Archive for the ‘Cut the Crap Redux’ Category

Marginal Utility

Sometimes a phrase sticks in my head, popping up when my brain starts to fly off at the edges.  Marginal utility is one of these.  It hit me this morning that what I’ve been going through for the past week is the law of diminishing marginal utility.  As I consume more, the utility of the items I consume diminishes.

It’s always nice to realize I’m clinging to a phrase because it has an actual significance.

My apartment is filled with things that have diminished marginal utility.  There are only so many things you can use or look at or wear or play with.  I think the most frustrating thing about the process of clearing things out has been that looking around, on the surface of things, it really hasn’t made much of a difference. I haven’t been getting rid of the right things.

The new plan is to only look at the crap that is atop other things and to get rid of that which is not being used or enjoyed.  This includes magazines, decorative junk, books and toys.  Wish me luck.

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Last dork-out clutter clearing post, I swear.  But all of the boxes are gone, the glider, the cart, the easel.  Our emergency water supply is in the pantry instead of the foyer.  I can walk part of the way into my closet for the first time in months.  I feel like a weight has been lifted, as goofy as that sounds.  I hate having too much stuff.  I hate having stuff that doesn’t have a place to be put away.  And most of all, I hate knowing that even though I don’t want it to be so, I own more things than could be used or appreciated.  Even with the sending off of so much, we still have a lot of stuff.  I’m not ready to give up consuming but I really hope this reminds me to really think before I buy.

There is still stuff to go and I’m going to keep working on determining what I really want and need.  At the very least, I want my things to contribute to my happiness instead of contributing to my stress.

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Which is when a man with a van comes to pick up as much of the crap I want outta here as can fit in said van.  I am beyond excited.  So long boxes in the foyer, so long closet full of baby gear, so long glider taking up half of my living room, so long bass amp.

Hellooooo space in storage closet!  Helloooooo new bookcase in dining room to store board games and art supplies.  Hellooooooooooooooooo a room for both of the kids!  Seriously, I am dorking out over this.  I have the little kids’ bookcase and the stuffed animal zoo coming today too, so I’m going to be chomping at the bit to get them put together and arranged although I’m not going to get to it today because of my CSA shift.

So anyway, I’ll be updating my Cut the Crap Redux page after the stuff has left the building, and I suppose I’ll maybe take a few pictures of the mountain of stuff before and after as well, if for no other reason than to remind me when someone comes over and makes an ill-conceived comment about how much stuff we have that I did in fact get rid of a ton 😉

I’m shooting for only keeping that which we will honestly use again (bass amp, kitchen cart) and not that which will be rendered obsolete (baby junk, glider, outgrown clothing, throw pillows.)  I think I have convinced myself to get rid of half of the clothes in my closet but I haven’t actually looked at the stuff in there so I may be just fooling myself.  I also think I have convinced myself to pare down my shoes by half but ditto the above.  I may even have gotten to a place where I can get rid of another box of books, but this is a really touchy area as well.  Intellectually I know we’re being buried under textbooks that we want to keep  but emotionally I still envision a future that includes a fully-stocked library with miles of books in every subject matter and fear that I may get rid of the only book on beginning to run or the last copy of Carp Fishing on Valium I’ll ever find or, heaven forbid, my extensive collection of stupid parenting tomes and then live to regret it.  This last one is especially entertaining as I profess to hate the same and yet have an entire shelf on a book case devoted to same.

I am getting rid of Secret Window though.  That movie was so bad, even Johnny Depp and John Turturro couldn’t save it.


After the baby’s flu booster yesterday I went to the New York Open Center to look at books (yes, books.  I admit it, I have a problem.)  Everyone I spoke to there was so incredibly warm and nice and friendly that I didn’t want to leave.  If it was closer I swear I’d want to live there.  I picked up a book on nonviolence in the age of terrorism and one about ayurveda for women that I am looking forward to reading after I’ve finished at least one of my running projects. I am really happy to have found these little pockets of warmth and human contact over the past week that remind me both that I am a part of something larger and that there are other people out there who value kindness.


