Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Binge and Purge

This year, like last, seems to be a year of stash dieting for many. I've already posted recently about how it is for me too.

In general, shedding of stuff, and the baggage that comes with it, seems to be a common thread, at least among certain groups, for many people.

I am no different. (On a side note, I'm often surprised at ow often I come to these realizations, only to find that a whole lot of other people have as well, often seemingly, at the same time. Am I a sheep? Do I pick up on these cultural cues without consciously noting them, process them, and think they're my own idea? Am I coming to these feelings on my own without reading the larger culture? I wish it weren't so, but these are the questions that haunt me at night sometimes.)

In my other blog, I recently posted a quote from this article.

And unless you're extremely organized, a house full of stuff can be very depressing. A cluttered room saps one's spirits. One reason, obviously, is that there's less room for people in a room full of stuff. But there's more going on than that. I think humans constantly scan their environment to build a mental model of what's around them. And the harder a scene is to parse, the less energy you have left for conscious thoughts. A cluttered room is literally exhausting.


I can't stand clutter. It really does exhaust me. It stresses me out, and keeps me from getting things done. The reality is, though, that I have a small (by US standards) house, that I share with two other people, one of whom is more of a packrat than me (maybe even both of them, actually). If I have too much stuff, where "too much" is a small absolute amount, there is going to be clutter, simply because there is not enough places to store the stuff. It is an unavoidable equation, one that no amount of "creative storage" purchases from The Container Store can change. (And oh, how I love the promise of The Container Store and hold everything - the sweet promise that if I just buy the right solution, all my clutter woes will disappear. That used to suck me in every single time.)

My slow understanding and realization of the truth of my house, and the truth of where the clutter comes from, and the obvious solution to the problem fits me well, now that I can see it - although sentimental at heart, I've always been a believer in periodically clearing the decks and saving only the things you really want to keep. This was easier when we moved every couple of years - living in one house for nearly 7 years has resulted in having to make myself go through the process rather than allowing it to happen naturally.

It's not always easy, and I don't always feel like I am doing it well enough, but I am slowly making progress. And the truth of it is, I can say that the number of times I have regretted tossing something are very small.

There have long been two exceptions to my draconian purging nature. Craft supplies and books. I got over the books thing last year. Okay, "got over it" is probably overstating things - but I was able to send about 2 large boxes of books out my door without being sad. (Getting rid of old books is hard - I watch those nerdy geeky history books walk out the door, and it is as if I am saying goodbye to the 23 year old me who dreamed of getting a PhD in history "someday". It is intellectually ridiculous - with my interests, even if I were to go back to school, a book on Pre-colonial African Art is not something I will need.) I still have too many books, but I'm finding that nearly every time I go back to my shelves, I manage to find a few more volumes to toss into the donations bag.

I think the real progress with books has been my drastic decrease in purchasing new books - I carefully consider now whether a book I want to read should come home to live, or instead simply visit from the library. Increasingly, fewer and fewer books get bought, and I spend a lot of time reserving holds on my library website. If there aren't many new books coming in, there's a lot less clutter.

That, of course, is the bingeing. Buying stuff without thinking, because it's pretty, or you've convinced yourself you need it, or it's on sale (how many times have I fallen for Buy2 get 1 free?), because it's SUCH a bargain. I do it. Everyone I know does it. It feels like it's a way of life. I think maybe it IS a way of life. Constant buying leads inevitably to a near-constant need to purge. It's not healthy, and ultimately, the only final answer is slowing my rate of consumption.

So, that's books. That left, essentially, my stash as my last area of exemption.

But then, I can to a realization late last year. My stash WAS clutter. It was getting in my way. It was weighing on my mind. I'm blessed, in my house, with an excessively large bedroom. It's probably nearly 25% of the square footage of my house. I've been able to "hide" a LOT of stash in there since I started knitting in 2003. But even there, the stash was getting to an uncontrollable size. I couldn't fit it in all the spaces I'd carved out for it. I was starting to dread having to "deal with it". Clearly, all of these things are wrong, wrong, wrong.

I have gotten better, to some degree, at slowing my rate of buying yarn. Knowing I had the enormous stash looming over me has made that a bit easier. That still left me with an out of control amount of yarn in my house.

When I got a new camera for Christmas, I knew that one of my projects for the break was going to be to clear the stash. I posted about this a few weeks ago. This past weekend, one of my lovely knitting friends hosted a large swap at her house. People brought books, clothes and yarn that they no longer wanted. I'd already sold a few skeins, just from listing them on Ravelry, but the effort of packing and shipping a skein of yarn for $5 or $10 was seeming like more trouble than it was worth. When I was getting ready to go to the swap, I decided to bring the majority of what was left. I kept aside a few batches of stuff in "sweater quantity" that I think I can sell and get an amount worth my time and effort. The rest of it? It all went away. I saved out a couple skeins for one particular person who I knew would love those particular ones. The rest I just tossed into the pile. And I think it all went away with other knitters. Anything that didn't go was getting donated to charity somewhere. I got to see how happy some of my friends were, claiming new yarn for themselves, and was happy myself. I picked out NO new yarn for myself.

When I went home, I was content. My yarn had gone to new homes, with knitters who would love it. And me? I can see my bedroom floor.

1 comment:

Kat said...

Good for you!

I've been sorting the stash into three piles 1- Must knit; 2- Might knit; 3-Won't knit. The Won't knit yarn is being donated to charity (make it go away). The Might knit yarn is being listed on Ravelry as for sale/trade. If someone wants it more than me, they can have it.