Tsundoku

I learned a new word today, thanks to this article. Tsundoku (not the be confused with the number puzzle sudoku) is the Japanese word for the acquiring of reading materials, followed by letting them pile up and subsequently never reading them.

Now, who among us isn’t either guilty of that ourselves, or at least knows someone who is? It’s a tragedy. When I think of all the trees that have been converted into expensive paperweights in this manner, it makes me want to weep.

Don’t get me wrong. I am a huge proponent of reading. I absolutely love books. What I really hate is stuff. Accumulation. It’s just too much. That’s why I adore libraries. I can always lay my hands on any book I want. I just don’t have to store it myself. I can’t think of a more amazing service to provide the public.

Somewhere in Missouri are about 50 boxes of books, moldering away in a storage shed. They are my inheritance from my late sister. The one thing we had in common was a love of reading. But I don’t know what she was thinking. I couldn’t afford to ship them all from there to here if my life depended on it. And where would I put them? One of these days I’m going to have to fly out there and donate them to a library or sell them to a used book store or something. Meanwhile they just sit there, occupying space and entertaining no one. What a hassle. What a shame.

I guess you might say I suffer from Tsundoku by proxy.

pile-of-books

Read any good books lately? Try mine! Ask your library to order it! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Spiritual Wealth

In the interests of full disclosure, I am not a Christian. But I do believe that there are a lot of important lessons to be learned from the Bible. I think there are lessons to be learned from many other sources as well. The trick is to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Unfortunately, the chaff often does not come from the philosophy itself, but from the way that philosophy gets twisted by others for their own benefit. Nothing makes me more angry than seeing people get taken advantage of. Nothing is so heartbreaking as seeing people preyed upon and then cast aside.

I may not be an expert on all things Christian, but I do know this: Jesus did not advise people to crave money. He never said that the way God shows favor is by making you rich in this life. He cast out the money lenders. He said, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven.” (Matthew 19:24)

Basically, Jesus wasn’t about stuff. He wasn’t about accumulating riches. He wasn’t trying to show people how to game the system so that God would give them prizes.

He did not approve of greed. And he certainly never told anyone to go without groceries so that some creepy preacher could buy a private jet. Jesus would be horrified by the prosperity gospel.

Money is not the key to happiness in this life or any other. Whether you agree with him or not, does Trump seem particularly happy to you? He worships Mammon, and I wouldn’t want his life for anything. Golden toilets don’t make the going any easier.

Love, decency, kindness, generosity, the ability to learn and think critically… these things are priceless. Clamoring for stuff and money… that’s not your kingdom here on earth. It’s just a form of burial before death. If you learn nothing else in this life, let it be that.

Money Church

A big thanks to StoryCorps for inspiring this blog and my first book. http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

The Causes of Clutter

My fiancé and I are preparing for a future consolidation of our two houses. After 50 plus years of separate accumulation, needless to say, clutter has been on my mind quite a bit of late.

I think the mistake I’ve been making with my clutter is assuming that it’s all due to an overwhelming amount of laziness and an utter lack of organization. I’ve always felt that if I could get off my behind and just get with the program, all my clutter problems would be solved. Well, after a fair amount of internet searching about clutter and it’s causes, I now think a lot differently about my stuff.

In particular, I found this short video, entitled THE two things that cause ALL clutter to be most helpful indeed. Basically, it demonstrates that there are two reasons for clutter: Deferred Decisions and Incomplete Actions.

Some examples of Deferred Decisions are:

  • I am keeping this item because I might use it as xyz. Or maybe I’ll just throw it away. I haven’t decided.

  • These clothes don’t fit me. I don’t know whether to keep them in hopes that I lose weight, or give them away.

  • This is a pile of books I will probably never read. But you never know.

Some examples of Incomplete Actions are:

  • I’ve been meaning to give this to my sister, but I haven’t gotten around to it.

  • I put that there to do something with, and I forgot all about it.

  • I plan to sell this, but I haven’t posted it on Craig’s List yet.

  • I have these craft supplies because I plan to make something with them, but I haven’t found the time.

  • I’ve been meaning to sort through these obsolete phones and computers and get rid of them, but I haven’t taken the time.

  • I’ve been meaning to transfer these photos/Cassette recordings to digital to create more space. One of these days.

Once you look at things from the lens of Delayed Decisions and Incomplete Actions, it’s a lot easier to get moving on them. With the former: Make your decision! Don’t put it off. There’s no time like the present. With the latter: complete that action. Just do it.

Easier said than done, I know. But what I’m finding is that it’s a lot simpler to follow through on this stuff if my fiancé is present. He doesn’t judge. He just acts as a logical sounding board, and points out the obvious.

