Simple Life: The Suck Process

by Elizabeth on September 4, 2012

I’ve been at this for a while.

No, seriously.  A while. Like, since we left the rambling monstrosity in Iowa, a long while. 

And while I was never a hoarder, per se (though dealing with three of them made me feel like it sometimes), I’m still just now starting to feel like I’m on top of things.  Or getting there, at least.  I’ve still got things I don’t need, don’t use, and don’t want — some of them kept for one reason or another (mostly bogus “reasons” or that dreaded but someday I’ll get to it thing that gets so many of us), or about which I’ve completely forgotten until I get to the bottom of some box somewhere and re-find it.

And while, yes, I’m a bit prone to the whole oversharing thing, I’m not telling you this part just to hear my head rattle.  I’m telling you this to reinforce two big things:

1.  This is a process.  It doesn’t happen overnight.  There is no magic Simplicity Fairy who will wave her magic wand and instantly make things go away.

2.  This is a process.  It bears repeating from another angle.  Not only is the magic Simplicity Fairy not waving her wand, but she’s also making you do the work.  It’s an action, a process.  Unless your whole life catches fire and you have to start from absolute scratch somewhere new, there’s going to be some work involved in simple-ing down your Stuff.  (And even then, you have to remember that process every time you’re in a store, or things won’t be clear for long.  Thank you, merchandisers.)

This past long weekend, I realized I’m kind of in that sweet spot with this whole simplification thing.

See, I’ve been at this long enough that my stuff is pretty well….well….simplified.  I’ve lost the crazy acquisition urge for most arenas.  I’m using most of what I have.

Technically, I could probably stop right here and be okay, especially with that ratio of coming in: going out being roughly equal, if not negatively balanced for my husband’s latent Collect All The Things urges.

That is, I’m golden…unless our living situation ever changes, ever.

I know better.  As much as I love this house we’re in, I know that we won’t be here forever.  (We don’t own it, so it’s a little out of our control, even.)  I do eventually want a farm, or at least something more rural with a much bigger yard for a garden and some chickens.  My husband wants to get out of the midwest, since he’s usually bored beyond belief here.  (Which he hasn’t quite realized is a him thing and not a here thing.)

So I know one thing for sure for sure:

Everything I get rid of from here on out is going to hurt.

Back when I got rid of most of my book collection (which was GIANT, by the way), I thought I. would. die. I donated a bunch, I sold a bunch on Amazon, I gave them away to friends.  People coming to my house would leave with a stack, whether they wanted them or not.  But I was heartsick.  (Which, of course, is ridiculous in retrospect, but at the time…hooboy.)

Take that times three for the yarn stash (which was Epic), and times ten for the art supplies (words cannot express the scope of the hoard on that one).  At one point, I waited until my assistant at the time left with a literal van-full of papers and paints and collage supplies…and went in the bedroom to cry for a while.  Some of those things were expensive.  And more of them than I’d like to admit had been around for (again, literally) a decade or more.  I may not have been using them all at the time, but they were there if I ever needed them.  Nevermind that I never did.  Not the point.

Here’s the ironic thing, though.

Unless I see a picture or something, I can’t really remember most of what I got rid of.

I know.  Duh, right?

But seriously…I can’t remember most of it.  It was all taking up huge volumes of space in my house and in my brain, and now?  Have no idea what most of it was.


So I know, moving forward, that Stuff doesn’t really matter.

It just doesn’t make it easier to look at the remaining stuff I’ve got and be realistic about it all.  It’s hard, doing this simplification thing.  It really is.  The whole process of the thing is hard, and ongoing.  Detaching from Stuff is kind of vulnerable, and moreover, it’s work — culling things down when you’re already fairly light feels counterintuitive and draining.

Once it’s gone, though?  That’s when the magic happens.

I had to make a list of results, to get motivated this time.  (I know, it’s cheezy.  But I’m a journaler.  We write everything down.)

  • I can find things easier when I want to do something with what I have.
  • I know what I have so I’m not tempted to spend money on stuff I can’t find.
  • It’s SO much easier to clean a house that isn’t choked with crap.
  • I’m visually motivated, so by having less stuff, I feel less scattered and get more done.
  • I won’t die in an art-supply-fuelled fire…well, at least not as readily as before.
  • I feel less guilty about all the things I spent money on and haven’t had a chance to use yet.
  • I feel less guilty about broken stuff I’ve been meaning to fix.
  • I don’t have to sort through all the stuff I’m meh about to find the stuff I actually love.
  • I’m not organizing all the time, so there’s more time to do the things I actually like to do.

It’s not rocket science, most of this.  But it’s easy to discount all the benefits when there’s not really A Problem, per se.  (I’m not tripping over junk on the way to the kitchen, or hoarding old newspapers or whatever.  By all accounts, I’m pretty darn streamlined as it is.)

Here’s a little two-part challenge for you for this week.

First:  take fifteen minutes and dive into a place you’re avoiding — a junk drawer, a storage closet, the linens, your clothes.  Whatever could benefit from a little going-through.  Get rid of something(s), even if it hurts a little.

Then:  Make your own list.  Why do you want to simplify all your physical stuff to begin with?  Because you should, or because you want to?  What’s better when it’s less choked with stuff?  (Or better when there’s less to choose from, if you’re already pretty uncluttered.)

Processes suck.

Yeah, I said it.  But it’s true.  Processes suck.  It’s hard to ever just be done.

Knowing why you’re still rolling that rock up a hill can make it suck just a little less.

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