Last weekend, I helped a friend move. Moving someone else’s stuff gave me a good perspective on my own space and my own stuff. When Eric moved in (to my one bedroom apartment), we never really talked about it. We came back from spending Christmas in South Carolina with his family, he just stayed at my place. For a day, for a week, for a month.
Eventually, I cleeared out a few drawers for him and part of my closet. This meant that I had to finally use the broken drawer in my IKEA dresser. About once a month I pull the drawer out in a fit, drop it somewhere in the bedroom, and announce, “That lives there now.”
But helping Megan decide where to put things in her new place, I got ideas for my place. She stores her tupperware in the pantry? That’s way better than keeeping them in a bottom cabinet where they tend to be hard to find and spill everywhere! Since she was downsizing apartments, she was thinking about how to maximize space, which, in turn, got me thinking about all the stuff I have filling up the 650 square feet Eric and I share.
I tend to be a little bit of a pack rat. I just worry that when I get rid of something, I’ll need that very thing a week later. But I don’t have room to keep everything. Periodically, I clean out my closet, but I never get rid of books. I have 6,000 bottles of lotion and 1,000 candles I never burn (all numbers are rough estimates, but they feel true.)
We also have boxes for electronics that I didn’t want to recycle because….we’ve only had the Roku a year. What if we need to return it? What if we move in a year or 5 years, and we want to pack them away neatly in their original packaging?
I also started reading a book called Life is Too Short to Fold Fitted Sheets. In a telling example of my book rat packer-y, I bought it for $2 on iTunes because I thought it was a collection of humor essays. It is not. Instead, it is a book that I need, but would probably not have bought for myself if I’d taken the time to read the description instead of impulse buying it. It’s a book about how to cut corners and still have a clean, stylish house.
The thing that keeps coming up is the idea that in a small space, the less stuff you have, the more room you have. That’s totally obvious math, but as I was helping Megan move, I said something about how I have a box of books I never unpacked from my last move. Three years ago. Instead, I had adjusted by moving the box to an out of the way corner where I could easily just walk around it without ever wondering what books were in there.
Streamlining my place is going to be a pretty big job.
The nice thing about getting older, is that I know myself better. My tendency is to say that I will take a day and just purge the whole house of junk. Then, I will turn the TV on for background noise, clean for 30 minutes, and then get sucked into a Bones marathon on Netflix. Because I know that this is a lie I tell myself, ,I can pick a new approach. I get overwhelmed with housework when I try to do it all at once. Instead, I am tackling one foe at a time. I started today by tackling all the boxes we have lying around. First, I made sure Eric didn’t need or want any of them, and then Iswept the house on what I am sure will be the first of many passes. I carried out three boxes of boxes (and other recyclables), and I alreadyfeel better Seeing tangible progress is addictive. I went on to clean out the fridge, and suddenly I realized that I’ll have room for the new bedding I got from my sister-in-law if I get rid of the old quilt we had on the bed that (a) was too small and (b) didn’t match the rest of the bedding.
I think the big realization is that I haven’t liked how cramped the house was, but, I also wasn’t being mindful about identifying and addressing the problem. When I take the time to pay attention, and I keep my goals small and doable, things have started to get done. We could still use more space–if one person wants to read or work and the other wants to watch TV, it’s hard to make both things possible without one of us distracting the other. But, I feel good about the idea that we can make the space we have fee less cramped.