Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Drowning in Stuff, Part 2

Last June I wrote about feeling overwhelmed by the amount of my possessions and the size of my house. Although I haven't said anything about it since, I have been actively thinking and actually doing something about it. Throughout the past few months I have cleaned out every shelf and cupboard in the kitchen, continued to sort and donate books and clothes, and weeded thru my piano teaching music. And I have found a new home for my 12 place-settings of Lenox Solitaire china. We used it at Christmas and when I courageously (it was hard!) offered it to Jeff and Emily they quickly gave a unanimous yes. Now it's just a matter of getting it to them in Washington.

But the thing that has made the biggest difference to me is participating in Project 333. Started by a minimalist blogger, the idea is to whittle down one's wardrobe to 33 items for 3 months. This includes clothing, shoes, coats, jewelry and accessories, but not underwear, pajamas, workout wear or around the house lounging clothes. Knowing that it was only for 3 months was a big help, as well as the plan to merely store extra items rather than get rid of them. My 3 months began on January 1, which also made it practical as I need heavy winter clothing thru March.

I began by buying a plastic storage container at Wal-Mart and within a couple of hours I was back for another. (I wonder here at the irony of going to Wal-Mart in order to simplify.) I decided on a basic wardrobe of blacks and grays, with a brown skirt thrown in for variety, then added some sweaters and tops in more vivid colors. The clothing works in such a way that almost every top goes with every bottom. As I filled the containers with cast-offs I became almost giddy with the relief of unburdening my overstuffed closet and drawers.

Many people participating in this project publish a list of their items, but I will not bore you with that. I do have a list, though, and find I haven't done too badly with this first go-round. And I feel liberated! Gone are the days of opening the closet door and trying to make a decision between too many choices. No longer do I try on several necklaces or pairs of earrings, attempting to find just the right look. I admit that paring down the jewelry was the most difficult of all and here I will give you my list: pearl studs, small diamond drop earrings that Bill gave me for my 50th birthday, a Celtic cross from Ireland, a simple silver pendant necklace from Ecuador and my grandmother's pearls and brooch. This selection of jewelry goes with just about everything, although I have admittedly cheated a couple of times.

I realize that countless numbers of people in this world could not pare down their wardrobe to 33 items because they don't even own that many things. That makes me feel a little guilty and self-indulgent...here I am, spending a significant amount of time and energy trying to have less. But it shows me that there are other and more meaningful ways to spend my resources, and I don't just mean money. Paradoxically, all this cleaning out has caused me to focus on things more than usual and I am anxious to reach the next step and think about something loftier. This project has been a kick-in-the-butt for me to actually do something substantial instead of just going thru the bookshelves once again. It is showing me how a less cluttered life would feel, and I like it.

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