A Pendulum Problem

Recently I was excitedly sharing with Josh the incredible amount of things I had packed up to donate to an upcoming FRG yard sale. Big boxes, garbage bags of toys, several larger items and much, much more were all on the chopping block. “Our house is going to be completely clutter free!” I said proudly.

Then he opened his mouth and said, “Until you fill it all back up, right?”

I stared at him dumbly for a moment.  (Ummm, huh?) Then I stared angrily for a few seconds. (Thanks for raining on my parade, butthole.) Finally, a sour dose of reality settled it, and I knew he was right. (But you’re still a butthole, butthole.)

See, I have a pendulum problem. I swing back and forth between extremes in everything I do. Once I spent about fifty bucks on books on learning Spanish and printed about a hundred pages of Spanish vocabulary translations. I was determined to relearn all the Spanish I’ve forgotten since high school, and I was driven to study every single day … for about two weeks. Then slowly the idea of being bilingual lost its luster, and I ended up with a stack of books and a binder full of crazy lists I couldn’t read.

Another time, right before New Year’s Eve someone sent me a link to a video of the living conditions of chickens raised for the grocery store (and a certain chicken-centric fast food chain). It was appalling, and I immediately swore off chicken.  The very thought of all those poor little birds stuffed wing to wing in too tiny cages made me ill. I vowed not only to not eat chicken but to not cook chicken either. I was on a mission. For about two weeks. Then I broke down and sought out cage-free organic free-range chicken. Then I saw the price tag and did a quick mental calculation of what it would cost to always buy cage-free organic free-range chicken. Then the chicken boycott was over, and I bought a family pack of plain ole scary video inspiring yet wallet friendly breasts and thighs.

You can probably see where this is going, right?

Right now my pendulum is de-cluttering. About six weeks ago, after a few months of reading The Minimalist Mom and being ever so inspired, I began walking through the house asking myself “Do I love that? Do I need that? Do I even use that?” Surprisingly (or not) my answer was more often than not a resounding ‘No!’ So I decided to get rid of the clutter … all of it. That very day I opened a big box and began muttering ‘I don’t use or love you!’ began filling it with random items that I felt we didn’t need anymore. That first day I filled a very large box to the top. It was liberating! I opened a second large box and began filling that one as well. Next I filled a few garbage bags. Then I found a large tote full of toys I’d meant to donate but had forgotten in the garage. I really have done a great job of getting rid of things we don’t need!

But last week I saw a sign for a yard sale. A big one. I got very excited. I drove right past, but I really wanted to stop.

On Sunday I caught myself browsing Craigslist, and  I found something I needed. Just the right thing. I was so happy I shouted, “YES!” out loud and scared one of my kids.

Last night as I was picking up dinner, I drove past my favorite used shop, sighed longingly, and whispered, “I haven’t been there in ages.”

Can you feel the whoosh! of the wind as the pendulum swings back from minimalist to hoarder?

This time though I really think things will be different. In the past, my little obsessions came from wanting the idea of something instead of enjoying the journey to get there. I wanted to be bilingual, but actually learning Spanish wasn’t very appealing. Saving the chickens was a noble plan, but I really do like chicken and being able to afford feeding my family. This time I have and continue to enjoy the journey and the results. Getting rid of items we don’t need or use is exciting, and not having to dust, wash, or move those items to vacuum around is liberating! In cleaning out, I have unearthed somethings I’ve been looking for and needed for ages (and more than a few sentimental items that just seeing again has brought me joy), and by clearing out the things I don’t love, I have more space to display things I do love!

Also while it may seem like I’m being extreme, a lot of the things I’ve gotten rid of were already on the chopping block. The tote of baby toys was already designated to go, and the two bags of stuffed animals have long been in the trash pile. The large items have each spent some time on Craigslist with no real takers so donating them is just the next natural step, right? In reality the only thing even out of the ordinary about my latest obsession is that I’m actually taking action on something I’ve wanted to do for a while.

Finally, even though I know old habits die hard, I reallam trying to change my ways. I skipped the yard sale and avoided the used shop, but I have to be honest and tell you I did purchase the item on Craigslist. It, however, is replacing a very old, very broken item (that will be going to the dump this weekend), and the purchase is going to allow me to move a bookshelf from one room to another where I’ll be able to use it much more effectively. Plus it will take up much less unnecessary space and look much nicer than the old item! Woohoo!

I really think this obsession project is going to continue and simply become the norm. I’m enjoying both the process and the result. I’m trying really hard not to take it too far and really really hard not to fall back on old habits. During our earlier conversation Josh also said, “You always have very good intentions though. For about two weeks you’re really focused!” And that, folks, really says it all, doesn’t it … because it’s already been SIX weeks this time, and I’m still going strong! Just TRY to rain on that parade, baby!


3 thoughts on “A Pendulum Problem”

  1. I am also trying hard to declutter and not bring in new things. Our garage seriously looks like an episode of Hoarders at the moment. Minus the dead animals and feces.


    1. Our garage still looks pretty rough right now, too, but tomorrow I’m taking all the donate stuff away. This weekend I’m headed to the dump with a bunch of pure crap, and THEN my garage will be CLEEEEEAAAANNNNNNNN!!!!! *doing my happy dance!!!*


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