As I sit here, surrounded by the chaos and detritus of my half-unpacked house, I am once again struggling to come to terms with the weight and hidden costs of ownership. We may own our belongings, but our belongings also own us.
Like most of us, I have a closet full of clothes I don’t wear very often, and piles of magazines to read I may never get to, and so many other things that were bought or given to me that served a purpose in my life at one point.
Raised by thrifty parents, one of whom had grown up during the depression, I have to fight constantly to keep my balance between wisely thrifty and unhealthy frugality. Unpacking the house, taps into one of those deep wells of emotion, as I struggle between my desire for a sparse house (made immeasurably worse by the fact that I’m an artist AND have 2 home-based businesses!!!) and my subconscious ingrained fear of poverty and not having enough and being wasteful. Yes, I may have clothes in my closet I don’t want or like or wear, but at some point I will wear out the clothes I do like and then will have other clothes to wear and since they are not worn out it is WASTEFUL to get rid of them, SHAME, SHAME, SHAME!!!
Some of this can be ameliorated by my repeated reminders to myself that donating them to a charity can help somebody NOW and I can always buy new clothes when mine wear out (being fortunate in that way); but it’s SO much harder to do this with art supplies or shop inventory or office supplies, or any of the things that might not fill someone else’s basic need. It’s even worse because charities don’t WANT all your crap, they only want the really good stuff and throw out the rest! So there is a bunch of stuff that YOU have to throw out.
Yes, I have read a number of books on decluttering, but somehow feel they don’t speak to me or address my issues. And so I wrestle alone with my desire to sell everything, not just throw out or give away (that’s my fear of being wasteful, and also poor again, talking!). I consider selling on craigslist (which takes time, and effort, and generally THEY don’t want it either), or donating (which takes a little time and effort, and helps people – though you get no money), or finding a place to put it all (but I DON’T want it, there is no place for it) – and through all this runs the guilt, the fear of being wasteful, the fear of letting down the person who gave it to you (who you barely knew and has been dead for 7 years anyways), the fear that maybe someday I’ll need it again! (though I haven’t needed it in 20 years…), and the horrible realization that all this STUFF, this CRAP, that I can barely admit to myself that I don’t want and don’t care about, imposes an emotional toll on me. It taxes me, psychologically, to look at it; it weighs on me in an almost tangible burden of needing to use it/find it a home/ JUSTIFY IT somehow. And it clutters the house to an impossible extent, making it SO hard to clean up and get organized. It is a well-known fact that a messy, cluttered, house makes us more anxious, depressed, stressed, and harder to relax in, to fall asleep in, – and of course, to entertain in! (how can we invite people over when the house looks like a bomb went off?!)
And so, my plan right now is to put all of this crap in the furnace room in the basement and get the house into semi-presentable shape NOW so I can breathe. Then spend the rest of the year (I want to say 6 months, but let’s be realistic – this will be HARD) sorting through papers, giving things away, TRASHING things (the hardest thing in the world for me), and hopefully ring in the new year in a much emptier, much cleaner, much less cluttered, house!!! WHO’S WITH ME?!