Tag Archives: clutter

I’m not the only writer living out of her car…

The current issue of The Atlantic Monthly has a piece by Sandra Tsing Loh, “On Being a Bad Mother,” which features a description of her “mobile home” – a paper-filled Volvo station wagon:

I am bad because after a domestic partnership of 20 years, when my kids were still elementary-school-age, I fell in love, had an affair, admitted it, and quite deservedly got tossed out of the house on my ass. Currently between homes (my earthly belongings reside in a 10-by-10-foot windowless U-Haul storage unit whilst I alternately house-sit, pool-sit, and cat-sit), I furtively park at the curb of my former home for an extra few minutes after dropping my kids off and, with my laptop, I steal wireless. Approaching 50, I am living a life that is less sunlit Waldman/Chabon than tattered Charles Bukowski.

My situation is less grimly colorful, thank goodness. I am peripatic by choice, not bad behavior. My Toyota minivan has space for more crap than a Volvo station wagon (I know this from experience… I had a VSW, in my “good mother” days). Plus the Toyota’s windows are darkened so passersby can’t see the crap.

Finally (neener neener NEEner, Sandra), my storage unit is almost twice as big. Though this may not be a plus in my favor.

Like Sandra, I am house-sitting, pet-sitting, and wireless stealing while I figure out what’s next. (No pools to sit where I am…).

The downside of living out of a couple of suitcases during the holiday season is that my meager wardrobe seems always to be one garment short of the perfect outfit. Sneakers with velvet pants, thin rain slicker over a little black dress when it just snowed. The slacks are right but the top is hopelessly rumpled.

It would help if I stayed long enough in one spot to hang my clothes in a closet. My next house-sitting gigs back in the Portland area are three weeks each – remind me to empty those suitcases.

And Sandra, why don’t you and I make a New Year’s resolution to get our cars (homes) detailed next week… We’ll both feel so much better.

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Filed under Downsizing, Envisioning a simpler life, Storage

Parigraha: holding on to stuff

Parigraha: n. ancient Sanskrit word meaning grasping, hoarding, holding onto one’s stuff.

Sooner or later – and the way the economy and my savings are going right now it’s looking like a lot sooner – I’m going to have to sell my house and move into much smaller quarters.

I am therefore faced with two inarguable reasons to let go of a lot of my stuff:

1) A home that is sparsely furnished shows better when it goes on the market because prospective buyers have enough open space that they can imagine themselves and their stuff in it.

2) My future home, which will be about half the size of this one, can comfortably fit only half as much stuff – if that much, maybe less.

In yoga, we study the yamas and niyamas, which are about how we want to be in the world as compassionate enlightened yogis. Patanjali wrote them down about 150 BCE (!) as part of the Yoga Sutras.  They’re kind of like rules of conduct – not rigid or dogmatic – but more like ideal states of being to continuously work towards.

The fifth yama is aparigraha (the opposite of parigraha) or non-grasping, non-hoarding.  Ideally we yogis are not attached to our stuff. It flows in and out of our lives – we use it and let it go, use it and let it go. Ideally.

But our stuff means so much to us! It is SPECIAL stuff. Even if it stands in the way of emotional and physical freedom, we clutch it close.

My current spiritual practice involves gathering the equivalent of a box of stuff every day – either for disposal (recycling LOTS of paper right now), re-use (Goodwill, here I come), or sale. I’m starting with easy stuff – a couple of days ago it was ancient computer manuals, old tax papers and receipts. I’ve got boxes and boxes and file drawers and file drawers more paper to go.

Not wanting to overwhelm my recycle pickup service I switched yesterday to culling socks, stockings and tights.

Today is table linens. I have an amazing number of napkins that I never use because they clash with my dinner dishes, or are stained, or are insufficient (why is it I buy a set of SIX napkins, when I rarely feed less than EIGHT for a company dinner??).

I know I’ll have to make much deeper cuts in every department, but I’ll use the easy stuff like mental weight-lifting, to strengthen my resolve.

The hardest will be stuff that I equate with memories – of a special person, place or time. Down the road.

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Piles of possessions: George Carlin on “Stuff”

Inspire yourself to clear clutter with a comedy act from the late great George Carlin. Watch his routine on “Stuff” and see yourself reflected.

I love this line:”A house is just a cover for your piles of stuff !”

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Filed under Practical feng shui

Packrat predilections

Packrat: a small rodent (genus Neotoma) that collects in its nest a great variety of small objects. An eccentric collector of miscellaneous objects.

Predilection: a preference, often formed as the result of personal disposition rather than from objective knowledge.

I’m working on an article for the local paper on clearing clutter, and as always when I have to gather my thoughts on some self-improvement topic I come face to face with my own short-comings.

Compared to many folks I’ve worked with my house is in order. But order is one thing; conscious is another. Much of what I have has accumulated willy-nilly over the years. Yes, I brought it into the house, but if I actually use 20% of it – or am even AWARE of it – I’d be impressed.

Take books, for example.

I buy a book. I read it (or not!) and put it on the shelf. Will I ever finish reading it or refer to it again?? Probably not. But it’s tidy and lines up nicely with all the other books on the shelf, so why move it? Occasionally I get a warm fuzzy feeling looking up at an old favorite, but that’s about the extent of my interaction with it for YEARS.

We all have our predilections for certain kinds of stuff. But one man’s collection is another man’s clutter. To someone who hates tschotchkes, a collection of ceramic roosters or angels is not just clutter, it’s a visual assault.

The tschtochke collector, however, might have been appalled by my former kitchen. Because I love to cook, my crammed cupboards and drawers weren’t clutter to me; they were my “working materials. ” When I moved a few years ago I was embarrassed to discover canned goods, spices, tools, and tableware that hadn’t been touched in a decade (or longer).

Clutter. I admit it now.

This morning I filled two boxes to the brim with books I will never read again. I’ll take them to Powell’s next week and what they can’t use I’ll give to the library.

What I want to end up with is a collection of books, each one of which I’ve consciously chosen to keep because I love it, need it and/or use it.

My clothes closet is next. ACK! Help me Jesus. (Just kidding)

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Filed under Practical feng shui