Clearing my (psychic) clutter, Day 15: When to add, when to subtract


Earlier in this hellish undertaking, I tossed off a remark about wanting treats, and wondered aloud what form they should take.

Should they be consumables and services, things like journals and soaps, massages or coaching sessions? Stuff that I can use and enjoy, but that doesn't stick around and add to the problem I'm working hard to eliminate?

Or should they be strictly time-based: an afternoon off to putter as reward for blasting through a shoebox of old photos, or a couple of hours of daily reading in exchange for 20 minutes of hard-core weeding in my "@action" gmail tag? Given the nature of what I'm trying to accomplish, the removal of items that are blocking my path and obstructing my vision, it would seem counterproductive on the face of things to bring more items into my life. At least, not immediately.

One of the peculiar things I've grappled with all my life, though, is this Depression mentality. Or rather, Depression/Rockefeller mentality: either I'm clipping coupons and plotting out which things I save more money on by buying with gift cards vs. paying for with a credit card (my final rule: buy tax-deductible shit on a credit card, and household essentials or groceries or other fun stuff with gift cards), or splurging on a maxed-out 15" MacBook Pro while I still have a perfectly zippy iMac and an operable, if sluggish, 12" PowerBook G4. I blame my crazy parents and my even crazier grandparents, both sides, for the problems I have with letting go and with going to town (although admittedly, most people, my shrink included, laugh at my idea of "going to town.")

So I decided that as long as I was experimenting with pitching crap that was no longer useful, I'd also play around with adding things that I really and truly needed, or at the very least, that would make life easier without putting too much of a dent in things. As LPC, wise scribe behind the magic that is A Mid-Life of Privilege (which you should be reading, if you are not already), said in a comment on my post on traveling cheap, sometimes one must spend a bit of money in the right places to get the most out of both those places and the getting-to them.

Here, then, a list of three pairs of things, stuff I've pitched and corresponding new things I've put into rotation:

OUT: Almost a full year's worth of monthly disposable contact lenses for astigmatism. I bought and wore these while I acted, because Casual Moms do not wear nerd glasses (usually). These cost a fuckload of money and were integral to my getting hired and being able to work back in the day. Today, they had become things for which I once paid a fuckload of money and now sat neatly lined up in my top bureau drawer, taking up room and making me feel horrible every time I looked at them.

IN: A new pair of glasses I will actually be able to both see out of and read with. That's right: bifocals! I've tried them once before, but wasn't ready. Now I admit defeat. Also, the Highway Patrol in OR will kick your ass across the state if you screw up along certain stretches. With a two-year-old RX, I was looking at some PacNW ass-kicking.

BOTTOM LINE, $-wise and lesson-wise: I suck. Okay, I don't suck, but hoarding doesn't work. I've bought up multiples of lots of things thinking it would save me down the road. Inevitably, I grow tired of the thing before I run out, or grow out of it before it wears out, or the weevils get it, get it, right? Don't end up like my grandparents, dying with a linen closet full of 20-year-old bottles, glass bottles, of separated hair conditioner. Let it go, Joe.

OUT: Charming and stylish and perfectly fine cosmetics bags with black interiors.

IN: Charming and stylish and brand-new cosmetics bags with light interiors. Because after age 40, you cannot get enough light into your eyes, ever, it seems, to suss out the contents of the Black Hole of Cosmetics Death.

BOTTOM LINE: I foolishly spent 20 perfectly good dollars to replace two perfectly good items. Only they weren't. Because I've already saved a good 20 minutes of fishing time. Ladies! Rise up against the dark interior!

OUT: Bags and bags and bags of clothes. Some that were barely worn. Many that were worn through, "squinty" clothes, where if you squint when you look at yourself in them, you almost can't see where they're bagging or threadbare or pulling. Others which didn't pass the Dorie Test ("Does this make me feel sexy  or not?") or the Palmer Test ("If I saw this in a store today, would I buy it?"). These, by the way, are the two GREATEST questions to ask when shopping or weeding, especially in combination with a style consultation by the brilliant Dorie or her ilk.

IN: Two pairs of brand, spanking new pants from the Gap that actually fit, one of which I took immediately to the tailor to make sure it did. Two new bras, because everything looks better when the girls are in good hands. A slew of new underpants (Mom, I'm ready to get hit by that bus, finally!). And, because dammit, it's fun, a couple more vintage leather jackets and a pair of completely useless, 100% awesome pants with a Pucci-esque print.

BOTTOM LINE: Like it or not, clothes are costumes. You'll feel better if you're well-turned out. I can almost guarantee this.

The most important thing, of course, is the Getting Rid Of. But it is worth looking at where life might be made better by loosening up the purse strings and acquiring: a book you've checked out of the library five times might be worth owning your own, non-scum-crusted copy of. A good pair of shoes makes walking easier, and may save you big on knee surgery down the road. The right jacket makes you feel killer delivering a presentation, which can lead to all sorts of wonderful things for you and the recipients of your awesomeness.

And the digging out might turn up a few things of new utility that can stay in rotation. I found a spare USB hub, set it up with a mouse and pad at The BF's, and now have one less thing to trundle back and forth.

Of course, once I streamline locations, I'll need to renegotiate my ownership of mice and pads.

But that is another post for another day...


Image by Creole Collection via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.