Especially when you consider that this whole life-shake-up adventure has strong roots in the desire to lighten up, both in spirit as well as in the stuff realm.
First of all, you need to clear it out—and isn’t this the perfect time to purge!
I’ve been in the same house for 8 years (My previous record since moving out of the house to go to college was a year and a half.)
As an Organizer and Simplifier, I’ve developed the persona, deserved or not, of being the Master of Stuff. People assume I don’t accumulate, have immaculately ordered closets, and have zero issues around knowing what to get rid of and what to keep.
Short of broadcasting a reality TV cam, let’s pull back the curtain and debunk some myths, here, eh?
Reality check: I go through the same head trips as everyone else when figuring out what to keep and what to let go of…
Even when it’s about something as silly as cardboard.
Step away when the cardboard incites violence
Here’s what happened: The Me who is clearing out her house hired the Me who is a Professional Organizer. (I occasionally work for lattes and truffles.)
The scene: purging materials in my craft area.
Organizer-Me: What’s this?
Me: The backs from pads of paper. I use them as covers for journals.
Organizer-Me: Have you been making journals lately?
Organizer-Me: Is it worth it to store them for a year?
Organizer-Me: Ok then, recycle?
Me: Well… I might make journals before I leave.
Organizer-Me: You think you’ll make journals before you leave?
Me: Well… probably not.
Organizer-Me: OK then. Recycle?
Me: Well… Look how many I’ve collected (12-14). Maybe someone else could use them?
Organizer-Me: Considering everything you have to do before leaving the country for an indeterminate amount of time, how much energy do you want to put into finding a useful home for 13 pieces of cardboard?
Organizer-Me: So… Recycle?
Organizer-Me: It’s cardboard.
Me: … (Silent stubborness.)
Organizer-Me: CARDBOARD, kiddo.
Whoa there, Nelly! Take a step back. I’m in a stalemate with Organizer-Me and it’s starting to get ugly.
At this rate, one of us is going to strong arm the other into a decision which is only going to leave hard feelings.
[Note from your friendly Neighborhood Simplifier: this is why it’s good to have an objective person on the scene—which is not the case above. We’re hardest on ourselves. I’ve found that it’s much easier to have patience, understanding, and compassion for other people than with ourselves.]
The cardboard that is so much more than wood fiber
As you may have guessed, it turns out that it wasn’t really the cardboard that I was holding on to.
My Creative Self, unacknowledged in the above conversation, wanted to be heard.
She was pissed that I might toss out materials that represent creative play when she hasn’t been getting adequate expression time.
Does that make sense? Since I haven’t been making stuff and playing with artistic expression lately, my Creative Self was protesting.
And since she hadn’t been brought into the conversation, she was throwing a wrench in the works to get attention.
So as you see, the question here wasn’t really about cardboard at all.
It was about indulging spontaneous creativity (or not as the case has been).
Sake, the Great Flow Instigator
At sushi with my beau the other night, I recalled that when I lived in Italy for a year going to University, one thing I sorely missed was having something to do with my hands. I had no gardening, no art, no crafts, no animals to take care of. Nothing.
After several cups of sake, we explored ideas of what I might be able to do on the road that would require minimal tools and that could be customized based on the materials available wherever I was.
One of the ideas was… you guessed it, journals!
Check it out:
- Cardboard, paper, and glue are always easy to come by.
- Magazine cutouts and postcards make for great decorations.
- All I’d need to carry with me would be needle and strong thread. Perfect!
- As an added benefit, they are useful and easy to give away.
(Could this solution have been discovered without sake? We’ll never know now will we?)
Circling back to the cardboard in my craft area. Its purpose of representing creativity having been satisfied with the promise of journal making on-the-road, the cardboard could hit the recycle bin without another thought. Phew!
Thankfully, most of the stuff I’ve been going through has been much easier to deal with.
Give to my sister!
It’s the stuff that isn’t just stuff that asks for a more consideration—those items that represent memories, hopes, or possibilities.
The things that hold the promise of who we want to be, how we want to express ourselves, and of how we want to be seen.
Acknowledging what message a thing has for us allows us the opportunity to choose an appropriate mode of expression. Understanding what it represents releases its hold on us.
Ahhhh. We aren’t our stuff, but we can certainly learn from its presence in our lives.