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.) 🙂

I Am Not the Internet

In 2006, I got a computer in my bedroom because I was going to community college and needed it to type papers and do research. That was when I really got to know the Internet. Before having a computer in my room, I got online only long enough to check email and maybe play a couple rounds of a game.

Now that the computer was always there, the entire online world was opened. Honestly, it was terrible. I never quite fit in on the Internet; on forums, I could never read sarcasm. I made the heinous mistake of mentioning religion among a group of people who were clearly not religious. I never could figure out how to argue online (which is not really arguing at all; he whose mind is most open is the winner [subject of another post]). When chatting with friends via MySpace, and later, Facebook, I felt awkward because I never knew how long was too long to be talking or what things to say because there were no cues. I became somewhat of a stalker on those sites; I lurked but never said a word. I cut myself out of those sites and others like them and never looked back.

One time, I ran into some porn. I forget how it happened, or what I had been searching for that turned up such a result. The minute-long sight of it scared me. On the Internet, you are always only two steps (clicks) away from discovering something that, to use Internet terminology, you “cannot unsee.” I feel bad for young kids, ages 9 and 10 and possibly even younger, who see that stuff and become consumed by it. It’s a pox on humanity.

On the more positive side, funny times were spent looking at memes and watching stupid videos on YouTube and scrolling through song lyric sites and successfully posting on a few forums. To be fair, I’ve probably had more good times than bad online.

The pitfall of it is, if you are online long enough, you start to speak that language. You become consumed by the need to be in the center of that bubble of constant stimuli. You constantly check your phone for updates and type meaningless words on forums and reblog pseudo-academic nonsense on Tumblr and read political rantings from people who have become as unhinged as you are. You post pictures of yourself and the food you eat and the stuff you buy on Instagram. You keep a blog. If you’re witty enough or post a funny-enough meme, then you (again, using online parlance) “win the Internet.”

I don’t want to win the Internet. I am not the Internet. Yes, I do post on the Internet. Hell, the Internet even enabled me to meet my husband. But I’m not going to let it consume me. I am a human being with a soul and not something ephemeral that will disappear. All of the Internet is ephemeral. It’s like the world but not the world, because it passes away even faster.

As useful a tool that the Internet is, it is only that, a tool. To become one with the Internet and to spend all one’s time on the Internet scrolling and trolling and looking for something is not an achievement to be proud of. Think about it. Your most memorable moments are those found in real life, among friends and family, not in front of a computer screen. Don’t let it consume you.

Church Experiences in the Corona Days

Going to Mass since the pandemic broke out and restrictions were put in place has been a strange experience, to say the least. My home parish is one of the more “paranoid.” Every other pew has been blocked off. We enter through only one door and leave through another door. Two hand sanitizer stations are prominent in the gathering area. The bathrooms are now “for emergencies only” (a horrid diaper explosion counts, right?). We must have our temperature taken at the front entrance. Everyone must wear a mask. If you don’t wear a mask, you must either sit outside and listen to the Mass via speakers or leave and watch the Mass on the Facebook livestream. We can no longer sing in church because of the danger of droplets flying everywhere, propelled by the force of our Christian fervor. There is no shaking hands or hugging during the sign of peace. We can’t get up for Communion. The priest brings Him to you. You may not receive on the tongue, only on the hand.

The other Catholic church we have visited does not have nearly as many restrictions. They do the “every other pew” thing, but almost no one wears a mask, and they all sing. There are also tons of people congregating outside (probably not six feet apart) because the church itself doesn’t hold many and now holds even fewer due to the aforementioned “every other pew” thing.

Weirdly, I am finding my church’s Mass more reverent than I had before because of one reason: increased silence. Without everyone processing to the priest in the Communion line, I am not distracted by noticing everyone’s outfit and thinking stuff like, “Ooh, I had no idea she was pregnant!” and “Man, that guy’s beard is super long.” There is no singing, except by the cantor, so I can focus better on the lyrics of the songs and notice things I had not noticed before.

So in all this craziness, there is a silver lining. Or maybe I made it for myself by taking advantage of the extra “quiet” time.