Continuing the project to declutter every room in the house, so rudely interrupted by my job, today I attacked the office and cleaned off all the work surfaces, the bookcase, and the file cabinet, built new hanging files for the various projects that have been stashed in mounds here and there, and tossed or shredded whole trashcanfuls of miscellaneous pieces of paper with old notes on them. Interesting. I’d forgotten the desktop is made of wood.
I’m determined to put away or throw away every dust-catcher that does not have some real, useful reason to occupy a surface. No junk on the surfaces! The goal is to be able to dust without having to pick up and wipe off any more pieces of junk than absolutely necessary. This is part of the stress reduction scheme: simplify housecleaning.
As I was tossing large quantities of paper, outdated reminders, and meaningless keepsakes, it struck me once again that a desire to be free of clutter is characteristic of a frugal mind-or even a miserly one.
My father, who could at times raise frugality to a high art, loathed having junk around him. When we left Saudi Arabia, where I grew up, we took almost nothing with us but our clothes-he never allowed us to buy anything of value while we were there, on the theory that Americans could be evacuated at any time and all the elaborate European and Asian furnishings our compatriots filled their homes with would have to be left behind. Each time we moved (and I realized one day that my mother had moved house on average of once every two years during their 32-year marriage), we threw stuff away. We never carried anything with us that we didn’t really need. I guess he set an early example of voluntary simplicity: a simplicity motivated by a determined bent for frugality, not to say tight-fistedness. He didn’t want to own anything we didn’t need and he didn’t want to pay to move it.
Onward to the two hall closets, repository of two years’ worth of free sample toothpaste from the dentist, the lifetime supply of Costco AA batteries, and several jars of pills of unknown age and provenance.
These closets are like archaeological digs, filled with strange artifacts. Lessons from the remote past:
- Never buy jackets from catalogs. Out with the pumpkin-colored wool jacket that I’ve kept for years because it looked so good in the Land’s End catalog it ought to look good on me. The truth is–and has always been!–that the thing never fit right, it doesn’t keep me warm, and it’s just plug-ugly.
- Never buy things out of desperation. Out with the hideous red car coat from The Limited, purchased in an attempt to remedy the Land’s End fiasco. What was I thinking? I hate double-breasted coats!
- Refrain from sleeping on the ground. Out with the man’s waterproof windbreaker acquired during the three long months spent hiking, bumming rides, and camping in the outback of Canada and Alaska.
- Don’t get silly about men. Rescued: The clothes hangers that SDXB,* incredibly, smeared with black marker, lest they be confused with mine and he lose those handy pieces of blue and pink plastic when he moved out of my house.
The three-foot-tall “To Donate” box is chuckablock full. It will take half the weekend to haul all the valuables to St. Vincent’s or Deseret Industries. Somebody out there will be happy to get those coats, with the weather nipping down to the 20s. But the gift to me is greater: freedom from junk!
*SDXB: Semi-demi ex-boyfriend, aka “The Emperor of Cheap”