“Are you really ever going to play that ukulele again?” “Even if you fit into those clothes again, are they your style anymore?” “I know a great place where you can have your cassettes digitized. Let’s consolidate them into one box and do that on Wednesday.” “Do you really need 8 garlic presses?” “If that has sentimental value, maybe you should keep it. Or maybe you should take a picture of it to keep, and then pass it on to someone who could use it.”

I’ve made more progress with his help in the past few weeks than in all the time I’ve tried to tackle it alone. When I die, whoever has the unenviable task of sorting through my personal effects will want to kiss him on the lips.

Another thing that has incentivized me is that my neighborhood is planning a community garage sale later this month. That would be a great opportunity to try to sell stuff. But anything that doesn’t go will NOT go back into the house. Period. It will either go to Goodwill or I will put it on Craig’s List for sale THAT DAY, and leave it on the back porch for a maximum of two weeks in hopes of sale.

But, back to my original argument about laziness and lack of organization. The good news is that you don’t have to get rid of everything. Thinking you do is half of what has probably caused your inaction. No, there are some things that are

Not clutter, but a mess:

  • Photos. (But do try to digitize as many of them as you can.)

  • Things that have sentimental value (and a photo won’t suffice).

  • Things you really have used within the past year.

Once you’ve gotten rid of all the other stuff, it’s time to organize the mess. But that will be a whole lot easier when you have the space. And, if you’re like me, as you make more and more progress, you’ll feel proud of your accomplishments and you’ll be energized.

Wish me luck! If I can do this, you can do this. And, like a shoe that’s two sizes too small, it’ll feel soooo good when it’s gone.

clutter

An attitude of gratitude is what you need to get along. Read my book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

It’s All Stuff and Nonsense

I just finished reading a Rolling Stone article about the financial woes of Johnny Depp. Hundreds of millions of dollars gone. Poof. Just like that. Millions taken by hangers on, apparently without Depp even noticing until it was too late. Much signing of signature pages without reading the actual content of the document. 6 million in fees for paying his taxes late for 13 years in a row.

Then there’s the drugs and the alcohol and the stuff. The stuff! An 8,000 square foot estate above Sunset Boulevard. The rock club. The 1940 Harley Davidson. The horse farm in Lexington, Kentucky. 14 other fully furnished residences. A yacht. 70 Guitars, 200 pieces of art. 45 cars. An island in the Bahamas.

It is alleged that his lifestyle costs him 2 million dollars a month, including $200,000 a month on air travel and $30,000 a month on wine. He once spent $108,000 on suits in a single trip to Singapore. A 1 million dollar wedding, and an even more pricey divorce. He himself claims he spent 5 million to shoot the ashes of Hunter S. Thompson into the sky with a cannon.

For God’s sake, it really isn’t all that difficult. Look around you. All that stuff you see? It used to be money. Now it’s stuff. And that stuff isn’t going to make you happy or keep you warm at night. It won’t stop your loneliness or boredom. It won’t make people love you more. It’s just crap, and it weighs you down. Every object is an anchor.

Before you buy something, ask yourself if you really need it. If you’re honest, most of the time the answer to that will be no. I mean, cavemen had very little, and they survived.

Okay, so we’re not cavemen. All we really need is a SMALL place to live, a SINGLE mode of transportation, a knife, a spork, a bowl, a shirt, a pair of pants, a pair of shoes, and about 3 pairs of underwear. Everything else is frosting on the cake.

And believe me, I know how comforting it can be to hide behind frosting. You don’t have to be all emotionally naked and vulnerable when you’re surrounded by distracting luxuries. You are not exposed. But you’re also not free.

Johnny Depp is known for taking on controversial roles. I would challenge him, and all of us, to do that with our lives as well. Strip down to only the bare essentials. Divest ourselves of the junk. Take a good, hard look at ourselves.

And then, go live.

Durbar Square Hindu Ascetic

An attitude of gratitude is what you need to get along. Read my book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Death by a Thousand Cuts

I absolutely hate being told that I’m overreacting. Unless you’ve walked a mile in my shoes, you don’t even know what I’m reacting to, Buddy-Roo. You have no freakin’ idea.

That’s why it’s so annoying to hear men downplay the whole #MeToo movement. “It was JUST a little slip of the hand. You can’t even be sure it was intentional. What’s the big deal?”

The big deal is that it’s one of the thousands of slippery hands most women have been forced to endure throughout the course of their lives. Just like that Chinese torture called “Death by a Thousand Cuts”, one may not seem so bad, but eventually, the accumulation is what kills you. (Incidentally, that torture wasn’t outlawed in China until 1905. That gives me the chills.)

Men can downplay their bad behavior by thinking that they’ve “only done it to her once”, but to the victim, it is cumulative. (And, by the by, how many women have you “only” done it to once, hmmm? Shame on you.)

