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The Springs Fever and Cleaning

June 11, 2013

I’ve been thinking, re-thinking, and over-thinking my ongoing craving (a full month now!) to upheave my life. I’m still not convinced it’s not a passing fancy (because I’m hard-headed and lazy and this would be against plan and require effort), but I do have a big clue that this could be Real: the Purge. I’m finding myself antsy to get rid of everything. Every possession is now on the potential chopping block – I’ve even begun paring my CD collection (as a music snob, this was once my pride and joy… and I was on college radio in the 90s, so you can see just how cool I think I was).

In successive and increasingly Draconian waves, I’ve been whittling away books, CDs, clothes, and kitchen appliances(!) based on criteria such as “when was the last time you used this?” and “do you even like this?” and “will you ever use this again?” and “does someone else need it more?” You can talk yourself out of almost anything with that last one. Keep it on reserve when you need to talk yourself out of something pricey that you really don’t use.

A REASONABLE PERSON

One of the purging games I play is “a reasonable person would have…” whereby I try to set parameters for what I will keep in my home based on what I think would be a fair guideline for a theoretical Reasonable Person. For instance, were I do say “a reasonable person would have one drawer full of T shirts,” I would then sort, re-sort, rank, and priorize my T shirt collection based on a number of features contributing to overall Keeepiness (the quality that determines an objects keepability) until all of the finalists fit together into one drawer. That closes. Because a resonable person would close their dresser drawers.

Too-small clothes are gone. Too big clothes (enablers!) as well. Also anything that is not flattering (just tell yourself it’s cut wrong, toss it aside and move on). Any article of clothing that you put on and then take right back off after looking at yourself in the mirror. Any weekend casual wear so nasty that you would not leave your burning home before finding a change of clothes (exemptions may be made for your very worst items if you still wear them often).

“BE BRUTAL WITH THE EPHEMERA”

This was how a friend of mine summed up her ability to live a very civilized life in a very small apartment. Get rid of everything you don’t use. Always. No trinkets, no ticket stubs, no memorial T-shirts or commemorative mugs. No gifts you hated. Have a small amount of stuff you need and like and nothing else. I was raised by a poor woman who was raised in a poor family at the end of the Great Depression. There is a generational hangover I’m working to cure here, but the uncluttered life is so much better that I just know it’ll be worth it.

Full disclosure: I’m not there yet. But I have decided that a reasonable person would have one trunk full of memorabilia, so that’s the limit toward which I’m working.

THE SPEAKER TEST
If, like me, you are over 30, you have witnessed, and likely been victimized by, at least one change in music technology in your lifetime. As someone who finally parted ways with dual-deck high speed dubbing cassette player (“someone else needed it more”), I can empathize with any reluctance you may feel in fully committing to digital music. At its peak, my collection was about 300 CDs, but I’m slowly chipping that down toward about 100 (“a reasonable person would have one rack of CDs”).

My criteria for selection are technically two-fold: do I still like this album, and does it sound so good through good speakers that I don’t want to hear it on MP3. Of course, with a decent stereo that second one is harder to hit, so there’s an undocumented third case: (I can’t believe I’m admitting this): is this still part of my ego as a music snob? Yeah. That’s right, Miss Pragmatic here can give up her copy of “Screaming Fields of Sonic Love” that has not been listened to end to end since 2002 because she still thinks she’s cool. And that it’s 1997. And that anyone even LOOKS at her CD library. She’s wrong on all counts.

GROWING UP JUST MEANS PARENTING YOURSELF

Listen. We all have childish urges and habits. You can’t kill them all off with willpower alone. But you can start to observe yourself with a teeny bit of detachment to learn your own patterns and triggers and begin to put speedbumps between yourself and your worst habits. This, I’m convinced, is the secret to the fine art of growing up (also of the fine art of cat ownership, or of managing a fast food restaurant): make it easier to do right than to do wrong.

Sometimes, if you can’t figure out how you feel about something, you can step back and observe yourself as if you were a toddler. For maximum effetiveness, you’ll want the toddler you to be the observed and the adult-aspiring you to be the observer. The reverse has its place, too though, so if this doesn’t work, try switching sides of the one-way glass with your inner child. I’m neither your mom nor your child, so I won’t judge.

So I’ve been watching my inner Honey Boo Boo throw her tantrum and assessing the shape it’s taking. She wants to be free. She’s not running away yet, but she wants everything to be in line to get up and go as soon as the moment is right. She’s not hurting anything, so I’m going to let her keep at it and see if she either makes some progress or gives it a rest. Either one is fine…

I know when I’m really serious, I’ll give up the rest of those CDs.

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