I Still Have Too Much Stuff

About six months ago, I ridded my home and my classroom of a ridiculous number of things I didn’t need: thousands of books, half a closet-full and several drawers-full of clothes, keepsakes that I didn’t need to keep around to remember the person or event, extraneous dishes, redundant office supplies, unused furniture, files and files of notes, drafts, and documents. I gave away the majority of items, sold a smaller chunk, and disposed of the rest (and even had to rent a dumpster for a week to do so).

It was appalling.

I went from nine overflowing large bookshelves in the house to four neatly filled ones, I created space for kitchen items that never quite fit into their designated spots before, and I even made enough room in the garage to fit my car. I made a habit of making things tidy before I went to bed, and all was good.

Then I went back to (more than) full time work. As department head, union rep, teacher of three different preps, and part-time student, I come home exhausted. Making sure the dining and end tables are cleared off before I collapse into bed has slowly ceased to be a priority, and it shows. The clutter hasn’t gotten to pre-summer levels, so at least I can catch up on weekends, but it does bother me that I can’t keep it tidy everyday.

Some things are forced upon me; despite taking myself off every mailing list and opting out of phone books and junk mail, I still get a daily mailbox full of unsolicited ads. At least now I can use those for composting, but it’s frustrating.

Then there are the hundreds of pages of photocopies I collect from meetings at work. We’re usually sent things digitally, so why bother with the hard copies that are just going to be recycled or trashed? Imagine how much the district could save in photocopying! But because we get hard copies, and because I write notes on them, I end up hanging onto them through the school year.

For a while there I was ordering a bunch of plastic-free replacement items, and that meant shipping boxes and packing material. But for a few Amazon air pouches, the deliveries have had no plastic, at least, so I can compost or recycle it all in time, but it’s still a waste and is currently taking up space.

I think I’ve gotten what I need to be healthy and produce less waste, but I still find myself needing to shop. Today, for instance, I need to replace a pair of jeans that has worn out past the point where I can wear them to work, get a pair of black flats to wear to a funeral (I have black shoes, but my injury doesn’t allow me to wear heels; I’ll likely get a lot of use out of the shoes), get some refill paper for my binders for school and work, and get some printer paper for the same. I also have to go grocery shopping, but that’s to be expected.

My goal today as I go to the dreaded mall is to not get anything I don’t need. I have a list, and I plan to stick to it. I know the items on my list because they’re replacing things I’ve run out of or worn out. I’m not aimlessly shopping. I’m hoping to make that my system forever.

But sometimes things make it to a list that shouldn’t, and I still have more stuff than I have room for — yes, even after the great purge of 2014 — so what am I to do?

I have a bit of a plan, but it’s time intensive, so I’m not sure if I’ll be able to stick to it. Here’s what it is:

I’m going to keep a tally of everything I use each week, all the way down to dishes and clothes. I’ll also include things I have that I don’t exactly use, but do appreciate (I rarely go a day without appreciating the art above our mantle, for example). If this project seems a bit OCD, that’s because it is.

In addition to listing the things I use and the frequency of use, I also want to make a master list of everything I have. That’s going to take an especially long time, but I’m going to give myself until the end of summer, and I may not even begin until after school’s out. I am in no way a minimalist, so the list is going to be long, and just like I discovered when I went through all my school things last year, I know there are going to be embarrassing redundancies.

But such a list will help me decide what I can get rid of and keep me from buying things I don’t need. The former will free up space and make cleaning easier, and the latter will save on packaging waste and just waste in general.

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