Decluttering Quest: the impending move

Decluttering Quest: the impending move

Lately, the good things in my life have intensified; unfortunately, so has my internal screaming.

Most of the screaming is just stress from one thing: an unexpected upcoming move. I was suddenly linked up with a friend of a friend who was looking for a new apartment and a roommate, and less than a week after contacting them I had visited, applied to, and been approved for an apartment with them. Which is great, but now I have just three weeks to finish my Decluttering Quest and pack up whatever’s left of my stuff for the move.

Trust me, I am not complaining about this situation at all. The prospect of finally moving out of my parents’ place, gaining independence, and becoming a Real Adult is amazing (especially now that I finally have the income to comfortably support myself). But avoiding this kind of deadline-induced stress was half the reason I started the Decluttering Quest when I did.

Then again, had I finished it in a timely manner, I wouldn’t be in this mess at all. Literally. So it’s time to quit screaming and get to work.

Surprise! More books!

Remember how I began my Decluttering Quest by sorting through all my books? Well, joke’s on me, because I completely missed half a shelf’s worth of (mostly children’s) books. Luckily, they were pretty easy to sort through, because I’ve gotten soft as this process has gone on; it was mostly a matter of taking out the ones that have a place on another shelf and rearranging what was left.

I broke one of the self-imposed rules I made when arranging my other bookshelves: “put all the knick-knacks elsewhere.” Since almost all the knick-knacks on this shelf were directly related to the books there, I felt it was okay to leave them there, albeit arranged in a much more attractive way.

The result: a cute little corner dedicated to some of the books that played an important part in my life as a young reader, including the entire Harry Potter series, Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events books, some beaten-up copies of L. Frank Baum’s Land of Oz books handed down to me by my brother, and a handful of books and boxed kits related to my early obsession with Ancient Egypt. (An adult Kemetic who was obsessed with Ancient Egypt as a child? Shocking, I know.)

Bathroom cleanout adventure

Even though I’ve made several efforts to organize my bathroom – some of them rather recently – it turns out I hadn’t thoroughly gone through my medications and products in a long time. And by “a long time,” I mean nine years, apparently.

See, when I went off to college back in 2008 I took a small bin of beauty products and medicines with me, and I guess instead of going through them at the end of each year to weed out whatever was expired (or simply too old), I just kept adding to it and lugging it around with me, eventually just shoving the whole thing into the cabinet under my sink when I moved home two years ago and forgetting about it.

When I finally opened it up again the interior had acquired a strange witch-hazel-y smell from some long-forgotten beauty product which had permeated absolutely everything inside the bin, right down to the pills inside the bottles. This would’ve been enough excuse to throw almost everything away, but as I carefully went through I also discovered that not only were most of the medications expired, they had been expired for years – one as far back as 2009.

stupudding“Why on earth do you have meds from 2009?” – “Because I’ve lost control of my life.”

While there were a couple things I kept (which I may regret if they carry the smell into the now Clorox-wiped bin through their new sealed bags) I ended up dumping everything else. It was hard to ignore the internal “you’re wasting perfectly useful things” voice but frankly, if I haven’t used a tube of lotion in the past nine years, I’m never going to use it and there’s no way it’s still good anyway.

After that I gradually moved through everything else in the bathroom, trying to apply the same logic I had with the bin. The plastic drawers were easy, because I use their contents every day and thus keep better tabs on what’s in there. The wall cupboard, on the other hand, was a completely different story. Pretty much the newest products in there dated back to when I was in high school, and most of the medications had expired ten or more years ago.

It also, inexplicably, held a stash of mini shampoo, conditioner, and lotion bottles taken from hotels many years ago – you know, just in case I used up the other two-dozen-hotel-bottle stash that I’d been keeping in the bin. Honestly, you’d think I’d lived through the Great Depression or something.

Starting the final push

With those two areas done, I’m basically on the home stretch when it comes to my decluttering process. All I have to deal with now are a couple display shelves, the craft supplies, and the floor of my bedroom. And although the floor of my bedroom is still a nightmare, it’s a doable nightmare. It may be a large amount of stuff, but it’s a finite amount of stuff. I can do this.

The only question is: can I get it done before the move?

