ArtPrizeSunday 008

Image by jvh33 via Flickr

I just came back from a lunchtime stroll through a retail store where all the Christmas do-dads were lined up on the shelves in all their glittery splendor. It seems the Season of Panic has begun.

I imagine that is how retailers want us to start feeling right about now – panicked. What do I need to buy to have the perfect Halloween-Thanksgiving-Christmas-New Years? Because it does have to be picture perfect – just like in the store displays and commercials – doesn’t it? Or does it?

In the past I have always begun (to the dismay of many) thinking, talking about, and planning for Christmas in late July. This is partly because the majority of my family’s birthdays fall between August and December and it is easier to think of birthday and Christmas shopping in one lump. The other predominant reason is that I’m a planner by nature and like to think and work ahead so I can cram as much holly jolly in as possible.

This year, however, I’m going a different route. I vaguely thought about Christmas some time in mid-July, but let it pass without much ado. When my sister sent out the annual “let’s get the gift list rolling” email, I proclaimed this to be The Year of No Stuff for me (well, except for an airhorn, but that’s a different post altogether).

Now, here it is September, and *gasp* I haven’t made a shopping list, haven’t bought a gift, haven’t started addressing Christmas cards – don’t even have Christmas cards, and I’m still not panicking. I have decided to let the seasons and holidays unfold naturally and prepare for and enjoy them as they come. I’m toning it all down a few notches – will even be purging many of my decorations as they come down out of the attic.

Don’t get me wrong – I love, love, love this time of year, but somewhere along the line it’s all gotten to be too much of everything and not enough of the right things. For years my husband and I have had an ongoing discussion about the holidays. I tell him he hates the holidays, and he tells me, no, he does not hate the holidays! The truth is he hates the hype of the holidays – how it comes weeks or months before the actual event. So this year, I’m flexing my newly found but growing, minimalist attitude and giving my husband, my daughter, and myself the gift of a low-key holiday season. Less decorating, less fretting, less gifting, less its all got to be perfect, and more fun and togetherness.

 

In my world it’s Tuesday…plus a few hours. 🙂

I have never considered myself minimalist by any stretch of the imagination, though I do love clean lines and uncluttered space. However, I’m starting to wonder if I’m not heading in that direction. So often now I find myself looking around my house, seeing objects with new eyes, and thinking, “that needs to go”. And these were things that I formally loved. My ideas about what is wanted or needed seems to be changing daily, and the desire to lighten the load is increasing exponentially the more stuff I get rid of.

Case in point. Two years ago my sewing/work room was contained within a small extra bedroom. It was a crowded but cozy space with walls the color of caffe au lait, curtains I’d made myself, a bookcase full of books, a closet stuffed with all my sewing, needlework, and jewelry making supplies, an antique dresser filled with odds and ends. I loved that room, and all my little treasures.

Then, I discovered I was pregnant with Little M and the extra room needed to be transformed into a nursery. I carved out an area in the basement and set about creating a new cozy space. It was different but it still had the cozy woman-cave feel, and it worked well until Little M outgrew the basinet and then the pack’n play. When it came time to little Little M roam free, suddenly it was all too much. There were books that could be torn, cords to get tangled in, open shelves with two many things to topple over on a little one. It went on and on. I had to find a compromise that worked for me and for a baby discovering the world around her.

After tossing around several options and trying some that didn’t work, I decided to move the table that my sewing machine sat on back upstairs and set it up in the master bedroom (with creative arrangement of furniture we had the space). Then a lot of related began to follow – books, supplies, a lamp, tools – just because I was accustomed to always having them nearby. Time passed and I realized I was spending more time decluttering the work table than actually creating projects. It was frustrating. 

Finally, one day I took everything back to the basement that I did not absolutely need for the sewing project that I was trying to complete. The table was left with a sewing machine, a task lamp, and a basket that contained my patterns (that were in use), sewing tools, and notions, and a magnetic straight pin holder. Suddenly the space was inviting. I couldn’t wait to use the area. And now I do, regularly. I’ve discovered that the less visual clutter I have hampering me, the more productive I am. Now, the basement area is my storage space, and that little table is my workspace. I bring up to the table only what I need for a project, and return what I don’t need any longer when I’m finished. It’s Heaven, but it has me looking at that basement area more and more wondering, “what can go?” A lot, I’m pretty sure.

I had several topics in mind for blog posts this week, but the one that is predominantly on my mind this week is CLUTTER. Clutter, as my husband will gladly tell you, is the one sure-fire thing that can turn me into a giant stress ball in a matter of minutes, and subsequently, him into a psychiatrist talking me down off the ledge.

It all started when I was a kid. I grew up in a somewhat cluttered household (entirely too many knickknacks) and it has been my personal mission since leaving home to be as clutter free as possible. I’m not a minimalist by any stretch, but I do love the calming feeling of clean, clear counter space and walkways, and the joy of less than full cabinets and closets.

Most of my adult life clutter has not been a problem in my house. Then twenty months ago I had a baby, Little M, and life got complicated. Stuff accumulates a lot faster with children and it is harder to find the time to sort it and get rid of it in my preferred methods (sell, donate, recycle). Now, I work at it everyday and two of my favorite blogs 365lessthings and unclutterer (and the fear of clutter related stress) help keep me on task.

So what’s the problem? 

The further along the decluttering path I travel, the more other people’s clutter freaks me out.  Especially when the clutter belongs to people I know, love, care about.

So what do I do? How do you not become a ball of nerves when you are visiting someone’s home and are afraid to lay down your car keys because you don’t know if you’ll find them again? When you have to clear a space at the table in order to eat a meal? When you have breached the subject of too much stuff – gently, and not so gently – but it falls on deaf ears? How do you deal? How do you stop fantasizing about backing a truck up to the front door, loading all the stuff up and hauling it away? How do you remind yourself that it’s not your problem, your home, or your life, and to just let it go? I don’t have the answers to any of those questions, and it frustrates me. A lot.