Wednesday 30 March 2011

Dilemma: I hate stuff, but I make stuff

I need to find a new place to live, and I am dithering as I always do about the when, where and how to accomplish this. I have a dog, which complicates matters intensely. Despite it being illegal to prohibit pets in this province, if not the country, it is almost impossible to find rental accommodation allowing a dog, and we both need ground floor access due to disability.

I have accumulated a sickening amount of crap since I returned from Italy in 1998, and I've found that in order to maintain even a semblance of order a junk room is essential. But in the end it means I'm paying double or triple in rent to store boxes of stuff that I never use, look at or read, stuff too good or cost me too much to throw out, give away or try to sell for a penny on the dollar at a lawn sale to become someone else's problem. But, ashes to ashes -- 90% of my stuff came from those same lawn sales, thrift stores and friends' cast-offs, and back it's all gonna go.

A few moves ago I counted 78 boxes of books alone. I'm one person: I moved here with a mountain of garbage bags stuffed with mostly unwearable fat, skinny and interim, winter, summer and interim, office, dress and hangout clothes, towels and bedding; bins of computer paraphernalia and art stuff (piles of framed drawings and empty frames, boxes of sketchbooks, portfolios containing drawings of all sizes, boxes and bins of drawing materials, paints, brushes, inks and tools); grocery bags containing freezer, fridge and cupboard contents. Then there are the various lamps, tables and chairs, the bed, couch, shelving... I'm only ONE person! Although I have to say, most of the furniture does fold or come apart for easier moving: my computer station consists of two doors 30x78 and 16x78 on glass block risers, set on two two-drawer filing cabinets, cables neatly fished through the door knob holes in the back. These came from the local Habitat for Humanity store, which, if we really must accumulate stuff, is a great place in which to find amazing and useful things for super-cheap, but a place I now force myself to drive on by, hands firmly on the wheel, finger well away from the turn indicator -- or even better, go nowhere near at all.

Some people are right brained or left brained. My heart still rules my head, where inner minimalist jostles for space with inner packrat. Right ventricle, left ventricle: my heart ebbs and flows, beats and soars with paper love, the smell, the texture, but I've come to love my dog and the thunder of silence and emptiness even more. I remember a handmade paper store in Paris in the Marais near the Seine in 1990, where I bought nothing, too intimidated to venture a few words in my execrable French. I have boxes of Italian rag paper sketchbooks sitting unused in the back room, and folders of pristine bristol finish rag printmaking paper. Always I am on the hunt for the perfect pencil.

My whole life I could not bring myself to throw out paper. Remember the '90s 5-Minute Manager, with its mantra of handle paper once? Now there was an epiphany. For almost 20 years I have been able to throw away the ripped envelopes and extra pages accompanying utility bills and bank statements, while reusing return envelopes. I was given a shredder for Christmas a few years ago which I used enthusiastically for several years. It's been sitting covered in dust for the three years I've lived here because I have a fireplace in which I burn all that paper now. Envision an ever-growing heap of paper and cracker box-filled garbage bags in the corner of the living room starting in May and running through to October. Yep. Fire starter. Not hoarding! Honest!

Parallelling, preceding and/or necessitating my present, if only mental, and future minimalist lifestyle comes a minimalist earning capacity. My ancient Blazer is on its last legs... wheels. With the jewellery-making (more mountains of stuff) comes the need to drive to markets and venues a considerable distance from where I currently live, which also means I'm away from this blasted computer and any work still trickling over the virtual transom. With the advent of portable high speed Internet connection, my problem may have been solved and I recently learned Paypal can be utilised via cell phones, so I may not require a POP/Interac machine.

This past week, I encountered the 100 Thing Challenge, The Moneyless Man, Twelve x Twelve, and others. My percolating 30 or 40 year dream, fueled by the books of Least Heat Moon, John Steinbeck, et al., has been to drive around North America. Not an original idea at all. I've taken the train across Canada several times, driven through BC and the Yukon umpteen times, I noodled around the US by bus back in the '70s when I was 20 and incredibly naive, in my late 30s and 40s I travelled across Europe and lived and worked, albeit illegally, in Italy for three years. Never should have left Italy, but that's another story. Now that that the freight train of old(er) age has barrelled into the station, and waaaaay far too early, it's get-off-the-pot time.

In the interest of less stuff and the obligatory even higher postage, Judy, my best pal in Vancouver of over 30 years, and I allow ourselves only gifts that fit into an envelope. My birthday gift this year was a newspaper clipping -- does this prove my friend truly knows me well or not? Paper, check; subject matter, double-check -- about Rae Crothers, self-confessed hoarder, who downsized and now lives in and works from an RV... somewhere. All I can say is wow. I've been watching videos on YouTube for a  month now on the ins and outs of RV living, who's doing it and where, and I'm hooked.

It's all coming together. Yesterday, I filled half a garbage bag with dead clothes, found the remaining pages of my tax papers buried in the back room, and started pricing the jewellery pictured in the last post.


Rosewind Studio said...

Hi Barbara, I understand how you feel! I have a "collection" of stuff as well, and have recently started sorting items to let go. We have a large community yard sale every May, so I'm preparing for that first. After that it will be donated and some trashed. It's hard because our stuff has value - and maybe only to us. I find it's been easier to go through a certain number of items or for a defined amount of time each day. Say 10 items or 15 minutes. I've been able to make a nice dent in my "pile".
Remember as we let go we become open to receive (which doesn't necessarily mean more stuff).
Wishing you the best,

Barbara said...

Hi, Shannon, sorry for how long it's taken for me to respond -- I thought I had set this up to notify me when there was a comment, but it's not working.

I do it every time: I go wandering off to look at something, come back to this page, and what I'd written is gone forever.

I too am finding I have to break down the sorting/filing/dumping to five or ten minutes, or one box/bag. I just checked your website and Etsy store. The beaded lotus is truly magnificent. It seems like our jewellery-making style is very similar. I'm going to sign off now and go look at your site.