Thursday, April 28, 2011

Hour-a-Day April: Day Twenty-Eight

You know when you're packing up for a move, and you pack really carefully for a few days, labeling every box meticulously. Then the day of the move, you realize how much more crap there is, and you don't have enough time to sort through it all anymore, so you throw everything in boxes and label them "misc" or "junk"? Then, the next time you move, you find those boxes, which you never opened, and throw them in the moving truck, along with half a dozen more boxes that you just labeled "random" and "crap"? Then you do the same thing all over again? And again?

When we moved to this apartment three years ago, it was the seventh place we had lived in seven years of marriage. Seven times, we have gone through the "Crap, we're out of time, just throw it all in a box" routine. And those boxes all went into the walk-in closet.


I spent a little over 2.5 hours emptying boxes today. I must have been in the right mood for it, because I threw a lot of things out. One full kitchen trash bag of garbage, plus the things that went into the various "donate" or "give to specific people" piles. A few things got filed or relocated, and a few things (like yarn and knitting/crochet supplies) were reboxed and labeled properly. I finished most of the left side of the closet. I expect I have another 2.5 hours of work to do on the right side of the closet, but we're gradually getting there.

2011-04-28 12.08.46

I had a packrat breakthrough today. I hold onto things for many reasons. Some things have genuine nostalgia or record-keeping value, like old yearbooks, medical records, tax documents, photographs, creative writing, or journals. I try to find a coherent way to keep these things organized and safe, while taking up the minimum amount of space. (One file cabinet is sufficient right now.) I'm pretty good at whittling down the nostalgia stuff if I ever have the time to sort. What I'm terrible at is the "But it's still good! Someone might be able to use it someday!" stuff. I'm pretty sure I learned this from my dad. He took pride in being able to find the correct random bit needed to solve any given problem from his treasure trove of miscellaneous stuff (a.k.a. our basement). Broke a shoelace? I have spare shoelaces! Is fluorescent orange okay? Lost a screw? Let me grab my seven jars of random screws, we'll find one that fits! Sprained your ankle? I have ace bandages in four different sizes!

There is also a pride in repurposing broken things. Sure, there's a hole in this backpack, but the drawstring clamps are still good, I could use them on another backpack! Yes, the elastic waistband on this skirt has crumbled with age, but I could use the fabric to make a wrap-shirt! I know this card has writing inside it, but if I cut the cover off, and glue it onto card stock, I could reuse it! And those are only the arguments that have succeeded. My brain has been thwarted in attempts to save: a deck of cards with only 42 cards, because there is probably some game you can play with it, shoes with holes in the soles, because I might be able to cover the holes with glue or something, and an answering machine, because, even though we don't have a home phone, we might be able to use it as a tape recorder for the girls to play with.

Anyhow, back to my breakthrough. 28 days into my HADA challenge, and I still have so much STUFF to sort through. And it hit me today that all this stuff has a hidden cost: My time. It's not just harmless junk sitting in a box waiting to be used; it's a burden. It takes time to dig through and find the item I need, it takes time to sort everything into neatly organized categories, it takes time to move everything around when I change my mind about the layout of the house. It eats so much time. And honestly? Time is the one thing I have the least of right now. We don't have a lot of money, but you know what? We can afford a pair of shoelaces. And if I have to hang onto this much stuff that I might need just to have that one thing one day that I do need, it's not worth it. It's not worth the time, it's not worth the storage space, it's not worth the stress.

I came across a baby blanket today that I started making when my sister was pregnant with my nephew, over four years ago. I had managed to crochet about 12 inches of it when I decided that it was taking too long, and I wasn't very good, and I didn't want to spend however many hours it would take to finish a crappy baby blanket. But I kept it, for some reason. Maybe I thought I would finish it someday, I don't know. So today, when I found it, I told myself it either needed a purpose, or it was going in the trash. Use it or lose it. I decided that it wasn't worth making into a full blanket, but maybe one of Valerie's dolls could use a blanket. So I sat down, redid a few stitches that had come undone, called it finished, and wove in the loose ends. It took only a couple of minutes, and now Valerie's dolls have a remarkably amateur baby blanket.

I want to have less stuff. And I really am trying, but it takes time to change the way you think about stuff. I'm trying to be realistic about anything I save for future use. I think I might actually make that skirt into a wrap-shirt. I'm pretty sure I'll never make those greeting cards into new cards. I will reuse some of those gift bags, but I probably don't need to keep all of them. I do hate throwing things out, but that's what the donate pile is for. I probably overestimate the value of my junk, but at least I can think it's going to get used, even if Goodwill just throws everything out.

Oh yeah, I went grocery shopping tonight, too, after the girls were in bed. I'm tired, and this post is taking forever to write, so I'm just going to click publish and go to bed without all the obsessive editing I usually engage in.

Day 28 tally: 2.5 hours in walk-in closet + 1 hour shopping = 3.5 hours.


nivchek said...

You read my mind about reasons for saving the weirdest things. LOL

abigail said...

I can completely relate! My parents' basement is filled nearly floor to ceiling with things that could (and sometimes are) useful, and I've found it hard to detach myself from stuff because of the eternal, "But we could USE that someday."

John and I also moved 7 times in our first 7 years of marriage. What was helpful in our case was that we had some things stored in my brother's barn. After two years of not seeing any of it, I was baffled as to why I'd even packed some of it away, and I was detached enough to toss the junk.

Like you said, it all comes down to what is truly valuable. Time, space, a peaceful place to live-- these are all worth more than the stuff that may be useful someday, and this is something to remind oneself of during decluttering.