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not an archive

Did you read that article in the New York Times, “But Will It Make You Happy?” If not, I highly recommend doing so.

The article led me to Tammy Strobel’s website, Rowdy Kittens, which led me to a whole bunch of online resources about living simply and simply having less stuff.  If you want to explore more, I would start at the aptly named “Start Here” tab on Rowdy Kittens.

Recently, Sean and I have both come around to an inspired revelation: we’re sick of living in a cluttered, cramped, messy apartment. I’ve been organizing cupboards and discarding the contents of junk drawers, and he’s been cleaning out the basement and organizing our “getting ready” room (the room that’s too small to be a bedroom so it’s a glorified closet).  I’ve given away a fair amount and I still find myself with so much junk. I have considered bringing my mother in, and telling her to be ruthless. I’ve also tried to channel my friends Brynn and Natalie, both of whom have given me excellent advice about getting rid of clutter.

The simple truth is that we just have too much stuff. And most of it is mine.

The good news is that I’m inspired, and that there are a number of resources  pushing me towards the purge. One of them is Buffalo’s Really Really Free Market, which next meets on Saturday, September 11th at Bidwell Parkway from 2:00-7:00PM. The idea is that you bring whatever stuff you want to give away for free and take as much or as little as you want from other people. No bartering, no selling–just giving away free stuff. I loved the “free culture” I encountered in Portland, Oregon, and hope to see the idea grow in Buffalo.

Another inspiration: this essay on getting rid of books. I have a lot of books, and I’m terrible about getting rid of them. I find this amusing because during my MLS program I’ve learned about the importance of “weeding” collections, and I agree with the practice. I visited some school libraries that haven’t been significantly weeded in years, and it’s scary: kids can’t find their way through the packed shelves. About her school library, Brynn is fond of saying, “We are not an archive, we are a library.” I realize that I’ve been treating my home collection as an archive, and I know I’m not the only one.

Finally, the other source of my inspiration (or perhaps more accurately, alarm) is The Story of Stuff. If you have 20 minutes and are open to making some life changes, I recommend watching the original film. It has inspired and shamed me into making a conscious decision to buy less stuff and, as Sean pointed out, that’s really the key to my purge and meeting our goal of a simpler, cleaner, clutter-less life.

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August 18, 2010 - 1:47 AM

heather - I used to be kind of a packrat while growing up, but when my boyfriend and I moved across the country twice in two years–both times with nothing more than what we could fit in my car–it definitely cured me of that urge. It’s amazing to see how much stuff you really don’t need or ever use. I had so many things I was holding onto solely because I was too lazy to throw them out, or because they were mementos that were supposed to remind me of the good times (even though I never looked at them!), or because I might need them someday.

That said, it’s really tough to stop stuff from building up, even when you do regularly toss stuff. We’ve been living in our current apartment for less than a year, and we already have more furniture than we need (none of which we actually bought–all cast-offs or presents from relatives, or free off of craigslist). And books are definitely my downfall, too. Despite doing a massive purge before I moved the first time, I still have two bookcases full, threatening to spill over onto a third. And I try to be really conscientious about what I buy/keep–I stopped holding onto books from college just because they’d make me look smart when somebody else was looking through my collection (haha), and only kept books that I knew I’d read over and over. And I haven’t bought a book in over a year. (Yay libraries!) I’m trying to figure out how I can trim my collection further . . . (It’s just my luck that the one collection I can’t bear to part with is the heaviest/most pain-in-the-ass kind of collection to move!)

August 18, 2010 - 9:45 AM

Lisa @ Lisa's Foods on the Move - My boyfriend and I were just talking about this last night, and how we are terrible about taking free stuff just because it’s free, even though we don’t need anything.

I can’t remember the name of it, but there’s a documentary out that a friend of ours got recently from Netflix, and it’s all about a couple’s decision to really pare down their stuff. Oh, and I love that Story of Stuff cartoon, which I heard about a few years ago and found right on.

August 18, 2010 - 4:25 PM

Elizabeth - I believe the previous commenter might be referring to No Impact Man (http://www.noimpactdoc.com/about.php).

August 18, 2010 - 4:50 PM

whitney - @Heather – I’ve friends who moved across the country and had similar experiences. They get used to living without much stuff and they like it. And you really hit the nail on the head re: holding onto books from college because they make you appear smart. I admit to having placed books on certain shelves because of the message they send to people who might walk by them (who? me and my boyfriend?). So silly. I will be targeting those extra deliberately.

@Lisa – I know, I’m awful at the free stuff. I just gave away some books that I grabbed at the ALA conference. I didn’t need them and I had to pay to mail them home. If the doc is No Impact Man I will definitely check it out.

@Elizabeth – thanks!

August 18, 2010 - 8:28 PM

Teresa - I admit it, I am a reformed packrat. A few years ago I just decided I needed to streamline. My best organizing tip, which is particularly useful for book savers and organizing newbies, is to box up all of the stuff you think you don’t want but can’t quite commit to getting rid of and then put it in storage for six months (attic or basement–out of sight). If you don’t need anything in the box in six months, get rid of it.

Now I have a pretty good system of going through all the rooms in my house a couple of times a year (I tend to go through a different room every six weeks or so, makes it more manageable than a blitz). I keep everything in the attic in boxes throughout the year and in April when I do my spring cleaning I cart the whole works away for donation. Evey year there is less and less stuff that I am giving away, because I just accumulate less during the year.

Also, I have been thinking about having a clothing swap party. Would you be interested? Light dinner, drinks, everyone brings what they want to get rid of from their closets and we all try it on and people can take home whatever they want.

August 21, 2010 - 2:07 AM

courtney - It is my dream to have better stuff management. It’s amazing how much one person can accumulate, let alone a family.

I love this:

About her school library, Brynn is fond of saying, “We are not an archive, we are a library.”

August 23, 2010 - 2:40 PM

lisasfoods - Yup, it was “No Impact Man,” which we watched last night. Not quite as inspiring as I thought it would be, but still good. I’m on the search for similar films and books.

August 25, 2010 - 2:17 PM

Court - Last weekend, I went shopping with my mom. I kept thinking to myself, I really need a pair of grey capri leggings. I need these. Gotta have em. I didn’t buy any leggings on my shopping trip and it turns out that was a good thing–when I was getting dressed this morning I found a pair of grey capri leggings I bought on impulse a month ago but had yet to wear.
I JUST went through my wardrobe with Shawna and gave away 1/2 of all my clothes. I absolutely don’t want to go back to have drawers and drawers packed with clothes–so I think that now that I’ve done the hard work of eliminating the clutter, I need to control my urge to shop.

October 15, 2010 - 5:35 PM

30 Awesome Things About Breaking My Foot | oh, what? - [...] No recreational shopping for me which means I’m fulfilling a big goal. [...]

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