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April 9, 2007

Smaller = Not so bad!

It started slowly, right around last Christmas when I found a perfect small tree and was able to decorate it (starting from scratch!) for a lot less money than I thought. A small tree takes less ornaments to look pretty and full.

I remembered then how all our married holiday trees were giant 9-foot monsters, covered head-to-toe in ornaments, filling up the greatroom.

I don't have a greatroom anymore. I have a "this is my living room/dining room/treadmill room/library/hallway!" And for the very first time I began to see that maybe my tiny house was a stroke of sheer luck. I could have found an apartment somewhere in my price range that was bigger than this house, but I needed this house.

Decluttering has been a personal mission since the day I moved in. At first it was sheerly out of necessity ("cannot find the cats or doors") and later, as I got better, I needed to get rid of the past. I think it would have been a huge mistake to move into a bigger place; all the clutter would have stayed and I would have just buried it under a new layer of stuff, stuff for my new life, without purging the objects of my old life.

Because purging is hard for people like me. It is not an easy task, feels sometimes like you're losing who you are. (But it just FEELS that way, it isn't true, of course. Your stuff does not love you back.)

And in the two and a half years I have lived in the little house in Encino Adjacent, I have pared down to about 1/8th of what I used to own. My closet is tiny, so now I only have clothes I LOVE hanging inside it. If I buy something nrew, something old has to go -- so I think twice before buying. My kitchen is barely big enough for two people to stand comfortably, so I had to say good-bye to unused gadgets, a serving platter I used once as a newlywed, all those cookie sheets with rust and spots.

I still have too many books (oh well) and yarn (ditto) and cats (heh) but I no longer trip over fifteen piles of doodads each time I try to get the window open in the guestroom.

AND THE GUESTROOM! Is! A guestroom!

It used to be the junk repository, my "office," a dumping ground for everything that didn't fit elsewhere. And let me tell you, that was a lot of "everything else." Poor cats having to walk through a maze to find the cat pan. I never used that room as an office, it was too junky. When guests came over I gave them my room (the smallest and always cleanest area of the house) and I just gave up and slept on the sofa.

It was filled with stuff I couldn't yet say goodbye to, my old computer, a lamp I'd bought when he and I moved to the North Hollywood house, all the stuff I had back when I shopped to fill up my life. It used to sometimes spill over into the hallway of the Tiny New House and even thinking about that room made me feel a shriek of panic deep inside, how would I ever fix it?

I fixed it!

It took two and a half full years but now it is a real room. That upholstered chair folds out into a twin-sized guest bed, and the stuff on the floor is the last of the clutter in the whole entire house. THAT IS A MIRACLE, FOLKS. After months and months of sorting, packing, selling at yard sales, getting rid of stuff, uncluttering, recluttering, purging once again... I think I have finally gotten my house under control. OH MY GOD.

I can't believe it myself, I just walk from room to room in total amazement. It's been two weeks now and still the clutter hasn't mysteriously re-appeared, my house is cleaner than it has ever been.

Until this very minute I had not realized I lived under a constant cloud of anxiety about my home. I would pray nobody wanted to drop by, I had fewer and fewer people over, when I was dating that one guy for a while I would sometimes hope he'd be too busy to come over because it was so stressful to get the house looking just perfect and still hide all the junk.

There's nothing to hide now! The constant stress of house-cleaning has still got a hold on me, it's like I'll start having the familiar feelings of anxiety but then I remember the clutter is (mostly) gone. It's not perfect, but it doesn't have to be PERFECT. The house is clean and mostly organized and while the fridge could use a good scrubbing and the pantry is a little jumbled, and okay, I should probably mop (gah) ... the giant, monumental hurdle is over. My tiny house has just enough.

Finally, my life fits inside my little home.

It's because of the tiny house that I was forced to pare down. And over the past couple of years I've gotten better at it! Sometimes I will even find myself looking at an object and asking what it means to me, does it remind me of the past, or marriage, or what? Evaluating. Making sure I'm not holding on just because. Things have energy and I've learned to hold onto to the good memories, or make new ones, but for the love of God get rid of all the junk.

I think I could invite someone over right this very minute and I wouldn't be the least bit embarrassed of any inch of this house. Well, maybe the crisper drawers. But who in their right mind comes over and looks in your crisper drawer?

It's not perfect, no. But that's still pretty damn good.

Posted by laurie at April 9, 2007 1:12 PM