Thursday, February 23, 2012

The wrong stuff: Too much of it and how to get rid of it

I have too much stuff.

Part of the reason for having all this stuff is that I can.  Either I was able to afford to buy it at the time or it was given to me or whatever.  None of it is stolen, and I didn't go into debt to get it or not pay my bills. 

Another part of the reason is that I have too many hobbies.  The collection of books is because I write and I need fiction for comparison and non-fiction for research.  Then there are the tools and the supplies for the woodworking and the lapidary: saws and sanders and lathes and drills and grinders and so on, plus the huge pile of wood and the boxes and boxes and boxes and buckets and buckets and buckets and piles and piles of rocks.  Add in the fibre and fabric crafts with the tubs of fabric and drawers of ribbon, the buttons and patterns and yarn and thread and two sewing machines. 

A third part is that growing up I often felt that I was doing without a lot of things other kids had and indeed took for granted.  So I'm sort of making up for what I perceived as the deprivations of my childhood.

But then there's a fourth reason, and it's a bit scarier.  Not only do I tend to accept any offers of stuff that other people are getting rid of, but I seem to have a very difficult time getting rid of anything of my own, even the most obviously useless and worthless stuff.

My paternal grandparents saved stuff, too.  My grandmother taught primary grades and saved a lot of household things to use in her classroom.  My dad inherited that tendency.  When my parents moved from the home I'd grown up in, my dad had a whole collection of electrical cords he had cut off lamps and other appliances, because he never knew when he might need a cord.  Dozens and dozens and dozens of them hung from the ceiling over his workbench in the basement of that house,  until my mother ordered him to get rid of them when they moved.  He smuggled a few into the new house.  He had to have his stuff, too.

When my husband and kids and I moved from Indiana to Arizona in 1985, I had to get rid of a lot of stuff, and it was painful to do so.  Very painful.  Almost as soon as we arrived, I began acquiring things, almost as if I were frantic to re-establish my stash of stuff.  Moving from Buckeye to Apache Junction in 2005 didn't entail quite the same depth of de-stuffing, but I have more room at this house and so I've been filling the space steadily with stuff.  More and more and more stuff.

I love my stuff, and because so much of it is oriented toward my hobbies, I consider it valuable material that will -- or at least can -- someday be turned into something salable.  And that's my rationale for not throwing any of it away.  Ever.

Well, hardly ever.  I'm not one of those poor souls who can't throw away a gum wrapper or a newspaper.  I have no difficulty getting rid of trash.  Or at least the obvious trash.  And I try to recycle as much of the paper trash as possible.  (We don't have any facility for recycling anything else.)

For a while a couple of years ago I set myself a quota:  Every day, throw five away.  Each day I had to find at least five items of stuff to get rid of.  They could be small items, but not too small.  A single broken paperclip, for instance, didn't count.  A dried up and useless 15-cent ball point pen did.

Why is this important? Why does it matter at all?  Because the stuff has taken over.

I can't find things that I want when I want or need them.  Yesterday I spent half an hour looking for my paints.  I used to have a huge box of acrylic craft paints, but when I went to that box, I discovered most of them had removed from that box. When I finally found what I was looking for, I also discovered I had already disposed of most of the old, dried up ones.  I had forgotten doing it.

So I have once again set myself the task of eliminating stuff from my premises.

What does this have to do with writing? you ask.

For one thing, it will keep me from wasting half an hour of valuable and scarce time looking for things I've already thrown away.

No comments:

Post a Comment