Spring cleaning doesn't do much good if you haven't done spring uncluttering first. That's what Wall Street Journal columnist Sue Shellenbarger learned when she personally tackled "Ditching 800 Pounds of Clutter." Her six-week experiment to clean out and clean up turned out well in spite of some frustrations during the process. There are a couple of good before and after pix to see at this link, too. (Thanks to Unclutterer.com for pointing out this WSJ article that was published last week.)
"The Story of Stuff: Cycle of Consuming and Dumping Creates Heavy Baggage," by DeNeen L. Brown in Saturday's Washington Post, was prompted by Annie Leonard's new book, The Story of Stuff. Yes, Ms. Leonard is the same person who made the engrossing twenty minute video of the same title that many of you probably have already seen. The WaPo article talks about not only the crisis created by our cultural obsession with consumerism, but also the emotional connection we have with our stuff. An aside: I was amused that Ms. Brown referred to how we used to be able to fit all we owned in a Honda Civic; my generation remembers and probably fantasizes about how we used to be able to fit all we owned in a Volkswagen. The vehicles change, but the sentiment remains -- although there's more room in a Civic! (Thanks to friend and former neighbor, Rachel, for the article link.)
Ultimately, our relationship with most of our stuff is pretty indefensible for one simple reason: you can't take it with you. I've been hanging onto the link to this LA Times article for quite awhile: "Selling What the Dead Leave Behind". Okay, it's not a cheery topic, but it's worth thinking about. You may have heirs that will deal with all your possessions (whether they want to or not is another issue), but what happens if no one is around to sort out your stuff after you've shuffled off this mortal coil? In Los Angeles, the county auctions your belongings to the public. This article provides an informative and poignant look at the process. It's a good reality check for all of us.
We're mid-Discardia right now; it continues until April 14th. I mentioned in my previous post that I'm using this "holiday" to help motivate me to unclutter what may be the final layer in my own archaeological dig through stuff that now seems superfluous to me. I also mentioned that I needed to figure out when my sense of obligation to unclutter was legitimate, not just something I felt I "should" do. What I'm discovering is that I don't have as much left to let go as I thought. I'm not exactly streamlined, but I don't feel the nagging sense of being burdened that I used to have several years ago. If "The Big One" hit LA and we were shaken and rattled out of our home, never to return (Heaven forbid, of course!), there are only a few things I'd miss. Photographs and some handmade mementos are all that I'd be truly sorry to lose. I can't do much about the mementos, other than continue to enjoy having them for as long as the ground remains steady, but I can do something about the photographs by posting them in online albums. That will be a good use of some of my time.
Of course, I'll continue to sort and toss whatever things are left that need to go, but I'll do it gradually. The most significant clutter I'm going to part with immediately is that sense of obligation to be "done." I think letting go of that will allow me to move forward with some current projects that I've been putting on hold until the magic state of "done" had been achieved. I regret to confess that this desire to be done is an excellent example of perfectionism getting in the way of living. To quote Discardia creator, Dinah Sanders (italics are mine):
Discardia is celebrated by getting rid of stuff and ideas you no longer need. It's about letting go, abdicating from obligation and guilt, being true to the self you are now. Discardia is the time to get rid of things that no longer add value to your life, shed bad habits, let go of emotional baggage and generally lighten your load.
Turns out that my useless mental baggage is more bother than my remaining tangible stuff! It's time to let it go, too, and adopt Dinah's motto in my home, my head and my life:
Make room for awesomeness.
© 2010 Cynthia Friedlob
Photo credit: asifthebes at stock.xchng