Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Too Much!

So I'm here in California, helping my husband go through his parents' house.  Let me tell you, there is an awful lot of stuff here.  More than it would seem possible to fit in a house, I mean. Literally every nook and cranny is filled with (well, to put it nicely) detritus.  Naturally it's gotten me to thinking about stuff.
First of all, let me say how very much I loved my in-laws.  They were very loving and accepting of me, and always good to me, and I enjoyed knowing them very much.  They are missed.  They were children of the depression, who had little to begin with but through tooth-gritting hard work managed to not only survive but to build up their "fortunes" to the point that they never had to worry about retirement, or any other issue, as they aged.   They were able to do exactly what they wanted to do, and were able to be independent, and not a burden to their children in their old age.  I considered them both a success and also people whose characters were worth emulating.
That said, there is a burden left over for their children, and that is the sheer mountains of stuff that has to be looked at and disposed of.  My father-in-law, whom we called Sir, was in the building trades for most of his life.  He would bring home any and all building materials that were offered to him.  There are tens of thousands of nails, 60 years worth of rotten wood, buckets and buckets of plumbing supplies, wires, fasteners, scads of doodads and whatnots that he never actually found use for in his basement. It's overwhelming just to go down there, let alone to try to package it all up and do something with it.  In his backyard there is such an accumulation of pipes, wood, old equipment that doesn't run anymore that I was joking to my husband that we might find a dead body buried under the years and years of accumlated tree droppings which couldn't be cleaned up because there was just too much STUFF all over the yard! It was over a foot deep!  Really!  And being in the apartment business, my father-in-law would literally pull scads and scads of books out of the dumpster, and he never ever said "no" when someone who was moving out his apartment offered him some furniture.  They must own a hundred lamps (all of them ugly) not to mention side tales, chairs, and other furniturial odds and ends.
Now Maw and Sir didn't take these things because they were greedy, or even because they were pack rats ( although arguably, Sir was a pack rat).  They took them because they didn't like things to go to waste.  They believed in reduce, reuse, recycle long before it was politically correct to do so.  The only problem was that Sir was absolutely certain he would have use for 450 light switch covers some day...He had some ichthymal ointment that was still unused, in it's original wrapping from the 1950's, in his bathroom.  He had a hair trimmer that my husband said had to date from 1955 - he said he remembered his mother cutting his and his brothers' hair with it throughout the years - that he still kept in the original box.  There are between twenty and thirty telephones, some so antique they are, I believe, from before his time (he was born in 1923). He just couldn't let go of any of it.  I remember the days before we moved to Texas, Sir going into the basement determined to get rid of some of the things he had down there - he called it agonizing reappraisal.  But he never was able to let any of it go, even though by then he definitely knew he couldn't use any of if anymore.  So now all his spaces are filled with it and it all has to go.  
So what is my point in relaying this to you - well, it's twofold.   First, we need to be thoughtful about how much stuff we accept into our lives.  The truth is, we need so much less than what we have already, and even if we might need it in the future, it's better not to store it in our homes for years and years.  My rule for clothes is if I haven't worn it in a year, it goes, period.  It's harsh, I know and sometimes it's hard for me to let go, just because whatever it is is still good, but in reality, I won't miss it if I'm not using it regularly.  I have not followed this rule with other things in my life...but the reality is, I should.  Because it's just stuff, and believe me, you don't take it with you and your kids will have to deal with it if you don't and it can be really problematic for them. (For example, we just spent two weeks getting rid of things in three houses and frankly haven't made much of a dent, so much so that we are definitely going to have to go back for at least another month, which disrupts our lives enormously.  And the truth is, no one in the family wants any of it, but we feel obligated to make sure that it goes to the right place - recycle, hospice, etc.  For the first time in my life I have actually fantasized about committing arson!)
The second point is that I believe having too many things in our lives inhibits our creativity.  When we have too much, we not only cannot see it, we also cannot experience it.  Sure, creating takes materials, but if we have too many, we miss so many possibilities because it's just too overwhelming for our senses and brains to make use of all of it at once. 
 I read a quote recently that I really liked recently that said something like this: "Anyone can make things more complicated, but it takes real genius to simplify things."  (Sorry I can't attribute it, I can't remember where I read it!)  And having too much stuff, even to create with, does complicate things.  
 I'm not telling people they should go through and throw everything out, mind you.( I read this article one time written by a guy who made it his mission to have only 100 things in his possession.   Talk about ruthlessness -  I decided I don't want to be that austere!)  I'm simply saying that I, for one, am going to get rid of some things I have that I don't use, and from now on, I really am going to think twice, maybe three times, before I buy something that isn't a necessity (and that includes face and wrinkle creams, to which I am addicted).  I'm going to be a more mindful consumer - I like so much, so many things, but I don't need to have them in order to enjoy them.  I need to experience them, not own them.
So - my goal is to purge all the stuff in my life that I don't use or need, and that includes art materials, too.  I inherited a lot and I've added to it, and it's just too much - I'm not going to use it all and I know it.  Some of the things I have I've never used once - they are gone! (metaphorically at this point) 

 I'll keep you posted on my progress as I go along - it's good to have someone keep me honest.

CREATION UPDATE:

I haven't sewn in a couple of weeks, but I did do a little painting - too busy to do much.  Here is all I had time to do:





 I'm really itching to get back at it...Got several projects I'm so excited to begin.  Alas, I have my nephew's wedding this weekend, so I probably don't have time to begin anything just now...of course that doesn't mean I won't - sometimes I can't stop myself!