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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A moment to spare

Just in case you were under the impression that I had cluttered up only one room of my apartment (perhaps in some sort of Picture of Dorian Gray fashion), let me disabuse you of the notion by showing you a picture of the area beside my bed.

This has been how my beside has look for ... oh ... lets just say 30 years.  Being in decluttering mode, I stopped and looked at this one day (and took this picture) and pondered for a moment what this was telling me about myself.  I noted that half of the books there were ones I had borrowed from the library just because they had caught my eye and when I got them home, I read about ten pages and decided they weren't worth reading.  [Note to self - read those ten pages in the library and you won't have to carry the books home and back to the library again.]  I also noted that the one book I was really interested in (The Places That Scare You by Pema Chodron) had been neglected in favour of the books I should have left in the library. It made me realise that not only do I indiscriminately fill my space with things that I don't really want and that I certainly don't need, I do the same thing to my mind.

This realisation was further reinforced when I tried to re-borrow The Places That Scare You to have time to finish reading it, only to have my request rejected because somebody else had reserved it.  I decided then to stop acting like a kid in a lolly shop at the library and to try to read only a couple of books, and preferably one, at a time. (Much to the joy of my husband who has been telling me to do this for years.) 

Today I was reminded of a guy I read about early on in my decluttering travels.  He was the ultimate couch potato, but decided to declutter his house.  After starting small, he eventually got the whole place sorted with the final item to go being his TV, because he didn't watch it anymore.  

At the time I read this I just couldn't imagine life without television.  I was spending three to four hours a day watching TV and couldn't see how I could reduce that down.  In our home, we have a PS3 with PlayTV and are in the habit of "taping" whatever catches our fancy in the TV guide.  As a result, the PS3 regularly fills up and we try to watch the shows to empty space so we can tape more shows.

But something strange has happened in the last couple of weeks.  First, the PS3 filled up again. At first I thought nothing of it, but by this Friday just past, we had recovered half the disk space (has never happened before) and I found myself clicking through the remaining shows and thinking "no, don't think I'll bother" for each and every one.  I actually found myself staring at the TV with nothing to watch.  I can't remember this happening since we got our first hard-disk recorder about four years ago.

Then today, my husband asked me about three times what I wanted to watch on TV and each time I said something along the lines of - "I want to get X done first".  As a result, I realised that there has been a shift.  I no longer tape things just for the sake of it, I usually only tape things I know I want to watch and if, occasionally I tape something just because, say, the title caught my attention, rather than watch the whole thing, I will watch if for a few minutes and delete it if it doesn't really interesting me.  Hence, for the first time in years, I found myself with nothing to watch (if only for a few hours).
So what has caused this shift?  My theory is that decluttering gets you into the habit of evaluating.  Evaluating what? Evaluating everything!

Decluttering is almost pure evaluation (and a little bit of moving things around).  You evaluate every item you come across to determine whether to keep it, give it to someone you know, give it to charity, try to sell it on eBay or to simply toss it in the trash/recycling (note, as time goes by the validity of that last option becomes increasingly apparent).

Decluttering gives you a true appreciation on how much you have and the realisation that its far too much. You realise that the easiest way to deal with things is to not buy them in the first place, so you stop shopping.  But the evaluation habit spreads, to books, to TV, to all the other things you are in the habit of doing, until one day, you find yourself for the first time in a long time, with a spare moment, an actual real spare moment in which you don't feel any pressure to do anything - and its wonderful!


  1. I thought I was looking at a picture of my bedside when I first saw this! : )

  2. Unfortunately, while I did tidy it up after taking this photo, its gone back to the way it was now.