Sunday, March 20, 2016

Less Stuff

Image credit here based on becomingminimalist.com
("Maybe the Answer is Owning Less")
The more stuff you have, the more time and energy you have to spend dealing with it, or avoiding becoming minimalist gave me the number I was looking for: the average number of objects in an American home.
dealing with it. This reality is at the heart the Tiny House movement, the Tidying Up books and (of the flip side) our cultural fascination with hoarders. The cool site 

What do you think it is?

from The Tiny Life webpage
My husband Mark guessed 12,000,which was wrong.

I guessed 50,000, also wrong.

Guess yourself, and then read the post (“21Surprising Statistics That Reveal How Much Stuff We Actually Own”). Which stat did you find most astonishing? Mine was no. 16 but they all explain a lot. 

I do not own a tiny house, and after downsizing from a travel trailer to tents don't think I'll ever go in the other direction and get an RV park model/log cabin (the original tiny houses). But I'm fascinated by those who do, especially those sent through the public wringer on Tiny House Nation where John will put a hula-hoop in the front yard for each person (or some such thing) and say all their personal items must fit into that space.

Impossible, for most of us, but hey, they signed up. I have a suspicion that many of the people featured on other tiny house TV shows (Tiny House Hunting, Tiny House Hunters, Tiny House Builders, etc.) rent storage units for the belongings they can't give up or find a way to give away.

That last concept is the key to the cult of Maria Kondo tidying up book followers. Her process is an idiosyncratic one (why hasn't there been an SNL skit on this yet?) but as I laugh about it (hold objects in your hand a certain way, see if they spark joy, if not then find them a new home) I also do largely as she says. 

www.tidyingup.com 
Because why should you keep anything you don't like? You might have some gut-level defenses (it cost so much, it was my aunt's, I'll fit into it someday, we might have more kids) but none of those make sense unless you like the damn thing. In that case, keep it. If not, give it away. Simple, right?

Not so much. 

Because the effort needed to deal with a mountain range of stuff (papers, pictures, books, clothes and everything that goes into a kitchen, bathroom, office, family room or workshop) is immense, more than letting it all sit with an "organize later" timeline. Until one day a switch flips and you really can't take the clutter anymore. That's when doing nothing is harder than starting the process of fixing your life. 

We all get that what we have is not who we are, at some level. But our possessions symbolize our priorities and personality, to the degree that anyone in your home would get a sense of who you are without your being there. 

Big kitchen, lots of gadgets? My guess is you're social, innovative and nurturing. 

Home library, neatly organized? Introspective, curious and value education.

Basement gym, worn and ripe? Disciplined, careful with money, probably a guy :). 

From the very funny--and tough love--post
 "How Out of ControlIs your TBR Pile
 (Based on This Scale I Invented)?"
So every item we give away can feel like a part of ourselves we're tossing. This is most extreme on the quite-depressing Hoarders  but also the backbone of humorous, upbeat shows like American Pickers where Mike and Frank are often sent in by family members as an intervention for those whose collections have taken on lives (and warehouses, attics, basements, yards, garages and rented storage units) of their own. 

Then again, like the toppling "TBR" piles of readers, having more stuff than you can possibly use or cope with doesn't say anything good about us to the world, and makes us feel lousy about how wasteful and ineffective we are mired in patterns of excess consumption. Jared Diamond wrote a  NYT op-ed a few years ago on the consumption factor of developed countries being 32x higher per capita than in developing countries, who aspire to such lavish ravishing of finite resources.
happinessinyourlife.com

Thus the tipping point.

Mine was filling 20 boxes of books from one corner of one room of a family member's office who wanted help de-cluttering. And while sure, it's unusual that it was only one corner, most of us could do this several times over in a full-house purge. I certainly could. And should. 

Mark is a ruthless cleaner and tosser. What he sweeps from under the couches goes into the garbage unless it's a TV remote or high-denomination money. Me? I shake off the hair elastics in the pile, pocket the coins, ponder the plastic piece of something (is this the bottom of that lantern that's always dropping its batteries?). I throw and give away lots of stuff, but not without thinking and organizing.

Mark prefers his way. I do too, in all honesty. I have better things to think about and have never (truly: never) missed anything of significance that he's chucked or donated. Rarely do I even notice. But there are areas of our house that can't simply be Markcized, and the problem of managing the (X thousand) items in our home goes deeper, into how much we buy and why.
image by Lynne Cazaly 


This post is Part I of that process.

On deck:
Part II: I Will Send You Free Books
Part III: The Real Problem of Trophies
Part IV: The Pot at the End of the Rainbow is...

Oh, come on. It'll be fun. See you next week ;).

Love, Lisa












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