Sunday, February 25, 2007

The Saturday Seven - #31

The "Yay, craigslist!" edition

It's gone!



Yay! No more big blank eye staring at me in the bedroom. It feels unbelievably freeing to get rid of this. I got $75 cash for it and had a good craigslist experience to boot. Not only did the buyer show up when he had arranged, he actually called me a few hours later to thank me. How cool is that? Finally having a good craigslist selling experience has given me some new energy to try again with my antique table.

I also returned 6 ridiculous and completely unnecessary plastic popcorn holders that I had gotten from the Target Dollar Spot in December. I did not go to Target that day thinking, "Hey, you know what I need? 6 plastic containers made to look like those paper popcorn holders you get at the movie theater. Because I don't have enough stuff cluttering up my kitchen cabinets. And because, you know, I don't want to eat my popcorn out of just regular old bowls." But there they were, in the Dollar Spot, looking all cute and cool. I thought they would be fun. Until I brought them home and My Old Man asked why we needed them. "They were only a dollar!" didn't really cut it as a reason. Still, it took nearly three months for me to make myself take the things back. Am still trying to learn my lesson about that freakin' Dollar Spot.

Hey, thank y'all for the very kind and thoughtful responses to my last post (both on this blog and in my email inbox). I really didn't know what kind of feedback I'd get from such a post, and, like I said, it felt vulnerable. I appreciate the really great responses. I totally agree with what TheAmpuT said - that life is a series of little deaths. I really feel that, even (especially?) whenever any happy milestone occurs - a wedding, a graduation, my babies walking. Happy things, progress, good stuff, forward motion. But these things also mark the little deaths, too. Just like the giving away of things seems to do as well.

Oh, and perhaps it won't surprise y'all to know, as much as I've been wanting that TV gone, I felt a little sad when I saw the guy walking away with it. Yeah, I know, I'm a little ridiculous.

Total this week: 7.
Total so far: 247.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Remember that you are dust....

In my religious tradition, yesterday was a big day - Ash Wednesday, marking the beginning of Lent. For most people, the emphasis on Ash Wednesday is on repentance. But the day is also meant to be a time for meditating on our mortality. I know that for me, this is certainly a large part of the force of the day. As the minister who puts the ashes on people's heads, it is a strange and difficult (and intimate) thing to say to each of them as I do it, "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return." In more high church traditions, I think people generally say, "Amen." Being Baptists, and not so accustomed to the tradition of the ashes, our folks generally say, "Thank you." I stand up there and tell people they are going to die - and they thank me.

Me? I don't feel so thankful. Perhaps I am a morbid sort, more preoccupied with thoughts of my own mortality than I should be. It started when I was about six years old, and I first realized that my parents would die some day; my sadness over the brutal fact of death has remained with me. Having children has made that sadness all the more acute.

What does this have to do with the Seven Things Project? Startlingly, a lot. I think that one of the reasons I cling to my stuff with such ferocity is that on some subconscious level I think I can hang onto life - all the lost life behind me, all the time already gone. The baby clothes that belonged to my sweet boys? Maybe if I keep the clothes the boys will be fat little babies again some day. The shoes my mother gave me that were hers before she became paralyzed and no longer could wear them (since her feet have swelled to a much larger size), but that have never fit me? Perhaps if I keep them she will walk again some day. The answering machine I have not used or needed for six years, but that has a single message still on it, from my grandmother (who died five years ago), from July 2000, on the event of my engagement, calling to say she wished us "a world of happiness"? Maybe if I hang on to that recording, she will somehow come back.

Irrational, all of it, I know this. Re-reading my words right now, I see it makes no sense at all. There is no going back. Time always races inexorably to the future. Hanging on to bits of the past does not change that, and cannot. I am dust, all of this is dust, and my holding on to so much stuff does not change those facts, it only props up my own illusions.

This is very close to the heart of the issue of stuff for me, or maybe it is the heart. Death, grief, time. Stuff is my defense.

Is getting rid of seven things a week (or thereabouts) changing anything for me? I don't know. For now I guess it's mostly just forcing me to confront my own illusions, and to deal more squarely with my grief over things that cannot be changed.

All of this feels rather intimate and vulnerable and raw to be putting out into cyberspace. But this little project of mine was never meant to be just a random series of Saturday Sevens - it was intended to be an experiment and an exploration, a true grappling with what is going on with me and my things. And the stuff I've written here tonight - it's a true grappling, for sure.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

The Saturday Seven - #30

the "um, no, you're right, I did skip a week" edition

So this winter is kicking my butt. Kicking. My. Butt. I am sick for the third time since Christmas. Each time it starts with my boys and then My Old Man and I also get sick. It's all head cold/chest cold stuff, except the second time I ended up also getting bronchitis and sinusitis. Just as I was getting over it, my uncle died and I flew down for the funeral. A week after I got home, I was sick again.