Maybe you guys will get it if I put it in a different context. Let’s remove the female body from the scenario. There. Now you can concentrate on what I’m saying.

I came home the other day to find that some jackass had entered my yard and cut all the rose hips off my rose bushes. That person is damned lucky I hadn’t caught them in the act, because I was furious. I had plans for those rose hips.

But they’re “just” rose hips, right? What’s the big deal? The big deal is that someone came into my yard. Someone invaded my space. Someone took something that belonged to me. Just like so many other people have done.

I hate thieves. I hate being taken advantage of. I hate being screwed over by the government, by employers, by people who think they’re stronger or more powerful than me. I especially hate it when people think they have a right to help themselves to what I’ve nurtured and cultivated and looked forward to harvesting for months. Sometimes I feel as though opportunistic buzzards are pecking at my very flesh. It gets old. Just because you can get away with something doesn’t mean you should.

So, am I overreacting? Well, to that I say, keep your hands to yourself and grow your own damned rose hips.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Read any good books lately? Try mine! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Just Because It’s Yours Doesn’t Mean You Have to Keep It

I used to know a guy who had a photo of a cat. “Cute cat,” I said, “What’s his name?”

“I dunno. A pen pal sent that picture to me 30 years ago.”

“Are you still friends?”

“No.”

“Then why are you keeping the photo of a long-dead cat that belonged to someone you no longer know?”

“Because she sent it to me.”

He also keeps every gift he was ever given, including clothes that he never liked that never fit, and toys that he never played with that he’ll never sell. It’s a thing with him. He’d rather be a dumping ground than hurt someone’s feelings.

Personally, I can’t remember the vast majority of the things that I’ve given to people. So unless something is outrageously expensive or a family heirloom, if I’ve given you something that you don’t like, use, or need, feel free to get rid of it. You were not put on this earth to preserve my psyche. If it’s that fragile, then your hoarding my tchotchke isn’t going to keep my morale intact anyway.

We place entirely too much emotional value on “stuff”. I guarantee you that there are very few possessions that are worth your life. If your house is engulfed in flames, I doubt you are going to run back inside to rescue that cute pair of shoes.

Now that I live in a tiny little house, I’m trying really hard to pare down. It’s teaching me to be selfish and cold-hearted. In a good way.

If I’m reluctant to part with something, I examine that instinct closely. Why am I keeping it? Am I doing it for me or for someone else? Because here’s the thing (yes, there’s always a thing): No one else has to live in my space. I’m the one who has to dust, maintain, trip over, and be irritated by the stuff I choose to keep. George Carlin made a very good point when he talked about our houses being very big boxes with lids.

The older I get, the less I’m willing to deal with the detritus of life. My time is even more limited than my energy. It’s a safe bet that when I die, 95% of what I own will wind up either in a landfill or in the hands of complete strangers. How’s that for perspective?

Incidentally, this theory works for emotional baggage, too. Food for thought.

Anonymous cat

Like this blog? Then you’ll LOVE this book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

 

A Moving Experience

Picture this: I’m driving my fifth carload of stuff from my rental place to my new home. I’m sweaty, tired, and sick of traffic. I ache all over. I’m so done with this whole process. And then my car signals me that one of my doors is ajar.

This is a 25 mile commute from one house to the other, entirely on the interstate, cutting right through the heart of Seattle. (If you haven’t experienced Seattle traffic, you are one lucky human being, indeed. There’s nothing quite like it.) And I was in the express lane, so there were no exits for miles. Suffice it to say there was no possible way for me to pull over and deal with my doors.

So there I was, hurtling down the interstate, with images of my door popping open and scattering my possessions all over the road, causing a 50 car pile-up.

It was not a fun drive.

And then I began thinking about those possessions. Assuming that I didn’t kill people in the process, would I miss them if I left them on the highway? To be honest, no. Not for the most part, anyway. I think I’d actually find it to be a relief if I had less stuff in my life.

I’ve been trying to eliminate things, and I definitely have a lot less than I did when I was in Florida. But I still have a lot. As I was packing, I’d ask myself if I had used that thing in the past year. Did I need it? Did it have sentimental value?

Maybe from now on I should ask myself if I’d be upset if each thing wound up sitting on the side of the interstate like that unexplained lone shoe that you encounter every now and then. Now that is a yardstick to measure things by.

I5

Like this blog? Then you’ll LOVE this book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Do You Have a History of…

Packing for a move is always an interesting experience. It gives you an opportunity to really look at all of your stuff. I often encounter things I had forgotten I have. And that makes me wonder why I still have those things. If I could live without them for this long, why am I holding on to them? The pressure is even more intense since I’m moving to a much smaller place with very little storage.

