Sunday, March 30, 2008

Setting Free The Stuff

As spring break wraps up and my daughter relishes her return to school, I find myself puttering about the house with many projects swimming around my head. Of course, Easter holidays usually signify the onset of true spring-like weather but the the actual observance of Holy Week and Easter came early - really early- this year. The gooey snow of last week guaranteed a lot of time in the the house looking at the accumulation that accompanied this winter and many winters past. Magazines, dvds, toys, mismatched mittens, extraneous crayons and markers... stuff, Stuff, STUFF! It was too cold to overlook the cluttering of the stuff in the house to go prepare the yard or drag out the outdoor distractions of the hammock for the warm afternoons. I was stuck. That pestiferous voice in the recesses of my mind nagged "Enough! Clean this mess up before you're outside all day in the yard for the next half a year." I went with the directive as best I could with two small children in the house. I got the tax information in, filed through the piles, tackled dust bunnies and did a victory dance as I backed up the computer to dvd while uploading long forgotten pictures. Unfortunately something then happened that hijacked my whole grand scheme with one failure: the refrigerator expired.

Deader than dead was my 2001 Whirlpool side by side with many month's fresh meat defrosted. I called for repair, I Googled for a part and crossed my fingers; I prayed to the kitchen gods of goodness and frugality but it was all for naught. I begged a loaner fridge, spent a couple of days cooking, marinating, and packaging while I began the search for a replacement. Many things have changed over the last few years when it comes to replacing a major household appliance, many for the better and a few not. I began the search for an Energy Star unit that would be efficient, affordable and capable of going back into the space that the Whirlpool would be vacating. I looked. I read customer reviews. I got nervous. Am I the only one to notice that in a world populated by the tiniest of technologies, refrigerators seem to get bigger and bigger? A laptop that can fit in a manila envelope? Sure. A mobile phone that is smaller than a pack of gum? No problem. A t.v. that can snug up against a wall? Yes, yes, yes! A refrigerator that isn't 30 inches deep. Good flippin' luck. The only thing getting smaller on a refrigerator is its compressor and it's that one fact explains why something that cost a grand at the beginning of THIS century didn't make it a decade. Yes, I looked at repair, but the sad news is a new compressor would run in the neighborhood of $600 and the fridge I finally located is $700. What would you do? Needless to say, the new one isn't a Whirlpool.

My great household meltdown of '08 started more than Spring cleaning for me. I hadn't been able to put a name to what I wanted to do until today when I was on the internet looking for ways to disinfect a dishwasher, which I thought might be a good idea after this winter's cold and flu onslaught. Yes, that is precisely the random stuff I look up in my day to day interactions with the Internet. I ran across a blog of helpful cleaning strategies (hints don't work for me, I need strategy) that succintly described what I'd been trying to communicate to my inner neat-nick. It's called "Discardia" and it's described this way: Discardia is celebrated by getting rid of stuff and ideas you no longer need. It's about letting go, abdicating from obligation and guilt, being true to the self you are now. Discardia is the time to get rid of things that no longer add value to your life, shed bad habits, let go of emotional baggage and generally lighten your load. It's viewed as a holiday by some, but I don't need another holiday. I need clarity. I need organization. I need ease of locating what should be in my house, not another reason to send out a greeting card that I may or may not have bought but now can't find in the paper stacked next to my computer. So, I began. I went through stuff. I disposed of what I'd not used in 5 years. I filled the dumpster with all the stuff I promised myself I'd repair myself 7 years ago. I tried shoes and clothes and socks on the kids and myself, passing on the outgrown items. I cleaned toys to take to St. John's Thrift Store. I put all the photographs in their own organized box. I listed usable but unwanted things on eBay. I even dusted... a little. After a winter of feeling crowded by the stuff, I began to breath easier. I've been emptying out the cupboards, cooking the food I have on hand. I've been reminding myself, whenever I caught myself saying "I'm almost out of....******..." to refrain from running to the store. I've let my Costco membership lapse. I no longer see buying in bulk as a necessary thing. The reality of food sitting on a shelf for a couple years, just so I can save 19 cents when I buy twenty boxes, isn't very appealing to my palate. And, more importantly, I simply don't have the room. If I can't buy it at my local grocery, I don't need it. A walk to the farthest grocery in town for me is a two mile round trip. There's no reason I can't walk to pick up a little something to round out dinner and I won't have to shove and cram to make its super-duper econo size container fit in my cupboards.

Simplicity is what I want; a streamlined life with the help of my households sprites saying "no, you don't need that" when I linger at a website showing that latest whatzit at a steal of a price. I want what I have to last. I know, finally, there is no such thing as retail therapy. Happiness comes only with simplicity. I truly appreciate anyone who can produce an item that is useful, miniscule, and long-lasting. I sure don't like throwing things away, but I do like being able to live with less stuff. I guess "Discardia" isn't just a particular day, but a mindset for which I'm finally ready.


bhd said...

Beautiful, and as always, beautifully written. Published, right?

But I have a question. What's this about disinfecting a dishwasher? Were you using it as a litter box?

Alison said...

Ah, bhd got here first and said what I wanted to say. Except the part about the litter box.

Justine's HouseWreck said...

Okay, not to gross you out or anything, but look closely at your dishwasher; the gaskets, the nooks and crannies. They get kinda gross. At least mine did. The best treatment I saw was to use some dry bleach in place of d.w. detergent and wash it empty on high heat.

And, the cats head outside to crap...THANK FSM!

CindyDianne said...

Justine! Howdy, my first comment here. I struggle with stuff too. But my struggle is that my mom buys too much stuff for her own house and then starts buying for mine. Then, I get the "it was a gift" mentality and can't figure out how to get rid of it. That and my son's stuff. Papers. Trophies. Cub Scout Uniforms. I know I don't need to keep it all, but which to let go? Such a difficult decision...