Saturday, October 29, 2011

Really? I'm not a minimalist yet?

“Have you (ever) noticed that their stuff is shit, and your shit is stuff?”
- George Carlin

Ah, the fight against being inundated with ever expanding stuff. It feels like war really. Okay, maybe that’s too strong; how about domestic conflict? I look around: papers, books—lots of books—two boxes of tissues, a checkbook for a HELOC I cancelled, a computer microphone, a little green bottle of Garnier moisturizer with sunscreen, a coaster, an unopened HP printer cartridge, Priority Mail envelopes, a plate with toast crumbs and a used tissue, my Kindle, some notebooks, a thumb drive, a coffee cup, stickies, another pile of papers and more notebooks, a plastic bag, an old iPhone box—and this is just what I can see covering the surface of my desk! The rest of the house is just as bad if not worse.

What perplexes me when I look around and see that so much stuff has been left untended and un-pruned—and realize that it is rapidly taking over like kudzu on a sunny day—is that Brian and I got rid of carload after carload of stuff less than a year ago before leaving Seattle. We had combined two households and had to pare down before moving, so we filled many Rubbermaid tubs full of stuff—clothing, lamps, books, computer and kitchen stuff—all because it was simply way too much stuff—and we took the stuff to Goodwill and Value Village. We then packed our remaining stuff before we moved, and it seemed like maybe, just maybe, we had reduced our belongings to a manageable amount of stuff.

Now, in Waltham, MA, we aren’t living in a one-room apartment. We are living in a cute two-bedroom, one-bath house overlooking a pond. There is a storage shed, where the owner’s lawnmower lives, but our ski and snowboard gear and bikes are there too—not that they’ve seen any use lately. There is a basement, with additional storage, and there should really be ample closet space, but that still doesn’t seem to be doing the trick. The closets are full to bursting; we can never find anything, and everything is always a mess.

Somehow, we still have way too much stuff! Now, we are not people who spend our weekends at the mall. We actually feel like we shop rarely. Does the stuff breed in the closet? And which stuff should we get rid of now? We have one bookcase nearly full of books, which is a tremendous reduction from the entire room full of books in Seattle. These days we’re buying lots of ebooks, so should we pare down to half a bookcase? What’s the right number of books to keep onsite?

When it comes to clothes, I’ll admit; I’m the big offender—even though I’m still a fashion disaster. I don’t shop all that regularly, but I also never throw anything away. I still have the classic blue Candide yarn fisherman sweater I knit myself when I was in high school. It would still be nice too, were it not for my deficiencies in laundry execution, which caused the thing to shrink down to a size that would better fit an eight year old. I have another L.L. Bean sweater—one of the old red and gray Scandinavian style ones with the metal buttons—that is about twenty years old—maybe 25. You know, you buy the L.L. Bean because it lasts, but then it last so long, it ends up adding to the whole problem of the ever adding—never subtracting stuff. So, to clear closet space—now that I’m no longer doing the corporate gig—should I unload all my work clothes? I’d really love to!!! I’d actually like to burn them on the front lawn, but with my luck, I’d get some random and important interview the second I’ve charred the last if the business duds.

The paper clutter is the worst because the papers just keep coming. Oh, how I hate mail. I know there was a time when people liked mail because it meant letters from loved ones, but these days nothing but circulars, flyers, bills, offers for new things to buy from the insurance company, explanations of benefits, coupon booklets, and tax notices fill the mailbox. What always flummoxes me is how much of it are you really supposed to file? What can you just shred? Scanning tons of documents is a pain in the posterior and not how I really want to spend my Saturday. Which papers are important, and which aren’t, and why is it again that I even have to receive the ones that aren’t since I never asked for them in the first place?

So, what did we do today? Organize? De-clutter? Sell everything on Craigslist or Ebay? No—not exactly. You see, there was a Nor’easter forecast, so we ran errands—you know, just groceries, soap, tissues, and stuff, so we went out today and came home with just a little more stuff. This is going to be tough!!!


  1. Man, I feel you. We moved from a one bedroom apartment to a 3-bedroom house with a two car garage on 4 acres, and somehow our stuff expanded to fill the space almost immediately.

    I am not looking forward to having to expunge all the accumulate when we leave.
    I read your earlier entry, too, about getting canned. I hope all is going well, and you are keeping warm through the power outages.

    Thinking about you guys,

  2. Hey John,
    I am thinking about you guys too! Thank you so much for reading, and thank you for your kind comments. I am definitely doing okay, and we are staying warm. And at least here in MA, the lights are on. We'll be heading to ME this weekend. Hopefully, we'll have light and heat up there for the weekend.
    Take care, and we can't wait to see you guys!!!!
    All the best!


Popular Posts