With each item, I have to ask myself, will I ever read this, wear this or use this ever again? No? Then out it goes.

Some things have sentimental value. I do have a right to a certain amount of clutter after 52 years of living. At least that’s what I tell myself.

But the things I struggle with most are the “someday” things. For example, I’ve kept that bag of printed cloth because someday I want to make a quilt. And I’ve kept my pottery tools because someday I want to take up pottery again. And that box of cables, wires, and adapters… well, you never know when they’ll come in handy.

That’s when I have to get all adult-y and say to myself, “Barb, do you have a history of quilt making? Do you see yourself with immense amounts of spare time to all of a sudden take up new hobbies? Do you have enough of a burning need for cables that their storage would offset the expense if you ever had to buy one of these obscure items?”

Adult-y Barb has allowed me to donate a lot of things to Goodwill. But I only listen to her sporadically. If you saw some of the crap I have hauled across the continent just because… well… who knows why… you’d laugh.

I have no idea why this purging of the superfluous is such a struggle for me. I know for a fact that the less junk I have surrounding me, the better I feel. What I really need is a good flame thrower. But don’t tell my homeowner’s insurance agent that I said that. And don’t get any ideas, either.

I’m about to walk into my kitchen and get rid of every single gadget I haven’t used in the past year. Because, while I’d like to imagine myself as someone who will throw dinner parties… Not so much. Wish me luck.

stuff
Kindly ignore the superfluous L.

Read any good books lately? Try mine! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

My Mall Dream

When I was little, I used to fantasize about being locked in a mall after closing time. Of course, for this to work, none of the individual stores would be locked and there would be no security whatsoever. I’d get to spend the night going from shop to shop, getting anything I wanted for free. Clothes, toys, books… I’d also be able to eat whatever I wanted, and in the end, I could sleep in the mattress section of the biggest department store. I never gave much thought to what would happen the next morning.

Funny. My idea of heaven on earth at age nine is my idea of hell on earth now. I avoid malls whenever possible. If I wind up in one more than once a year, something has gone seriously wrong in my world.

The older I get, the less interested I am in accumulation. I recently went to a craft fair and enjoyed myself immensely. I liked seeing the creativity and admiring the craftsmanship, but not once did I have even the slightest desire to buy anything.

Stuff just doesn’t appeal to me anymore. I don’t think I’ve shopped until I’ve dropped since my early 20’s. Part of that is, of course, because finances are tight. But mostly I look at objects as things that I will have to lug to wherever my next address will be, and after having moved across country with a ton of crap that I’ve since disposed of, I just don’t see the point. The mere contemplation of the sheer weight of it all makes me tired.

Now I’d much rather collect digital photographs of my life experiences. I prefer to remember living rather than bury myself in a mound of possessions. I also pity the poor schmuck (likely my sister) who will have to sort through and dispose of all this junk when I shuffle off this cluttered mortal coil, so for her sake, I try to keep it to a minimum.

As I sit here, I can’t think of a single thing I want or need besides groceries. Because of that, I am more generous with myself when it comes to food. I try to buy local and organic whenever possible and cost be damned. I look forward to when my farmer’s market reopens for the season. I look at these purchases as gifts to myself, for my well-being. And the better I feel, the less I look to inanimate objects for my happiness. So it comes full circle.

Mall

If you don’t like to accumulate, either, you could always get my book on Kindle! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Window Shopping

In general, I’m not much of a shopper. The more I move, the less desire I have to accumulate. And when purchasing something cannot be avoided, I don’t really feel like dithering around. I just want to get in there, grab what I need, pay for it and leave. Yeah, yeah, I appreciate your offer to help me find something, but don’t bother me. Stop chit-chatting in the middle of the aisle. Get out of my way.

But I have to admit that when I’m traveling, my behavior changes. I do like to see what passes for important in other cultures. I like to observe what they’re eating in the local markets. I get a sense of their style and their creativity by looking in their shop windows, and allowing myself the occasional spontaneous splurge. Yes, please, I would like some gelato, and make it a double.

Why the difference? Yes, when traveling I’m more relaxed and have more time. Yes, my own culture doesn’t strike me as unusual and therefore my need to scrutinize is greatly reduced. But I don’t think that’s it.

After pondering it all night here at work, my conclusion is that here at home, when I see something I need or even just want but can’t afford, it just pisses me off. I work hard, but I am one of the have-nots, and the older I get the more I resent it.

On the other hand, when I travel, I don’t expect to be able to afford to shop. I’ve pretty much shot my financial wad on just getting to the country in question, so acquiring is unthinkable. That means the pressure is off. I can gaze, I can peruse, I can admire. I can simply be grateful for being where I am and seeing what I see.

Perhaps “home me” could take a lesson from “travel me” about living in the moment.

breakfast-at-tiffanys