I go back and forth between wanting an open, airy minimalist house and wanting an ornate antique home full of cozy nooks and corners.
One of my New Year’s goals was to try a 100 x 12 Challenge – purge 100 things each month for the 12 months of 2013. I’ve been inspired by lots of minimalist blogs lately, and I feel like I am drowning in stuff. Especially now, just after Christmas and all of the new things it brought into the house. Another goal of mine for this year is to get into the habit of one-in one-out so that each new thing I acquire is matched by a corresponding item leaving my living space. I’m toying with the idea of Project 333, but I really think that 33 things is not enough for me (I go through multiple changes of clothes due to boogers, being used as a napkin, and my own proclivity for spilling coffee and red sauce down my front).
I’ve been more than successful so far – 4 days into the month, and I have purged 26 items. Some of those items were packages or sets, so a true count would be higher than that. I still have most of it in the house, but it’s in a pile to go out when I go instead of tucked into drawers and closets. I like seeing the clean spaces that are opened up when I get all of the little tchotchkes cleared out – it gives me a sense of calm, of being able to breathe. It makes it easier to settle into a spot and not be distracted by all of the visual clutter and by the mental clutter triggered by the items in my field of vision. There’s no thoughts of “I should really clean that up” or “I should do something about that pile.”
I actually started clearing out and cleaning out last year. I took a trunk-load of things from our basement storage to the Goodwill drop-off, and I’ve taken a second car full of clothes and household goods since then. Manly also put out a bag of his been-there-probably-never-going-back clothes to one of the veterans’ organizations that picks up at the house. I’ve gone through a bunch of my school notes and tossed the ones that I know I’ll never use again. The kids’ too-small clothes have gone into the attic – it seemed wasteful to get rid of them knowing that we are going to try again soon, and that we would just have to replace anything that we discarded. But they’re at least packed up and quasi-sorted into a system that we can go through next time. The big project for this weekend is to go through all the seeming thousands of kid toys and sort them into batches that can be rotated in and out of playtime so that they don’t a) just dump ALL of them out at once or b) get bored of seeing them every day and want more.
The desire for cozy corners to nestle into fights against the urge to purge, though. The picture above is the view from my bed (when I ever get to sleep in it). I have a snuggle-y corner where I can sink into my pillows and curl up with a book or some sewing and a warm drink on my table. And when I finally settle into bed, my last sight is of my shelf of books about food and wine, gardening, remodeling, light fiction, and my folder of sewing patterns. Things I love, things that make me happy. It is a calming transition into sleep that banishes some of the stress and bad thoughts from the day.
I want to keep that feeling of intimacy. Of being surrounded by tangible expressions of love and security, of knowing and touching and possessing objects that put me into a pleasant state of mind. I want to find the balance between having too much and not having anything at all — that fine line of “enoughness.”
It’s hard for me. I was brought up never to waste anything, to hold on to every bit of debris that might have a possible use in the future because you never know when you might need it and not be able to get it again. Food, clothes, soap, lotions – all consumables were used until they were used up, whether they were what you “wanted” at that moment or not. At this point in my life, that mindset still directs a lot of my actions, consciously and unconsciously. But at the same time, I know that this life is finite, and I am moving more swiftly than I would like to towards the point where there is less left than more. I don’t want to spend the time I have left enduring clothes that don’t fit properly or lotion that smells funny, not while I have an alternative. I still don’t want to waste what I do have, I want to find new owners for it that WILL love and enjoy these things. That person just isn’t me anymore.