Is it beautiful? Is it useful? Is it storied?

The Great Purge of 2014: Part One

You wouldn’t know it walking into my sweet middle-class (rental) home, standing under the enormous chandelier with the whiteness of the walls glaring back at you, or looking up into the sparse décor of my open floor plan, but I have too much shit. No really, like, it’s kind of a problem sometimes. It’s emblematic of other problems I have and sometimes it comes rushing into the office in my head to demand a raise on the priority list of mental health concerns I should probably attend to.

Sometimes I am able to listen to the piece of me that yearns to live simply, that feels joy and weightlessness wash over me after handing a prized possession to its next owner to treasure. Other times I hold onto the things I have like a hoarder five years after the Great Depression, the memory of struggle and starvation and stealing and sobering sadness of life lived “without” still raw in my mind and triggered by the sweat of current labors.

Some examples of objects I continue to carry despite their utility having run its course in my life:

  • An extra dining set. No, not dishes. A six-foot-long pine table and six matching chairs. 
  • A scooter that hasn’t been started in two years.
  • Three boxes of size eight clothing.          
  • A jar full of false eyelashes, a drawer full of ruffle-butted funderwear, and a collection of Martha Stewart Kids magazines from the mid-2000s.
… And that’s it. I can’t list anything else right now because in my mind there is ALWAYS utility—I just may not have come to the right moment to discover it yet. Do you do that? Do you ever just hold onto something because someday it is bound to come in handy and you happened to be able to acquire it today for whatever reason? I have to talk myself down off ledges more frequently than I’d like to admit.

And so, the Great Purge of 2014 begins.

I have been homeless, slept under bridges, in rest stop bathrooms, in cars, in camps and on the ground. I have siphoned electricity off of neighboring units to run a space heater and refrigerator full of the previous night’s kitchen loss from my gracious employer. I have had Christmas presents provided for my children by complete strangers. I have lived owning literally nothing more than the pack on my back. And now I have all this shit everywhere.

Two knife blocks. Fourteen Christmas stockings. An Elvis bust with a broken nose. Two lamp shades sliced down the side (rendering them inoperable in their most basic function). Two playpens and no babies left. A 12pk of clear lip balm containers and a 2lb bag of beeswax. A secular Christmas Countdown calendar, homemade, collaged with the most incredible collection of handmade upcycled envelopes, each tucked with a note full of fun. Six boxes of compact discs. Three dead computers. Little hotel shampoos. And of course, those three boxes of size eight clothing. It’s time to let some of it go.

You can follow me on the journey. In fact, I encourage you to not only follow along but to participate. Each week I will select an object or several to get rid of and at the end of the week I’ll post a picture of the all the week’s purge along with a story about one particular item.

The process I will use to break down my inner-hoarder is simple. 

I'll reflect on the given object and ask myself the following:

 Is it beautiful? If no, then out it goes. If yes, is there someone else who might appreciate its beauty more? It has to be more than aesthetically pleasing; the beauty has to be in the context too.   

Is it useful? If no, then out it goes. If yes, do I have more than one? If yes, pick one and get rid of the other(s). If not, I’ll keep it. This is about minimizing after all, not about returning to abject poverty. 

Is it storied? If no, then out it goes. If yes, is the story something I’ll forget if the object is gone? Is the story something someone else might appreciate? Stories are vital components of our relationships to one another. I want to share the storied objects I have with the people who helped to create the memories attached to them, or to find people who can create their own new stories with the objects I no longer need to hold on to.

By my calculations this imprecise formula will have my inner-hoarder feeling a little less hoard-y in no time. I hope that I can find some people who will love and cherish all the storied, cool and useless and wacky and tacky and beautiful, wonderful things I’ll be ridding my life of. Because as awesome as it is feel secure and to engage in consumerism and “collecting” to prove that sense of security, I can’t imagine why I need to hold on to four square yards of fake fur or a pair of hiking shoes that are too narrow for me to wear without getting painful blisters anymore.

What can you let go of this week? How will purging it help you or someone else? Next week I'll be sure to update you on all of the beautiful, useful, storied relics of my past that I'm cutting loose, how I let them go, and what it felt like. I can already feel my palms sweating.  

No comments