It’s Saturday. It’s just shy of 8 a.m. All week I’ve been looking forward to the weekend, knowing I would have two days to myself to continue my declutter decathalon.
Um, IT IS NOT GOING WELL.
The guestroom is my current huge declutter challenge. I am only working on it every other weekend thanks to a weird summer scheduling situation. I started in early summer and the going was SLOW at first, but I picked up steam and made great progress during the weekend before July 4th. And company is coming to visit soon, which is happy and exciting so I was more motivated than ever (I thought?) but … I obviously wasn’t able to de-hoard years of clutter in two days over the holiday weekend.
By Sunday evening (July 2nd) the Captain was back so everything I had dragged out of the room got stacked up in new piles. I couldn’t make the man tiptoe through a box minefield. And before I could blink, the holiday was over and I was back at work, long hours, etc. Then the cleaning crew came this week so I had to move the stacks of sorting boxes from the hall back into the guest room and ugh. This feels like going backwards! Like anti-progress.
So everything is back in the guest room and now I feel like Sisyphus With The Good Hair rolling that big boulder up the mountain except my boulder is cardboard boxes of crap and wasn’t I just doing this same thing last week?
I am feeling super demotivated. Putting all the boxes back into the guest room felt like taking a step back on my progress timeline.
This morning I have done a peculiar little routine about seventy times: walk into the guest room. Look around. Realize I have no idea where to begin. Desire to start everywhere at once and also start nowhere because it is overwhelming. Feel anxiety rise steeply. Begin to perspire under one armpit. Walk out.
So now I’m going to drink a cup of tea and calm myself down and figure out WTF.
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Update: Noon o’clock
I have done the laundry. And fixed a CSS problem with the dateline text on this site, and walked into that room six more times so I’m leaving. I’m going to the grocery store. If I cannot be productive here I need to do something, anything, that feels like movement.
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OK. Grocery store done and I came home and cooked lunch and now I’ve walked in there twice and I cannot muster the motivation to dive in and that room makes me anxious. It also feels like the clock is ticking and I am wasting time (which I hate but somehow makes it more paralyzing).
Motivation isn’t just going to come today in a big jolt, clearly, so I’m going to have to push myself to start somewhere and then motivation will come afterwards. Have decided to sort through the DVDs. It’s easier because I don’t have too many and they are all contained in one place downstairs.
AHA OK PROGRESS! I didn’t get rid of too many DVDs — 14 total — but it felt good to simply start and finish a task and make some small improvement. Now I’m going to do a sweep of the downstairs bookshelves and make myself get rid of at least one item per shelf. There are six shelves total, should be easy.
Done and wow, I managed to put THIRTY books in the donate box. Pretty impressive progress if I do say so myself. It has freed up space, too, so a lot of the overflow books which had made their way into the guest room now have a proper place.
I had an especially strange and unsettling moment while choosing books for the donate pile. I picked up a book that’s been in my collection for probably ten years — Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth. I haven’t read it yet. It is a really nice paperback version, though it’s huge. That book is like carrying around an Office Depot catalog.
During the first pass of declutter selection my fingers had skipped right over it, keeping it safely on the shelf. Then, as the process picked up momentum, I found it easier to discard things so I did another sweep. My eyes landed on the Ken Follett book. I picked it up and moved to place it in the donate box but then I froze in place in the living room, standing there like an odd stork spread halfway between the shelf and the donate box. I didn’t want to let go of it. Mind you I have never read this book and therefore it’s not a treasured favorite or a reference book or signed by the author or anything notable.
But for some reason I was paralyzed. I stood there for a minute and started to feel creeping discomfort. Well this was weird and silly. Right? I quickly placed the book in the discard pile and went outside on the patio for a moment.
Look, I’m not attached to that book. And I know it is well within my power to buy that exact book again should I ever need it. So what the actual F was going on?
I believe that book represented an idea, a vision I had for my life. It’s an enormous tome, not a quick read on a Sunday morning. When I bought it about a decade ago (ugh) I imagined myself having the unbroken stillness and pleasure of free time to dive into such a book. I associate that kind of experience with peak hygge, cozy long afternoons with a cup of hot tea, all curled up on the bed with this longass book and occasionally looking out the window at the rain. Not just for an hour but for a whole day, two days. Some luxurious space inside my life to simply read and lounge in pajamas.
Yet that describes the polar opposite of my daily life. So it’s a fantasy, one I hope to achieve by paring down in many aspects of my life both physical and existential.
My discomfort was the realization that I have that dream for my life and letting go of the book felt like I was giving up on myself. Which is all nonsense. Doing this is to create space and space creates opportunity. So here’s a big middle finger to that part of my brain which is trying to turn me into a hoarder.
Later (and probably finally?) 7 PM
It worked (kind of). Doing smaller, simpler declutter activities definitely sparked my motivation engine and I managed to get a little work done in the guest room. I collected all my long-neglected sewing supplies into one pile, and sorted the knitting stuff into a general area, and did a culling pass through both. Tomorrow it’s time to get in there and pare down on books. My goal is to get down to 50% of what I currently have, so send Xanax and cookies because it’s going to be a wild ride to insane town but I am going innnnnnnn.