This summer my parents and I have been trying to clear out a lot of our junk. My parents have lived in the same single family home for over 15 years and they have stuff in the attic, the garage has lots of storage, plus every room and closet is full (not Hoarders full, though!).
Luckily I’ve moved several times in the past decade, so each time I have been able to purge some things. In fact, moving all my crap around has directly influenced my habit to NOT buy DVDs, physical CDs, or books. I realized that, even though I’m the type of person who likes to have the TV on, I rarely rewatched even my favorite movies more than a few times. How many current best-sellers do people really re-read? I admit I do read some books more than once, but these are typically childhood classics, not the book you buy at the airport for a long trip. I have tried really hard to just rent, or use Netflix for movies, and use the library, or buy used books and then pass them on.
I still have about two tall bookcases full of books, and nearly 50 DVDs (including box-sets). I’m not a minimalist, but this method has worked to keep the collection aspect under control. I probably bought less than 5 DVDs in the past 3 years.
I’m lucky that I’m not really big on tchotchkes, aka: “dustables.” I guess I had my fill of dusting figurines as a kid. I have a few picture frames around the house, and one bookshelf with a handful of small items (like a small Eiffel Tower from a rare trip to France) that have meaning.
My personal problem is clothes.
I have so many clothes.
Not “this is the shoe closet” levels of craziness, but I easily fill my small walk-in closet, and most of a spare closet. I hang up nearly all clothing, though. But I have probably 40 pairs of socks, over 15 pairs of pants, easily 20 everyday/work dresses, who knows how many t-shirts…
I do purge things. I’m not at the mall every weekend. But I do like clothes, I do tend to buy mid-level nice things (on clearance) that hold up for multiple years, I don’t like to “waste” money buy getting rid of something that is perfectly fine, and my weight tends to fluctuate just enough that a pair of pants may fit one day and be way too big or small two months later.
Typically I get rid of things by donating to Goodwill, or sending a bag to Mom’s work to share with her coworkers and their kids. This happens probably twice a year, but is typically just one bag at a time. Obviously if something is gross I will just throw it out.
What has been helpful for me lately is to consign items that I am tempted to keep “just in case” I need it someday, or might wear it once in the next year. Typically only 50-75% of the items I turn in even get accepted. In that case those rejects go to the Goodwill pile. Sometimes this actually hurts my feelings because I am crazy, but usually it is just because one tiny shop does not really need another pair of black pants. Sometimes it’s because the item is not in as fantastic condition as I’ve deluded myself into believing.
I don’t think of consignment in terms of the money. Last year I made under $100. But this is more than I would get from a yard sale and much easier than eBay. And typically the stuff I’m turning in is from J. Crew, Talbots, or Banana Republic, not Kate Spade or Coach. I don’t buy things just to resell them.
But I’m still stumped. What’s a decent number of things to keep? How many socks does a person need? How do I convince myself that the nice shoes won’t magically stretch to fit without blisters by sitting in my closet for another year? How many pairs of ratty old jeans and t-shirts do I need to keep for painting (I’m not a professional painter)?
I’m not trying to be crazy and only have three outfits, but I want to be reasonable and only have a comfortable low-medium amount of items.
I’d love to hear some feedback from real people!
My best friend from Catholic school is a professional artist. Nicole Bourgea is extremely talented and takes commissions. You can read her blog “I Hate to Alarm You” here or see more of her work at her portfolio site.
I think it would be extremely cool to have her paint my portrait. It’s not really in the budget for me with the family issues and being mid-MBA, but I might ask about her rates and start a fund for a future sitting. If you decide to check it out for yourself, please let me know. I’d love to see the results!
Today I was listening to an old Nerdist podcast with Mike Birbiglia. Birbiglia, a comedian, was telling a story about telling jokes about cancer. He was explaining how sometimes it was stressful to tell jokes about such a touchy subject. He went on to explain that often said axiom that a lot of comedians “are people who had to make things funny at home,” had to make uncomfortable situations funny as a way to cope.
This made me think of an experience I’ve had a few times.
Typically when I go to the ER, it’s because I’m in terrible pain and I usually get tests done to see if everything is okay, some pain medication to ease my suffering, and am then sent home and told to follow up with my doctor. That’s what happens when they don’t find anything bad in the tests, obviously.
Nearly every time I go to the ER, my mom goes with me (usually she’s driving). There is a lot of waiting involved in an ER visit, and typically even if you are back in a room, there’s no TV, or nothing good on and it’s just boring. Plus after several hours of being in pain, plus a car trip that can be up to an hour long (I don’t go to my local ER – that’s another story), I can get a little loopy.
So we normally joke around. It helps pass the time, and it helps take the edge off a not fun situation.
I’ve had doctors and/or nurses flat out say that I couldn’t possibly be in that much pain because I was laughing. Like pain means you have to be wailing and gnashing your teeth and writing around on the floor every fricking second? Because I’ve also had an experience when I was in a ton of pain and was told that I needed to be quiet because I was disrupting the other patients in the doctor’s office.
So, I guess it is a no win situation. But I’m not going to stop joking around, or even laughing whenever possible. Because if I’m going to be treated weirdly no matter which way I behave, then I’d rather try my best to make the situation more comfortable for myself.