Thursday, June 3, 2010

100 Things, huh...

I like reading blogs about tiny houses, and alternative (to me and my life) ways of living in, seeing, and thinking about the world, and so on, and today I stumbled onto a couple of different people who have taken up the challenge of narrowing down their possessions down to 100 things. Total. Well, everyone seems to group things like "underwear", and "socks" as one thing, which is nice and hygienic of them, but still that's not a lot of stuff.

So I've been thinking about this, and I wonder just how many things we have lying around here. I'm pretty sure that I have 100 things in this desk drawer. Here's a picture to distract you for a moment while I go and check.

Ok, I'm now finished pulling out and documenting every item in my drawer. I will spare everyone the full list, but the answer is: well, WELL over 100 things, if you count each item and don't group like items, such as pens or blank cds. If you DO group similar things, it's around 60. That's just the things IN my desk, that doesn't even include everything ON my desk.

Even though most of the things in there are useless and/or not used, I only got rid of a handful of them. It is really, surprisingly painful to think about getting rid of most of this stuff. Either the item has a use, even if it's not used, and therefore it feels like a waste to just toss it, or I am attached to it for the memories it holds.

Some examples:

An extra (empty) wallet. It's very pretty and embroidered and my mom gave it to me. I want to sew in a long thin strap and use it as a little purse for when I'm wearing a dress. I would put the chances of me doing this at about 5%.

Three lens cloths. I never use these. My camera is probably sad about this.

A chain necklace that a friend in college used to wear on his wrist all the time but he gave it to me one time when I was feeling really sad.

A letter from my Dad.

A 10 Euro note. How do you get rid of money, even if it's money in a form that you can't ever use?

Two house keys. I don't know what house they are for.

A point and shoot camera I never use.

A stack of random pieces of paper - comics and photos I printed and had in my cubicle when I used to have to sit in a cubicle, business cards, a note from Nana, a note from one of my sisters, pieces of wood painted by my niece and nephew, more letters from Dad, farewell cards from people I knew in London. A postcard I bought from the Louvre when I was on my semester abroad. Mostly things I'm attached to and just can't seem to let go of.

I don't quite know how to think about this minimalist movement. On the one hand, it appeals to me to have my space feel less cluttered and more easily mobile. I like the idea of being able to comfortably move into a space that's smaller (and less expensive) than the one we're in now. When I pay attention, I feel the weight of these objects on my consciousness, it's a weight of responsibility and a weight of memories I'm scared I'll lose forever if I let go of them.

On the other hand, one of the reasons I like all this stuff is that it makes the space feel like someone real lives here, someone who's gone places and experienced things and who has memories and foibles and has made mistakes and has silly things that aren't immediately necessary. Empty spaces are boring and feel clinical and, well, weird, and a little inhuman somehow.

Anyway, it's late so I'm going to go to bed and will see what I think about all this tomorrow.


Laura Wimberley June 4, 2010 at 5:36 PM  

I share so many of your feelings about this! My parents were visiting this week, and I don't think of them as materialistic, but they were surprised at how little we own. Dad insisted on buying us a floor lamp for the living room, although thankfully he held back on replacing our broken microwave. (Dave did recycle the old one, so that's good.)

I feel like I'm quite a consumer. I'm seriously considering upgrading to a smartphone, and I buy way too many clothes and shoes. That may be why my voyeurism tends to focus on stuff like the Little Brown Dress and the Uniform Project.

There's an elusive balance between comfortable warmth and oppressive waste - I never feel like I'm walking it.

An easy, virtuous option for the ten euro note:

(I only thought of this because I remember Aer Lingus stewardesses collecting for UNICEF on the way home from Ireland as a child.)

I'd love to hear more of your thoughts on living lightly.

Gwendolyn June 5, 2010 at 8:24 PM  

Oh man, I am so with you on the clothing. In fact, I'm off to write another post about it!

I'm finding some of the blogger conversations about minimalism to be completely fascinating in certain ways - there's controversy! And defensiveness! And calling out! And some perception that their way of life is under attack in some way that I cannot fathom! I guess I shouldn't be surprised, I assume humans find ways to do and feel these things no matter what the topic.


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This is my first blog attempt. It hasn't been kept up over the last year, for some reason being pregnant really ate into my creativity, and I picked up the camera very rarely. I am thinking about starting it up again, but am not sure what direction to take it in.

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