Maximizing Minimalism

I have a secret to confess.  I have a delightful little obsession with the television show Hoarders.  If you haven’t seen the show, it’s about people who have a mental or emotional disconnect that causes them to hoard.  I question my interest in this show, as I’m surfing through lovely programs about travel and food and housewives, yet suddenly getting the unnerving itch to scratch A&E when I see it pop up.  My husband J. hates it, so I find myself watching it in quite the clandestine manner when he isn’t around, much like, I surmise, a sex addict watches porn.

So what is it about Hoarders that I crave.  I think, if I have to be honest with myself, I understand them.  I can’t fully empathize with the particular subjects who find themselves compelled to shop and buy and save and never turn loose of anything.  That’s not me.  Honestly, most of the time the last thing in the world I am interested in is shopping.  And I’m fantastic at closet clean-out.  I do it at least twice a year with our clothes.  In fact we have the in-and-out rule in our house…you get two new shirts, you donate two that you haven’t worn in a year.  It works out great, especially in a 1910 Victorian with very little closet space.  No, I can’t empathize with the buyers, but I can relate to the people who turn around one day and realize that everything has piled up around them, and, honestly, it scares me.

I saw an episode one day and it was about a married woman with a couple of kids working in a professional capacity with a lot of responsibility, and her personal surroundings had simply stacked up due to a lack of time.  When she wasn’t working she was taking care of the kids and running them to activities here and there and things just started to stack…and to stack…and to stack.  And then she was just so exhausted and the stacks were so high that she didn’t even have the energy to decide where to start “un-stacking.”  My confession…that was me about four months ago.

Mind you, I wasn’t to the extreme that this woman was.  You could actually still walk around our house and function just fine, but the stacks were everywhere.  Okay…coming truly clean…stacks are still everywhere.  I feel like “stuff” has been closing in on us.  The thought of Christmas this last year was actually kind-of depressing because it meant acquiring MORE “stuff.”  Having been an attorney and a real estate broker, one of the biggest evils in my life has been paper.  Stacks of papers, copies, flyers, business cards, pieces of mail after pieces of mail after pieces of mail.  [Aside:  I hate mail.  And I hate business cards.  I'll put your contact info in my smart phone and you can do the same for me.]  I worked so many hours professionally and had a new little one to look after and tried to have some semblance of a life with my family in my spare time, that I just had no time to deal with the “stuff” of life.  Further confession…I often wished that our house might just catch fire and gloriously burn it all to the ground.  My grandmother had “stuff.”  She had a room that we kids called the “junk” room that was just packed high with God knows what and an attic that was filled to the brim (at least that’s what my parents said…I never went up there as a kid).  But she was a product of the Depression.  Save, because someday you might need and you won’t have.  With a strange nostalgic fondness in her voice, she would tell us about her family of ten kids taking mustard and bread sandwiches to school wrapped in newspaper.  I don’t have that excuse.

For those of you that have been following this blog, you know that we made a decision several months ago to begin the plan to move back home to Dallas this summer.  I decided then and there that this was the prime opportunity to deal with all the “stuff” in my life.  And, I’ve been slowly beginning the process. 

A great blogger and friend of mine from school (www.definingaudacity.com) recently went through the cathartic process of actually burning some of his things, having a perpetual bon voyage and bonfire to his past.  It got me thinking (at least the first few drops of oil landed on my gears, anyway).

Then, coincidentally, I happened upon a fantastic blog that was freshly pressed on WordPress… www.minimalistlifestyle.wordpress.com.  It’s a great little nugget from blogger Mark Lowe in Nova Scotia.  I love it.  Mark is doing what I’m thinking.  I’m tired of all the “stuff” and the “things” and the “schedules” and the “I gottas.”  Is anyone else tired too?  With a nod to Garth, “I’m much too young to feel this damn old.”

One thing that really intrigued me recently was Mark’s post on The Summer of 1000 Things Challenge.  A friend of his came up with the idea to challenge people to get rid of 1000 things every summer.  Brilliant.  The item can be as small as a dried up marker, so the idea is that you can even just start with a desk and find yourself tossing a large number of things. 

