When Less Is Truly More
Every day I get rid of things. I give away, recycle, donate, sell. The energy in the house is moving again, and that feels good.
It’s amazing how much there is to do when someone dies. Everything a person owned, wore, used, collected, emailed, read or filed has to be dealt with in some way.
While I knew that (how could I not?) I didn’t really know that. Not really.
Unfortunately or fortunately, my house has great closets, a giant walk-in pantry, and other roomy storage spaces. All the better to stash things, all the better to say “I’ll deal with that later.”
Which is exactly what we did.
So now, every day I’m lightening. Sorting. Giving away. Going through. Discarding.
And then I fall into bed and get up the next morning and do it all over again.
THE JAPANESE WAY
A few months before Eric passed, I knew there was going to be big work ahead. To prepare myself I read “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo.
My emotional and attitudinal state while reading her book ranged from fairly OK to complete horror.
Fairly OK: “Alright, alright, I’ll sort. I have too much stuff.”
Appreciation: She says tidying doesn’t mean you are choosing what to get rid of, you’re choosing what to keep. That’s a nice focus.
Total agreement: She believes that discarding is always a first step. Then store. That made perfect sense.
Silent awe: She proposes that those of us who can’t keep a tidy home don’t have an organizing problem, we have an excess problem. She says we simply have too many things.
Complete horror: She advises sorting belongings by category, not location. This means, according to the tidy Ms. Kondo, that you bring ALL the clothes in your home to one location for sorting. (Oh, Gawd, no… me and whose army is going to do this? Shall we break out the tequila? How does one get through this project in any sort of timely manner?!?)
She’s got a legitimate point, though. It’s the only way to see the enormity of what we own. With or without the tequila, a sobering exercise, I’m sure.
All in all, she’s got a great book full of helpful hints, including mystifying categories such as photos, sentimental items, lecture materials, credit card statements, and yes, even spare buttons. She is thorough.
TWO GUYS WHO TEACH “LESS IS MORE”
For inspiration to party on (keep cleaning and sorting) I’ve listened to the gentlemen who call themselves The Minimalists.
They point to research saying that spending money on experiences rather than things makes us happier. (I get this. It could be my new trend.)
One of their experiments, however, involved an awareness exercise — don’t buy any new gadgets, clothes… (I don’t remember the extensive list) for a year. Obviously, they bought food. While I get their point, the challenge sounds unnecessarily stressful to me.
After that, they began a practice of waiting before buying. If they saw a cool new toy in the store, they waited a certain period of time to see if it still rang their chimes. If it was a must-buy after this waiting period, they bought it. Otherwise, they let it go.
The minimalist approach to living touts that clarity increases when you’ve sorted your possessions and keep only what sparks joy. Life is simpler. More manageable. There’s time for more important things when our stuff is in order.
I get it.
Having less is a good thing. Keeping only things that bring me joy is a very good thing.
I’m on it.
Now, back to sorting…
In Care of Relationships, marie kondo, Terri Crosby, the life-changing magic of tidying up, The Minimalists
Terri I know it is overwhelming, but having done this Sorting and giving away often over the years, I am pretty good at being “callous”. If you need some extra help or an other pair of eyes or hands, I am available whenever>> I am also a very good packer (ask Vaand Jean), having had lots of practice over the years of moving home every couple of years!!
I love that you’ve learned to be “callous” — it would serve me well to go in that direction. Thanks for your offer! I may very well take you up on that! love and thank you, Terri
Dear Terri, You’ve struck a resonant chord here! I live by the old “if there is space I will fill it” maxim. In fact, I am a member of a writing group and this topic may become my next piece. Both my parents were collectors of some note. Is there an inherited gene? Good luck with your clearing out project! I, too, have read that book by the Japanese woman. She, undoubtedly, did not start out with a lot of “stuff” to begin which makes the “weeding” easier. It takes time to clear away things and so many other ways to use that time that are so much more fun. I wish you luck. Hope it helps to know that you are not alone!!
