My house is sluggish. It’s tidy, but dragging. I’ve felt it slowing down. Losing power. Burdened. Inefficient.
An efficient house feels different. Lighter, somehow. You can find things when you need them. There isn’t the last minute race to hide piles before guests arrive. At the end of a day, everything goes away easily and peace reigns once more.
When I think about a “green” life, being rid of excess stuff is part of it. Green living is freer living. Simpler living. Being able to choose my next adventure because I’m not weighed down. Not by toxins, not by guilt, not by bad food or bad influences. Not by hurry, nor debt, nor stuff.
In the past week, I have extracted 12 full boxes of stuff from 3 ½ seemingly orderly rooms.
What got me started was a sudden moment of clarity. I opened familiar drawers, and instead of seeing familiar stuff, the stuff had coalesced into various “identities”.
Among them, I found identities I have had in the past. Identities I thought I wanted to have in the future. Identities I feel I ought to have now, but don’t. Hiding among all those, were the relatively small number of identities I actually have right now.
Over time, I had collected a lot of supplies for these mostly-idle identities. This paraphernalia cost me time whenever I look for something I need right now. Time is a very precious currency. When I have to dig through past and possible future identities in order to find what I need for my current Identities, I waste Time.
There’s nothing wrong with dreams and plans and ambitions. But when “what might be” and “what was” blocks me from accessing “what is” right now, I miss out on fully living today. This took a bit of navel gazing to figure out exactly who I am right now, and certainly this will be ongoing as I grow and evolve. Who I am changes, which is part of the fun of this adventure called life.
This idea of identifying identities gave me a strong framework to apply to the objects in my house. “Is this item part of who I am today, or will it be part of my certain future?” If not, out it goes. This also helps me when faced with a buying decision. “Does this item fit who I am right now, or in to the clear direction I am going?” I do not want to refill these beautiful spaces I am clearing. We need to white space around our focal points.
So right now, this day, here are some of my identities – big and small – and the stuff I’m keeping to equip them.
- I am a raiser of children. (Keep their necessaries and joys.)
- I am a keeper of a comfortable home. (Keep the comfy and inspiring furnishings and decor.)
- I am a feeder of a family. (Keep the useful cooking gear, spices, cookbooks.)
- I am a doer of laundry. (Keep the baskets, drying rack, cleaners.)
- I am a maker of lemon marmalade. (Keep the canning gear.)
- I am a teacher of baking biscuits. (Keep the cookbooks, the tools.)
- I am a blog writer. (Keep the computer & pleasant workspace.)
- I am a helper of a college student recording a podcast. (Keep time to spend with others.)
- I am a declutterer of cabinets. (Keep the boxes to be filled with donations.)
- I am an enjoyer of past travels. (Keep the albums and journals.)
- I am a puzzle assembler. (Keep the puzzles I enjoy assembling.)
(Not a complete list! I am a wife, I am a reader, I am a friend, I am a child of God…)
Here are the identities I found hiding in forgotten corners. Some of these are identities I had in the past, but no longer, and some are identities I thought I might have some day, but have lost interest or the time. I cherish the memories. I don’t need the stuff.
- I am not a grower of winter vegetables. (No time this year. Out go those seeds and that guilt.)
- I am not a repairer of electric trains. (Out goes the broken train, idyllic though it sounds.)
- I am not a reader of books about English Renaissance or the Reformation. (I was once, I enjoyed it, but not for the past 20 years.)
- I am not a maker of from-scratch pasta. (Out go the two never-used pasta makers.)
- I am not a grinder of my own meat. (How I ever thought I would be is beyond me. Out goes the meat grinder.)
- I am not a decorator of cakes. (For my skill set, tasty must equal beautiful. Out go the books and inordinate variety of sprinkles.)
- I am not a high school English teacher. (I was once. It was a good thing. Out goes the box of “Teaching Supplies” and curricula.)
- I am not a concert pianist. (I enjoy playing casually as the mood strikes, but out go the Rachmaninoff concertos and the guilt that I ought to be more.)
- I am not a lifelong quilter. (I’ve made a few, but I never think, “I have some free time. Let’s quilt.” Give me a crochet hook instead. Out go those bins of fabric.)
- I am not an enjoyer of certain travel souvenirs. (Out they go. Make a mental note not to buy so readily on future trips.)
- I am not a calligrapher. (I enjoyed my class. I learned some skills. I haven’t used my quill in 15 years. Out it goes, with all the ink.)
- I am not a reader of toddler books. (My kids are way past this. I kept the favorites that still bring joy.)
I am good with the identities I’ve chosen for today. I can see them clearly and with greater purpose. I am excited about them. Happily, my identities for today do not bind me to what my identities are in the future, and that is a beautiful thing.
This identity concept still doesn’t account for all of the extra stuff in my house. There’s still the 46 coffee cups I just counted in my kitchen. 46! How does that even happen?!
Nonetheless, the really entrenched stuff, the stuff that is deeply tied to my emotions, my public guilts and private shames, is most often caught up in this whirl of identities. I am letting them go. May they live a long and happy life bringing joy and utility to others.
That is another beautiful thing. Those bins of excess fabric? You may turn them into gorgeous quilts that will warm and hearten. Those pasta makers? You may use them to feed and cheer. Sitting where they’ve been in my house has, in a sense, robbed others of a means of warmth and comfort.
What Do I Do With What I Don’t Want
In my last post, Everything You Buy Is Trash, I discussed generating less trash, and here I’m talking about getting rid of things. With a little thought, I can find happy, loving homes for most of the excess in my house, without resorting to a landfill.
Here’s where all that stuff I evicted is going:
Much of it to a yard sale benefiting a Mom’s group I’m part of. (But I certainly could have hosted a Kitchen Swap, and hopefully exchanged my pasta machines, meat grinder, and cake decorating gear for pie or bread pans! But not another mug.)
The toddler books to a friend with younger children.
The English Renaissance books to our library’s used book store.
The electric train went to a mom in my Mom’s group for her husband to fiddle with.
The music books to a local music exchange.
The fabric is going to the quilting group at my church.
For other ideas of whom to benefit with your castoffs, check out this thorough list.
What about you? Who are you and what stuff is holding you down from being fully that? Open your closets with new vision. Instead of seeing the same ol’ stuff, see if you can find identities that don’t fit you anymore, or perhaps never did. I’d love to hear about some of those strangers you end up evicting!