For the last few months, paring down my possessions has been on my mind. I've always liked having stuff, and I've always carried a lot of things with me in life. But lately, the sheen seems to be dying away on some of my collecting habits and I actually catch myself thinking to myself, "Maybe that... or that... or that... I don't need it anymore."
A few weeks ago, I went through loads of old documents I'd been carrying with me and I shredded loads of them, saving only the things I thought I might need in the future. I had bought a loveseat a few months ago, but it filled my space too much and I sold it this weekend, not thinking to replace it with anything. I've found myself looking at certain "collectables" and wondering why I've collected them. What insecurity led me to think these Funko Pop figurines? When will I ever watch these DVDs? When was the last time I looked through these hockey cards? It's a classic list of male-collector stuff.
However, to be honest, these aren't the things that really cause clutter. Most of these collections are sorta' packed away in one way or another. The Funko Pops and DVDs are in drawers; the hockey cards, coin collections, and stuff like that are in bins; the CDs and records are on dedicated shelves; the Atari 2600 and Commodore 64 are in bins, waiting for a time when they can have their own dedicated space. These collections, the classic things that would be "easiest" to get rid of, aren't causing the mayhem in my life. And I really enjoy having them in my life for now (except for the Funko Pops. I feel like I really gave in to a consumerist craze to pick those up. I think... I think they need to go.)
My lack of desire to throw things away was a tension in my marriage. I didn't think we had too much stuff, but my ex thought we did. It was a constant battle between us in regards to the messes that would appear in the house, since most of the "stuff" could be linked to me. And I still think back on many of the things we disposed of with a little pain in my heart, mainly because I felt I often had to re-buy the item later on, usually at a lower quality. However, this was largely a matter of the circumstances of how we were raised: she moved around constantly in her childhood, so she got used to disposing of things; I spent the first two decades of my life in the same house, so I expected to put something somewhere and return to it in a couple years if it was useful. It made it so we both looked at the same types of objects with different eyes. And as we moved from house to house, many of those objects never found a tidy place. I still carry some of them with me, and still they haven't found a tidy place.
There are odds and ends, things that I acquired with the intent to use them, but they never found a place: a small television antennae, for example, or my heavy duty rain gear, which I haven't used since I moved into an apartment. There's the seasonal stuff that sometimes goes without use for a season or two: a basketball I bought when I coached basketball in my first year of teaching, for instance, or maybe my squash and tennis racquets. There are things that simply won't be used as long as I live in a rented apartment: decorations for the walls that haven't been mounted since our first house, for example. And all the odds and ends that a junk drawer can handle. Chances are a lot of these things could disappear without me hurting too much for it.
The most discouraging clutter is the stuff that I love, but it doesn't have a space to "belong:" the darkroom equipment, the musical instruments, the tools. These collections of objects are things that bring joy to my life, but in my one-bedroom apartment set up for a family of three, they might as well be clutter. One day, I might have a hobby room for them to belong in, but for now they live in easily accessible, yet cluttery corners of the house: my bass tends to sit beside the stereo; there's an accordion beside a bookshelf; the cameras sit in a tote bins on the makeshift pseudo-pantry shelf. What I'm saying is, the things I love the most, since I want them available, and since they don't have a space of their own, are the things that cause the most untidiness in my living space. What's up with that? What makes that fair?
The zeal to clean up our lives has Capitalist consequences. Some people can make loads of cash off of our desire our simplify our lives. This article describes a television show that capitalizes on it, and programs like Hoarders use shame and disgust to make people feel like they have too much stuff.
But sometimes minimalism, no matter what the gurus tell you, no matter what the meditation apps and Instagram-ready aspirations tell you, is more a product of your class than your state of mind. If you can afford to store all your stuff in the places where they would belong, if you can afford to rebuy things down the line, if you can afford to upsize and downsize as you need to, then you can be happy.
Now that I think of it, though, it's a matter of the space you have. I look at all the "stuff" I have right now and I realize that, if I had a typical three-bedroom place for a three-person family, my home would look barren. I have three people's worth of stuff in a one-bedroom space, and I don't have a storage locker for tools and nicknacks. And I won't be able to afford higher rent any time soon. So I need to come to peace with a bit of the chaos that I already have.
I don't have an aspirationally-friendly home: my bed sits in the living room and there's a wall of Rubbermaid totes. But for me, well, it works.
At the same time, though, there's certainly some junk that can just... go. Maybe even today.
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