un-hoarding . . .
Yesterday, I read a column by Jane Brody in the NYTimes describing a book on un-hoarding that she said was the best self-help book she has read in forty-seven years. That’s a weighty claim to make by someone who dishes out scientific and everyday advice on a regular basis. This book supposedly approaches de-cluttering in a pragmatic way that also connects the reader with what is really going on underneath that accounts for us to hold onto things.
It could be an association or an obligation hidden in one’s psyche that one wants to memorialize. I’m not sure, but the book is due to arrive today and I’m looking forward to finally figuring out how to clear out the rest of my stuff. As you may know from past posts, I’m a proponent of simplifying and minimizing what I keep. I wrote about a wise woman who, in her nineties, had culled her life’s belongings to four boxes. As I look around our rooms, I know there’s more to do. And my goal is to do it before Christmas.
Having things has not only to do with how to keep them, but it’s also about why we buy things in the first place, it seems to me. Some people collect things and have, well, collections of things that are displayed in various places. Some of us collect shoes and handbags. Others collect jewelry. Still more collect plates, pottery, kitchen things. Or books. CDs and DVDs. Lipsticks and nail polish. Teapots and vases.
I like what I have for the most part or I wouldn’t have bought it in the first place. But there’s too much and I estimate that I can cull as much as forty percent from what we have here in five-six weeks. Then I’m going to clean and vacuum up all the old dust, polish the floors and surfaces and let everything breathe a little. I’m already thinking that a small bookshelf will work well in the pantry to hold canned goods. And the public library here will be a place for me to donate some of my books. I guess I have trouble letting go of volumes that have meant so much to me at one time or another. But, there’s no way for more books to be added if space isn’t made to accommodate them so something has to give.
I’ll let you know how it goes after I read the book and get started. Hoarding isn’t just about people who have so much stuff you can’t get through their house as shown on TV. To me, it’s also about having something you will never touch or even have forgotten about that is taking space, catching dust and not being used by someone else who might enjoy it themselves. That’s my rationale right now–if it could benefit or be enjoyed by someone new and it no longer fits into one’s life, then why not? You can’t refresh a glass with fresh water that is already filled to the brim without pouring out some or all of the old standing water, can you?
So, here goes!
I have a student who recently retired as a city librarian. Of course, she also collected and amassed a grand amount of books for her own library. She also had a problem with her asthma, and in the beginning of her retirement, realized that books were the biggest culprit. As she began culling her possessions, it caused me to reflect on my own need to hoard (and continue to collect) books. I recently donated about 10 bulging paper grocery bags…full of books…they didn’t even to seem to make a dent in my library. Your post will continue to inspire me to continue the quest, though, Katherine. Thank you for posting this!
Hi Gale! thanks for your comments! I plan to donate all the books that pertain to interests I had in the past that are truly “old.” That should remove at least 20% of what I have stored here. It’s still hard for me to let go of volumes that are beautiful to look at even if they don’t fit into my lifestyle any longer. Then there’s the stash of yarn from unfinished knitting projects, although I’m happy to say there’s not that much of it compared to what I’ve used to make cowls last year for everyone at Christmastime. I went through the bathroom things today and bagged like-with-like (dental, nail polish, hair clips, bandaids) and took all the old lipsticks that I’ll never use again to the trash bin. I find that if I do one small section in one swoop, using the “OHIO” rule (ONLY HANDLE IT ONCE) that I’m able to make quite a lot of inroads in a very short amount of time. Good luck with yours–and I saw you ordered the book too! I’d love to hear what your reaction is to the sections on “distorted thoughts” and how we get ourselves in a pickle over nothing at all!