Why am I whining and complaining about it here? Well, it just seems like all this sickness and stuff is throwing me off of getting any kind of momentum at all, with anything, including my Seven Things project. Last week, I only got rid of one thing, and didn't post about it. I was, however, proud about that one thing. It was my old digital camera, which I gave to my mother (who originally gave it to me for Christmas about five years ago). She had mentioned in passing that she sort of wanted one but wasn't sure she'd use it. This way, if she doesn't use it at least it wasn't a big purchase.

I thought I was going to score two big things gone in one week, starting with the camera. I listed this TV on craigslist and immediately got several bites.

Uh, yeah, I really did post taht picture on craigslist, advertising to the world how messy our bedroom is. This TV is seven years old and in excellent condition. I was asking $100 or best offer, knowing not to really expect $100. Of the numerous people who inquired, several seemed like serious inquiries, and one of them communicated with me a number of times. He was all set up to show up last Saturday at 2:00. We cleaned the bedroom. We didn't put the boys down for their nap at 2, thinking we'd wait until the guy was gone. We waited. We called him and left a message to see what was up. We waited. At about 7:00 that night, we finally decided maybe he wasn't coming. We never heard from him again.

Soooo aggravating. But the good news is - we got our bedroom cleaner than it's been in months.

I listed the TV again on Tuesday, $95 or best offer, got a few inquiries and no follow-ups. Why is it so much work to sell stuff? I know if I put it on freecycle it would be gone in an hour, but I really don't want to give it away. I feel like it's worth something and we could definitely use the money.

Anyway, I couldn't show up here after not posting for two weeks and only have gotten rid of one thing, nearly two weeks ago. So I pillaged my bookshelves and found five more books to part with and one unused shower radio. All of these will go to the church rummage sale. Looking through my bookshelves and my clothes closet, I really don't see how I will find any more books or clothes to get rid of. It is especially difficult for me to part with books of any kind.

Even though letting go of stuff continues to be a struggle, and even though I am completely off my game this winter, I do feel like I am making some deeper, maybe long-term changes regarding stuff. On an organizational level, I am finding a new energy to tackle the chaos that is my house. I have done major work in both the kitchen and the boys' room to try to deal better with the things I am keeping - to try to find a place for everything to live and to put those things back where they belong. My mother is so good at this - why did I not inherit the gene that make you put stuff back where it goes? (I also didn't inherit the gene that makes you establish a place for everything to go)

On a different level, I think I am actually becoming a little more judicious about purchases. Partly because I am trying to do better with how I handle our money (i.e., not spend so much of it!) and partly because this project is really making me see how much stuff I have, which makes me far less anxious to accumulate more. Before, I used to see some little inexpensive thing (like at the Target Dollar Spot!), and I would get it if I wanted it and not feel bad about it because it didn't cost much. Now I find myself thinking, "Where am I going to put this, and is it going to be one of my Seven Things some day?"

That's progress, right?

Total gone this week: 7.
Total gone so far: 240.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

The Saturday Seven - #29

The Two are Better than One Edition

Last week I got rid of one thing. This week, I doubled my effort. woohoo

3 used Advent candles. It would've been 4, except I dropped one on the frozen ground and it shattered. We don't use taper candles except for at Advent, and then we use fresh ones each year. But I didn't want to throw them away. So I asked our Director of Christian Ed if she could use them, and she was happy to take them. There are all kinds of things that she and her volunteer teachers can use for crafts with kids - I have to remember this, so I can quit throwing out things like oatmeal containers. [there were 3 candles, but I didn't really think I should count this as 3 things]

And a caller ID thing, which I donated to our church rummage sale. I got it about 10 years ago, long before I owned a phone that would show the ID right on the phone. Yet I carted this thing to Michigan when I moved here six years ago, and then to our current house when we moved two years later. I decided it really didn't need to be taking up closet space one more minute.

I did try to sell something on craigslist again this week - a 27" color TV, excellent condition. I even got two nibbles, but the first guy never showed up to look at it and I haven't heard back from the other one. I'll try again next week. I was proud of myself just for trying - plus it forced us to clean up the bedroom some, since a stranger might be coming in there to look at the TV. We've had a TV in our bedroom ever since we married (since we both brought nice 27" TVs into the marriage), but we haven't used the one in our bedroom for the last two years, ever since we got rid of cable (sometimes we used to watch separate programs on the two TVs). I will be soooo glad to have the TV out of there.

Even though it was a meager week, I was pleased to get anything done at all. I was out of work sick until Thursday, with bronchitis and sinusitis, and then my uncle died that night and I have been on the phone and online for hours trying to work out the details of getting me down to North Carolina for the funeral. (I'm headed out in the morning.) Considering all the sickness and chaos, I supposed I was doing well to get rid of anything at all. I feel like I'm on the verge of doing a huge clean sweep of a lot of stuff. We'll see....

Meanwhile, I signed up for this:

Wardrobe Refashion '07. I'm so excited!!

Things gone this week: 2.
Things gone so far: 233.