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Gender anxiety triptych

Gender anxiety triptych

I’ve been having a lot of gender-anxiety lately. You’d think that semi-openly identifying myself as genderfluid and getting a tattoo about it and all would quell this anxiety somewhat, but if anything it seems to have gotten worse. It feels like I constantly have to perform my identity and that if I don’t do it 100% correctly 100% of the time, then I’m a fraud.

The whole thing’s ridiculous, I know – as if I’m expecting the Nonbinary Police to kick down my door one day, revoke my genderfluid card, and officially declare me a “confused ciswoman” – but the anxiety’s still there. And recently, it surfaced in a completely unexpected setting: a queer-friendly comics expo.

The cupcake dress

Queerness and nonbinary-ness were just about everywhere I looked at the expo – from the amazing indie comics for sale (and their authors) to a panel I attended devoted entirely to the exploration of genderfluidity in a sci-fi context. But in spite of the great variety of gender expression I saw in people’s appearance, I started to feel very self-conscious about my own.

That day I wore my pink cupcake dress. By “pink cupcake dress” I mean a sweet, floofy, borderline-lolita dress complete with a petticoat. I look goddamn adorable in that dress. And let’s face it: adorable is the only kind of look I can pull off. I got a lot of compliments on my appearance that day by all kinds of people at the expo, including one of the genderfluidity-in-sci-fi panelists.

But still I worried about what those same folks would think of how I dressed if they knew I identified as genderfluid. In spite of the “fluid” part, a lot of people seem to equate genderfluidity with perfectly-balanced, effortless androgyny – not with doing what makes you feel comfortable, including changing things up and playing with the extremes of gender norms.

675px-Pink_gothlolitaExtreme pink femininity, as imagined in lolita fashion

I like playing with extremes. I mentioned lolita fashion earlier, which is a style that has long fascinated me, and I think one of the things I love most about it is that it seems to take certain youthful feminine ideals to an extreme degree. It’s as if someone said “Oh, you want me to be cute, modest, and frilly? I’LL SHOW YOU CUTE, MODEST, AND FRILLY!” and created the most adorably excessive thing they could think of.

There’s nothing wrong with androgynous style, of course, and I try to rock it whenever I can. But style should be about self-expression. And since my gender is in constant flux, shouldn’t my style be a little bit in flux as well?

The more I think about it, the more it bothers me that I was bothered at all. I shouldn’t feel like some kind of gender traitor just because I like to wear floofy dresses sometimes.

The pronoun dance

Of course, this isn’t just about appearance. For me, it’s also about that much-mocked subject of personal pronouns. I’ve been feeling a strange amount of discomfort about my lack of discomfort with the pronouns I’ve lived with my whole life: she/her.

Part of me does want to switch pronouns – probably to they/them – but the rest of me is exhausted by the thought of giving them out to everyone and correcting assumptions and dealing with the “but it’s grammatically incorrect” crap. And I get doubly exhausted thinking of how much more pressure a switch in pronouns would put on me to discard my feminine side completely, which I frankly don’t want to do.

More than laziness, though, there’s also my worry about being a bother to other people, which will probably kill me one day. I can’t even bring myself to ask friends if I can have a glass of water when I’m over at their homes; imagine me trying to ask them to change the entire way they talk about me. It’s downright laughable.

The understanding partner

During a recent visit from my partner, I was driving us home from dinner with a friend when our conversation somehow got on the subject of my gender identity. More than merely accepting my genderfluidity, he seems to have embraced it; so I felt comfortable telling him about some of the anxiety I’ve been having about it.

Sitting at a stoplight, I told him how nervous I felt about the whole issue of personal pronouns, and whether not changing them meant that I wasn’t really genderfluid. Staring at the light, I tapped the steering wheel nervously and he put his hand on my knee to comfort me.

You don’t have to prove anything to anyone,” he said gently.

I let out a breath I didn’t know I’d been holding and the light changed. It was such a small, simple thing to say, but after being stuck in my own head for so long, I really needed to hear it. I suspect a lot of nonbinary people do.

So in case you have no one in your life to say it to you, I’ll repeat it: you don’t have to prove anything to anyone. You really, really don’t. Nobody can take your identity away from you just because you don’t look or talk or act the way they expect you to. And fuck anyone who tries.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a bunch of floofy dresses to buy.

Channeling idealism

Channeling idealism

Recently I was forced to admit to myself that I’m an idealist. That I usually see the best in people. That I lean towards pacifism and never fully recovered from my teenage hippie phase. That, deep down, I really do believe love can change the world if it’s implemented properly.

