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Saturday, June 18, 2011

Saturday Sorting

Today is Saturday, a good day for a little home organizing and sorting. When the week is busy (I have a traditional schedule) it's so nice to come home in the evening and have things be picked up and put away, clean towels in the bathroom, clean clothes in my closet, etc. Although it is surprisingly so much easier to keep things organized while ONE person is temporarily living in the house rather than FOUR, I still have found it very helpful to limit our overall number of possessions. Also to make sure that everything has a home. The first is because often, everything ends up being pulled out and scattered around, creating a very chaotic atmosphere. Less things overall translates into less living space chaos. The second is because the things that always seem to be laying around on surfaces such as the floor, the table, or pretty much any flat surface often don't have a home--that's why they're laying around in the first place. Papers that can't be easily categorized and filed. Bits of toys that might belong to something, but no-one is sure. I'm looking at my floor right now: Mismatched socks, mostly filled sketchpads by the boys (keep? Recycle? Finish using?), an I-Pod box, birthday cards.  In a small house, I must admit, my inclination is to be ruthless. But it's hard. I still struggle with emotional attachment to things, the memories they evoke for me, even though I know I will have those without the objects.

I find it so interesting how Minou and I have influenced each other over the years in terms of organization. When we met, he used to spend quite a bit of time sorting and organizing papers, etc., and I could never understand the time it took, though I admired his patience. I still remember the thrill I got the first time I looked into his closet, with sweaters neatly folded and other things on hangers (my clothes were probably all piled on a chair or the floor, at that point.) We also had certain other differences in standards: it bothered him strongly if water dripped on the floor from wet hands after, say, washing dishes. This was utterly incomprehensible to me. Water is what we use to clean the floor. How could that be a problem? Now that we have a big brown dog who enjoys spilling his water bowl all over the floor and laying in it, I understand the mess a lot of water on the floor can make (especially when said dog has muddy paws). But I'm digressing. The basic issue is that in many ways, we have swapped roles. I'm the one now who fusses about properly filing papers and putting objects away in their homes.

We are also different in our approach to possessions. I was thinking about this in response to this very interesting post about minimalism in the family over on Miss Minimalist. My minimalist-ish tendencies have definately developed slowly over the years, though I can look back into childhood and see the seeds of them. Now, I want to live with just enough. It's partly an environmental bent, but it's also more visceral. I often feel a little suffocated by the idea of many possessions or by being in a physically cluttered space. For Minou, a historic preservationist, the story behind each object is important. It's painful for him to let go of them for that reason. He also grew up in a family where his mother regularly purged possessions (they had a small home) that had a lot of meaning to him, increasing his tendency to want to hold on. Minou is definately minimalist with regard to clothing (as those who know him in real life can confirm)--basically he has and wears the least amount possible. Books are what he loves most. I love them too, but they are so difficult to move. We also have an amazing public library in the city where I live, so I don't feel quite as compelled to own all the books that I want to read. And let me be clear: we are certainly, certainly in no danger of being a Home Without Books (several friends I've talked to about this have said "But think of the children!") I'm looking at and sorting my personal books. I have several categories. I still have a few of my dad's books, mostly art and photography. Poetry. And then groups related to my degrees. Art history. A shelf of China-studies books, some from my undergraduate years and some passed on by a friend who is a Chinese history professor. A shelf of language-teaching books (also a file drawer of notes and articles from my MA, which I someday plan to scan and purge). Want to hang on to these because I may go back to ESL teaching and want them as a resource. A shelf of books related to childbirth that I gathered during doula years (these have been great for loaning out to pregnant friends and aquaintances). A large shelf of nursing textbooks. Should I keep these? I also have them digitally; they came as a giant set from the publisher along with an electronic version. Not sure. I definately want the content. Then a shelf of binders full of, again, notes and handouts and articles from nursing school. I'd like to digitalize these too. Finally, the ones I started looking at last night, the textbooks for nursing school prerequisites. The anthropology and psychology textbooks are interesting....but will I ever re-read them? And do I really need to keep all the algebra textbooks? I had held onto them thinking "If I decide to do another degree at some point I'll have to retake statistics..." , and that is probably true. But I certainly hope I wouldn't have to go back and review all the algebra (I do not use it in my current job position, for which I am grateful!). And besides, there would likely be new textbooks. What I've noticed is that each time I sort, I go a little deeper into my reasons for keeping something and my exploration of whether I need to.

Enough philosophizing for the moment, and time to get on with the process.
What about you?
I'd love to hear about the sorting process in your home, how you decide what to keep, and how that plays out in relationships...

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