Saturday, February 5, 2011

Destuffing


I'm doing it! I've had the stuffing knocked out of me, and now I'm actually really and truly, earnestly getting rid of a significant quantity of my stuff.

My personal catalyst? A fabulous book, called, well, Stuff - Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things, by Randy O. Frost and Gail Steketee.

What a promising title, I thought! The Meaning of Things - right up my alley. I'm am a person who assigns a great deal of meaning to my things.

The wonderful thing about this book, which has *bing* turned on a big lightbulb in my brain, is that it showed me that I'm not the only one who holds onto stuff because:
- I want to hold onto the feeling an item gives me
- I want to remember what things were like during the time said item first came into my posession (or was published)
- I feel sorry for the item because if I get rid of it, it'll know I don't want it and it'll somehow feel bad (yeah, I know it sounds nutty to people who don't feel this way, but to me, it's real)

More reasons I hold onto stuff:
- the person who gave me the item or card has passed away
- the person who gave me the item will pass away someday
- the person who gave me the item may come over one day and demand to see evidence that I've hung onto it

And even more reasons that I hold onto stuff:
- the item might come in handy when I start sewing/crafting/painting/knitting/crocheting/cardmaking/gourmet-cooking/having-big-dinner-parties/having-dainty-tea-parties/doing-mosaics/writing-a-novel
- if I run out of things to do I can sort through my stuff
- if I run out of things to read, I can read all those magazines and old notes and essays and articles
- I don't have time to sort through everything
- I'm looking forward to sorting through everything and I want to postpone that enjoyment
- I'm overwhelmed by the thought of sorting through everything

People, whether they have big hoarding issues or not, hold onto stuff for a zillion different reasons.

A lot of stuff I've kept is from my single days when I lived alone. I lived on my own for roughly 13 years, and sometimes I was lonely and sometimes I was bored, and somewhere along the line I had a terrifying 6-week bout of clinical depression, and having this stuff around - and tucked away - made me feel cozier, like I wasn't alone. A bit of agorphobia thrown in, and you've got an anxious chick who gets comfort from having stuff.

Plus, there've been things I can recall getting rid of and then, OMG!, regretting. A pink wool cardigan and an old, very cool issue of New York magazine from the 80s, just for starters (actually those are the only two things I can think of).

Here's the part that made the lightbulb turn on:
This marvelous book, Stuff, showed me that there are a whole freaking bunch folks out there who have a LOT more stuff than I do, and much more intense issues with parting with it.

And they have successfully divested themselves of it, and NOT felt bereft, empty, lonely, sad, or regretful. They're happier.

I'm prepared to face a few more regrets. I feel strongly that it's part of the territory. But if the folks in the book can do it, so can I.

I want to enjoy our little home more. I'm embarassed by all my stuff. We don't have goat paths, but I've been hanging onto a number of cardboard boxes full of magazines, china, etc. Plus my stuff is weighing me down, and I've lost some items that I just know are in this place somewhere, and it's just time to do it. I'm finally ready.

Here's what I've decided to discard since I finished the book:

- A whole bunch of my china to sell at The Singing Lady Consignment Emporium, run by a dear friend of mine.

- A ton of just plain old stuff, including some books and clothes, to send to Goodwill.

- A big stack of magazines to go downstairs in the building's laundry room (it has a reading room).

- Roughly 10 old work notebooks, and an 18-inch-high stack of paper, including old stuff I've written, magazines I've been published in (like, who needs 5 copies of the Financial Post Corporate Elite?), and notes.

Charlie even found my old mood ring, which he and I have been looking for for weeks. It was in a flowered metal tea tin curiously located in the hinterland that is my top dresser drawer. It seems I haven't actually removed anything from that drawer in about 20 years, judging by its contents.

I'm doing it. Stay tuned.

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