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Thursday, January 14, 2016

Sentimental or In the Way?

Collecting vs. Discarding

I've always collected stuff. Cool stuff. Like crystals, old furniture, little blue glass bottles, really old books. I've struggled to keep organized, and to find ways to store things.

Marie Kondo writes, "storage experts are hoarders." Actually it's the title of a sub-chapter in her book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: the Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.

On first glance, the book seems unassuming. It's small, clean, and sorta pretty. It's totally changing my life. I'm not sure I've ever said that about a book, and I really, really love books.

I've been amazed at how much we've discarded. We began on December 31st and it's now the 14th of January. We are almost finished. The konmari method involves going through each category of stuff throughout the house until literally every belonging has been processed. While holding each item, we looked for a sense of joy. If it wasn't there, the belonging needed a new life and we freed it... and ourselves.

Within the first twelve days, we easily and effortlessly donated 9 trunk loads (in a sedan, not compact...) of clothes (7- 30 gallon bags), toys (1-30 gallon bag), two tents, a sleeping bag, craft materials & housewares, books (well over a hundred), our bike rack (never used it), furniture (it was in the way), my easel (out of use anyway since LBD arrival) and we discovered that we didn't miss anything. We've thrown lots away, too, but diverted anything we thought reasonable from landfills for reuse. For example, we found that we had a surprising number (especially me) of bath & beauty products that were unused, unwanted, and just old. Ew, these were trash. A lot of them expired awhile back and we just didn't think to trash them before this. It was so easy when we're going through EVERYTHING to find what was old and ready to go.

Wow. The really crazy part of all of this for me is the shift I feel about possession and the magic of objects. I'm not sure when it started, but since an early age I've loved collecting things. I heard a story about walking around my grandfather's neighborhood when I was maybe three or so and stopping every few steps to pick up a rock, an acorn or a piece of glass. By age seven I had a collection of dead butterflies, turtle shells, cicada skins, and various toys, books, and dolls. (the latter seems normal enough, but now I see that saving dead creatures is really unnecessary to my enjoyment of them)

Profound Results

The hubby prompted this post, saying that it's been a monumental change for me to go from seeing objects as magical and holding onto them to seeing them as deserving a different life. These days I don't really collect things- with the exception of crafting supplies, minerals and books. However, I still had the things (or most of them) that I've collected during my years of adventuring. I had a hat from graduation, my girl scout vest with the patches & pins, my little sewing kit from childhood, my husband's grandmother's sewing kit from her recent move & subsequent discarding phase, trinkets, toys, and so much more. These are described as komono, or "little things" in Marie's book, with the exception of those that are sentimental. Some of these I've kept so far through the discarding, but many will be gone after I sort through my sentimental category. It's last since it's more difficult for most people than clothes, dishes, etc.

I've found that although I've always thought each item was individually magical, many of them simply don't resonate with me anymore. It was the way I felt about them that was so magical, and the way I feel changes. Kondo writes that when we keep something put away in a box and don't use it, the object is [read: feels] neglected. I really appreciate this now that we've done so much discarding far more than I would have 15 days ago. It's profound to let things go and realize they really didn't mean much at all, and that the memories are still there. 

Our home is more spacious and organization is simpler. Our baby is putting his toys away (and anything he likes that we leave in reach, such as keys, wallet, tupperwares, cat toys) into his toybox, and we're finding that increasingly, we have a place for everything. Really, that's the goal. When everything we have has a designated place to be, we will know we have finished. Well, and when everything we have is something we really, really want. 

My life is getting better. Who'd have thought it was about letting things go? Lovely.