Sunday, October 12, 2008

10,000 things

This week I've been following an online discussion about weight, and somehow in the last day or so it's morphed into a discussion of stuff. Clutter. One poster said that the average American owns 10,000 items. I would not be surprised. But, have mercy, that's a lot of stuff.

Of course, I couldn't leave a figure like that alone. So I spent about 15 minutes and wandered around my apartment taking a surface count. I didn't open the pantry or any of the kitchen cabinets. (Most of the dishes are dirty on the counter anyway.) I didn't open any boxes. I checked the coat closet and my bedroom closet, but not the linen closet or the very scary storage closet behind me. I did not open the refrigerator and count the sodas or the freezer and count the waffles. This was mostly just a wander around the house to count what was clearly visible. The total came to over 1000 things. I have a lot of crap.

That's not how I want to live. I've been working, in fits and starts, on clearing the clutter for several months now. I'm getting better at weeding out the flotsam- the store coupons for items I never use, receipts I'll never need, stuff that looked important but was really junk mail. It's a constant battle, but one that can be won.

Now it's time to move down a level. To the things that aren't clearly junk. I need to start making decisions about what is useful vs what is just sitting around collecting dust, and then I need to start acting on those decisions. If it's useful it needs a place of it's own. If it's not useful it need to find it's way out of my home. In the past I've done pretty well with making the decisions, but find myself out of the emotional energy necessary to follow through with the actions. The piles may eventually be dragged out to the trash, or if it's really good stuff and I can find the energy and time, to Good Will. But more often than not they will sit all over my living room floor for a week or two, mocking me, until I gather it all up in a bundle and throw it all back in the closet to deal with later. I feel better, briefly, about my clean floor and avoid opening that closet for the next six months, if possible.

To make things interesting, I've decided on a new plan. I'm going to get rid of (and not replace) 1,000 things. Many of the things I counted this afternoon are of daily use or hold sentimental value for me, so I'm keeping them. But I've got at least 3 junk drawers in the kitchen that weren't counted at all. I'm sure they'll yield some treasures. I've knit two blankets for Project Linus, with a third on the way. They can be washed and delivered. On the bookshelf next to my desk I have 3 phone books that are at least two years out of date. Recycling!

I'm getting ready for NaNo next month- I wonder if this is a bizarre version of nesting?

Moving on, I've been gluten-free for 9 days now. I'm feeling a little... different, but I wouldn't say I'm feeling better. Certain symptoms- which are gross and you don't want to hear about here- are better, while others are worse. I'm hoping that going off gluten is like going off caffeine- you feel like crap for a while, until it flushes it's way out of your system, and then you feel better. Come on, better. There are two books about going gluten-free, including recipes, on reserve at the library. Hopefully that will help. I made a lovely, junk-foodie macaroni and cheese with brown rice pasta for dinner last night. It helped tremendously, as I was having visions of driving to the nearest Panera and buying up all the left-over bagels and whatever baguettes they had on hand. I'm sorry, Elaine Gottschall, but giving up all starchy carbs is not for me.

Well, I'm off to bed and the audio version of Komar by Lois McMaster Bujold. If it's wrong to be in love with a fictional character, I don't want to be right.

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