Friday, March 22, 2013

Thinning the Herd

With all due respect to Miss Vivian Abell, who was doubtlessly well-enough intentioned when she put this treasury of horrors* together - you're out of your mind.  Do throw it away, as soon as you can.

That, darlings, is the difficult lesson Mr. Muscato and I are learning.  You see, it is looking very much like we will in fact be packing up the Villa Muscato in the next couple of months, and the prospect is simply appalling.  Spread out over a space the size of this one, we are merely cluttered.  Compressed, however, into a typical American two-bedroom (our likely future), we are out-and-out hoarders, and that's not even taking into consideration the vast mass of stuff that will inexorably be coming out of storage not long after we settle in. Everywhere I look there are dresser drawers filled with detritus, closets hung with clothing not worn in three countries' worth of years, and, lurking high atop the house, an entire room full of boxes that we didn't even bother to unpack on arrival here three years ago.

Discipline is called for, and, frankly, that's never been my strong point.  When faced with the mass of paper that teeters on top of what is meant to be my writing-desk (and spills over onto, in, and under a neighboring end table), I start leafing through the program from the concert we attended two years ago in Madrid and wonder what the rates are like at the charming old hotel we stayed at, and...

You get the idea.  Fortunately Mr. Muscato is moderately more focused than I, but even he has his weaknesses (drawers full of hotel toiletries, for example, not to mention a regrettable tendency to cherish souvenir teddy bears in large quantities), and so we usually end up hours later with a small heap of magazines that we've agreed we can spare and a deepening sense of futility and doom.

At least neither of us is likely to want to turn any of our junk into wall plaques or novelty lamps.  It's not much, but it's good to know that there are levels to which even we won't descend...

* Want to shudder at the true horror of it all?  James Lileks, over at the Institute of Official Cheer, is happy to walk you through.  Don't say you haven't been warned.


  1. When we were transferred the same happened to us. The lesson we learned was that decluttering came down to these facts: you have two different types of things - the things that are important, and the things that aren't.

    The things that are important are the things that can't be replaced and have real value. The things that aren't important are the things that you have and can be easily replaced, the hings hat have expiration dates, the things that you *think* you might need one day. If it takes you more that a couple seconds to think why or what you'll do with something, toss it, trash it or shred it. Work at it a half hour at a time.

  2. But if you have that surf board chair, you MUST ship it home.

  3. sounds like a tailor-made reality
    show for al jazeera!

    hightailin' hoarders!

  4. I once moved three times in 14 months. It made me very conscious of trying to keep clutter to a minimum.

    But I do fight the saving impulse. It runs strong in my family. And if someone needs a fake parrot, a silk cabbage, a length of pipe, some purple fabric, an empty pickle jar...I can usually find it in the basement.

    But in the right mood, on the very right day, without interruptions, I can be downright ruthless. All my albums, all my cassettes, reams of letters, all the HS and college newspapers I wrote for or edited, two closets full of drag (gowns, dresses, sequins, heels, hats, bags, wigs), thirty years of pay stubs, bills, and bank statements - all have fallen prey to my clean up and clean out impulses. When the mood hits, I collect it and dump it FAST before I change my mind. Don't just put it aside. Get it OUT before you have a chance for second thoughts.

  5. Well, whether with a single suitcase or a ship container, I'll be at dockside (virtually speaking) with a brass band and waving a hankie to welcome you back.

  6. As I have found to my cost, "impulse chucking-out" sometimes - years later - turns into regret. We all need souvenirs. On the other hand, I have had occasions when I was able to dispose of practically the entire contents of rooms while preparing for a move, not having realised half the crud was actually there for all the time we were in occupation... Jx