I'll give you an example: I moved a whole bag of unopened mail from my mom's house in Pennsylvania to my college five hours away, then to Oregon. (I hate opening mail, but that's a whole 'nother problem.) Then, I moved it to our second apartment, where I finally went through it before we moved to our third place (so this is like...six years or so later). Surprise, surprise...I discovered that it was all useless when I finally opened (and ultimately recycled) it. Some of it would have, however, been useful to me at the time—had I bothered to go through it then—but the moment had passed.
When I was growing up, my dad had a thing he used to say when we were cleaning my room together: "When in doubt, throw it out!" I always found this way too difficult, as I find myself emotionally attached to possessions in a way that I'm not sure is totally healthy. I guess that's really the heart of it for me: not only am I emotionally attached to my stuff, but I have this innate desire to not let anything go to waste.
It's something I don't want to stop striving for: reducing my carbon footprint. In this case, reducing both my consumption (purchases) and more importantly, the amount of waste my family produces that cannot be recycled, re-purposed, or composted. At the same time, not only do I not want to be attached to my things (which are not valuable to me if they aren't useful in some way), but also I don't want to be wading through a bunch of stuff as I try to go about my day-to-day life.
This brings me to a story: When I was eleven, my parents got divorced. Six months later, it was Christmastime, and it was the first year we would not all be spending it together. My parents each asked me (individually) what I wanted for Christmas, and I told them I needed a new pair of slippers. Christmas Eve came (the designated holiday visitation day with my dad) and I received a shiny new pair of slippers. Then, on Christmas morning (with my mom) I unwrapped a second new pair of slippers. It was such a heartbreaking moment for me when I opened that second pair of slippers. I realized that from then on, I would need to choose certain things to ask for from each parent, since they would not be discussing gifts with each other to prevent me from getting duplicates.
|Yep, that's my toe poking through on the right.|
So, it's time for a new pair of slippers. Only, I can't get rid of these old ones. Of course not; they have sentimental value! Nevermind that they're totally dysfunctional as foot-coverings go.
Here's the solution I came up with: I couldn't bring myself to buy a new pair, so I decided I'd make myself a new pair. That way, the new pair is really special (like the old ones were, except without the sad story). I spent my time creating them, they have leather soles, and they're super-comfy and warm, yet breathable. I'm really proud of how they turned out!
If it was just one pair of useless slippers, that would be one thing. But there are lots of things like this around the house (and it's not just me, my husband is almost as challenged in this area as I am, let me tell you). Out of necessity (read: because Daniel was eating a lot of paper from receipts and mail we had within his reach) we've gotten the majority of the house tidied up. Still, there are bags of (un-filed) papers, boxes of (ill-fitting) clothes and shoes, and a small storage unit filled with things that are probably not even worth the money that we pay each month to house them there.
So, as it seems, Jaymz and I are on a journey of trying to figure out how to keep our home in a peaceful and liveable state (at least most of the time). I'm trying to reduce clutter in the spirit of Spring cleaning, and stop hanging on to things that are no longer useful to me. It's still hard to get rid of things when I think I might somehow be able to use them in the future. It's a balance that I'm working toward, and I'm finding that it's more difficult than others to achieve.
But I keep on trying; I keep on working at it.
Please tell me, fellow eco- and conservationist-minded folks: How do you strike that balance between saving, reusing, and re-purposing things (ad nauseum) and getting rid of things that are really not valuable to you anymore? Do any of you have this same trouble purging that I do? Your thoughts, tips, suggestions, commiseration, etc. are greatly appreciated!
- It was also ironic to hear (now that I think about it) coming from the man who won't even recycle a used envelope until he's used the entire back of it for list-making.
- Yes, I know you believe it, because I told you I'm emotionally attached to my things, and here I just told you a whole story about the slippers, so you have even more evidence.
- Oh, all those beautiful shoes I'll never be able to wear again because my feet got bigger from pregnancy!
This post is part of my series on balance, inspired by the October Carnival of Natural Parenting. Without balance, we feel burned out, we lose perspective...we fall down. How do you find balance in your life? What does it mean to you to be in balance? Does it come easily to you or do you have to be more intentional about it?
I'd love to host your guest post for my series on balance! Contact me at anktangle (at) gmail (dot) com if you're interested in participating.