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.) 🙂

Corona Days, Part 2

Oddly, restrictions in my state are still being lifted, despite a rising number of deaths from COVID-19. I suspect that even if the restrictions were not being lifted, or if different ones were being put into place, people would not stand for it. They are getting bored. Upon hearing about the George Floyd shooting and subsequent madness that broke out all over the United States, I first thought that people are so thoroughly frustrated, angry, and bored. People do not like being told what to do for so long. Authority is difficult to follow when it is so hard to tell truth from lies.

The news is getting even more painful to read than it normally is; I hate seeing the COVID-19 death toll blazing across the top of the screen every day. Now I hate seeing all the pictures from the protests (violent and nonviolent) everywhere. To top it all off, my local news station ran a story this past weekend about how more than 10,000 cats and dogs will be euthanized throughout the state’s animal shelters if no one adopts them. Ah, the guilt.

Sadly, the library is not yet open (at least in my county). However, materials can now be requested online, which I don’t enjoy doing as much as browsing through the shelves and picking up books at random. My son also enjoyed looking at (i.e., trying to chew on) the board books in the toddler section, but now I’m stuck reading Little Blue Truck over and over. (I know it by heart!) On the bright side, I have plenty of reading material at home (current read: a biography of the Kennedy men; a look into the past is always nice when the present and future are scary).

In our diocese, the Sunday obligation is still suspended. Some parishes have many more restrictions than others, which brings confusion into an already stressful situation. The lifeblood of Catholics is the Eucharist. We need this spiritual food for survival, especially when the battle we will have to fight in the coming days is largely a spiritual one. Even so, there is a need to protect the vulnerable. Mass is being celebrated online, outside, or even inside, but people are allowed in only every other pew, with a host (no pun intended) of other restrictions. I suppose we are all doing the best we can to balance the need for spiritual sustenance with physical safety. I just wish Mass would be back to normal. I would take Mass over the library. 🙂

So in the midst of all this madness, I hope you are staying safe and sane. Take breaks from the media. If you can, adopt a dog or cat. Write something by hand instead of typing it (I’ve been doing this almost nightly, and it’s refreshing). Show someone you love them (from a safe distance!). Escape into a good novel. Pray, pray, pray.

Corona Days

The social distancing measures recommended (mandated?) by the government and other authorities are an introvert’s dream. I am actually enjoying staying at home. The apartment is cleaner and more organized than it has been in weeks, I am saving money by not eating at restaurants or driving as much, and I have no excuse to ignore all the books on my shelves in favor of books on the library’s shelves. I also get to avoid the meaningless break room banter at work, because I have been working from home since March 16.

All that said, I recognize that my position is extremely fortunate. I am so grateful to have a job that allows me to work from home. I am also very grateful to my in-laws and husband, who watch my son every day so I can work. I wake up in the mornings and thank God.

I’m sure you have all been hearing variants on “stay healthy,” “practice self-care so you don’t get too stressed” (ooh, I dislike the term “self-care”), “God is imposing a Great Lent on us, and we heathens deserve it,” and “wash your hands, ya filthy animal.” There really isn’t much more I can say that hasn’t already been said, and I don’t want to take someone else’s words and try to make them better.

So… Happy Easter! No matter what, there is hope in the Resurrection.