19 May 2008

Are you a hoarder?

Do you have trouble getting rid of random, useless junk? Do you often find yourself vying for space with broken, useless, or irrelevant stuff? Does your desk resemble the fallout from a nuclear war?

I slowly see the creeping, clawing caresses of the stuff starting to take over my house. I valiantly struggle to purge things for which I haven't found a use, but even so, I find myself wondering why I'm holding on to some things that I don't use on a regular basis. Does anyone else hold onto things for those once-in-a-while projects?

My Achilles' heel on this count is kitchen gadgets. I have a bread machine and crock pot. Now, for one thing, I have excellent bakeries all over the city that make excellent vegan bread. I also have the corner store that sells vegan rye fairly cheaply, and Steve and I both love it. And yet, there is a bread machine that my mother gave me when she came to visit from CT. I have used it, but not that often. It's so cheap to get bread that I don't think it's worth the aggravation of making it.

Mind you, even when I do make bread, I have recipes that involve no kneading. I also have recipes that don't even involve yeast (like banana bread, or soda bread), which means that the bread machine is useless. Come to think of it, although the smell was lovely, it's a LOT of space to take up in a New York apartment for something I'm not using regularly. And yet, because I know that I will use it, I don't feel right in getting rid of it.

Ditto this on my crock pot. I cook most of my beans on the stove, because I haven't been able to afford the long-cooking ones, like chick peas ever since I moved here. Even in bulk, they're over $1 a pound, and I'm not willing to spend that. So instead of relying on the crock pot for my beans, I'm perfectly content to throw it on the stove, and have food ready in an hour. And yet, it's still here, isn't it?

Compound this with the extra clothes I never wear, the books I don't read (ever since I discovered the library, audio books, and librivox books), and spices I don't use daily. Ditto this on pots I don't use, and plates I don't use (I prefer to eat in bowls). When you look at the sum total of stuff I don't use regularly, it doesn't add up to much. When you spread it out over a New York apartment, on the other hand, it does.

What /is/ it about stuff that makes us cling so hard to it? It can't strictly be the utility, because not everything we hold onto is useful. It shouldn't necessarily be sentimental, because we have video recording, audio recording, and digital cameras at the touch of a button. Why, even my computer has a camera built in! When you really think about it, that "stuff" is holding you back from actually enjoying your life.

My concession has been to relegate the non-essentials to places where I don't see them regularly. My bread machine is tucked away in a cabinet I never look in, because it's too out of my way. My crock pot is in the bottom of the pantry closet. Those dishes I'm not using every day have now become tucked away in another cupboard I don't use a lot. When/if I entertain a lot of people here, I'll pull them out, and go to town. Until then, they can hang out away from my direct line of sight.

My mother is going through the grand purge right now. She's got over 15 years worth of junk piled up, and no place to store it. She and my sister (and their respective husbands) are all about to move to Arizona. This means that they can't take everything, because they're not driving all that way. Everything must go. If they don't get it to people who can use it, they'll have to throw it away, which to someone who can't bear to part with /anything/, is tantamount to torture.

I quietly fear getting to that level, where I can't bear to throw away something that is of no use to me. I remind myself daily that it's very easy to fall victim to those "let me just get a backup of that thing," or "I can still use ______ part!" When my rice cooker finally gave out, I got rid of the whole thing. I could have kept the pot, and the lid. Instead, in the interest of "I'm getting a new one anyway," we got rid of it as a full set. Let someone else enjoy that piece, and clutter up their place.

As for me, I have more useless stuff to buy.