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July 21, 2010

Out out damn spot, and box, and lotion.

First, a look at my newest editor:
Just the top half. the botom half comes later.

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When we had our little earthquake a few weeks back, I was sitting on the floor of my bedroom going through some paperwork. I looked up at the lamps swaying back and forth and then I looked down at my clothes.

"If this thing keeps going and turns into The big One," I thought to myself, "I am sure going to have to change my T-shirt before I can evacuate the premises."

Afterward I thought it was pretty dumb to keep a cheap T-shirt that was mainly held together by holes and stains, a T-shirt I didn't even feel comfortable wearing outside my bedroom. It's not like I don't have a bazillion other T-shirts. And this one didn't have some deep sentimental value, it just happened to be a shade of green I liked so I kept it long past its expiration date. I chucked it the next day along with two others in the same sorry state.

It's like that with me, I have to constantly monitor myself or I start hoarding my stuff. This summer I've been making an effort to cull and pare down while I have the time and it's a good activity for hot afternoons. Most of the real clutter is hidden away in drawers and in closets and in bins. Yesterday I pulled everything out from under the bathroom sink, Lord, you'd be surprised how much crap I can Tetris into a tiny cupboard. It's the only bathroom storage I have -- there is another bathroom in the apartment but I promised myself I wouldn't use that room's below-sink storage area since it would become unseen clutter. And I managed to keep my promise to myself.

Bathroom clutter just creeps up on you. One day you're a normal red-blooded American with a backup bottle of shampoo and two half-used frizz-ease products under the sink and before you know it, just a year has passed and you are hoarding what looks like a closeout sale from Sally's Beauty Supply.

I tossed old half-empty bottles of nail polish, dried up cosmetics, an eyeshadow I'd had so long it had an ancient, excavated quality to it. The activity of decluttering comes with a feeling of being in control. It's an illusion, probably, but a seductive one, like the flip side of acquiring things (which provides the illusion that this object or handbag or lip gloss will make us better, happier, complete.)

I've been decluttering steadily and still don't feel like I've accomplished much. Cleaned out the closet. Sifted through the dresser drawers. One night recently I closed my eyes and tried to remember what my first Los Angeles apartment was like, back when I had No Stuff At All. I can remember the layout of the place (it was infinitesimally tiny, you could stir a pot of spaghetti on the stove while taking a shower in the bathroom and simultaneously answering the front door) but I had nothing at all in the way of stuff. That was before home computers were a regular thing (reminder: I am an aged cheese) and so I had no desk, no computer, no external hard drives and printers and scanners and cables. No throw pillows. I did have some books, many of which I still have, and my clothes of course and shoes. I didn't knit so there was no yarn. I couldn't remember what stuff I had though. I looked back through photo albums from that time period and there was not one single picture of that apartment anywhere. Weird.

Decluttering feels good, though I'm wary it will become an excuse to re-stufficate. You know. You get to feeling that you've pared down so much you might as well go shopping. I'm not in real danger of that, since I'm not shopping at all these days both for financial reasons and because there simply isn't anything else I really need. But it's good to think about the motivations and the urge to re-populate the stuff. I certainly don't want to end up one day surrounded by towering piles of junk like those people on television programs about hoarding.

I've always held onto things and collected bits and pieces but now I have a LOT of stuff and I want to get to a place where I feel less heavy. What if I want to move when my lease is up this fall? The very idea of moving all this crap all over again makes me want to puddle up in the corner. I think when you're lighter and more mobile you just have more options. I don't need a pristine magazine home but I did love the feeling I got from staying in the cabin this summer and it would be nice to feel that peaceful in my own house. What a weird malady, this addiction to things. It's such a comfort and such a weight.

But anyway, the straggly old t-shirts are gone and that's a good thing. I did finally donate the backup skillet and some cookie sheets to the Goodwill. My closet is getting a trim down. There's still a lot of stuff hidden in the home office tucked away in boxes and in closets and inside decorative little baskets but there are plenty more hot afternoons ahead to tackle it little by little.

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And finally, end with the cutest feet on the planet:

Bob feet.

Posted by laurie at July 21, 2010 8:53 AM