Sunday, May 9, 2010

Just Wondering Something...

I started wondering about the advantages of having something that you're not presently using.

If you aren't presently using something that you have, it seems there are only two basic possibilities:

1 -- It isn't necessary.
2 -- It IS necessary but you are slacking and not using it (like say, you had a toothbrush but never brushed your teeth)

I know this is very simple. It doesn't mention various combinations like:

  1. You will definitely use it soon (eg it's a holiday thing, or it is clothes in size 3T and you have a toddler in size 18 months).
  2. You wish you were using it or hope you will (eg you have a rosary and you'd like to start praying the rosary but haven't yet, or you have clothes in a smaller size than you currently wear, or you have maternity clothes even though you're not pregnant because you hope to have another child)
  3. You think it might be useful someday -- even though it isn't right at the moment, or is rarely useful, so rarely you might almost make do.
  4. Or you have more of the item than you actually need. One or two might be necessary -- but you have a dozen or twenty. (I am like that with pens and notebooks).
  5. You are storing it for someone else, or it is associated with someone else, so you feel you would be betraying that person by getting rid of it. (sometimes photos and old papers fit into that category).

The first combination is really a variant of it IS necessary. It's going to be necessary in a reasonable time frame.

It seems that the next four combinations are the difficult ones. There are some things where wishes/hopes/daydreams/nostalgia invest the thing with symbolism. It sort of stands in for something inside yourself... usually a hopeful possibility (future) or wistful memory (past). But by definition, nothing to do with the present moment, or it would be necessary.

But sometimes the things really are good to have. And sometimes there is a mixture. The thing is good, but there are too many things around, and it's overwhelming. I am realizing I get overwhelmed easily. And my kids don't use what I don't access for them, so my overwhelm-level is important. (I'm not talking about my older kids -- they can sort through their own junk, and they usually do a pretty good job with it too).

My scissors and pens fit into category #4

This is probably why the minimalists say that if you declutter radically enough you'll be running into buried emotions. I've noticed myself that getting rid of things sometimes feels like pulling a bandage off when the wound or burn is still sensitive.

For that matter, fasting and being hungry rouses a lot of the same emotions. The physical pain of hunger is mild. Hunger is simply not severe discomfort, not at the level that middle-class Americans experience when they are trying to lose some weight. It's the anxiety and vulnerability that's hard to bear. But that's another subject. I just thought the connection was interesting. A similar anxiety and vulnerability comes into the foreground when you contemplate tossing something that you've invested some of yourself into for whatever reason. Letting go feels like cutting a bit of yourself away. It's more than just doing without it.

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