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April 19, 2006

Do you think my house will seem bigger if I get skinnier?

My house is very, very small. This house is exactly one-third the size of my previous home, the one I shared with you-know-who, and when I moved here I had mountains of boxes and extra furniture and stuff. Stuff everywhere.

Serious downsizing has occurred in the year I have lived at Chez Spinster. My home office/spare bedroom used to be almost impassable, with boxes stacked floor-to-ceiling all along the walls, and a path to the computer and the catbox. Now I have two file boxes for "stuff" and the rest is either put away, given away, or in the Future Yard Sale pile in the garage.

But even with the downsizing and de-cluttering, I still have A LOT of stuff. Decluttering is a continual process, and it goes in waves. At first I couldn't let go of much -- too many memories. I needed them. (cue strains of Wilson Phillips... "Hold on for one more day...") (oh ya'll shoot me, I have just made a WILSON PHILLIPS reference).

The second wave of decluttering trimmed books and a few clothes and some clutter packed away for last summer's yard sale. The third wave (after summer yard sale #1) was more aggressive and cut-throat: I even threw out tons of old vacation pictures of Mr. X. That took serious nerve and serious wine, and ya'll afterwards, I felt so shiny and brand-new that I took some of those pictures and went outside at two-in-the-a.m., lit my barbecue grill and had a bonafide Ex Husband Photo BBQ in my pajamas. There is nothing like getting your crazy on right on the back patio at 2 a.m.!

The hardest wave of decluttering was the Christmas stuff -- FIVE huge green Rubbermaid totes full of holiday decor. I grew up in a family that decked the halls high and low at holiday time, and when I got married I took that tradition to heart and me and Mr. X acquired quite a pile of holiday stuff. I had a small decorated tree for every room, with the big (live) tree in the living room and lights and fake greenery everywhere. It was like Santa Claus threw up in our house. Colorful! Festive! Gag-inducing!

I meant to pull out the green tubs and sort through them bit by bit. (Note to self: If Chinese Water Torture isn't available when you need to kill yourself slowly, just go through piles of holiday memories! That'll do the trick!) Instead, I ended up dragging the full tubs out to the lawn on Yard Sale day and sold the entire pile --including the green plastic tubs -- to the cutest two little newlyweds. They were so excited, it made the whole thing painless, a happy accident. Life is a mysterious thing.

So, anyway, lately I've been thinking a lot about size. The smallness of my house, the size of my life, all those ponder-your-bellybutton things. Not the least bit funny, I might add. I mean, really. I have been on a Funny-Free writing kick like nobody's business. (See: Wilson Freaking Phillips reference, above.)

But after everything that went on back home with the hurricanes, with so many people losing everything they own in natural disasters, my stuff, my little pile of stuff under this roof, feels embarrassingly materialistic. At the same time it all feels so comforting. How is that?

Of course, there's the care and feeding and upkeep of The Stuff. I don't have any intention of coming home after fourteen hours away and cleaning house. I hate that I have to deep-clean and declutter for days to have guests. I think... if I just had less stuff, then would all this be easier? Would my house seem bigger? Would it be easier to clean? What things can I do without?

Is living smaller the answer?

Without crossing over into hairy armpit territory, I'll tell ya'll I want to live simpler, more in harmony and less in a consumer frenzy. I don't want each weekend to be a litany of, "Oh, I have to run to the pet store, then to Target, then get gas, then go to the grocery and blah blah blah...." I'd like more free time. I commute, and work a lot, so my free time is limited and precious. I want it to be relaxing, not stressful and full of things I must complete before the weekend is over and work starts again.

I don't want a cabin-in-the-woods-manifesto kind of life. (That's the Sobakowa's dream.) But I also don't want to be a slave to my stuff, unable to move through life easily because of all my anchors. I know there's a balance somewhere between the comfort of things and the freedom from stuff.

Maybe I need some more late-night barbecuing to fire me up. Heh. Fire up.


Posted by laurie at April 19, 2006 9:39 AM