It was a hard thing to admit, because I’ve been fighting my idealism tooth and nail for years. In a post on this blog several months ago, I got furious at myself for seeing the best in people. And in an unfinished post I was working on this past week, I beat myself up for leaning towards nonviolence in my own actions, calling myself “weak, cowardly, stupid, and naïve” because of it. Realizing that there was a poisonous idealism running much deeper than both of those flaws filled me with shame.

But if I only learned one thing from years of therapy, it’s that I need to stop and analyze my negative thoughts about myself before they amplify into total self-hatred. Why (as always) was I criticizing something in myself that I’d never criticize in another person? And, more importantly, was there any way I could turn this “weakness” into a strength and use it to make things better for others?

Fitting in

Digging deeper into my attempts to reject or suppress my idealistic side, a lot of it seems to trace back to when I first started trying to fit in with my anarchist punk friends. I find that hilariously ironic because A) punk is supposed to be about “being yourself” rather than fitting into a mold, and B) I consider anarchism to be the most idealistic political philosophy on the scene today. I have no doubt my friends will feel insulted by the latter analysis – how fucking dare I say such a thing – but the way I see it, being an anarchist means believing enough in the inherent goodness of people that you think dismantling the current oppressive systems they live under will result in them building something new that will be truly good for and fair to everyone involved. (I’ve almost certainly gotten everything wrong about that; it’s just my personal impression.)

Yet it’s been the posts and comments from these same friends that have most fueled my shame and hatred of my own idealism and personal tendency towards nonviolence, especially in the wake of that horrible rally in Charlottesville. The message they’ve been broadcasting is clear: nonviolence always equals inaction, it’s useless and worthless, and using nonviolent tactics to resist fascists only endangers everyone around you.

To be clear, I’m not saying they’re wrong and I’m right. I try to never be too assured of my own rightness (which may in itself be wrong). But I wondered if idealism and nonviolence really were inherently useless or if there was some way I could channel them into something useful.

Street medics

In the days after Charlottesville I was paralyzed by inaction; the overwhelming majority of my feed was “Nazi punching or GTFO.” And even if I didn’t tend towards nonviolence, I’m out of shape and have no fighting experience whatsoever, which would make me just as much of a liability if I attempted to fight as it would if I didn’t. But I felt very strongly that I had to do something besides signing petitions and donating money to good organizations. I just had no idea what that could be.

It wasn’t until I was reading through some friends’ accounts of their participation in the counter-protest at Charlottesville that I hit on a possible idea: becoming a street medic. Street medics, of course, have been a thing since at least the Civil Rights movement – treating injuries when protests turn violent – yet somehow I’d never heard of them until that moment.

And something about it really clicked with me. Here was something nonviolent that I could do that would actually make a difference at protests. Also, it was something I could do that would follow in the footsteps of family members who joined the medical profession (or tried to), like my father and grandmother. I don’t know if they will/would approve of becoming a non-professional medic helping antifascists and other protesters, but I hope they could appreciate that I’m trying to do what I think is right.

street-medics-300x298Common street medic patch design

Of course, becoming a street medic isn’t super easy – especially when the 20-hour peer training required to start becoming one is as scarce as it currently appears to be. But in the meantime I’m working on getting official first aid training/certification, and until I can find an official training I’m going to try to learn as much as I can elsewhere.

My idealism is going to be there whether I acknowledge it or not, so I might as well use it. I still don’t know if its a flaw or a strength. But either way, I’m going to do something useful with it.

 

Featured image from Wikimedia Commons.

Nothing makes sense and it’s going to be okay

Nothing makes sense and it’s going to be okay

Real Talk: I’m living with mental illness.

By that I don’t mean I have a bunch of adorable quirks that are misunderstood by society, or that I’ve been diagnosed with nonexistent problems by the shadowy agents of “Big Pharma,” or that sometimes I feel down but a quick jaunt in the woods cheers me right up. (Seriously, the next person who tells me “the best antidepressant” is nature or kittens or friendship or whatever is gonna get punched square in the mouth.) I mean that my brain flat-out doesn’t function properly without some kind of treatment – in my case, weekly therapy and a few daily medications.

