – before you made any changes.
- Packing parties – getting friends to come over to help pack everything you own. Clothing, furniture, dishes, toiletries. Everything. Then you simply unpack things you use as you need them. After a period of time you see how few of your possessions you actually use and can remove things you don’t need. The issue here is personal – I get anxious in rooms full of moving boxes. I just don’t like it. I would end up unwrapping everything.
- Progressive removal – one item on day one, two on day two, etc. Go on for as long as you care or are able.
- Just doing it – just “suck it up” and clean. Also known as the “Val putters around for an hour or two” method.
The more I read and the more I think, though, the more I realize I need to do this in a way that is meaningful for me. So I decided to do a weekly cycle. On Sunday I will start a pile with one item, Monday I will add two items to the pile, until Saturday I add seven items. The next week I will start again at one and everything will go into a second pile. After the second week I will get rid of the first pile. This will allow me to reconsider whatever is in the first pile before I find it new homes.
Part of the process for me will be taking a picture each day of the items and coming to terms with what value those items brought to my life and accepting that they no longer do. If something comes out of a pile, it will be because I realize it still adds value.