Sunday, January 13, 2008

Uncluttering

Laura and I spent some time today cleaning out the basement. We never schedule a basement cleaning; we're generally inspired to the task when one of us needs something that's stored downstairs, and we either can't find it because of the clutter, or we know exactly where it is, but we can't easily get to it because of the clutter. Today's cleaning was a spin-off project of cleaning up Christmas stuff. We planned on stuffing our empty gift boxes in the basement, but we realized that we already had a five-year backlog of old gift boxes in storage. So we decided which of the old boxes were worth saving (answer: none of them), and we threw away most of them. Not all, because all the boxes we were going to toss wouldn't fit in our mini-dumpster in the alley, even after I broke the boxes down and smashed them flat. Unnerving, but true: we had saved more empty boxes in our basement than would fit in a dumpster. Not all of them were gift boxes; some were cardboard boxes from when we moved into this house in early 2001. Some were old shoe boxes. I have no idea what inspires us to save stuff like this, other than the possibility that we might someday need a box, and we'd hate to know that we just threw away exactly the one we needed.

I'm always torn about what to throw away and what to save. As a general rule, I'm reluctant to throw away anything I paid a lot of money for. I recently disposed of my old Pentium 90 desktop computer (8 megs of RAM, running DOS6 and Windows for Workgroups), which I bought in 1994 and which hasn't functioned since before Y2K. It was non-functional, yet I still kept it around for seven or eight years. I'm also reluctant to throw away anything I can't easily replace, especially hardware. At work, I have a collection of frame bolts for mounting loudspeakers. You can't buy them, but they come with the speakers. And if I were to ever re-mount the speakers elsewhere, I'd need the bolts. Am I likely to ever re-mount the speakers? No. But I'd hate to need the parts and not have them. I've also got a small collection of those little straws that come with spray cans. I don't feel bad about these; they get lost easily, and a can of WD-40 without the little straw is a lot less useful. On the other hand, I also realized while doing laundry today that I've been saving the little measuring cups that come on top of the detergent bottles. I've got three or four of them in a little stack next to the washer. I had no plan for them; I just saved them, without really thinking about it at all. I really need to start thinking, and maybe make saving stuff less of a reflex and more of a conscious act....

1 comment:

Aunt Sooooz said...

I've been cleaning up too, and realized that I'd kept a pair of reading glasses that Jeff found and brought home, but neither of us can actually read with them on. And they are bright purple, btw. I also have 12,000 pounds of paper - it is genetically impossible for me to recycle something that I might possibly need in case I ever get audited, even though no one will ever need to look at my subscription list if I do indeed get audited. I save ribbons off of presents, but couldn't find where I had put them in time for Christmas. That's just the tip of the iceberg, my friend. You are definitely NOT the only one who has hoarding quirks!!
xo Suzie