I am by nature, prone to hoarding keeping things that need not be kept – ill-fitting, outdated clothes, blurry photos of people and places I barely remember, copies of articles from old research papers, every single ticket stub. I have a plethora of reasons for not ridding myself of these gratuitous items. I justify holding onto clothes and shoes and accessories with the twofold conviction that I bought them, therefore I should wear them, and it would be wasteful to get rid of a perfectly nice (fill in the blank). Of course, I don’t wear them and so they waste space in my closet, instead of finding use elsewhere. I tuck away little mementos in the name of memory, even though rummaging through them only leaves me confused of their source and frustrated that I have so much junk.
My natural inclination was challenged by my experience living in Rwanda. After ten months living from the supplies in four suitcases and one month living from only two bags, getting rid of the extraneous was not an ideal but an imperative. For our first two months back in Houston, we emptied every crevice in our house, excavating all of the accumulated stuff that we never used. I usually agonize over the most productive disposal of such items, but the urgency to purge the unnecessary usurped any anxiety. Real rubbish went into the trash, and anything with any remote potential went to Goodwill. Some things were harder to get rid of than others, but I would create little rules to guide the process, then I would ruthlessly move forward. I was left relieved and the house was left organized.
This weekend I started getting the craving to downsize once again. At first, I mistakenly thought it was an urge to tidy the house. I cleaned and straightened, putting away almost every last piece of paper, but still the itch remained. I’ve tossed some expired toiletries, deleted some duplicate photos and will probably poke through kitchen drawers, miscellaneous files and my closet. This inclination has caused me to revisit the question, how much is too much?
I will never be minimalist. A friend of mine once told me about her friend’s goal of being able to fit all her possessions in the luggage restrictions of international travel (i.e. two bags, totaling no more than 50 lbs). While a piece of me finds that prospect thrilling, I like having a little more than I actually need. I love acquiring and displaying various and sundry keepsakes from my travels and experiences. I love my eclectic collection of handbags. I love keeping good books. I guess I’m still figuring out the line between the things we appreciate and the extras.
Where do you draw the line? What do you keep? What do you toss? How much is too much?