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08/30 What I would bring in

The estate sale agent contacted me this morning and will be coming over one day this week to assess my household and, hopefully, take on the project of selling most of my stuff.

How is this going to work, anyway? Being a planning sort of person, and not a little obsessive, I did a thought experiment. It went like this:

You've arrived home after a long, long trip around the world. You've been gone for many years. You have a suitcase, a source of money, and the address of the vacant, minimally-furnished house that's going to be your new home. Your personal Jarvis has overseen all the acquisition and preparation of the house, so you know it's going to be the perfect mostly-blank canvas for your new life.

Here's the exercise:

Level One: What's in your suitcase?
Level Two: What's already in the house?
Level Three: What do you go out and acquire the first day so you can get on with life?
Level Four: What do you get once you've settled in for a couple of weeks?
Level Five: You invite some friends to dinner. What do you acquire for that?

My answers make five lists. What's on those lists goes into the Personal On Demand Storage unit. The estate sale company liquidates everything else. Then I move back in.

The result isn't as austere as you might think. Instead, the exercise has drastically reduced the hold that the majority of my stuff has on me--stuff with market value, stuff with sentimental value, stuff with identity value--and clears the emotional decks in a surprising way.

If I only consider what I would bring in to a completely empty house--and not what I have to get rid of from a lifetime's collection, I seem to unhook my identity from my possessions, and transfer it to the empty house and the fresh start.

Crossposted from Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comments.


( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 9th, 2013 08:14 am (UTC)
I can't tell you how impressed I am by your resolution. I'm in the process of moving home - a process which has taken longer than intended - and I thought it would be an opportunity to get rid of some of the suff I've accumulated. But I'm so bad at doing it! When I read your lists I thought - well, all my books would have to be on one of those lists. Parting with books is what I find most difficult.

I'm going to have to try some version of your exercise, but (at least to start with) I'm going to have to exclude books from it. Otherwise I just won't do anything.

Here's a bit of special pleading - I don't think it's bad to keep some of the things which have sentimental and identity value. I suppose there are degrees within those definitions.

I'm glad that you're staying in what looks to me to be a very attractive home, rather than moving into a condo.
Sep. 9th, 2013 04:19 pm (UTC)
ravurian said much the same thing, and I'm mulling it over. There are a very few items of the keepsake sort that would have no sale value and that I might want to keep--almost all of them digitizable.

I said to him, and I'll mention to you, that a first--or sixth--question could very legitimately be "What did I leave with another family member before I went off on this amazing journey?" Maybe that's the catch-all for identity-pieces.

I actually do own a few books--not many anymore--and there might be one or two that I want to keep. They're kind of a special case. Ha ha. A book case.
(Deleted comment)
Sep. 9th, 2013 04:34 pm (UTC)
I often think that for all the many social and presumably health-related prices I pay for living alone, the huge offsetting advantage is that I alone get to decide about my space.

There are psychological issues behind hoarding, of course. I had to clear a bunch of mine in my first major decluttering a few years ago, and the extent to which some remain is perfectly reflected in the pockets of untouched "keepsake" identity items that I never managed to get rid of back then. You never know: your husband could have an epiphany!

Meanwhile, I hope you get your peaceful and uncluttered room.
(Deleted comment)
Sep. 9th, 2013 10:47 pm (UTC)
Absolutely! I'm keeping almost all my art, my best silver, my gorgeous handmade plates, my knitting needles, my favorite bed linens, my patio chairs, my garden fountain, really most of my clothes, my French press, my kettle...

Well, you get the picture! The idea isn't a monastic level of self-abnegation. More like Oscar Wilde: only the best!
(Deleted comment)
Sep. 11th, 2013 02:19 am (UTC)
When I write my book, How To Live Your Life the DarkEmeralds Way, which I know will be a huge hit, I'll be sure to include a Level 6 in the thought experiment.

I crack myself up, I really do. Once, when I expressed surprise that anyone would take me seriously as a source of advice on anything, kispexi2 said, "Well, you do write with a lot of authority." I try to curb it, but I'm apparently not doing very well. I need to revisit that problem.
Sep. 9th, 2013 11:47 am (UTC)
Wonderful!! I love your brain.
Sep. 9th, 2013 04:35 pm (UTC)
Hah! Thank you. It is the source of much angst for me, but now and then it does me a solid favor.
Sep. 9th, 2013 08:03 pm (UTC)
So very impressive. I should think about something like this, but considering how difficult I find it to rid myself of old magazines....
Sep. 9th, 2013 10:39 pm (UTC)
There are layers, and everyone probably defines them a little differently. Magazines and papers seem to form an important and difficult-to-clear layer for a lot of people. They did for me.

Decluttering isn't a universal good, either--I'm sure it's not the right approach for everyone. I honestly believe that keeping things and "nesting" are part of some people's true nature and should be respected.

For myself, the "empty room" is a guiding light. I really am kind of bare and austere and Mid-Century Modern. But I'm keeping most of my art and a lot of my clothes, and all my computers. And all my knitting needles!
Sep. 10th, 2013 12:18 pm (UTC)
I am in awe of this plan, and a little freaked out. But I much admire you.

I moved into a place with bare walls, and for awhile it looked too empty...now I've added a bit too much clutter and need to cut back. Still, it's so much better than my old place and the contrast helps me see what I want my space to be like...what makes me happy (relative neatness and emptiness with a bit of friendly clutter) and what makes me unhappy (piles of useless stuff and papers I can't get rid of.)

I just bought 2 new paintings for the walls and I realized that I want a bit more decoration to make the place homey.
Sep. 11th, 2013 01:35 am (UTC)
I think "a bit of friendly clutter" and "a bit more decoration to make the place homey" are clear statements of self-awareness. Some people are genuinely happier with a little stuff around, some with none, some with a lot. It's good to know which you are.

I seem to like a little disorder, to judge from the general state of my house, and there are pictures on most of the walls, but I don't tolerate knickknacks or displays of possessions, and I always feel better when everything is tidy and put away. My sister, a very different sort of person, likes collections and keeps them on view (and also keeps them clean, which I'm way too lazy to do).

Papers are just a problem. They have a magical power to make you retain them just because they're made of paper. That was the very hardest thing for me to clear.
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )



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