I keep telling myself that there’s no shame in this, that some people’s brains work fine right out of the box and mine doesn’t and that my worth as a human being isn’t lessened because of that. But it’s easy for me to say there’s no shame when I’m lucky enough to have the means and support system to help me manage my illnesses; a lot of people don’t.

But even then, I’m still afraid of talking about it openly, or at least as openly as I do about other parts of my identity. And for me, it is a part of my identity. The whole way I view the world has been colored by my experience with mental illness – the difficulty focusing, the suicidal depression, the hallucinations and delusions – and all the ways it’s impacted my life. But strangely, I didn’t realize how big a part of me this is until quite recently, when I was thinking about whether or not my writing has lived up to my blog’s tagline.

A statement of purpose

Back when I was really concerned about establishing my name and “author brand,” I read some advice that said I should pick a tagline to represent me, my brand, my writing, and so on. After a lot of careful thought I came up with: “Nothing makes sense and it’s going to be okay.”

I picked this tagline for a fairly simple reason: it’s the message I want my writing to convey. This doesn’t mean I want every story to be meaningless randomness with a happy ending. It means that life can be strange and incomprehensible, that sometimes ridiculous or horrible things happen to us and we never find out why, but it’s still possible to survive it all and just go on living. Maybe that sounds simple to a lot of people, but as someone who spent most of their life either suicidal or having inescapable hallucinations, it means a lot to me. Simply surviving the bewildering weirdness of life isn’t always easy.

Because for me the weirdness was there all the time, whether I acknowledged it or not. It couldn’t be ignored, it couldn’t be reasoned away, and it didn’t magically disappear just because I wanted it to. For most of my life, it was my reality. But I survived and found a way to live with it. If my readers take only one thing away from my fiction, I hope it’s this: if I can live through and with my weirdness, and if my characters can do the same, maybe my readers can too.

A statement of fact

Even with treatment, I’m still living with mental illness. It’s still a part of my life; maybe it always will be. But you know what? That’s okay. It’s going to be okay. I really do believe that, and I’ll try to express it in my writing as much as I possibly can.

And as long as this is a part of who I am, I might as well be honest about it. Nothing’s going to get better unless more people are open about this kind of thing.

The writer with the Krazy Kat tattoo

The writer with the Krazy Kat tattoo

I’m sorry to say that I won’t be writing about TRON today – sorry because apparently it’s the original film’s 35th anniversary today, and if I’d thought about that and planned for it I could have made a killer TRON post. But what brings me here sort of came up because of TRON, so maybe it’ll still be appropriate.

See, a couple weeks ago I got this idea for an awesomely ridiculous tattoo, featuring a picture of Bit from TRON surrounded by the text “FUCK THE BINARY” – written in binary. In this case I meant “fuck the gender binary” (because honestly, fuck the gender binary) and I chose Bit because in spite of the fact that it’s supposed to only have two states – yes (1) and no (0) – it most frequently appears in a neutral state. The only problem with the tattoo was that the binary numbers would have to be so small that they wouldn’t even be writable.

Bit_34Yes, clearly that’s the only problem presented by an obscure TRON reference tattoo.

But when I first explained the tattoo to a friend of mine, he excitedly suggested we get (different) tattoos together for friendship funtimes. At first I put the idea off because of the challenges presented by the Bit tattoo, but then I remembered a tattoo idea with a similar meaning that I’d had on the back burner for years.

Krazy Kat

I’m not a huge comics person (though I’ve collected a few binders full of Mega Man and Marvel’s Land of Oz comic books), but my favorite comic strip of all time is George Herriman’s Krazy Kat. If you’ve never heard of it, don’t worry – most people haven’t, and that’s okay.

The important thing to know for this post is that Krazy Kat canonically has an ever-shifting gender, referred to by other characters as “he” and “she,” sometimes both in the same strip or even the same sentence. Herriman himself refused to answer readers’ questions about Krazy’s “real” gender, once saying that Krazy was like a spirit or pixie, free to be anything. While I seriously doubt Krazy’s inconsistent pronouns were intended by Herriman to be any kind of radical statement about gender, it was still a pretty interesting thing to do – especially in a strip that first ran between the 1910s and the 1940s.

