When I can get perspective on my life, I realize that I have made myself The Keeper of the Objects.
I find it very hard to let go of usable things.
If I can give them away, fine. But throwing them out is difficult.
For instance -- how am I going to get rid of lacy undergarments? I can't give them away to Goodwill. They've hardly ever been worn, but they've been worn enough that I can't give them to someone else.. I'll never wear them again. They're taking up space in my underwear drawer, and when I'm looking for something I WILL wear, they get in the way. I hate to think of their pretty little lacy selves going into the pit at the transfer station.
And what's really strange is that I always cleared out the houses of my relatives that died, and I had no problem tossing out their stuff. In fact, after my father died, and I had to clear out his stuff and mother's, I thought, here they held on to all this crap, and now look -- they've died, and I'm throwing it out. How ridiculous that it hampered their lives.
So why, with all this insight, do I find it so difficult to part with Perfect Objects?
Some of the things I keep are items that others would consider garbage. But they're USEFUL.
For instance -- perfect jars. Perfect boxes. Perfect wine bottles! How about the bags of air that Amazon uses to pack their shipments? I've got a whole huge bag of those. I occasionally have use for them, as when I'm sending things out at Christmas. But the rest of the year? I think -- there are people who need these. If only I could get them to someone who's doing a lot of packing! So I keep them, many more than I could ever use.
I find something obscene in the linear garbage stream in our industrialized society. If I can recycle it, fine.
But if it isn't recyclable, I'm in trouble. "Waste is a resource that you haven't found a use for yet."
It's the Henry Ford thing. He realized he could use the wooden palettes that his car parts arrived in as floorboards on his Model T. So I think, I'm just not being clever enough, I just haven't found the use for this apparently worthless thing yet.
I have objects sitting in the bottom of my recycling bin that I KNOW aren't recyclable. When I load things up, I leave those in the depths of the bin, rather than throw them out. Same thing with the garbage can in my office. There are things in the bottom of the can that I'm STORING there.
Oh, this is a sickness.
I'm just starting Gail's book, and hoping that I can get on a roll. After looking at her book online, before I even started reading, the first thing I did was to throw out 50 things from drawers in my bathroom. BUT -- I rescued a few things from the garbage. The half-full bag of potpourri. I don't dare put it in my compost pile, because there's a warning on it to "keep away from pets and children." What's in that stuff, anyway? I'm going downstairs right now and throwing it out again. Back in a minute.
Okay, I put the potpourri in the garbage. And even as I threw it away, I thought -- but what if someone NEEDS some potpourri, they could have THIS. Oh, brother.
I remember the huge houseful of junk that my parents left behind. My father, especially, was quite the pack rat. He grew up during the depression, and kept everything. My mother's father also kept everything, though he kept it neatly and his house didn't give the impression of being cluttered. I remember, for instance, that every day he would take his newspaper out of its plastic wrapper. He added the wrapper to the ever larger roll of them in his kitchen cabinet. And once in a great while, he needed a plastic wrapper, and he would peel one off the roll and use it. Needless to say, when he died, I threw out the roll of plastic wrappers.
During my mother's long illness with cancer, my parents moved, and I came down to help them. My younger brother and I were slogging through all the junk, trying to get it all packed up. We came across an unopened, but empty, Sprite can. We asked Mother about it. She had gotten it from a vending machine. A fluke. Empty. She called it one of her "treasures." My brother popped the top, and it became garbage. It was a hostile act, but I realized that he had suffered from her clutter. Her children should have been Mother's real treasures, not her junk. When he helped me clear out their house after my father's death, my brother said, "That house was itself a form of child abuse."
Do I maybe feel guilty about having been so judgmental on my parents for their inability to part with things? So I'm adopting THEIR neurosis? Because I never had trouble throwing things away when I was younger.
One thing to remind myself is that everyone else is throwing things away, so it's ridiculous for me to be the Keeper of the Objects.
I have a neighbor who doesn't have any problem throwing things out. I've been horrified at some of the useful things she tosses. She doesn't even recycle! I told her about the book, confessed that I had a problem (she was surprised because she hasn't seen my storage room, my drawers or my office). I told her that I'd thrown out 50 things the day before. And I said, "And today, I went out to my garden and pulled 50 weeds." She said, "Only day two, and you're already lying to yourself about it!"
Well, she didn't realize that what I was pulling was Chickweed, which is quite tasty - a cross between parsley and tarragon - and because it's USEFUL, I had let it grow until it had taken over my small garden. Once I pulled it, my garden looked so beautiful, with its full heads of lettuce that had been obscured. I didn't compost all the Chickweed - I put some in a separate pot, and now I'm still harvesting it for salads and sandwiches. (Tossing my Chickweed and eating it too.) But my neighbor didn't realize what it took for me even to pull out and throw away a USABLE plant! Something LIVING!!
I think I know a major origin of my psychosis.
Did you watch Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer as a child? Remember the Island of Misfit toys?
Mmm-hmmm. Poor lonely toys. If only someone would match them up with the loving, needy child.
Thanks, Rudolph! I think I'm letting down a misfit object if I don't match it with someone who could use it.
Those lacy undergarments are laying a guilt trip on me. So is the half-bag of toxic potpourri, calling to me from the garbage can. "You could put a label on me that says "Free" and leave me where someone could find me." Getting useful things to people takes time, time I need to spend on my REAL LIFE.
Today, driving into the village, I saw a sign that said "Free things." There was a card table under a tent. I didn't want to take anything. What I wanted to do was come back under cover of darkness, and leave a bunch of stuff. The poor woman! She would come out hoping to have gotten rid of her junk only to find that others have increased her wealth of worthless objects! It's a good idea. I'd put out a free pile myself, except that I live on a private road.
Well, we'll see if I can get the better of this. I envision going to the other extreme and throwing out EVERYthing. Sitting naked in a bare room. Sounds lovely!
Did I mention the two non-recyclable containers that originally contained 50 dinner rolls, and would make PERFECT cake storage? So of course I kept them, even though I seldom bake cakes. The other day, my husband made the mistake of looking for something in my storage room, and they fell on his head. Now he's really frustrated with me. Did I throw them out? Of course not! I'm considering baking a cake, just so I can justify keeping them!
My husband has no problem throwing things out, and although his father grew up dirt-poor, he doesn't hold on to objects. Sometimes my in-laws may go too far. For instance, they helped me and my brother clear out my Grandfather's house after he died. My father-in-law went to my Grandfather's bathroom and threw out everything in the cabinet. He even went into the shower and threw out my brother's shampoo, so that we weren't able to wash our hair. BUT! My in-laws live in a beautiful house full of light, with no clutter.
I'm going to get there. And realize my potential. And not just be the Keeper of the Objects.
I might even force myself to throw out some really useful things along the way.
The stupid thing is that after I've thrown something out, I don't ever think about it again. Once the potpourri is safely in the maw of the garbage squasher, it'll be gone from my head. So if I can just force myself to do it--
Okay, Step one: Read the book.
Thanks, everyone, for listening. Now you can all see that there is someone much much sicker than any of you, and just knowing that fact should give you the courage you need to discard your next 50 things.
Cheers! Happy decluttering!