My life is a continual, and often losing, battle against clutter. Simply put, clutter makes me crazy.
A few years ago we lived in a small, rental house for ten months. We devoted one bedroom exclusively to unopened boxes containing our things. While we were living there my father-in-law died. We then devoted the hallway and living room to unopened boxes of his things. My husband will testify that I was difficult to live with during that period. Like I said, clutter turns me into a raving maniac.
“8 Approaches to Simplicity,” from dailygood.org landed in my inbox last week and I knew I had found a soul mate. Duane Elgin, who writes about “voluntary simplicity” as well as spirituality, science and the future, is the author of the article. I never got past Mr. Elgin’s first recommendation — “uncluttered simplicity” — because that has been my headache calling out for a cure for the past month. Mr. Elgin says, “Simplicity means cutting back on clutter, complications and trivial distractions, both material and non-material, and focusing on the essentials — whatever those may be for each of our unique lives.”
My most recent clutter challenge lay in my so-called pantry, a kitchen cabinet filled with unknown types and quantities of food wedged in and stacked up on eight overflowing shelves. The federal government advises those of us who live on fault lines to keep a three-day supply of food on hand in case of an earthquake. Roads may be blocked, grocery stores closed or inaccessible, and houses of neighbors you might normally borrow a cup of sugar from collapsed. Keeping this in mind, my husband and I rolled up our sleeves, promised ourselves a movie as a reward, and covered the kitchen island with items we took out of the pantry.
We found enough rice, pasta and quinoa that we could survive three weeks on these alone, assuming we had enough fuel for the outdoor barbecue. Even without these starches meals would be interesting and varied, though light, what with eleven different vinegars, five Brianna’s and three Trader Joe’s salad dressings, three Dijon mustards, six fruit jams, three boxes of baking soda and three tins of baking powder. If it’s cold outside when the quake hits, we have plenty of cubes, powder and bars to make hot chocolate, even if we have to make it with water. Finally, we could use the burner on our barbecue to prepare what could be an interesting meal out of the contents of three foil packets covered with all kinds of information and presumably cooking directions…in Japanese. I also have the sauce to pour over it, whatever it is.
Nearly everything we removed from the pantry is back in it, but certain items, Israeli couscous and brown rice, are now in one container instead of two. My stress level has lowered because I can see all the items in the drawers, even if I have few reasons to use them. My hope is that in time we will think to look in the pantry and realize that we don’t need another vinegar. Now on to the study.
I don’t have the amount of food you do, so I’ll try to be nearby when the quake hits. However, I would like to know how other people keep up with all of the mail that we need to shred because it contains personal information. For a number of years, (before the days of shredding), I saved my cancelled checks and even took some to the basement. I happened to notice this box of cancelled checks a few weeks ago. I think they can be destroyed now. They date back to the 1980’s. But they add to the growing pile of papers that must be shredded. (I hate shredding) I’m thinking of having a bonfire and trying to start from scratch. In the meantime those documents just keep on coming.