Monday, April 26, 2010

Toying with my toys

Spring being the time for renewal, I am considering a couple things more closely than I have in the past. Two things that push me past my comfort zone to a future that is scary, unique, and possibly promising.

The one I have time to write about now, before work, has to do with stuff. I have lots of it. I come from a family that collects stuff. Not quite Hoarders-style, but close in some regards. Close in that individuals are unaware of the magnitude or oddness of their stuff. Unaware that in some ways it perhaps holds them back from a life spent far differently. And it's not my problem, so I try not to concern myself with any of it. And that forces me to consider my own stuff. And, because I'm moving AGAIN, I have no option but to consider my stuff over the next few weeks.

I have always had a lot of stuff. High school, college, adulthood. So much stuff to move from dorm to dorm, apartment to apartment. Somehow, I managed to make it all work wherever I landed. Made it all fit. Like squeezing into tight jeans--lying down, sucking in, repositioning until it's all in and looks like it works. Sort of.

Now that I'm alone, in my 30s (damn, that was depressing to write), I am becoming weary of my decisions to keep stuff that feels so . . . heavy. Journals since childhood, hundreds of books read and not read, college papers, notebooks full of writing that may contain promising nuggets for the future, CDs for fear of losing my iPod, clothes that might fit at some point (or do for a couple weeks out of each year when I'm good), exercise videos that I might someday follow faithfully. The list continues into the sunset.

And as much as 75% of me "gets" the realism of the situation and can rationally say it's time to let a lot of it go, there's a quarter in there somewhere that is not entirely ready. Like starting a diet or quitting smoking, one has to be ready to purge possessions.

So I'm doing it, little by little. Removing three books from the bookcase, donating beautiful shoes I will never wear, going through 10 years of issues of Real Simple. TEN YEARS' worth of a MAGAZINE. On it's fourth move. Because I think it's a pretty magazine. I can't entirely give it up, but I've been tearing off each front cover and tearing out anything I like or consider useful. My intention is to scan it all into OneNote (a new little obsession of mine). And, admittedly, it has felt triumphant to get rid of all those magazine holders filled mostly with advertising.

So, slowly, I'm making smart decisions about my stuff. I'm reading a lot of minimalist blogs. They are far more extreme than I would ever consider. (Owning only 50 things? I want to be able to breathe, not be a vagabond. I intend to keep my horrid high school yearbook.) And perhaps that's because the majority are written by men, who don't mind owning three outfits and wouldn't have to count things like, oh, say, tampons. But the inspiration is there, nonetheless. I'm turned on by the peacefulness of the outcome of simplifying. We'll see how it goes as I begin to pack up boxes. And, I'm on the hunt for more female minimalists--so far a tiny niche online.

Beyond mere stuff, are the "floating" things in our lives--TV, Netflix, gym membership, a landline that rarely rings. When I moved to Newmarket, I got rid of some premium cable channels. Didn't feel a difference. I never figured out what I did with the cable to hook up my DVD player, so Netflix has not been utilized. And the gym. Oh, how kindly I donate money each month to a massive building I never visit. Getting rid of the landline, Netflix, and gym membership would save me an estimated $100/month. $1200/year that could go toward travel. Because I should be having my own adventures, not watching others have adventures on TV. Or hearing about them on Facebook.

This is my baggage. I think I can unload it. Bigger, more extreme changes will have to wait. I'm not ready to give up my HBO or bookcase just yet.