I stumbled across a blog on minimalism this morning and fell face first into the realization that I am the antithesis of that concept. While I have no aspirations to limit my material possessions to a tidy list of 200 essential items, I will have to admit that I sometimes fear I am one-box-of-miscellaneous-crap away from finding myself featured on an episode of Hoarders. Looking around my house, it’s not apparent. The house is relatively neat and organized without an abundance of knick-knacks or newspapers cluttering flat surfaces. It’s what is crammed behind closet doors and in spare rooms and the garage that exposes my need to de-clutter. The blog I was reading had a different term: de-own. Apparently, de-cluttering allows me to hide those I-have-absolutely-no-need-for-this-but-can’t-imagine-giving-it-away items in a box, a drawer, or a not yet completely stuffed closet to be dealt with later. De-owning implies, at least to me, that it needs to go. . .NOW. So I decided to embark on my personal de-owning adventure this morning, only to find that it isn’t as simple as the minimalist blogger suggests.
I started with something easy: scarves. I have half a dozen of those practical, keep your face from freezing on a blustery Nor’easter kind of day scarves. But I don’t live in the northeast anymore. Haven’t lived there since I was 18. We don’t have those kinds of days here in my part of the world. Why did I ever think I needed six? Even worse, I created all but one of them. I went through a knitting craze a few years ago. Sadly, because of my need to knit, there are many people out there who have at least one fluffy scarf that they probably don’t need. It was the seventh scarf that dared me to put it in the goodwill bag. It was a gift from a student. Hand knit with all the adorable knitting blunders that a 10 year old might make. I wore it at school several times to show my appreciation. I’ve since learned that when a student asks you what your favorite color is, you have two choices. The first is to say you don’t really have one in which case you’re going to end up with a scarf that is not only itchy, but in a color that could never exist in the natural world. The second choice is to say black. Black goes with everything. I had to tie the goodwill bag closed so that little scarf couldn’t find its way back into my scarf basket. I realized that I can be rather sentimental at times, especially when it comes to gifts from 10 year olds.
The scarf sorting experience went quickly and left me with a bit of a high. I was ready to tackle another small de-owning project. I headed for the kitchen junk drawer. Ha. An hour later, the drawer still qualifies as a junk drawer. The mistake I made was pulling out the two address books that have been crammed in there for years. The first was from a previous life. It was rather ragged with far too many torn address labels stuffed inside. So years ago, I bought a second identical one. The thought was to reconcile the two with only the names and addresses I actually needed. Well that never happened. New aquaintances were added to the new book and both books continued to suffer abuse each time I’d try to shut the overstuffed drawer. When I pulled them out today, it was difficult to tell which was which as battered as they were. I was so sorely tempted to toss both of them away without looking in them. In this digital age, who doesn’t have a contact list that syncs with every device you own? But I made the mistake of opening the old one. I spent the next hour walking through my past. There were names I barely recognized (and some not at all), addresses that sparked memories shared with long forgotten friends, and phone numbers of geographically distant relatives with whom I’ve lost contact. Each turn of the page brought along with it a host of emotions and memories that have collected dust over the years. Then came the task of deciding which names would make the cut as I entered them into the newer book. The easy ones were the names I no longer recognized. As harsh as it sounds, there were relatives who were not logged into the new book either. I know more about the bag boy at our local grocery store than I do about them. If I haven’t seen or talked to them in the last 30 years, it’s a good bet we have little in common other than some shared genes. Others demanded more consideration. A few childhood friends I’ve only seen once since high school made the cut. My mother’s address, my childhood home, is written carefully under the W tab. I’m thinking ahead. In my golden years, I may need little reminders of my past. I used to sit with my mother’s address book in hand and ask her about the people she had obviously cared enough about to include in it. Her short term memory had been long gone, but mention an old friend’s name or address and she had a story to tell. Maybe someday someone will sit with me and do the same.
So what have I learned from my first foray into de-owning? First, I have no aquaintances who have a last name beginning with the letters I or X. The more important lesson I learned is that letting go isn’t so easy.