Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Clearing Space

My beloved Sis-in-law Lynn is having a declutter day and my reply to her blog post made it clear I have a lot to say on this subject :-}
Especially now that we are making this house a easy as possible for the wheelchair to navigate, we are again hyper aware of anything that doesn't have a place to live. We've been in declutter mode for years now and I don't see the basic habits changing ever again. Our move from an 1800 square foot house with full basement to a basement-less 850 sq ft house made decluttering a survival trait :-} When we go shopping, we never buy anything if we don't know precisely how it will be used, and where it will live in the house with us.
Some thoughts:
Decluttering is one of the best things any of us can do for ourselves and I think its especially important for artists. Having a visible work environment without inert matter helps creativity flourish. By inert matter, I mean anything that has no relevance to our lives as we live them in the moment.
Clutter isn’t about stuff per se, but about the stuff we don’t use. The stuff that merely exists without contributing to our lives in a positive way. A room 75% filled with stuff isn't necessarily cluttered, provided the stuff enhances living int he room. A collage artist's studio would likely look very cluttered to someone else, but for that person,having the media she uses to create all out in view may be essential to her working process, thus, its not clutter.
In my experience, it was very hard in the beginning to make the decisions about keeping and not keeping, but the more often we asked ourselves the question, the easier the answers became. Its wonderful that if you can do this on a regular basis. VERY healthy and freeing.
Decluttering clothes is the easiest for me, I think because it is so wonderful to think of the garment being loved and appreciated by the next owner instead of languishing in the prison of my closet, unused, unloved. Who knows what adventure awaits that skirt, that sweater? What paths will those shoes walk after I set them free?
Books are easier to donate than most other things. Most libraries have a friends organation who either run a used bookstore on library premeses or have periodic used book sales to support the library.
Kitchenalia can be donated to organizations like Goodwill, or the Salvation Army.

Sometimes however you have to grit your teeth and just throw something away. Yes, you could refurbish that stool, provided you find three more legs and learn to do upholstery, but if its been in your life for more than 6 months and you've yet to take the first step toward making it whole again, its time to give it a peaceful ending. Put it out of your misery and out to the curb.


Ysabeau said...

I find it sooo much easier to give something away, than to throw something away. I have no problem letting go of stuff, if I think it will get used, but otherwise it's hard to waste. B*B, Ysabeau

Lynx said...

I refuse to donate books to the local library anymore. They are too fussy about what books they will accept: I had them turn down a book from the NYTimes Best Seller List, in hardcover, perfect condition, because the librarian didn't think it was interesting to herself. I should have sold it on Amazon or something, much less stressful... Now if only I could get others in my household to get into the de-clutter mode (RUTHI, DADDY) it would help. I am truly tired of being the only one to give up my "stuff"!!! But at least my neighbor was happy when I de-cluttered my kitchen and gave her all of my cow stuff; since her kitchen is decorated with cows, I knew they were going to a good home.
And having worked at Goodwill as a Donations Processor, I am hesitant to take my stuff there because I saw SO much perfectly good merchandise go into the dumpster because they just didn't want to sort the box or they "didn't have room on the sales floor for that item." On the other hand, I saw a lot of nasty stuff be donated that really did belong in the dumpster! PLEASE, if you donate thermoses, MAKE SURE THEY ARE EMPTY BEFORE YOU GIVE THEM AWAY. I will never see anyone run so fast in my life as when the guy doing general merchandise opened a thermos that had -very- old milk in it. Many cans of air freshener were emptied that day!!!