So why am I yammering about a comic strip kat that almost nobody’s heard of? Because reading about Krazy’s pronouns was a click-moment for me. I just thought: “Oh, that’s me.” That’s when I realized I was genderfluid. Almost ever since, I’ve wanted to get a tattoo of Krazy Kat, as both a tribute to the brilliant strip itself and as a subtle affirmation of who I am.

And that’s when the self-doubt creeps in…

All this made me start thinking about my gender, how I’ve been expressing it, et cetera. I’ve written before about how I bought a psychedelic suit to help express my more masculine side, but other than that I haven’t mentioned gender much on the blog. Part of this is because I’m afraid it’ll devolve into self-absorbed ramblings that will only confirm others’ stereotypes of gender non-conforming millennials. And part of this is a sort of guilt I have about how little I’ve suffered for my gender identity.

Real talk: I’ve been lucky so far when it comes to my gender identity and how I express it. So lucky, in fact, that I feel sick with guilt when I think of how difficult it’s been for other people – like my late fiancé, who was rejected by friends and family for being trans and went through all kinds of shit for it, shit that I feel ultimately led to his death. For years after losing him I felt guilty thinking of myself as anything other than a ciswoman because I hadn’t suffered the way he had for not being cis, even though I knew how fucked up that guilt was and that my fiancé would have wanted me to be true to myself, whatever that self might be.

So now to be at a place where I understand and accept who I am – to the point that I want the catalyst for that realization to be permanently pictured on my body – is almost surreal. Plus, on a less serious note, it’s got me rethinking more easily changeable things like hairstyles (since I never could get the bangs right for the classic Louise Brooks look).

1920s-Hairstyles-New-Bobbed-Cuts-for-1925-Leatrice-JoyI think next I’ll go for the Leatrice Joy IDGAF Androgynous look.

I can’t pretend these doubts don’t still creep in from time to time, but every day I feel a little more secure in my identity.

And getting back to what my friend asked: yes, I’d be honored to get a ridiculous tattoo with you. If nothing else, it’ll be a fun story to tell fifty years from now.

Decluttering Quest: cataloging a personal library

Decluttering Quest: cataloging a personal library

I’ve started and stopped writing several new posts in the past couple weeks, about style and color and my recent doubts about the decluttering quest – mainly doubts about whether it would ever get done and if I should have even started it to begin with. I suspect such doubts would appear in any undertaking that goes on for six months, especially when it requires sorting through your entire life in such a tangible way.

But I’m going to put those subjects on hold for today, because my newest obsession has been something else entirely: cataloging and organizing my books and movies.

A personal library

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been working in a public library setting for a few months now. This is part of what slowed my decluttering process down for a while – I was using up all my energy at work, and even on my days off I felt too unmotivated to do anything, too blah to even play video games. But then I finally started getting the medication I needed to treat a problem I’ve struggled with my whole life, which frankly deserves its own blog post.

Long story short, after that everything became doable again and my new work environment (plus a number of librarian friends) began to influence my resumed decluttering process. One friend in particular shared an interesting post about cataloging personal book collections, which intrigued me.

While many of my books had been loosely organized by subject (thanks to my mother’s help) before the purge, a not-insignificant portion had escaped organization. And, as the purge indicated, for the most part I’d lost track of what I had and ended up buying duplicates of a few titles. There had to be a better way, but until I read that post I had no idea where to even start taking stock of my books.

To the internet!

Enter LibraryThing, a website that lets you easily catalog your media – not only books, but also DVDs/Blu-rays and (I think) more. I have no connection to the site whatsoever, and I’m not shilling for it or anything, but I’ve found it to be a pretty nifty little website so far.

I decided to try it out by using the site to catalog my DVD/Blu-ray collection, which up until that point had been residing in multiple floor-stacks scattered around my home. As you can imagine, this made it nearly impossible to know what I had, and every annual Criterion Collection sale at Barnes & Noble put me at risk of buying a second copy of Modern Times. So I gathered up all my discs, pulled the website up and plugged in my CueCat (The Little Cat-Shaped Barcode Scanner That Couldn’t), which I had obtained through LibraryThing’s store, and scanned each item.

At this point I shouldn’t be surprised when the results of a decluttering mini-process are staggering (you could practically make a drinking game out of every time I’ve been shocked in this series), but I still was. Since my obsession with movies began nine years ago, I’d bought more than a hundred DVDs and Blu-rays of everything from pretentious films in the Criterion Collection to wonderfully trashy John Waters films (plus that one John Waters film that ended up in the Criterion Collection).

