Years ago, I pulled an all-nighter with Mama, going through all her rebate offers and throwing away expired ones. By 4 a.m. we had managed to “earn” about 50 bucks. Because neither of us had very high income potential, rather than seeing $50 for 20 hours of work as pretty poor pay, even back in the ‘80s, we both thought, “Wow, that’s a lot of money!”
Mama looked at me and said, “See? Isn’t it worth all my junk and papers to make $50?”
I’ve finally come to see that there was something wrong with that scenario.
So this year I’ve decided to declutter. Declutter my office, declutter my books, declutter my pantry, declutter my deep freeze, declutter my closet, declutter my life. I wish I could say I was embarking on the spiritual discipline of simplicity, but with all the clutter, that feels like a lofty goal. First I’ll get rid of stuff, then I’ll see if I can embrace simplicity.
My husband has been whispering “Hallelujah—free at last,” waiting with cautious optimism.
I’m taking it slowly. Originally the goal was to throw something away every day. But I forgot on some days, then was out of town for 5 days. So instead, I figure if I throw something away several times a week, it’s a trend in the right direction.I’m working on the easy stuff so far—what’s visible in public spaces—but it’s still hard to feel like I’m winning the war because:
- You’ve got to throw away more than you bring in to make a dent: I’m the shopper in the family. This means I buy all the groceries, all the paper products, cleaning supplies, everything the family needs. In the old days this also included everything the kids wore or used. When your job is bringing things in the house, it’s hard to switch gears and get it out of the house.
- I’m a bargain hunter: I don’t love shopping, but I love bargains. After years of having a very small wardrobe, I’ve now become a clothes horse and my clothes overflow from dresser, closet and underbid storage. All for one reason—the Talbots Outlet. When I consistently find $200 items for $8 that actually flatter (albeit with middle-aged vibe), I just can’t resist.
- Mama’s legacy: Her packrat tendencies come from growing up in poverty. I certainly didn’t grow up poor, but I felt poor. What can I say? The apple didn’t fall far from the tree.
- Food issues: When my favorite See’s chocolate sits in my office, just knowing it exists makes me happy and I don’t need to eat said chocolate. But when I don’t have it, I feel a mild sort of panic that makes me eat chocolate I don’t even want to eat. I just pulled all my chocolate out though and realized I have about 7 pounds of See’s chocolate stored. Clearly I have issues.
So I’ve started small. So far I’ve:
- Brought all excess chocolate (about 8 pounds but not my See’s hoard) to a party with my colleagues
- Finally read all holiday cards and recycled all the envelopes (cards still waiting for Scott to read)
- Dumped about 50 magazines that I will never read—I used my kids’ expiring miles for magazines—note to self: don’t subscribe to magazines, even free ones, if you’re not going to read them.
- Threw away my splurge sunglasses with a big scratch right in the middle of the lens since I haven’t worn them for 3 years since they got the scratch.
There’s much much more to go. But hey, I’ve got all year!