If I Keep it, I Must Clean It

It’s taken a bit longer than anticipated to work on this living room. While I’ve been steadily tinkering on it, I’ve not been painting so much as decluttering.

One would think that, as a minimalist I wouldn’t own a lot of things. Compared to many others, I actually don’t. That said, I’m still uncovering items as I shift and reorganize that make me ask the important question:

Do I want to clean it?

Do I want to clean it? Do I want to shift it around and organize it? Do I want to drag it out to the car and rescue it during a flood? Do I want to move it when it’s time to leave this place?

That answer is not as cut-and-dried as it appears. One would think that if you loved something enough to acquire it that you would want to care for it, clean it, and take it with you when you move but in my case, I’m discovering otherwise.

I am discovering truths about myself that are a bit awkward, but that I must face.

I collect books not just to read them, but because my childhood was spent reading the same small stack of books over and over due to a lack of reading material. I don’t collect books because I necessarily enjoy them, but because I am secretly afraid of being without. I remember dying inside as I watched a relative toss a book I was reading into a fireplace. It was in the way while she was cleaning. She’d already read it, so she eliminated it by using it to add a bit of heat to her home.

While I do read physical books, my interests vary and patience is a factor in my purchases. When I discover a title of interest, I want to begin reading immediately. Because of that impatience, I typically download digital copies to devour. The physical books I acquire are always titles that I stumble upon secondhand and add to my collection because they seem interesting. The majority of physical books I collect are never read, yet I keep them out of that old childhood fear of running out of reading material.

In this modern age, that is no longer a problem. There are enough blogs and books to keep me entertained and informed for several lifetimes, many of which are free on websites like Gutenberg.

I have no need to hoard physical books any longer. While it is a wise decision to keep the ones I’ve already read and actually reference, the act of collecting and hoarding books out of fear needs to come to an end.

It is time I move on from that practice.

When I came to that realization about myself, I also discovered that books are not the only things I hoard out of fear. I hoard food, cleaning supplies, and a number of other items. While I see no logic in eliminating something that I know I will use eventually, bit by bit I am coming to terms with this.

I have no reason to fear any longer. If I run out of something, I no longer have a child that will feel deprived while I sort it.

I no longer have to keep or clean things “just in case.”

Some things it makes sense to keep. It would be foolish to eliminate my kerosene heater because the very nature of our planet means that there will be power outages. It would be foolish to eliminate clothes that I will actually wear just to get down to some artificially-chosen number, knowing that clothes have a very limited lifespan, just like it would be foolish to toss good food or cleaning supplies. Better to use those items up, replenishing only after I reached a certain level.

So as I go through my possessions I now remind myself that if I keep it, I must clean it. If I keep it I must care for it, store it, and I’ll eventually have to move it when I leave this place. If I decide I don’t want to care of it, then it is time the item moved on.

As I work through this process I’ve discovered that I prefer my homes to be open and somewhat spartan in appearance. The more I eliminate, the lighter and happier I become. While I can tell that I’ll never be able to fit my entire life into a single backpack, I suspect that in the end I will possess a bit less than the average person.

Have you ever realized that a primary facet of your personality was a negative one such as fear? How did you handle that? Please share your stories in the comments below.

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I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Apple iBooks
Smashwords (non-DRM)

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