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Posts Tagged ‘scarcity’

I have a lot of stuff.

I am not extreme, in that I don’t have a storage unit and my apartment doesn’t require daily excavation to get from point A to point B. In general, each piece of my stuff has its place where it lives, and there is an order to the madness, and while there is definitely some clutter, it’s not all that bad.

But. That being said, I still have an awful lot of stuff.

So I decided to get rid of some of it.

Getting rid of stuff is not something I’m particularly good at, hence the aforementioned lots of stuff issue. This is due to two factors, that together prove to be fairly intractable:

  1. I get very sentimental. This is unfortunate. If I got something on a trip, I have trouble getting rid of it. If I got something as a present, I have trouble getting rid of it. If I have a bunch of memories relating to an item, yup, you guessed it, I have trouble getting rid of it. And heaven forbid it used to be owned by my mom, because then I lose all willpower.
  2. I struggle with feelings of scarcity. I fall very easily into “maybe I’ll need this one day” and “this could be useful” and “you should hold onto this so you don’t have to spend money to buy another one later.”

The best time to clean my things out would have been when I moved out of a house three years ago. And I did get rid of huge amounts of stuff. But ultimately that was such an enormous job, and I was freaking out about money the whole time, and so I ended up holding onto a lot of inessential stuff from a combination of exhaustion and fear. Fast forward to now, when I still have a lot of that stuff weighing me down.

Anyway, I decided to start with clothes, because I’d been wanting to do that anyway, and because Marie Kondo says you should start with clothes in the part of her book I read for free on the Amazon preview page.

Side note: You cannot speak to people about doing a major clean-out right now without them bringing up Marie Kondo. It is literally impossible. So I am helping all of you out by bringing it up myself.

It’s a good thing I determined to start on clothes first, because once I actually began, I wanted to do anything BUT clothes. I wanted to go through my DVDs. I wanted to go through my papers and figure out what can be shredded. I even wanted to go through my books (which is going to be simply awful). I wanted to do anything but what I’d actually committed to doing.

Also I refused to dump all my clothes out on my bed, which is another thing Marie Kondo tells you to do. I’m pretty sure if I did that, a.) I wouldn’t be able to finish by the time I wanted to go to bed at night, and b.) I would start to cry over the sheer quantity of items to go through. I really like clothes. Most of my stuff is clothes. And books. My two materialistic vices. (I also weirdly have a lot of kitchen stuff, but I don’t care as much about that so I have gotten rid of a bunch of it over the years.)

Here is what I’ve bagged up to donate so far:

The first spoils of war.

The first spoils of war.

And there’s a lot more to go through. I haven’t even started on my dressers yet. Yeesh.

Shall we talk about a few of my victories? Hopefully they will fuel me to greater heights of throwing shit away.

  • I had a pair of my mom’s old socks. They were argyle. They had holes in the toes. I’ve had those socks for eighteen years. I threw them in the garbage.
  • I had a plaid button-down shirt that I thought would work great in some kind of Wild West costume. It looked a lot cuter on the hanger than it did on me, so I never actually wore it. I donated it.
  • I got rid of an entire bin of cheap costume pieces and random stuff, except for one beanie that is soft and my favorite color and maybe I’d actually like to wear it once I wash it.
  • I’m donating some expensive dresses that I don’t like and that don’t fit anyway. It’s always harder to get rid of things when they cost a lot.
  • I threw away every single old bra that isn’t in my current drawer, none of which is the proper size and all of which I was holding onto anyway because???

Next up is socks. And then T-shirts. I think I will pile both of these items on my bed. Separately. So I can see how ridiculous it is how many of them I have. (Also did you know you can’t donate socks? You can’t. Unless they’re brand new.) And then I will watch more Marie Kondo folding videos on Youtube. (If I actually fold my clothes based on her techniques, I will post pictures. If I don’t, we will pretend this never happened. Deal?)

In conclusion, this project is going to take me a while. And maybe I should buy Marie Kondo’s book.

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My grandmother was raised during the Great Depression. She knew how to be frugal, and she’d save aluminum foil in order to re-use it later. That’s how I understood frugality as a small child: saving things you had now because you might need them again later.

There is nothing wrong with frugality or avoiding waste. But when frugality progresses to a pervasive feeling of scarcity, then we might begin to have a problem.

What does the world look like when viewed through the lens of scarcity? There is never enough, and whatever we do have might be taken from us at any time. There isn’t enough money, there isn’t enough food, there isn’t enough of the yummy cake from which we wanted another slice. There isn’t enough time. There aren’t enough friends, aren’t enough activities, isn’t enough love to go around.

Photo Credit: GDidi via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: GDidi via Compfight cc

And what about the complex we get about missing out on things? When the cool kids are always at the next activity or the next bar or the next party, and we’re thinking about what they might be doing or what we could be doing instead of paying attention to what we’re actually doing.

When we live in a world of scarcity, we are saving for a rainy day but aren’t very likely to recognize the rainy day when it comes. We are thinking about what we don’t have or what we might lose instead of being able to enjoy the moment, right now, in which we are who we are and we have what we have. We cling tightly to what we have even if we don’t even want or need it.

We are afraid.

Having been raised in a culture of scarcity, I struggle with this all the time. I was talking to a friend about the opportunity cost of going to an event, and he laughed and said, “What, twelve bucks?” And I had to consciously remind myself, oh yeah, Amy, twelve dollars isn’t actually a lot of money.

I was cleaning out my closet a few months ago, and I had to try on almost every piece of clothing to show myself, Hey Amy, see, it really is too big, so you for sure don’t need this anymore. (And those clothes are still folded neatly in stacks and haven’t yet made it out the door to Goodwill.)

When I need to say no to someone, I have to remind myself: yes, Amy, there will be other opportunities to see this person. There will be other chances to show them I care. There will be time.

Sometimes I take the idea of seizing the day way too seriously.

And so I’ve taken to giving myself these gentle reminders, repeated day in and day out. I’m slowly changing the way I’m thinking about scarcity versus abundance. There will be more. There will be enough. Somehow these things will work themselves out.

There will be a tomorrow.

And if I don’t re-use the aluminum foil, if instead I chuck it into the recycle bin, it probably won’t make much of a difference.

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