Culling and Mulling

After three years (on and off) of looking, my husband and I are under contract to buy a house. Lord willing, everything goes through and we can actually move in September. In the meantime, we have been cleaning up and attempting to cull things we don’t need. So I’ve been pondering why it is so difficult to detach from material possessions.

For example, about a million pens are sitting in a cup on my desk. They’re all generic ballpoints that were picked up over the years from dentist and doctor offices, car mechanics, hotels, or wherever. I tested all of them to make sure they all worked. Even though I’ve had some of these pens for close to 10 years, they all work. (Behold the longevity of Bic products!) I doubt I have ever used even half of them. But because they all work, I just have to keep them, right? It would be a waste to throw them away, and besides, I am always in need of a pen because my husband (or son) stole the one I had been using. I probably would have left several of them in the supply cabinet at work for anyone to take, but coronavirus prohibits me from going into the office.

Marie Kondo (I think it was her) said something to the effect of “if it doesn’t bring you joy, remove it from your life.” Someone else (might also have been Marie Kondo) said that if you haven’t used something in a year, chances are you’re never going to use it.

I’m not totally sure how that works with items like pens, which do get used, but not in the quantity that I have, and likewise, I’m not sure how that logic would work with my son’s old newborn and 3-month baby clothes. Yes, I haven’t used them in a year, but I would like to eventually have another child. If that child turns out to be a boy and is born around the same season, it would be great to reuse barely worn clothes! However, those clothes are now taking up valuable space in the bedroom closet and will take up valuable space in another closet when we eventually move. Is it worthwhile to take a gamble and sell or donate them, just to free up space for what could potentially be a short amount of time? What if I do get rid of them and end up having to buy baby boy clothes all over again? What if I have a girl? Should I keep both sets of boy and girl clothes in case I have a third child? Am I thinking too much about this? (Yes, most likely.)

Knickknacks also don’t quite fit the Marie Kondo philosophy. They can sit on shelves for years and serve no purpose other than to look pretty and collect dust. They are not used per se. They are there for the admiration of guests or as reminders of happy memories. However, if knickknacks are hanging out on a shelf for multiple years, they get glanced over and cease to really be seen. They essentially become part of the background. Yet many of us cannot bear to part with them, even when they may not have any sentimental value or hold any memories. They just look cute or whimsical or beautiful or go nicely with the decor of your home. But I can’t get rid of them! I’ve had them for years! someone might protest.

See what I mean? The whole “if you haven’t used it in a year, get rid of it” thing is so much easier said than done. Even though I may eventually get rid of an item, I still get a nagging sense of guilt. What if I might need that someday? In my quest to clear out the apartment before the move, I have wrestled with this guilt several times. Usually it is forgotten the next day. A sense of relief comes over me. That’s one less thing I will have to pack up and move. So I remind myself of that relief the next time I’m quibbling with myself over whether to nix the thousandth book I’m sure I’ll get around to reading someday.

The other way I remedy this problem is simply to not acquire things in the first place, or if I do buy something or receive something as a gift, make an honest attempt to use that item to replace something else. For instance, if I get a piece of jewelry as a gift, then I go through my jewelry collection and see if there’s anything I haven’t worn in years. (Making sure it’s not a family heirloom, of course.) Same with clothes. I plan to do the same with my son’s toys (but don’t tell him I said that)!

I’m just glad I’m only moving out of a one-bedroom apartment. This post would be much longer if I was moving from a two or three bedroom! (Maybe I’ll write an addendum to this post 10 years from now.) 🙂


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