Decluttering despair!

Wentworth Emporium

I have spent the last couple of days decluttering (Again!). Rather than feeling joyful as I sort things into piles nominally labelled ditch, donate and decide later; I am getting more and more depressed!

It’s bothering me because over the last few years I have tried REALLY, REALLY hard not to bring unnecessary things into my home BUT I still have a mountain of stuff. It’s all useful stuff in some form or another, but I am not sure it will all get used in my lifetime! I have followed the one-in one-out rule but I still have every available bit of storage in my home filled. I had a successful Year of Zero where I bought nothing (well nearly nothing) new in 2018 and again in 2020.

So why do I still have so much stuff? I should have less stuff! When I look at the offending items, most are things I have had for a (really) long time, like stationery that dates back to my first time at Uni, forty-odd years ago! I even have a blank exercise book that belonged to my grandfather! Now that’s serious dedication to resource husbandry and storage stamina!

Writing paper anyone?

I have so much blank and lined writing paper it’s embarrassing! You know that scene in Gone With the Wind where Scarlett is forced to write between the lines on a previously used piece of paper? Well, I need those circumstances to be recreated where paper is in short supply and everyone is desperate for sheets of unused paper! I could corner the market with the amount of ageing writing paper I have managed to accumulate! 

Another overstocked item in my stationery cupboard is packets of paper clips! I haven’t bought any in the last 10 years and for some reason, I have 3 unopened boxes of 100!

I know if I were decluttering in the style of Marie Kondo or the Minimalists I would have piles labelled something like: discard, recycle, donate and sell. Well, let me tell you no one wants to buy a hundred or so blank exam writing booklets that I purloined because they had widely spaced lines! You see, I prefer to write on blank paper or paper with 10 – 12 mm feint ruled lines. I hate the standard 8 mm stuff and the fat lined paper is so hard to come by.  When my school was ditching some fat-lined exam booklets back in 2009, I grabbed them! 

Just hate skinny lines!

And… I’ve still got them! I have used some but not as many as I obviously thought I would.  I guess my plan is to just keep using them until I fall off the perch. Or hope we get a paper shortage! Whichever comes first.

Hoarder or Frugal?

I’m beginning to think I might be a closet hoarder! (see what I did there?) Or am I just frugal? It is all very tidily arranged and nothing is spilling out and there is a place for everything but it’s overwhelming. I don’t agree with throwing things out for the sake of it. If I threw all the paper out eventually I would need to buy more and that would be a waste of resources and just add to landfill. In my mind, it’s better to plough through it one ream at a time!

My vow today dear reader is to not buy, accept or otherwise obtain any more writing paper until what I have is used up! I had better start writing a War and Peace length novel by hand! 🙂


I have written about minimalism, decluttering and consumerism before. If you’re interested, you can start at my post about the Konmari Bandwagon.

Feeling sentimental.

Recently, I replaced my makeup bag with a new one. The old bag was in my service for at least 18 years. I bought it in 2008 for my daughter to use as a pencil case. It had photos of the Spice Girls on it and when she grew out of them, I hijacked the sturdy plastic case for my make-up.

snapseed-1One of my work colleagues and I have joked about it for years when we shared rooms for conferences and the like.  I decided it was looking a little too raggedy and bought a new one[1]. I put the Spice Girls in the bin. Now I feel strangely uncomfortable. It was still in OK condition – the zip still worked. It was covered with old makeup and left-over bits of eyeliner but nothing a good soak wouldn’t fix. Perhaps I was being too rash!

I sent a text to my friend to commemorate its passing. She sent back a crying emoji – she shared my pain. I think I am grieving…over a plastic case. It holds so many memories! It has travelled with me around the globe. It’s been a loyal and steady friend. It survived divorce. It’s lived in 6 houses with me. It still works!

It’s hard to describe the feelings I have for this thing; this object. After all it’s only a bit of plastic. One of the  tenets of minimalism is that sentimental items have no intrinsic value per se and that memories do not exist in things but in our minds. “The Minimalists” – Ryan Nicodemis and Joshua Fields Milburn exhort us to rid ourselves of sentimental items. In his essay Letting go of Sentimental Items Josh writes

I am not my stuff; we are more than our possessions.
 Our memories are within us, not within our things.
 Holding on to stuff imprisons us; letting go is freeing.
 You can take pictures of items you want to remember.
 Old photographs can be scanned.
 An item that is sentimental for us can be useful for someone else.

 

I don’t agree with this idea, for a number of reasons.  Sure, we can scan and store photos digitally but what happens when technology changes? If I had stored my memories on 3 ½ inch floppy discs back in the day, I’d be stuffed now! A possible work-around is to store photos in the cloud. Call me a pessimist, but heh, I am not real keen on having my only copy of things in the nebulous cloud.  Who owns it? Who will maintain it in the future? What happens if there is some sort of EM pulse warfare where everything gets fried? (insert relevant conspiracy theory here!)

 

snapseed
My great grandfather’s camera, some petrified wood, some jugs and a doily that belonged to my grandparents.

I have a small collection of items that are not useful but are beautiful. They belonged to my grandparents and some,  to my great-grandparents. Small curios, some handmade furniture, a few pieces of jewellery. I have some useful items too, like baking trays that must be at least 70 years old. These items make me feel connected to my history more than any photos would. I can conjure up memories of my grandmother baking scones on the very same trays I still use. The molecules of food ingrained into the metal of the tray, perhaps even some of her DNA. I am reluctant to scrub them back to shiny metal. The decades of patina add to the flavour.

I am not my stuff but this stuff is part of me, part of my family. I am going to fish the Spice Girls out of the bin. I am not ready to part with them yet. Who knows, a future grand daughter might love them again!

impresso295236379
This is a tea set given to me by my paternal grandmother – most is broken; this is all that survives. It sits on a doily embroidered by my mother.

 

[1] new to me from a local op shop – someone’s cast off gift no doubt – NWT’s. NWT = New with tags