The “simplify” mantra has become so popular, and it’s easy to see why. Now that the Christmas decorations are down and the house is more or less back to normal, it actually looks a little stark. Which, if you know me, you know I have tons of chatchkes and collectibles and so does Mike, so for the status quo to look “stark,” you can imagine the holiday excess.

But it’s so refreshing. The house feels like it has breathing space. And I actually got Mike to help me load up the car with several boxes, bags of clothes, and some unused tables to donate to the local Christian Laymen’s organization. It felt so great to get rid of stuff I’ve had packed up for probably a year (how embarrassing). Now I want to do more!

The problem is a genetic predisposition to hoard. My mother grew up during the Depression; times were hard and the family had very little; as a result, she throws nothing away (the attic and basement in our family home are downright scary). Her brother was the same way. My cousins tell of cleaning out my uncle’s things after he died and coming upon a bucket filled with the little nozzles from spray cans. I guess you just never know when you might need one — or a thousand. As a result, my sisters and I are fascinated by stories about people who hoard — we can see those same traits in ourselves.

My friends coined a good name for this need to simplify — CRaP (Consolidate, Reduce, and Plan). Some things I’m wrestling with in my own CRaP efforts:

  • Cookbooks. Aside from a few favorites I can’t part with, I have probably 10 others I never open. The Web is always my go-to source for recipes these days…so surely some of the cookbooks can go?
  • Books in general. I don’t have anything like an extensive library, but we have a few shelves in the attic of novels and a few textbooks, and I have some work-related business topical books (that I never look at). I don’t know, I have visions of someday having a little library and time to sit down with a good book in front of a roaring fire. But I’ve read all these…keep ’em anyway?
  • Collectibles. I have a lot of stuff, including a large collection of china and nowhere to even display it all. I have a couple boxes of really lovely things all packed up. There’s not really a market for them anymore, even on eBay — I acquired them over time and many were gifts, but I’m at a loss. I suspect these will have to stay in their boxes for a while longer.
  • Clothes. Having worked from home these last 9 years, my wardrobe is a joke — a few go-to outfits for business meetings and the occasional event, and a lot of stuff that looks 10-15 years out of date. And dressy clothes I haven’t worn since the long-ago days of office Christmas parties. I know at least another garbage bag full can go, along with a couple coats.
  • Housewares. I have many things tucked away in cedar chests and such — curtains, drapes, throw rugs, comforters — things I can’t use here, but I always think “someday?” (On HGTV shows, they’re always raiding people’s closets and pulling out “treasures” like this to redo spaces — what are the odds a designer is going to come and do that for me?)
  • Work samples. I have a couple underbed boxes filled with old print samples of projects I worked on 10 or 15 years ago (back in the days when companies actually printed materials instead of just posting them on the Web.) These are tough to part with for historical reasons, but I haven’t looked at them in years and I do have some portfolio binders as well in case a prospective client wants to see samples.

Oh the burden of our possessions. Tastes change, spaces change, styles change, sizes change, but our stuff stays the same. I do feel the load, particularly since I’ve moved more than most people and know what it feels like to have to pack it all up, haul it somewhere else, and deal with it there. Oh, and you have to love all the paper — 7+ years of income tax records, bank statements, and such — forced clutter. Along with project papers that “I just might need.”

But, now that the S I M P L I F Y mood is upon me, I want to keep going. To feel lighter and less burdened. To make room for new ideas, new ways of looking at things, and yes, maybe some new possessions more in tune with how I feel and what I want now. It sounds so S I M P L E — why is it so, so H A R D?

The sculptor produces the beautiful statue by chipping away
such parts of the marble block as are not needed –
it is a process of elimination. 
                                                ~ Elbert Hubbard


  1. robbie said,

    Tuesday, January 15, 2008 at 1:18 pm

    You forgot magazines! Maybe it’s not a problem for you but I know of one Hill where it’s always a topic. Why do people keep every issue? Even if you clip articles and file them they just sit and wait to be thrown away. Everyone needs to CRaP……we live in the land of plenty.

  2. WritingbyEar said,

    Tuesday, January 15, 2008 at 1:22 pm

    So true! I have been trying to deal with this. I save issues of only 2 magazines I really like, in the hopes they will give me ideas (home design/decorating) for the future. I’ve thrown away past issues of all others, as much as it pains me to do that. (This is not true of my significant other, who prefers to save everything!)

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