Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Too much stuff? The road to a writer’s oasis.

I have too much stuff.
I know it is a direct result of living in the same place for over twenty years. Moving often helps weed out stuff. Staying put—especially in a home with a garage, an extra room or basement, and/or a shed—makes it easy to keep stuff. I keep too much stuff. I keep it in a room that was built on the back of the garage when the house was designed by the previous owner. It makes a perfect office and studio. It’s big. I have a place for all my creative stuff.

I’ve spent many years painting in watercolor. I have a place for my drawing table and all my art supplies and books. I got into scrapbooking and I have room for a table to work on and shelves for all my supplies and books. I’ve played around with other art media and crafts my whole life. I’ve collected a lot of stuff along with those interests.

Ten years ago I got serious about writing. I bought a vintage oak desk and I now have a bookcase full of writers craft books and all the other stuff that goes with a writing career.

You’re a collector if...
My mother once said, if you have three of something, you’re a collector. I don’t have any large collections. I have too many little collections of stuff. Vintage bellows-type cameras, vintage and antique books, animal figurines, vintage kitchenware, and—of course— paperback books. Then there’s the printouts, ideas torn from magazines, the boxes electronic stuff comes in. Nuf said.

I’m working on becoming as paperless as possible. Filing on the computer: important emails, writing articles. My music is on my computer, why do I need all those CDs? I subscribe to Netflix, why do I need all those DVDs?

George Carlin knew all about stuff
My first encounter with the psychology of stuff was Gorge Carlin’s famous monologue A Place for Your Stuff. At that time I probably had a fraction of the stuff I have now. Even so, I recognized the signs of having too much stuff:

You gotta take care of your stuff.
You gotta have a place for your stuff.
That’s what life is about, tryin’ to find a place for your stuff!
If you didn’t have so much stuff, you wouldn’t need a house.
A house is just a pile of stuff with a cover on it. 
At first my stuff was stored in closets and cupboards, but then those got full. Bookcases and bracket shelves went up to hold more stuff. Stuff went into boxes and ended up in the garage.

...maybe you could sell some of your stuff. Have a yard sale, have a garage sale! Some people drive around all weekend just lookin’ for garage sales. They don’t have enough of their own stuff, they wanna buy other people’s stuff.
 Full text of Carlin’s monologue
I’ve done some yard sales. I paid for space at an antique mall for over a year and never sold enough stuff to pay for it. Both endeavors didn’t seem to make a dent in the amount of stuff I had.

If you find one treasure at a yard sale, you’re hooked. I have fond memories of going to yard sales with my dad. The sight of a yard sale or local flea market still makes me reach for the signal indicator. But I resist.

Wasting time on stuff
A few years ago I was reading a book about organizing and sorting one’s stuff. The author said the more stuff you have, the more time you spend on it, moving it, sorting it, piling it, tripping on it, getting it out of the way.

So I decided not to waste any more time moving my stuff around. I ignored it. I wrote and didn’t look beyond the glow of my desk lamp. The stuff rebelled and multiplied and generally got in my way. Open surfaces became cluttered, then obscured. But I always knew where something was. I knew the archeological strata where I would find it.

Let me clarify here, this is only in my office/studio. The rest of the house is neat; after all, I have the office/studio to stash stuff when it starts to clutter the house.

Maybe I’m a hoarder?
There’s a history of hoarding on my dad’s side of the family. Nothing as drastic as what you might see on TV. Just an unnecessary amount of plumbing, motorcycle and car parts in my dad’s garage, and an unnecessary amount of electrical, motorcycle and car parts in his brother’s garage.

I’m sick of my stuff.
I finally reached my limit. I’m going to clear out the room. I have designed a room where I can go to write and paint and it will be like an oasis. A sanctuary from the world. I got an app for my iPad Mini, Design5D, and designed the room. I’m going to get Ikea shelving units and only put the stuff I really need or cherish in the cubbies. I know the plan so well in my head that sometimes when I open the door I expect it to be already done.

Instead, I open the door and am overwhelmed by the job: moving everything out. And where will I put it? In the shed? Saturday I donated three bags of stuff to the annual rummage sale in town. I’ve been working for three days and I have about 15% cleared out. It still overwhelms me when I see all that I still have to clear out. I just do it. It’s my stuff and I need to control it, not let it control me.

I was going to post a before photo but I just can't be that honest right now. 
Here is some of my inspiration: (oh, I also collect peacock stuff.)

Do you have problems with clutter and stuff? How do you deal with it?

Number of boxes/bags packed and stored: 25
Number of boxes/bags donated: 3
Number of boxes saved for yard sale: 3
Number of kitchen size bags tossed: 3

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