Ever since our trip last year, I've been cutting clutter with a vengeance. Every day I do a little more weeding out, sorting, filing, reorganizing. With each pound of crap I cleanse from our lives, I feel better. The weight of all that stuff I have had to move, or work around, or clean up after, or put back, or wash, or sort, or store, or whatever is SO heavy. I didn't realize it until I stopped carrying it.
Just like gradual weight gain, I didn't really notice it piling up. I mean, I saw it, but I dealt with it. It was just five camp chairs - we might need those for a party one day! It was just four sets of old headphones from long-gone iPhones - what if I lose my new pair? I totally need backups, even though these have gone into deep drawer storage because they repeatedly shocked the inside of my ears as I raced around the grocery store. (Wish I were kidding.) I mean, how bad can it really be to have 15 black skirts? Each one is different, they're all classic styles, I could fit in them again. And the really big question, what if I don't have money to buy a new one someday?
Maybe that's part of how it started. The terrible idea that I won't be able to buy whatever I want because I won't have a job. Or we'll be struck some terrible financial blow (totally knocking on wood here) and be destitute. Somehow I doubt our piles of stuff will be what we're really worried about if that happens. So, I'm carrying around a huge under-the-bed plastic bin filled with no fewer than 27 purses because of fear? What bullshit.
There's a play/movie called 'You Can't Take It With You' - a brilliant work by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman. Read it. If you haven't seen the black and white classic by Frank Capra, featuring Jimmy Stewart and Jean Arthur, do it. No matter if you read it or watch it, you won't regret it. There are moments of intense kindness that make me cry every time. There are moments of hilarity where you realize your crazy family don't know squat about crazy. And there are poignant messages about the pursuit of true happiness, life, love, and giving a middle finger to those who peddle fear. Actually, that's just the beginning of the lessons.
Remembering that work, remembering those soul-touching, shaping moments has made me ruthless. I take out huge swaths of shirts every time I go into the closet. I erase piles of books and movies when I walk by the bookcase. I wipe out stockpiles of office supplies (who the fuck stole all those damn pens?), and I kick piles of shoes to the curb whenever I put a pair away. I have finally gotten brave enough to act. I can't take those purses with me, I can't use more than one at a time... and their cumulative weight is breaking my back.
I've read countless clutter-cutting articles and blogs before. Their advice is the same, and simple. If you haven't used it in a year, toss it. If it's not beautiful or sentimental or useful, toss it. If you can buy another one if you really need to, toss it. (By toss it, I mean literally throw it away, donate it, give it to a friend who'd love it, or sell it.) Invariably though, I find uses for things I've gotten rid of because I am always embroiled in some new project - it's a blessing. And a curse. The curse is stuff.
Or perhaps the curse is actually the inability to say no. The constant push to be busy, busy, busy. I don't get involved to stay out of trouble. The last time my hands were idle, I churned out some beautiful stained glass projects. Hardly the Devil's handiwork there. So why can't I say no? Let go? Give someone else the chance to over-commit and ensnare their family in ridiculous projects that take up way more time and effort and resources than they should? Because that's what we do, it's what we've always done. It's a family thing.
Truth is, I kinda love it. I love overachieving. I love showing others up. I love pride in a job that exceeds everyone's expectations (except my own, because I always know I could have done something bigger, something better, something more incredible). I love doing a good job. It's energizing. It's motivating. It's exhausting. I put more effort into that than I do into being a good partner. Being a good daughter. Being a good sister. Being a good friend. I've spread myself so far and so wide that I'm good nowhere.
The push to be busy. To be industrious. To make more so we can have more. Well, that is not how we're choosing to live our lives any more. Sound selfish? I can see that. Two youngish folks with no kids are trying to skip out on all semblance of responsibility. But what if we're doing it as a hard reset - cutting out everything we don't need, being grateful for what we have, and taking time to breathe? Taking time to be happy, to be grateful, to be peaceful? I think this habit will make us different, more aware, and more happy people. If only everyone could remember they can't take it with them they might find time to do the same... and what would that do for our collective mental health?