HOW I GOT CLUTTER-FREE AND ORGANIZED IN OMLY FIFTY SHORT YEARS
I know, I know. this blog is about being an artist and making art while living a full life, but it’s hard to make art when you can’t find your keys, your glasses, your pencil.
Who was it who said, “Live like a bourgeois so that you may make art like a revolutionary?” Flaubert? DelaCroix? Rimbaud? Whoever it was, he was right. Keep your house in order so you can get on with your work.
After years of thinking of myself as a scattered slob I have come to realize that my life is organized. My closets are neat, I know where my keys are and I don’t have a junk drawer. If only my mother were alive to see this, although it might give her a heart attack all over again. She was a paragon of tidiness except when she wasn’t, like with her checking account. She kept two accounts and when one got hopelessly unbalanced she’s switch to the other for a month or so. So, nobody’s perfect but we all do our best.
How have I gone from hopelessly slovenly to neat and tidy?
It took a long time.
We live in a loft that we bought half finished–it was a big room with a kitchen and a bathroom and I got to design the floor plan. I put in a pantry, a laundry room, a hall closet for coats, a cedar closet for out of season clothes. a media closet because that was in the day of huge TV’s and stereo equipment, a walk-in closet/dressing room for me, big closets for my husband, a big one in the kids‘ room.
My neighbor told me; “You have too many closets.”
Too many closets? There’s no such thing!
He said; “When your closet gets full it’s time to get rid of stuff.” Well, clearly, he and I could never be friends but he was not entirely wrong.
Last week I painted my closet and in the process had to empty it out completely. In doing so I found a ton of stuff that I’ve been storing for at least 15 years. I took two carloads to the Salvation Army and threw away three large garbage bags of shredded paper. I feel liberated.
Why did I keep that stuff for so long? What are my stumbling blocks to getting rid of the things that clog my home and my life? Here are the four big ones.
THE STUMBLING BLOCKS TO CLUTTER REDUCTION
1. The Pathetic Fallacy
I am haunted by the image of our old station wagon sitting forlornly at the dealers as we drove off in a new model. I’m afraid that if I get a new raincoat and hang it in the closet the old one’s feelings will be hurt. This is called the pathetic fallacy and it is truly pathetic. Barbara, wake up. A car is not a puppy. My stuff does not have feelings and it can be put to better use than to sit in my closet. Pass it on.
2. “I might need it some day”
If you can’t get over the pathetic fallacy, find your stuff a happy new home where it will be loved and appreciated. My ice skates sat on my top shelf for 15 years. Every time I looked at them I thought, they’re getting dusty and taking up space but I may still go skating. Hey, if I go skating I can rent skates! And, as my daughter reminded me, there may be a little Tara Lupinsky out there who really needs skates! Pass them on!
3. It Will Fit if I Lose Ten Pounds
If it didn’t look good on me last year, it’s not going to look good this year. If it doesn’t fit it just makes me depressed to look at it. It may fit someone else, so pass it on.
4. The Trojan Horse
There are about 16 billion products for sale that promise to organize your life. Before you buy one, think it over for a week. It might be just what you need and then again it might be another dust collector. Remember, you’re de-cluttering, so why add something new? If you wait and think before you purchase, you might come up with a solution that doesn’t involve bringing more stuff into the house.
Okay, I admit that one reason my house is so neat is that the children have flown the nest. In my next blog I’ll talk about
the Black hole of Calcutta–the children’s room!
Here’s one of my drawings and a quote that I printed out and posted over my desk. It’s from Haydn’s Creation, just after God has said let there be Light “And there was LIGHT!” It’s one of the great moments in western culture and I hope it inspires you!