I was chatting with a friend this morning about how grateful I am to have found the art supply that fulfills all my creative desires (watercolor), that I am not even curious about other media, that I am content exploring all of watercolor’s capabilities and potentials. No distractions from colored pencils or pastels or oils or acrylics or sewing or weaving or pottery or anything else at Hobby Lobby. I have everything i need with just the few supplies I already have, and I still find them very exciting. Michelle said, “You should write a blog post about that, about Not Needing to Explore in Stores Because You Have Plenty to Explore Inside (inside my art cabinet and inside myself.)
Deep Not Wide: It’s Not Just About Art
After returning from that best-trip-of-my-life visit to England in May, I was struck by how a 28 lb. suitcase held everything I needed for two full weeks, and I hadn’t even used everything that was in it. As I unpacked and methodically put away the travel toothbrush, scarves, hair clips, art supplies, and laundry, I glanced around the apartment and thought, “Huh, look at all this stuff I didn’t even miss while I was gone.” A few days later I had coffee at a friend’s house and spotted on her table a copy of “The life-changing magic of tidying up” by Marie Kondo. I commented on it and she said, “Yeah, it’s good, I haven’t finished it yet. Do you want to borrow it?” I hesitated, thinking I do not need another book on my already cluttered coffee table, but acquiesced and put it in my backpack.
“Life-changing” is an understatement.
Ms. Kondo may call it ‘tidying up’, but for me the essential gem of the book is the how-to guide to downsizing: getting rid of things in such a way that regrets will be few if any at all. Armed with my new motivational tool, I started examining my possessions, deeply aware that two things have stood in the way of my physical and psychological freedom for as far back as I can remember: Inertia and Guilt.
Many things are still in my home simply because they do not have legs of their own. I no longer need them, or even like them, but there they sit, gathering dust because they haven’t crawled out the door or disintegrated due to my disinterest. Take cookbooks: the only one I ever use came free with my microwave, and I only use the one splattered, crinkly page that tells me how long to nuke sweet potatoes or corn on the cob. I could easily rip out that one page, stick it to the inside of the cabinet door, and chuck the book.
I closed my weaving business about five years ago, and downsized a lot when I did that, but I still have a collection of weaving tools and specialty yarns that serve as the emotional hangover from an era that was wonderful but is decidedly over. With enough distance, I now am so done with all those supplies, and know just who would be thrilled to have them. They are now packed up and ready to go.
I use Marie Kondo’s test for each item that faces my metaphorical machete: Does seeing or touching this item spark joy, i.e., bring a silly grin to my face? If instead I find myself wanting to say, “Oh no, not you again”, then it goes directly into the Out Pile. But ‘out’ where?
The Out Pile
There are two Out Piles actually: To the Dumpster, and to Elsewhere. The dumpster call is easy and brings great pleasure, as well as a healthy swooshing sound as each item hits the inside of the trash barrel. The Elsewhere pile is where all the complication lies.
Elsewhere: Goodwill? Thrift shop? Consignment? Family? Would my brother or one of my nieces like it? Would they be hurt or angry if they found I had sold it, God forbid trashed it? It was Mom’s after all, or Grandma made it, and Mom made me memorize the history of it and recite the story every time I saw it in her house. Can I afford to let it go?
The real question is: Can I afford to keep it? And the answer is no.
Possessions can turn from treasures into millstones when you are not looking. Especially if they are hidden well out of sight, the molecules shift, intensify, and take on meaning that is simply not inherent in a piece of fabric, or pottery, or photo paper. That extra weight, heavy as it seems, is less substantial than smoke, and can easily be cleared with a heartfelt thank you and the sentence, ” I will keep the fond memories and discard the evidence if it no longer serves my soul.”
It comes down to a different question entirely: It’s not whether I can afford to get rid of it— it is really more about whether I can afford to keep it cluttering up my life, serving as a low-level barricade to my next adventure.
I do want to own more than fits in a 28 lb. suitcase. But there is nothing like opening a closet door and seeing most of the back wall in all its naked glory. It is breathing room. It is the Ultimate Weight Loss program.
What can you afford to get rid of in order to prepare for your next trip into the future? The possibilities are endless.