20170704_165013Does having this make me pretentious trash?

 

Afterwards I gave them all a new home on some shelves I’d recently cleared off, neatly arranging them first by media type, then alphabetically by title. It was good to know I could easily look up what I had, either in person or online. And seeing them all together in one place where I could easily find them helped motivate me to start something that I knew would be much harder: cataloging and reorganizing my books.

Too Many Books, Part 2

I’m not gonna lie to you: cataloging my books took a few days. It was more physically taxing than I’d anticipated, too – I had to lift and move massive stacks of books from the shelves to my bed (the main work-area for all the sorting I’ve done for the past several months), then to the floor of an adjacent room where I’d roughly divided them into fiction and nonfiction, then back to the shelves after they’d been reorganized.

Back during the book purge that kicked off this decluttering process, I estimated that I’d “probably eliminated at least a third of my books;” by the final count, it was much closer to a quarter. As of now I have over 600 books, including a dozen zines and chapbooks. I won’t bore you with all the little stats, but I will say that the entire top shelf of my largest bookcase is filled with manga, comics, and graphic novels, and the entire bottom shelf is just books on the American Revolution – which is what I’d initially gone to college to study, not literature. One and a half of the remaining bookshelves are filled with fiction, including a lot of Bradbury, Bulgakov, Kesey, and Snicket.

Clearly this means my next project should be a comic about the American Revolution that’s full of bizarre/fantastical occurrences, unreliable narration, and dark humor. (…Actually, let me jot that idea down.)

Catalog all the things

All that said, would I recommend this process? Yes – at least, to someone who hasn’t already organized their media (and kept it organized). Having a better idea of where a certain book or movie might be – outside of a vague notion of “it should be in this room somewhere” – is reassuring. It means you won’t waste time looking through your shelves for The Crying of Lot 49 only to discover that you don’t have it anymore, and you won’t waste money re-buying expensive Blu-rays of films you already have.

Also, I feel more content now, at least to some degree. I’m sure I’ll never stop buying books and movies completely, but knowing that I still have plenty to experience and re-experience makes me feel less like going out and getting a whole bunch more for no reason.

Moving is going to be hell, though.

 

More in the Decluttering Quest series:

Part 1: The Quest Begins
Part 2: Staying Motivated
Part 3: School Paper Trail
Part 4: Tackling Collections
Part 5: The First Roadblock
Part 6: Letting Go of Old Writing
Part 7: Sacred Spaces
Part 8: Breaking the Rules
Part 9: A Matter of Life, Not Death

Decluttering Quest: a matter of life, not death

Decluttering Quest: a matter of life, not death

Recently I checked out a popular decluttering book that all the decluttering bloggers couldn’t seem to shut up about: Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

Admittedly, I was a little annoyed and hostile about the book going in. Everyone seemed to talk about it like it was the only valid decluttering method around, and that Marie Kondo was completely infallible. Also, her method sounded a little suspect to me; yes, ideally we should only be surrounded by things that make us happy (or in her words, “spark joy”), but what about the less-inspiring but necessary things that everyone needs to survive: bathroom items, cooking equipment, household tools? Okay, admittedly I do have an interchangeable-head screwdriver made to look like a sonic screwdriver which does indeed make me happy, but one cannot live on Doctor Who novelty items alone.

But I read the book anyway, out of a combination of curiosity and the hope that I could maybe get some good ideas from it – or, if not, that I would get some ideas for what not to do.

Don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it

To my surprise, I actually liked the book – so much so that I also read Kondo’s follow-up book Spark Joy, which goes more in-depth into sorting and organizing. I think one reason was that I liked the respect Kondo showed for people’s possessions, an aspect which seems to be lacking in the “THROW EVERYTHING OUT YOU DON’T NEED IT” school of thought that I’ve seen in a lot of other decluttering writing. Yes, Kondo does recommend getting rid of a lot of stuff, but her goal isn’t to live with as little as possible; it’s to live with the things that bring us happiness. She also treats these things as if they have a spirit or life of their own, and I’ve always loved that idea even if I don’t fully believe it.

