Mark Twain

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do ...
Explore. Dream. Discover." Mark Twain

Thursday, September 2, 2010

#7 Declutter and "stuff"

My mother is a minimalist. She saves things long past their useful life, and avoids buying stuff. Frequently I discover 2 tablespoons of juice in a gallon container in my refrigerator or 6 nuts in a large empty box in my pantry. She wastes nothing, and she doesn't want to be the last one to use it up. She grew up during the Depression, and during her adult life, she didn't have all that much either. I have tried to explain the difference between "need" and "want". She doesn't understand "want" - only "need" carries any weight with her. So the minimalist pattern of behavior is probably part of her DNA after 84 years. I've given up trying to change that.

I was not any of those things. While it is true that we didn't have much growing up, I was part of the Baby Boomer generation. Baby Boomers were raised during a period of growing prosperity and consumerism, an explosion of non-essential goods and services aggressively advertised as critical to a happy life, and a rising standard of living. We Baby Boomers view the world through different eyes than our parents. Our homes typically are filled with stuff - lots and lots of "stuff". And these homes are not the small 2-3 bedroom ranchers of our parents. They are typically large homes with many more bedrooms than needed, 2 and 3 car garages that do not hold cars, and tons of closet space. And, as our American culture seems to require, if you can't store all your "stuff" within the walls of your home, you can rent space in a storage facility to store the "spill-over stuff".
Clutter is a natural evolution of too much "stuff".

My house is no exception. I don't use rental space to store stuff. I manage to squeezing it all into my abode. But it hasn't been easy. Prior to the 1990's I was a major collector of stuff - you know, being a good baby boomer and all. We raised 2 kids and they had their stuff too. Over the last 20 years five different family members have downsized, relocated, and move in with us at different times. In three of those instances their stuff permanently resided in my town home. Prior to each move, I decluttered my stuff to make room for their stuff. When I think back across the years to all the stuff that passed through my hands - it makes me dizzy.

And so ... my stuff is plucking my last nerve!! For example - This evening I was trying to close a kitchen drawer. This drawer holds all the "critical stuff" I use when I cook (NOT! the only critical thing I have in my kitchen is my microwave!!). Anyway, this drawer with "critical stuff" wouldn't close. I shoved the drawer with my hip. A pastry cutter tried to escape. For gosh sakes!!! What was I doing with a pastry cutter? When did I ever cut pastry? What was I thinking when I bought it? I pitched it the trash. I slammed at the draw again, it still didn't close. Now I was really annoyed. This time the wine bottle opener made a break for it (thankfully reason took hold - can't throw that away!!!), so I opened the stupid drawer with a flourish and began pitching stuff. Five other things hit the trash. I had no idea what two of them even were!!! But they are now history! (and the drawer now closes.) :-)

Stuff is adding stress to my life. Decluttering stuff is a 20 year goal!

Maybe mom has it right!

As a side note: I recently bought a magazine about decluttering stuff. How stupid is that! I added stuff, to my stuff, so I could declutter stuff! Apparently my DNA is wired to "add stuff". After flipping through the $7 magazine at home, I tossed it. It was more into re-organizing stuff than getting rid of it. A total waste.

Another side note: The pictures used in this posting are real. They are not doctored or staged! See how I love my readers!!


  1. Oh, "retired knitter" are Everywoman!
    My perennial cry is, Where is that (insert name of item)? Followed by my equally perennial vow, This stuff has to go! I can't find anything!
    And Henry D. Thoreau wrote about the situation a couple of hundred years ago.

  2. Oh thank you Anita. Yes I am everyone woman!! And for years I just closed the door or the drawer and tried to ignore it. I need to stop ignoring it.


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