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Project Empty

The 2007 winter solstice, according to some mystical calendrical believers, started the five-year countdown to the end of history. Or the end of the world. Or at least the end of the Mayan Long Count calendar. What December 21, 2012 will mean varies depending on whether you ask José Argüelles or Fox Mulder, but I figure, hey, if there's the slightest chance that the world's gonna end, I'd better clean my house.

So began Project Empty: Get Rid of All My Crap.

Here's the goal: By the end of 2008, I have a sparsely-furnished, uncluttered, soothingly empty house containing only the essentials of shelter, comfort, hospitality, and enjoyment.

I figure there are five main reasons why I hang on to stuff that doesn't serve these essentials: it was expensive, it was a gift, it was my [mother's] [grandmother's] [etc.], it's irreplaceable, or someday it will fit again.

I've identified 66 separate chunks of clutter that I think I can clear in an hour or less. That's one for every ten square feet of house. I'll start right outside my front door--the porch, the threshold, the entrance to my domain--and work inward and downward from there to the living room (5 separate chunks), the bedroom (29 separate chunks, holy shit), the kitchen (19 chunks), and so on--bathroom, mudroom, back yard, driveway, basement.

I've also identified some handy Project Empty resources. FreeGeek will recycle my old computer crap for a small fee. The Vietnam Veterans of America will pick up usable goods any time, for free, right off my front porch (also? tax deduction). I can take paint and other toxic leftovers to the Metro Hazardous Waste Disposal Center where they will be properly handled, free of charge. The Rebuilding Center (seriously, one of the coolest places in town) will take usable house parts and lumber.

Next steps:
  • decide on the criteria by which I will allow myself to keep something
  • get some trash bags and a few boxes
  • photograph the 66 zones for before-and-after purposes
  • clear a zone or two for warm-ups
Wish me luck!


(Deleted comment)
Jan. 6th, 2008 10:30 pm (UTC)
Actually, part of the impetus for this project was that my housekeeping service has taken to straightening up the little bits and stacks, and cleaning around them. The place has been both pretty clean and pretty neat for the last three years. The miraculous feeling I associate with tidiness seems to have worn off.

I felt ready to tackle the next great mystery of life: actual simplicity. So far, so good--albeit very slowly.
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 7th, 2008 06:10 pm (UTC)
I know just what you mean. I'm not sure how much of it has to do with age. I think we naturally compete more strongly for our share of the goods when we're younger, and that means paying attention and being in the mainstream--as you say, reading magazines and getting haircuts.

I don't do either of those things much anymore. I rarely shop for anything but groceries and household items. I avoid malls like the plague. I haven't had broadcast television on since before I bought the big screen, more than a year ago now. I get my news from blogs, where the advertising tends to be for books, movies, documentaries and other blogs (which I obligingly consume).

Maybe I live in an echo-chamber of my own making, I don't know. But it's pleasantly quiet in here.

I think that may be why this cleanup project has become possible, now that I consider it: the quiet in my mind is seeking expression in my house.



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