So, readers, I am taking this challenge this summer.  The Memorial weekend is upon us, which signals the beginning of summer, for all intents and purposes, and, thus, time to begin.  The gears are now turning.

I actually began this process last weekend when we cleaned out the last of the items from our storage unit that we have had for EIGHT YEARS and brought it all home to go through.  As we were driving home, I actually found myself getting angry.  J. could sense my discontent and asked, “What’s wrong?”  I said in utter disgust, “I don’t know what we have been doing for the past eight years.  What is all of this “stuff” in the back of the truck?  Why do we even have this?  It makes me angry at myself.”

This first thing we decided should go…my twin mattress trundle set from when I was like six!  This set has been hanging on to me for thirty years people!!  And the trundle is even broken!!!  What the hell!!!!!!!  I used this up through my final years in law school.  The trundle portion was in the living room of my one-bedroom apartment so that someone would have a place to sleep if they came for a visit.  The tag says it was a Sears mattress, which makes sense because my mother was an avid Sears catalog shopper.  I lovingly remember getting to have an Icee at Sears every time we would go to pick up an order.  It was my bed.  It was a good one.

When I think back, that bed’s run the gamut.  Here is the sequence of the trundle’s demise. 

Law school Halloween party at my apartment.  Lovely trundle made up, oh so nicely, in the background.  The only time I was ever a blonde.  (No, that’s not my real hair, for those of you that are a little slower.)

Now here’s when thirty-six people decided it was a great idea to sit on this thing.

And here’s the ultimate fate…frame bends, and the whole thing collapses to the floor with a crash.  It still makes me laugh remembering it.

If memory serves me correctly, I think my two friends J. and J., on either side of my lanky buddy G. in the middle, were the culprits of the crash.  But it could have been A. and C.  Somehow these guys seemed to quickly occupy a nice spot on the couch if they were the offenders.  Speaking of that couch…if it could talk.  That got shipped off to my younger brother for his college apartment, though, so it’s been long gone from my life for many years now.

I think that trundle just finally said, “Look…you were cute when you were six.  You irritated the heck out of me when you were fourteen.  You started ignoring me when you were twenty-one, and now I’ve had it with you!”  My response, “See how you like a ten by ten storage unit, then.”  Good times.

The great news is that we live in the middle of the city, on a major corner where you can set anything on the curb and someone will pick it up.  It was about 7:45 p.m. when J. and I set it out front, the set totalling two mattresses, a box spring, the trundle and two end frames…that’s six items folks.  Yes!  Only 994 to go.

In our typical fashion we decided it would be fun to make a game out of this.  We love to set things out on that curb and have contests to see who can get closest to the time that someone will pick the items up.  We decided that the loser that evening would have to pound a beer.  J. guessed 47 minutes.  I guessed 1 hour and 12 minutes.

Pick-up time…39 minutes.  Yep.  I was pounding a beer, and never so glad to do so in all my life. 

It’s slate cleaning time, guys. 

Can you benefit from the mantra of “less is more” in your own life?  Is “more” of something actually giving you “less” of a life?  Go ahead, look around.  Maybe even take this challenge with me.  I’ll be keeping you posted on my summer progress, and you can do the same.

And hey…it’s fun to pound a beer every once in a while.  Go ahead and do that too.  ;o)  – Amanda

About myownprivatemind

Budding Author, Attorney, Real Estate Broker, Wife and Mother.
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2 Responses to Maximizing Minimalism

  1. Pingback: The Summer of 1000 Things – Weekend 1 | myownprivatemind

  2. lawmrh says:

    Good luck on cataloging and disposing of 1,000 things. I think tracking the discards is a chore in itself! When we sold our last home, I came to the realization that all the work-related mementoes I’d been storing in the attic for years and years ultimately would have no value to anyone after I was gone. It was silly to have kept stuff I hadn’t looked at in years. Why was I keeping this stuff? So out it finally went. Cleaning can be catharsis!

    As for lawyers, they’re the worst hoarders of all. I have trouble with lawyers who bury their offices with files, paper and file boxes. Many are such poor office housekeepers, they have to meet with clients in conference rooms. Otherwise, the clients might think they were sloppy and unprofessional. And they’d be right! As a lawyer myself, I’ve known my share. LOL
    - Mo

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