Friday, December 18, 2009

Random Thoughts on Decluttering and My Year of Temperance

I can never think clearly when I declutter. I usually stop writing when I am working on a big decluttering effort because as much as I wish it were different, the state of my kitchen and the state of my mind are generally a pretty accurate reflection on one another.

In one week my father is moving in with us. This is a good thing. I promise. My dad is great. He's crazy as a junebug, but in a good way, and a way I think will compliment the nuerosis of the rest of the family quite nicely. The thing is, we are giving him our bedroom. Our lovely master suite tree house room with the lock on the door.

This means that Zach and I have to build a new room for ourselves in what used to be the storage basement. Two years ago when we moved in this room was 450 square feet of what I refer to as Ancestral Clutter, a mix of everything from fine, well made antiques that used to belong to a great-great-great grandparent to my third grade spelling test to, I kid you not, a pewter armadillo.

There's a big lesson in here somewhere and I'm sure a year from now the actual text of that message will be clearer, but for the moment it just feels like a big pile of wrong. This morning I boxed up 75 pieces of stemware. 75. Pieces of stemware. And not wine glasses, because I got rid of 50 of those last year. These were brandy snifters and cordial glasses and toddy cups (I just heard my mother's voice in the back of my head, 'you didn't get rid of the toddy cups? Now what will you do when you want a nice hot toddy? Um. Use a coffee cup?) and even 6 glasses who's purpose is a complete mystery to me.

On the odd occasion when I indulge in a glass of wine or a scotch, I drink it out of a juice glass, a habit that confounds members of my family but one that has never once inhibited my enjoyment of a drink. I drink beer from the bottle.

I'm not trying to be a bummer. It's freeing, in a way, to see all of this stuff go out the door, the ceramic Christmas village and the 12 nutcrackers that will be sold by my favourite thrift shop to support victims of human trafficking, but it does bring up a lot of concerns.

Temperance, the virtue I have been working to cultivate this year is meant to be employed at the point where pleasure conflicts with reason. Clearly, it is a virtue that would have come in handy at some point for my family, but I know that this story isn't really unique. They wouldn't have made pewter armadillos with the symbol of the state of Texas on them if they weren't reasonably sure somone would buy them. How have things gotten so out of whack that the manufacturing of such a useless item would be considered a good business risk?

Sigh. See, this is why I don't blog when I declutter. I'm such a wet blanket. No worries. By next week I'll have worked through this misanthropy and I'll be back to my sunny happy self, minus 75 pieces of stemware and a pewter armadillo.


  1. I think you've written a very profound post. I've wondered the same thigns--not about a pewter armadillo, but about similarly weird and useless objects like a giant plastic doll with an ice cream tied to her neck. That's a lot of stemware. I hope things go well with your dad moving in.

  2. Wow. A giant plastic doll with an ice cream cone around it's neck. I can't quite wrap my head around that. I'm telling you, it's a crazy world we are living in.