Perhaps the most important effect the book had on me (aside from giving me some great storage ideas) was that it made me reconsider my motivations in this whole Decluttering Quest. Up until I read these books, I’d been thinking of this process largely in terms of death rather than life. If that was the case, was I really decluttering for myself or just for my family? Shouldn’t I be focused on doing this in a way that makes me happy, rather than getting rid of stuff just for its own sake?

With those thoughts in mind, I decided to sort through and organize the clothing in my dresser using Kondo’s criteria and see how the results made me feel. And in the end, I felt good. I liked the new layout of my clothes drawers and felt confident that their contents really were important to me. And, surprisingly, I found that the items I loved most were my socks, especially all my Halloween socks.

20170620_160258Do fifty-some pairs of socks really make me happy? Yes. Yes they do.

The thing that was most different about my new approach to decluttering is how much consideration I’m giving now to proper storage and display – treating my things with the respect they deserve. I know the general rule (and certainly Kondo’s rule) is to save organization for after you’ve sorted through absolutely everything, but instead I’ve been approaching it group by group, organizing an area once I’m done sorting through and cleaning it.

Up until now I’ve been strictly focused on sorting, and frankly it was making me kind of miserable. Everything just ended up in stacks and piles elsewhere and it began to feel like I hadn’t accomplished anything at all – if anything, it made me feel like I’d just made things worse. Waiting to store and arrange things once you’re completely done is a good idea, but I think for people like me it’s better to see more immediate results. It makes me feel like I’ve actually accomplished something, like I really am putting things in order. That’s a good feeling.

Intellivision-induced reorganization

As part of this new focus on organization, I’ve been starting to look carefully at how I treat the things I claim to love most. This started in a corner of the basement where I had a small bookshelf dedicated to my entire video game collection – consoles, games, and collectables. This collection had gotten so large and chaotic that it was all jumbled – figures all crammed together, consoles stacked on top of consoles, wires everywhere.

It wasn’t until I got another old console that I realized how out-of-control it had gotten. I was trying to cram an Intellivision on top of an Xbox 360, thinking that I wouldn’t have a place for my Gamecube now, when it occurred to me that I could clear all the games and figures off the top shelf and put them somewhere else where I could actually spread them all out.

So I bought a cheap but attractive shelf and carefully planned out how to display it all – with the help of a clear acrylic display riser my mom gave me. Now everything looks nice and is easily accessible; I also found a couple boxes to give some added protection to my cartridge games. The new setup looked so nice that I decided to put up some of my video game posters on the wall behind it, and now instead of a single cluttered shelf I have a nice little video game corner.

20170615_165125A small but colorful section of my video game corner

The posters were an especially nice addition, as I have a whole cache of them that I’ve been meaning to display ever since I moved home but haven’t found a place for. There’s a Majora’s Mask poster, for instance, which hung in my room from when I was ten until I was sixteen. Then it was replaced by an album and photo signed by Benny Andersson from ABBA, which I recently took down and stored elsewhere as I noticed the signatures were beginning to fade. Taking them down was sad, but it gave me the chance to start rethinking everything that had accumulated on my walls over the years.

The walls are made of nostalgia

I keep failing to take before-pictures of everything I’ve been doing, but my room’s decorations had basically stayed the same since I was seventeen. Posters and drawings covered the walls, with framed awards hanging over the desk as well. The only additions in the years since were a framed poster signed by John Waters and a photo of me from my time in the Revolutionary War reenactment group in college. (An odd combination which show that I’m not just trash, I’m nerdy trash.)

In the past few days, a lot has changed. Much of what was on the walls has been replaced by artwork that I’d had for months or years but couldn’t find a place for. The change has been dramatic; I’d expected the removal of so much stuff to make the room look bare, but instead it looks much more lively and colorful. It’s given me a much better idea of what I actually want in a home.

And that should have been my decluttering goal all along: to make a living space focused on the present, not on the past. There’s nothing wrong with remembering and respecting the past, but my bedroom was more like a time capsule than a place to live in. It feels like I’ve given it the first chance it’s had in ten years to breathe and change. Maybe that will help give me the space I need to do the same.

More in the Decluttering Quest series:

Part 1: The Quest Begins
Part 2: Staying Motivated
Part 3: School Paper Trail
Part 4: Tackling Collections
Part 5: The First Roadblock
Part 6: Letting Go of Old Writing
Part 7: Sacred Spaces
Part 8: Breaking the Rules
Part 10: Cataloging a Personal Library