I'm trying to declutter, for various reasons. Heeding Tenured Radical's most excellent (and previously-linked-to) advice about moving (specifically, her injunction not to let any trash day pass by without attention to all the stuff of moving, which also applies to anyone trying to declutter), I have just endured hordes of mosquitos in order to carry out two bags of trash from the basement (various videotapes of TV episodes, various unlabeled videos that had been in the basement for several months, and old medical documents from 2000 that had gotten moldy in a box in a corner of the basement). I have discovered it is very easy to start pitching things if you start by looking for boxes that have been lurking in the basement for at least three years. Things I've not looked at for so long just don't seem quite so precious.
But......I have to admit, I can see where Curious Girl gets her "But this is so SPECIAL to me!" from when I look at certain kinds of things. Like the small wall hanging from Gujarat that one of my former students brought back for me seven years ago. I've lost touch with him, and I'd been wondering where the hanging--which I don't think ever actually got hung up--went. I found it tonight. I'm not sure I have a place here for it, but I'm not sure what to do with it. So I'm asking myself, "What would Ianqui do?" She frequently writes about environmental issues, and really models a very attainable approach to lifestyle changes: there are more radical environmental blogs out there, but Ianqui's simple emphasis on, well, simplicity and avoidance of overconsumption has really been a good companion for me in the past year as I've worked to think about consumption with a growing child. I had the chance to meet her last spring, and I hope she doesn't mind that I've created an alter-ego of her blog persona who lives in my head and is the imaginary recipient of my thinking about decluttering. My WWID conversations have stepped up quite a bit of late b/c of this decluttering project, helped along by the fact that Curious Girl's stuff has been exploding around the house. Curious Girl, not so interested in not consuming: she's a bundle of desire, always wanting more, more, more. Which is charming in its buoyancy, but which must be managed. (Fortunately, her desires come and go, and the fact that she loves to play pretend more than anything means that she doesn't need much. Much of what she wants seems to be a knee jerk reaction to seeing anything. She sees it, she wants it, in the moment. Not all those desires last. But we talk a lot about why I don't want to bring new stuff into the house if I can avoid it.)
In doing my ten-by-ten series (see sidebar), one of the things I noted about myself is that I sometimes value things too much because I don't trust in my relationships. I think if I keep things, it will make relationships meaningful. This is flawed reasoning: relationships are, and whether I keep mementos or old gifts or cards or whatnot doesn't change what the relationship is (or was). I got rid of the too-small-for-me-sweatshirt from my first girlfriend's college that she had given to me sometime in 1985. I'd kept the sweatshirt for years as a sweet reminder of a sweet time. But really, that sweetness is in my heart and my memories, and the unraveling and too-small sweatshirt in the back of my closet was only getting dusty. So off it went. But this hanging from my student? Harder to give away. But why keep it to have it in a box? Argh. WWID?
Another sort of thing I'm having trouble simply pitching are craft supplies. I don't want to throw away my large bag of yarn because, you know, I might use it for something someday. OK, that's probably not going to happen with most of it (although there's a fine skein there that I bought at the yarn shop in my college town sometime in 1982 which has followed me through probably 12 residences in 2 different countries. Maybe that I'll turn into mittens or a hat/scarf for CG this winter). So I won't use it. But someone could. I just don't know who. Ditto with a very large bag of tapisserie yarn in various colours. Or the box of cloth diapers that we mostly never used. I don't want to just give them to Goodwill for fear they won't get the proper use they could have. I don't want to throw them out because they're useful. But I can't quite figure out how to get them into the hands of someone who might use them. Overwhelming.
That said, I'm having good luck simply saying "tonight, I'll fill one bag (with trash, or with donations)" or "I'm going to find 5 things in the closet that can be passed on" or "find five pieces of junk in the basement to put out or 5 things to pass on to someone else"). That's not so bad.