Candy Rant

"I killed a rat with a stick once."

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Why, Why, Why Is It So Hard to Get Rid of Stuff?

In 7 months, I'm moving 1800 miles west.

Simultaneously I'll be throwing some last minute planning into my wedding, finding a new job, leaving a town I've lived in for 16 years, and a 2-state area I've habitated since birth. I'll be saying goodbye (at least in vicinity) to my friends, my family, my job of 9 years, my church, my cute little house, my big back yard, and my favorite Mexican restaurant. My total stress points should land in a range somewhere between "experiencing nuclear holocaust" and "waking up surrounded by pig-nose Twilight Zone characters who don't speak English and are lubing up a probe the size of a railroad tie."

I need to do everything I can, right now, to decrease the size of my impending nervous breakdown. At the top of the list is "Get Rid of a Boatload of Stuff." And I'm not talking about a little dinghy boat. I mean a garbage barge blurping its way down the Hudson River. Ask anyone who has ever been in my house and they'll tell you. Candy has more stuff than any human needs. On the occasion that I say I need to cut down on my massive collection of material things, people often say "Light a match."

Let's put this into context. We'll use extremes. There are people who decorate their homes by leaning heavily toward minimalism. In their living room they have a smallish couch, a subtle, nondescript flatscreen TV on the wall, and a tiny art deco table in the corner upon which is one magazine (Harper's or Utne) and a carefully selected votive candle, scented with genuine slices of deep forest ferns or sea kelp from the Oregon coast. If, on a Sunday, this person reads the paper, he or she re-folds the sections neatly before dropping them into the recycle bin. If he or she has kicked off his or her LL Bean loafers, they are promptly put back onto his or her feet or tucked into the closet.

An example at the other end of the spectrum would be this woman I saw on Oprah years back. She was a shopaholic. She made frequent rabid trips to the mall with her hot-to-the-touch credit cards to buy more stuff. Clothes, books, jewelry, furniture. Anything. The more she bought, the more she craved buying. This woman had 6 couches in her living room. She could only use 2 of them. The other 4 were "stored" in the living room, 3 of them standing on end, covered in plastic, and the other one was laid across the top of the vertical ones. It was like a sofa Stonehenge.

In her bedroom was a snowy avalanche of plastic white department store bags filled with new clothes and shoes she hadn't yet had time to put away, because she had to go to the next sale and the next one. Same thing in her hallway. She had to walk sideways like a crab to get through it.

Candy Rant is somewhere between these 2 extremes. I do have only one couch. And I'm able to walk through every room in my house. OK, all but one. However, I do have way too many books and papers. I have clothes enough to dress 5 full-sized marching bands for any kind of weather they may encounter. My excess has finally caught up with me. It hit me hard the day I looked at all my books (around 2,500) and thought "If I never again had to have a job, and I spent 40 hours a week just reading books for the rest of my life, I still couldn't make a dent here." So I started selling them on Amazon. Unloaded 300 of them. Which is almost noticeable. That's the problem. My out of control house is like a giantly obese woman. She diets and exercises and sweats and loses 15 pounds, and the rumor doesn't even make it all the way through her many folds. And then she sees how tough it was to do even that, and gives up.

I cannot give up. Because if I do, even if I could afford a big enough truck to move all of this to where I'm going, my beloved does not have a 7500 square foot house. I need to be able to fit my life alongside his. I need to bite the proverbial bullet and get rid of things like my 3-foot-tall Santa Claus Grinch, and my collection of textbooks from my undergrad education. One of them, called Mass Communications Law, most likely will not come in handy, especially since it was written before the internet was invented. By Al Gore. I also have the cast that was on my broken wrist in 9th grade. It is signed by many friends. I have a book about miniature golf that is actually covered with astro turf. I don't even like miniature golf. I don't like knocking a ball into a little windmill.

So. I'm reading this great book about clutter. (I have 7 such books, and a CD about clutter.) ((Where is Alanis Morrissette when you need her?)) It says that you should picture, in your mind, ALL of your belongings lined up outside in your yard. Each and every one of your items has to stand at your door and ask permission to come back inside. In order for it to be allowed back into your kingdom, it must be useful to you in your current life or must bring you joy. (Some would say this is a good way to choose people.) This can be confusing. What is joy? If you look at it one more time in your whole life, say, 30 years from now, and you smile, does that count?

Another book that I have 2 copies of (because I misplaced it once and had to buy another) is called Clearing Your Clutter With Feng Shui. Which is a little funny, because as much as I liked that book, I have singlehandedly made feng shui my bitch. My extreme and complex abuse of the "chi" in my immediate surroundings has changed the weather systems all over the world. Don't blame global warming. Blame my stacks of old Life magazines and the stick I found in the yard that looks like a smiling ferret. When the ice cap melts and you're swimming in what used to be your front yard, call me.

Gotta go answer the door. It's the Grinch.


  • At 7:44 AM, Blogger Carin said…

    You need to mentally decide how much stuff you need to "make you smile" in 30 years. A big box?

    I like the rule, if you haven't used it in X years, you don't need it. I'm the queen of getting rid of stuff. My family makes fun of me - saying "What if you need that down the road." Well, you know I can just buy another, and my life will not have been loaded down with it.

    Do you have a Salvation Army nearby? Excellent source for excess disposal. I have a box of books in my car right now to drop off.

  • At 9:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Sadly, I have one room that's crammed full of stuff I never use, too.

    Would it be expensive to add a second floor or a warehouse, do you think?

  • At 9:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I vote for a widely advertised book sale. C'mon. . . with all the geeks around here, you're sure to get rid of a lot. That will help fund the move, wedding, and everything else you're doing right now that you don't have surplus income for. Then offer whatever is left over and your extra clothes to a woman's shelter.

    Of course, this all assumes that you will be able to decide which books and clothes not to bring with you.

  • At 11:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Would this work? Anything anyone has ever given you--give it back to them. Smile sweetly and tell them how much pleasure their gift has given you over the years, but now that you have to minimize or melt down, it is time for the giver to contribute to your mental health by receiving the pleasure of their gift.

    Would that take care of 1% of your accumulation?

    And, ugh. Yard sales. I've needed to have a huge one for two years. (A yard sale, I mean.) I HATE having one. People paw your junk and bitch about the $1.50 price you put on your matching Talbot's skirt and vest outfit that you wore twice before you saw a picture of yourself in it. I should just give my stuff away to Goodwill and cut my "accumulating junk" losses.

  • At 9:20 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Carin, too bad we don't live in the same town. You could swoop in and de-junk me. Of course, I'd be a blithering mess as soon as you threw something away.

    Scott, if not an extra room, maybe you could suspend netting from the ceilings of the existing rooms and load that down.

  • At 9:22 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    EB, I ain't givin' up no more books. I need all the smarts I can git.

    Note to chubbyknuckles: I'll be over later to give back that Talbot's outfit you gave me years ago.


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