Thank you for your encouragement and inspiration! High fives to us both for hanging in there :–) !!! love, Terri
I had same reaction to Kondo’s program for clothes, and also skepticism of her claim that ‘you’ll never have to do it again.’ I have to admit that the plan worked perfectly on a small scale – the sock drawer. I purged about half the contents, thanking each pair for their years of service, and the remaining socks have been happier and organized since. But haven’t been able to move past that, yet – gather all the tops and t-shirts on the bed? How many days do I give up sleeping. Maybe I’ll try picking out only the ones that spark joy till it seems like a good number, and move out what’s left. Good luck with the journey, Terri. Glad to see you writing again.
There’s always that famous closet experiment — turn all the hangers around backwards. After a month or two, notice how little you’ve worn. We tend to go back to favorites, things that fit well, things we feel good in. Good luck with your project! Terri
Marcia Axdahl Kuehl
I love your perspective and so enjoy your posts. Just wanted to share my experience on minimalist living. After several winters in AZ I realize that my husband and I can live with much less. And we come home to a huge house with”things” in storage or not touched for years. My focus is to weed out the chaff from these areas now before I am forced to deal with it. This year I worked on basement storage and took out so much stuff. Then when my daughter was looking for class reunion pictures I emptied out the small upstairs storage area and weeded out more. It is now organized into 4 areas–Sarah’s stuff, Sonia’s stuff, assorted photographs from the beginning, and my corner of big medical/Christmas stuff. You cannot imagine the cobwebs that were cleared from my brain!
Hang in there with the grieving process. I don’t think you ever get over grief. You just adjust to its impact on your life. Keep up your writing as that is a great way to work through the process.
Your former neighbor and bus mate,
Hi Marcia! I love the part about clearing the cobwebs from your mind! I’m looking forward to that. Can’t say I’m there yet, but getting there! love, Terri ps I love that we are in touch after all these years!
Doing a similar exercise in Phoenicia, NY
Power on! :–) love, Terri
This past Jan I went through everything in my close closets and made many trips to car with boxes and bags destined to different organizations and people.. I was on a roll and decided to organize one of the drawers in the bedroom which then lead to another drawer. Oh but this would be better in that other drawer… Went through all the draws in the multiple dressers in my room. I eb=nded up with, drum roll please, an empty drawer. WOW! Iit was also delightful to open my closet and see everything clearly because the clothes had space to breathe between them:)
I did move onto the kitchen and even the bathroom draws. Now when warmer weather arrived I brought down the bins from upstairs with the clothes I put out in summer, and the heavier clothes that then go back for the winter. Once again I went through everything before it landed in a closet or a drawer. Wonderful and more wonderful. (my office art room is the place I have avoided, it’s my overwhelm space. AHHH perhaps after gardening season I shall begin to declutter that part of my world:)
Shiner, you’re a brave one! Good for you! Here’s to love and sorting, Terri
I’m right there with respect to sorting, dealing, and purging. I have Kondo’s book. I bought it a year ago. I haven’t read it yet but understand the gist. I think that speaks volumes about where I am in this evolution though I devote a lot of time to this task.
Terri, I think you’ve hit a nerve with this one. So many of us empathize with you. I guess we’re all going through it at some level at this point in our lives. For me it started when we moved from FL to here. Big house down to smaller house. I THOUGHT I had tossed a lot of stuff before we moved. Ha! The thing that is helping me see the light is how much LESS storage room I have in this house. As Marilyn said, when I had lots of storage room, I filled it up! I was a true “pack rat”. Now that I have less room I am learning to be more ‘ruthless’- is my word, about what I keep. I’ve found a good strategy is to remove everything from a closet, or drawer or dresser, whatever you’re working on. (Obviously can’t do this for the whole house at once…) Then put back ONLY what you want in that space. If something didn’t make the cut, you probably don’t need or want it all that much (or it doesn’t bring you as much joy as the other things you kept). I can tell you that for me, it has been an ongoing process. I get a little better at it as time goes on. Hopefully this means that I am still growing and learning – a good thing! I would also be happy to help you if I can, let me know. Love, peace , strength and stamina and to you! XO