Friday, March 19, 2010

The Fantasy of an Uncluttered Life

Tomorrow, assuming we can make it in the snow, Ed and I are headed to our rental cabin for four days of relaxation. I plan to do a lot of math homework, read for hours on end, hang out in a hot tub (for which the snow is a bonus, assuming, again, that we can get to the cabin), eat homemade food, and just generally chill.

Aside from the hot tub and the general beauty of the surroundings,the aspects of this vacation that I'm most looking forward to are theoretically possible at home. No Internet. No TV. (The cabin has one, but I don't plan to use it.) No distractions. A lot of reading. But I wouldn't do that at home.

Sometimes I feel like it's the sheer amount of stuff in my home that keeps me distracted and unproductive. I don't really have that much stuff - we are not hoarders or anything - but I wish I had even less. I have a persistent fantasy of living in a place that is sparse, simple, utilitarian, and not only uncluttered, but incapable of becoming cluttered, by virtue of not containing things that could clutter it.

Some of this is pure fantasy, but I do want to get rid of a number of things before I leave for grad school next year. I have a lot of things I need (or choose to) hang on to, but there are other things I really can get rid of. Some highlights:
  • A few years ago, I got rid of most of my books, and I'm ready to do that again. (I haven't gotten many new books in the interim, I'm just ready for the next stage.) Most of my books I will never read again, so why should I hold onto them? I plan to take these to the library nearby, where they happily accept donations for their various fundraisers.
  • I am finally giving away my saxophone, which I got several years ago, and really enjoyed taking lessons in before I ran out of time and energy for it. This kind of entails giving up the fantasy of playing sax regularly, which feels sad, but it's not as though I couldn't buy a saxophone and take up playing again in the future if I wanted to. I found a local middle school that is, in the words of the band director, "always looking for quality instruments," and I will drop it off there.
  • I have way more pairs of shoes than I need. Most will just go in one of those ubiquitous clothes + shoes donation dumpsters, but I have a couple of new pairs that I got a few years ago but that didn't work out for me. I have scheduled those to go up on eBay.
  • Once I finish the process (begun years ago) of putting my music CDs into binders, my music collection will be reduced to three or four binders, which will take up a lot less space than the gazillion CDs in their original cases did. Most of my music is on the computer anyway.
  • Various old computer equipment can go to Goodwill or a pawn shop or something.
  • I am going to get rid of my tent and sleeping bag. I never, ever go camping.
  • Almost all of my DVDs and videos can go. I won't watch most of them again and it's not hard to rent a movie when you want one.
In addition, here are some things I do not plan on moving with me to a new place:
  • My dining room chairs, which do not match my table either aesthetically or in terms of height, and are just annoying.
  • A couple of my bookcases, which will be empty after the book purge.
  • My entertainment center, video game consoles, DVD player, receiver, speakers, or TV. I could change my mind on this, but for now I think I'm just not going to bother having a TV or any of that in the new place. (If Ed moves with me, we'll probably take this stuff, but I hope not to really have TV service. If I live alone, I think I just won't have any of it.)
  • Most of my framed posters - I don't seem to care about them enough to hang them up, and they're kind of a pain to move. I can always get something else for the walls.
My dining room table and desk are both useful pieces of furniture that can be disassembled into a much more convenient size, so they will stay (unless Mosch decides he wants the desk back). I may get another sparse type of desk - I would like to have one that doesn't have my computer on it at all, since computers are very distracting to me. I'd like a desk like this or this from Ikea.

Here are some other things I plan to keep:
  • My bed (it's great, very comfy, and everyone needs a bed)
  • My clothes (at least the ones that fit)
  • Towels and sheets
  • Kitchen equipment
  • Photo albums
  • Yearbooks
  • Seymour (my first stuffed animal)
  • My filing cabinet and its contents
  • My little nested teak end tables
  • Cat equipment (litter box, carriers, etc.)
That's the plan.


Sally said...

While I don't have any kind of persistent fantasy about it, staying somewhere that's uncluttered is really nice. It's one of the great things about vacation - being in a hotel room (or whatever) that is mostly empty.

Of course, we are also not attempting to actually *live our lives* while we're on vacation, so we don't have the same opportunity to miss our things (from a utilitarian or identity perspective). Also, I would hate having that often ugly art on the walls if I thought of it as my own space. (One benefit of vacationing in South Texas is that the wall art is almost always nature, and usually birds.)

In my experience, being in grad school creates a lot of potential clutter (let's not even start with the stacks of books, journals, printed-out articles, and student work to be graded all around my room), but I don't know to what extent math is different. But yes, moving - esp if you are considering a smaller place - is a great opportunity to purge and you should definitely take the opportunity to get rid of what you can.

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