I am about halfway through the scarf I am knitting and couldn’t be prouder.  I have managed to knit every day and chant every day, and this while I am packing up and rearranging stuff.  It has had a definite positive impact on my day-to-day mental health and I am pleased to be keeping this as a focus.  I’ll be honest, I prove to myself time and time again that I need these outlets and time and time again I allow myself to give them up in the name of some perceived duty.  I really need to not do this anymore.  Martyrdom is overrated.  I also think that it is important for me to enjoy spending time with myself again.  It’s hard to retain a sense of self-worth when you don’t bother to make time for yourself, and it certainly doesn’t make you want to be your own friend, does it?

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Look!  It’s already the 4th.  I have been ruminating on the specifics of what I want to accomplish this year and while I never make do-or-die resolutions (I know my limitations and my follow-through often sucks), I wanted to put down for posterity the stuff I want to focus on this year.

First, I realized on New Year’s Day when I went to chant that I have really been missing God.  This year I want to focus on regaining a spiritual practice.  I probably won’t be writing very much about this because honestly, it’s really personal and my beliefs need not impinge on y’all.  I’m excited about this, though.

Second, and possibly an even bigger challenge than the first, is getting our stuff under control.  This involves a lot of honest evaluation, and I’m both looking forward to and dreading this.  It’s hard for me to face up to the amount of things we have and I truly think that we are imprisoned by our stuff when it is stuff we don’t love or use regularly.  I know I feel it when I walk through the house and trip over toys and books that just don’t have a place to live when not in use.  I have been conservative in the past about letting things go but this time around I need to remind myself that I am letting my things own me more often than owning my things.

Third, I am going to give a serious go to not eating meat that we don’t get from the CSA (not including fish since we can’t get that locally all the time and I really just eat sushi.)  Its’ being more expensive should help me to generally cut back on meat which can’t be a bad thing for my body or the earth.

Fourth, I am going to take time each day for the following:

  • meditating/chanting (15 min. a day)
  • knitting/weaving/spinning (15 min. a day)
  • yoga (30 min. a day)
  • a walk with the baby  (30 min. a day)

One hour a day, every day, where doing something for and by myself takes priority over the house, the laundry, the internet, and than another half an hour to get outside with the baby so that I can remember to connect with nature (such as it is here in the neighborhood).  This will be, I think, very important to keep me grounded as I go into classes and papers and figuring out how to slot together tasks.  I used to be quite good at getting lots of things done in a day and I’m hoping I can get a true schedule going again.

Fifth, and final, is the Riot/Competence Project.  I am tracking numbers for the Riot again, this time informally in a wee notebook that will fit in my pocket.  I’m going to set up a tab for that when we have completed the first week and all numbers will be kept there.  No spreadsheets, no making things more complicated than they need to be.  Just notes plugged into the calculator each week and then each month when we get the electric bill.  Easy peasy.  For the Competence Project, I will be learning to spin and weave for some time so I reckon as long as I check something off every month or so I’ll be happy.  This is not a big focus of mine at this point but I do want to continue with it.

And that, my friends, is that.  The year in preview as it were, again.  Now all I have to do is get started on it, eh?

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I can’t wait for this to get here.  Got 5 boxes together yesterday; 4 to donate.  The kids’ closet is fully functional for the first time ever.  I finally got a logical, accessible filing system set up.  But oy, the piles left over.  This is the part I really have to focus on now, the miscellaneous crap that never gets a proper place to be put away.

This means I am finished with one closet out of four and one room out of four.  I should be finished with the kids’ room today (not counting the furniture to be removed/inserted hopefully next week.)  This is another hard part of organizing, the having all of one’s supplies together at the same time.  We have a bookcase coming for the kids’ room in addition to the crib and the stuffed animal cage.  We have a bookcase coming for the dining room.  There is the easel and rolling cart to be removed from the kids’ and dining rooms respectively.  Then the piles of boxes from the kids’ room.  This puts the estimated complete-completion date at next weekend maybe?

My closet sort relies on the removal of the ton of baby stuff to donate plus the ton of my old clothes to store and donate.  C is doing his own closet.  I’ll try to figure out the holiday storage closet deal when I take the tree down this weekend.  The kitchen should be quick too; we may get that done next week if I get the rest done early.

Scintillating, this planning, eh?

Mostly I want to get some space cleared so that I can put together my Brand!  New!  Loom!  Woot!  Because just in time for starting college, I’ve taken up three hobbies and a massive organization project.  It’s alright to question my sanity.  I do it all the time.

