As newly-weds, we lived upstairs from Sally and Andrei, the minimalists. To them, not having things was a religion. Andrei had 3 shirts, 3 shorts - wearing, ready, in the wash. Sally, a nurse, had 3 uniforms, same rotation. They proudly refused to own a television. I pictured them listening to other people's radios, leaning against a wall with jelly glasses at their ears. They seemed admirable, as people with strong but irrational principles often can. Their apartment always looked like they'd just moved out in a hurry. I liked them but I also found them scary.
We on the other hand, had two people's books, dictionaries, grammars, mysteries, biographies; two people's albums (I had better blues and jazz, he had more classical); two people's gadgets; two people's clothes; two people's suitcases - you get it.
We had Wedding Presents. When the thank-you notes were finished, we tried to return things, until we ran into one of my aunts in Bloomingdale's, and we had to buy napkins to go with the awful tablecloth we'd brought in to return. After that, we even hung on to the re-gifted things because the stories of finding two or three previous gift cards in the tissue paper never wore out. He would sneak small tributes from my relatives into a briefcase when he left before me in the morning, I would hide away baroque objets from his relatives to be disposed of if he hadn't noticed after a few weeks... slow and ineffective.
Then there were kids. You don't just have a kid, oh how cute, oh look a smile. Oh no. You become a warehouse of Stuff. Which the kid outgrows - so the Stuff is given away, or held onto and cherished (but it was her first Wabbit!) - or if another pregnancy looms, you store. And of course you get more Child Stuff.
As time passed, we learned what it means to your stuff and storage space to be an Only Child (Himself) or an Alternating Good Daughter (me - or my only and beloved sister, we took turns). Stuff arrives. MIL enters a nursing home, and a sterling service for 12 arrives, including serving pieces for who knows what, although the spring-loaded pickle fork is a hoot - I might have been thrilled to have that in the days when we had dinner parties for the older generation at his firm. Now it's oxidizing in its felt wrappers, and people entertain us by taking us to noisy wine bars. I used to swear I wouldn't have Royal Crown Derby in the house. Earlier, I used to swear I wouldn't have a house.
I'm suspicious of donating. Some of my unworn NEW J.Crew things were rejected by a local thrift shop - you know, the one with the catchy motto: Bringing Airs and Graces to the Probably Undeserving Middle Class?
Goodwill once made pick-ups at your home, you called them and a truck arrived, driven carefully and courteously, no doubt by one of the Deserving. St Vincent dePaul volunteers would not only come to the house but would pray for you or your intention (please don't let any of this stuff come back). It seems now that you make an appointment and your stuff is interviewed by the suspicious mothers of the gifted and entitled.
|there are no garage sales on Park Avenue|
And here is where my post basically stops, because here is a link to the last word on decluttering by a Real Person who actually Has A Life. Another case of my computer anticipating my thoughts and wishes.
Lisa Miller, who I have decided must be a long-lost member of my very own family, or Himself's, because she is clearly more than just some Random Genius - confronts the spiritual dimension of decluttering as expatiated by Marie Kondo - disposing of things because they do not bring joy to the soul. She goes right to the heart of that proposition: things are not meant to bring joy to the soul.
Here's a quote, but she has a lot more to say.
- This is a belief system handed down by Depression-era parents or parents who were raised by Depression-era parents - my insert - who teach that objects have value because you bought them with your own hard-earned money or acquired them through fate or some stroke of savvy, and if they’re not totally broken or torn, their merit is intrinsic. Objects are worthy if they’re useful, and — conversely — a use can be invented or imagined for almost every thing. Thus, to live solely among objects that bring us joy would be a repudiation of everything we ever learned. To toss belongings that, in the lexicon of my family of origin, are “perfectly good” simply because they don’t make you feel a certain way would be a heresy.
OK, I am totally on board with that. My socks and forks and knives and Stuff are not what is meant to bring joy to my youth, check Psalm 42 if you doubt me on the joy-bringing. I didn't grow up in wartime, but as I've often complained, I did grow up with unreliable utilities. To this day I can identify a long-time resident of the East End by the candles cunningly nestled in the bookcases, on an end table, under the bathroom sink. They are not scented, they are not decorative, they are there for when - not if - the power fails, because we remember times when a power failure could last for days. Hard-core version: there are ice chests out back on the deck.
I really urge you to peruse Lisa Miller's post and then, please, let me know your thoughts.