7/18/13

Clean space, clean mind.

At home, and at work, I've noticed that we've all been getting a little antsy about the clutter that inevitably builds up when busy people don't have time to cull it all. At home, it was a huge stack of old bills that were long past paid and settled (some from accounts that are no longer open!), which neither of us really wanted to throw in the trash, because we're nervous about someone fishing that stuff out of the trash and using it to wreak havoc on our identity. Identity theft is serious, and neither of us wanted to suffer the consequences. However, I saw that we had a paper cutter at work, and asked Cliff if I could borrow it to shred those piles of documents that needed to be gone from our lives. He agreed, and we started on the pile.

At work, it's a little more ongoing, as there are office items that no longer work (and can't be repaired), old papers that we don't need to keep around, and foods that are past their prime. We've been fairly aggressive with it over the summer, as the hours are not as busy as the regular year. I've seen the office go from piles upon piles of stuff to becoming much more clear, and easy to see everything.

More than that, however, is the feeling of freedom that comes from having all that excess stuff gone. Mind you, it's a process. It's not like we've gone and did a major overhaul in one night, and ended up with an awesome space all of a sudden. If only, right? It's more of a gradual process that you have to make yourself do, because otherwise, things get out of control really fast. I remember helping a former friend of mine clean her storage unit. I swear there were broken things, garbage, random papers that had no relation to anything, and random building material lying about. All of them had some kind of story, and some kind of memory. My thinking was, "If all this crap is so special, what the heck is it doing in an unheated, uncooled storage unit, mouldering away?"

It the question I had to ask myself as I started ruthlessly going through my belongings to pare down. There were clothes that haven't fit me in years that had to go. Costumes that I paid a fortune for, but would never wear again (either because my tastes have changed, or my waist has changed). Books that I have on my kindle, but also in paperback and hardcover. I've got backups for all my data, so that if I lose my kindle, I can re-download the lot of it. I have redundant backups (one in the cloud, one in my hard drive, one in the back up hard drive, one in google drive, one in sky drive, the list goes on...). What was I holding on to the paper copies for? It's not even like they had sentimental value. These were books that I managed to get for free or very cheap, and held on to, because I did re-read them. However, once I had the opportunity to get them on e-book, I did, with the view of getting rid of the physical copies.

Unfortunately, having a plan to do something, and actually executing that plan are two different things. It took me looking at my bookshelf, looking at my kindle, and looking at my apartment. I have the books in a format that's comfortable for me to read from. In fact, the kindle is better than the paper, because it doesn't take up space in my bag. When I travel, I have hundreds of books to choose from, rather than the one or two that I remembered to pack. In one fell swoop, I gave away the entire lot of paper books, because I didn't need them anymore. It would do someone else good by introducing them to that story, rather than collecting dust on my shelves at home.

I'm still fiercely holding on to my pots and pans, even though I do periodically get new ones that I like. Same goes for the knives. I need to go through and purge those items too. There are knives that I haven't reached for in ages, and some that I use every day. There's no discernible reason for me to hold on to the tools I'm no longer using. Better to set them (and myself!) free and let it go to a new home. As for the pots, there is a small meagre chance that I might need more than three or four at a time, in case lots of people come over, but that's not a good enough reason to hold on to them. In that off chance, I can make cold dishes that don't involve cooking on the stove, I can use my baking sheets to do some dishes in the oven, I can use tupperware to store some of the stuff I've made the night before, and the list goes on.

Seeing all the clean spaces at work has really inspired me to go home, and continue the massive overhaul. My mother gave me two pots that her mother had bought ages ago. I feel a stronger connection to those than some of the fancier pots that I have, so I end up using them more frequently. (Seriously, the best way to thank someone for giving you a piece of kitchen equipment is to use it as often as possible, so that you think of them when you use it; otherwise, set it free, and let someone else think fondly of you when they use it). I've reached a stage where I do need two pressure cookers (because I love the little beasts for doing pretty near everything but my taxes), but not three small sauce pans. I need one large nonstick skillet, in which I make stir fries, curries, dosas, pancakes, etc. I actually don't end up using the cast iron skillet, or the other flat skillet, so they can both go. Same goes for the wok. Ever since I got the huge nonstick high sided skillet, I end up doing my stir-fry there, because it doesn't require so much oil.

Somehow, it's also made me feel much more productive. Being able to sit at my desk, and get right to work, rather than moving aside piles of clutter, make things go much more smoothly. I imagine once I get my kitchen streamlined, I'll be able to do the same there. It's like the surroundings I work in really do reflect the state of my well-being.
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