Welcome to my shame.
This is my room. It is a spare room. It could be my office maybe, but instead it’s my hoard, and I’m writing this blog post at the dining room table, because my desk is under there somewhere and I’m not sure where.
About a year ago, this room looked like this:
How the hell did I get here?
I blame the Minimalists.
Early last year, a friend of mine told me about a 30-day Minimalism Game. The idea is pretty simple: every day, for 30 days, you get rid of stuff. On the first day, you get rid of one thing. On day two, two things. Three things on day three, etc etc. And I was like, “Cool, but I’m not sure I can commit to just throwing away one or two things a day. I mean, I’m gonna throw away SO MUCH STUFF. How about if instead of setting small, achievable goals, I just focus on the big numbers without worrying about a plan to get me there?” And then I started throwing stuff out, and keeping a running tally so I would know when I got to 465 things, which was gonna be way before 30 days. Like, WAY before.
Then, to help speed up the process, I had the brilliant idea of creating a “maybe” pile. Whenever I came across something that didn’t elicit a snap decision, I threw it in the “maybe” pile. And I told myself that if I got to the point where every room in the house had been cleaned out and I still hadn’t thrown away 465 things — which wasn’t going to happen, because I was going to throw away SO MANY THINGS — then I would come back to the “maybe” pile to make the hard decisions.
This is my “maybe” pile.
For the record, I only got rid of about 150 things. And then I closed the door on the “maybe” pile for almost a year.
Until last week.
Last week, I was listening to a story on the radio about a refugee family. Two parents with two young kids who had waited for 2 years for approval to get into the US. They got stuck in Lebanon when the travel ban went into effect, and were living out of 4 big duffel bags, since all their other possessions had been sold in preparation for the move. One of the bags was filled with pots and pans, because those things are more expensive in America.
I started thinking: What would I have put in those bags? What would I take with me, if I had to leave the country tomorrow?
Not a single thing from the “maybe” pile, I can tell you that much.
Ideally, after coming to that realization, I would have just left for the weekend and had someone else empty out the room without me there to see it. But it turns out that by the time you’re in your mid-30’s, you have a lot fewer friends who are willing to help you schlep your shit down three flights of stairs in exchange for a couple of beers and some pizza, especially if it’s just junk and you’re not actually going to be there to help.
Which means that, in order to clean out this room, I have been forced to make individual decisions about every single piece of junk that crosses the threshold. And unfortunately, as anyone who has ever seen the show Hoarders will know, it’s REALLY HARD to get rid of stuff that way. That one really loud voice that said, “ALL OF IT WILL GO!!” is now fighting to be heard over a thousand little voices saying, “Well…maybe that one can stay.”
Like the giant Gulliver, being tied down by all the tiny Lilliputians in Gulliver’s Travels.
Except I’ve never actually read that book, so I’m not sure if this is going to turn out well for me.