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Without a doubt 2008 was one of my most eventful years yet.  Between the meningitis, foot surgery, volunteering, learning new stuff, and most importantly, getting into college, I have certainly kept myself busy.  And all this with two children!  I don’t know how I do it!

*eye roll*

It has been a big year, and overall I am really proud of myself for all that I have accomplished.  I am hoping 2009 will be more of the same, minus the health issues of course.  I’m setting pretty lofty goals, including getting back to the Riot, clearing the apartment of the stuff we just don’t use/need/want to keep tripping over, and the Competence Project.  I will also be taking 10 credits’ worth of classes, which will be interesting at least, terrifying at worst.  I’m trying to do less thinking and more doing, to be honest, because the more I think the more I can’t figure out how in heaven’s name I’ll get anything done what with the huddling in the corner muttering about nonsense.

I jest, I jest.  I huddle in therapy muttering nonsense.

The big thing I plan on doing in 2009 though?  Is giving myself a break from time to time.  Seriously.  I have a really bad habit of being hard on myself for not doing as much as I think I should and the result has been that I spend more time berating myself than giving myself time off.  And I need time off or I’m going to crack.  It’s the bitch about being a stay-at-home-mom.  It seems like you have nothing but time off but in actuality, not having the divide between work and home means that even your time off is working time off.  I’m hoping that having classes will allow me to feel like it’s ok to take time for myself.

In the meantime, today is my only day this week to get shit done so I fear a break will have to wait.

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Even though I never do anything to celebrate ’em, the solstices are two of my favorite days of the year.  I suppose schlepping in the ice and snow to Grandma’s house will count for ‘communing with nature’ in an NYC sort of way, although I’d prefer less asphalt and subways in between.

I am woefully unprepared for the holidays, sort of.  Nothing is wrapped, no gift tags have been made, and even my scarf clocks in at 2/3 completed.  This last part will hopefully be rectified this week–I keep wondering if it’s bad form to take my knitting to therapy (with a halfway har har).  Tomorrow is wrapping and papermaking, I freaking swear, and we should make the mozzarella already.  I mean, seriously.  I have all of these pie-in-the-sky ideas and my follow-through sucks because I get all ‘ooh, shiny’ about new projects.  On the other hand, should you come to my house and need a sticker, sheet of construction paper, or otherwise have a pressing need to make a papercraft, I can actually find what you need.  This is a huge deal to me even though it wasn’t even on the radar before Wednesday or Thursday.  It makes me want to make stuff, y’all.  Just not the stuff I’ve been planning to make for the past month.

I do think, however, that my plans to simplify my life through getting rid of stuff we’re not using is going to be a roaring success.  It’s already looking better in here, and I’ve barely begun packing things away not to mention that nothing has been removed from the premises.  I’ve rearranged some stuff in the master bedroom, a little in the kids’ room, a wee bit in the dining/music/art/Halloween room and sorted through the crafty stuff (I have had to implement a strict ‘if we haven’t reused it in 6 months it must be recycled’ policy about which I have mixed feelings.)  When this whole project is completed, we will have additional space in the kitchen closet for less-used items from our overcrowded cabinets, we will have additional counterspace, and best of all, we will have more space for dried food storage.  In the living room, we will have space for the kids to run around.  In the kids’ room, we will have space for a crib and, ideally, for the baby’s toys.  In the dining room we will have more space for those projects I never finish.  And eventually I will either be able to get into my closet to wear non-yoga pants-and-t-shirt outfits *or* I will be able to turn it into something practical, whatever that may be.  A place to escape from the children?  A super-claustrophobic writing nook?  The possibilities are endless!


Throughout the holiday season, I have attempted to buy predominantly handmade goods for presents and while I do not have a final tally, I am comfortable saying that I am pleased with how I have done.  Much is handmade, and if not handmade Fair Trade.  I did get some from teh Amazon but that was mostly from smaller sellers therein.  I did not do as much donating this year for the holidays but I did throughout the year so I’m pleased with that as well.  I did, however, end up buying more than I had planned so that is something to work on for next year–remembering that it’s not how much you buy but how much you love.

And so to all of you, I hope each and every one of you is surrounded by people who love and are loved by you, and that your holidays are full of joy.  I am thankful for every comment, every friendship, and every connection I have made here and I hope to see you all in the New Year.  Now that I’ve said that, you’ll be treated to a million posts, of course, but as of right now, my plan is to spend some time in Facebook real life.

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