The Other I

November 16, 2012

The joy of de-cluttering

Filed under: Just Stuff — theotheri @ 3:35 pm

I know I speak for many when I say that when you reach a certain age, one begins to put as much effort into getting rid of a lot of the things one spent a great deal of effort acquiring.

There is not a room in our house that does not provide the potential joy of de-cluttering.  There are clothes – some are fit only for another climate or for activities in which I no longer engage;  some short shirts are no longer appropriate for public appearances by someone older than 40, some are worn out.  And some are simply excess to requirements.  I don’t need two pairs of high boots, four winter caps, two parkas, three purses, eight scarves – or whatever it is that’s in the next drawer down.

The kitchen yields a surfeit of dishes, pots and pans, glasses, jars, bottles, vases,  flatware, utensils, and cookbooks.

Speaking of books –  we have thousands.  It feels almost like a sacrilege to throw a book away, even if it is a travel book written 35 years ago about the best places to stay.  Mostly I put them into plastic bags and push the burden onto Oxfam.

Then there’s jewelry.  I rarely wear jewelry anymore, partly because styles have changed, partly because even in the theatre people tend to wear jeans unless they are coming in from the suburbs, and partly because on the subway or walking home through the city at night, jewelry on display doesn’t seem like a good idea.  The worst pieces of jewelry are potentially valuable pieces I have inherited.  I don’t have relatives who wear these things, but I have to convince myself that not keeping them isn’t a betrayal of those who have left them to me.

Then there is that collection of gadgets and machines and utensils that promised to magically solve the problems of cleaning, repairing, renewing, extending, adapting, updating and transforming.  I don’t buy much magic anymore, and I don’t use many of those we’ve acquired.  The vacuum cleaner and lawn mower are still in frequent use, but the nano-cleaner for the front walk, the steam mop for the tile floors, and the printer that doesn’t work with the version of Windows I now have on my computer are all excess to requirements.

Research shows that as people let older, they generally get happier.  Maybe having less stuff is as liberating for others as it is for me.




  1. resonates with me. funny how “getting rid of STUFF” give me the same pleasure as acquiring used to – i monthly go thru my apartment and fill up a shopping bag. interestingly enough, despite many outgoing bags, i still think about my family groaning as they come in after my nunc dimittis i have had stoop sales, given things to salvation army – sandy gave me another opportunity to get rid of excess. i have schlepped carloads of things to maryknoll put things in front of the house with a “take me, please” sign. i think of a friend of mine who died in el salvador 30 years ago. when she was drowned due to a flash flood while transporting refugees to safer grounds, she had three blouses, one pair of slacks and a dress to her name. while that is an extreme i think about the need to acquire – to hold on – to things, to ideas, to excess weight – to relationships that you cannot seem to nourish and that do not seem to be nourishing you. protection??? against what??? laziness??? fear??? ok dr.sissons – diagnosis please!


    Comment by kateritek — November 16, 2012 @ 4:35 pm | Reply

    • Dear Dr. Peterlin: It is difficult to diagnose cases like these although as you suggest, they are widespread. My sense is the causes are varied.

      My own de-cluttering was put back by years when I accidentally donated to charity a book that belonged to Peter. When I went back the next day to relieve it, it had already been sold. It’s an example of related problem I call “Just in Case Phenomenon,” in which one discovers within days an urgent need for the exact thing one has just gotten rid of. That might be the biggest reason of all for never getting rid of them.

      Seriously, I think that poverty, especially during the wars, taught a lot of people to keep things “just in case.” What do you think? Dr. Sissons


      Comment by Terry Sissons — November 16, 2012 @ 9:38 pm | Reply

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at

%d bloggers like this: