Clearing the Decks

My daughter has more than fifty stuffed animals. As far as I can recall, she has never willingly parted with a single one.

She’s eighteen and she has clothes that last fit her when she was twelve. You can’t tell her she’ll never wear them again–she is quite certain that she just needs to lose a little weight. Those clothes are absolutely not lost to her wardrobe forever.

Her room, as you might guess, is a bit of a mess.

Of course, I’m not innocent. I have nearly every notebook I ever wrote in. Every file of course, but also at least one printout of most of my stories. Some of the book-length manuscripts have multiple copies. And, of course, just about every book I ever loved.

I have a similar issue with furniture–especially handed-down furniture. I like it. I like possibilities. I hate to let go of something so useful (and expensive to replace!) as a decent piece of (free) furniture. I move desks around, change shelves, rearrange rooms, trying and trying to find the best configuration… For years, my entertainment center was a baker’s rack someone gave me. It worked! Ugly as hell, but it worked. It’s still ugly, but at least it’s in the kitchen now.

This past weekend I had a much needed clearing-out. As I argued with my kid about a box of stuffed animals she hasn’t opened since we carried it off the moving truck nearly three years ago, I told her, “You have to let stuff go so you have room for new things!”

I was talking about old toys, but I realized as I cataloged my books (libib, it’s easy!) that this philosophy had bearing on my own hoards too. I mean, yes I loved The Good Master when I was ten, but I really doubt I’ll ever read it again.

With two large bookcases in my bedroom, I actually still had shelving for more books without clearing out–but what I wanted was more space. Once I consolidated both bookcases onto one and moved the other out of my room, that’s what I had.

It wasn’t easy. I’ve sorted out a lot of books and knick knacks that meant a lot to me once. But now my room has more space. It feels less cluttered–more peaceful. And peace is what I need, a lot more than a bunch of books I really truly will never touch again.

It will be a lot harder to sort out the notebooks and the manuscripts. I have to be careful. I tend to get way too enthusiastic about things. I’ve been known to over-clean. I’ve thrown out the adapter to a fiber-optic Christmas tree I was really fond of because I couldn’t remember at the time what it was for. I’ve gotten rid of tables that I then found the perfect spot for. Just as I’ve bought many things I desperately wanted only to never use them and give them away six months later–exactly like that, I’ve given stuff away that I found I really wanted back six months later.

Of course, I could just leave it all be. It’s not really hurting anything. But it’s there. And even when it’s unseen, I know that I haven’t dealt with it. See the aformentioned peace. As I get older, peace has a lot more value to me. I don’t think I’m getting tired, more like I’m seeing more clearly. And the more I clear out, the more I can see. I have always wanted to see and learn and do everything, but I’m learning (slowly) that it really truly won’t work. I have to set priorities. Choose. Focus.

Focusing is much simpler with less STUFF around to get in the way. (When we’re talking physical STUFF, dusting and vacuuming are easier, too. Just sayin’.)

It’s way easier to find a floor in a room that doesn’t hold 50+ stuffed animals, but that is a whole other battle.

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