[insert moving metaphor here]

wtf bell

I saw this as I was out lunching near Harvard Square yesterday. A quick Google showed me that there’s a pretty interesting story behind this pretty interesting photo of what it turns out are the Danilov Monastery bells being repatriated to Russia.

And yeah obligatory talk about moving and recitation of where I’m going and where I’ve been. I’m in Somerville at Kate’s place. I came down to do some helper-monkey work cleaning out some rooms full of stuff here, see my Mom, see my fella and give Ola some alone-time at home to do whatever she feels like doing there. It’s hot here. Kate and I put an air conditioner in the guest room. It’s the first time I’ve ever put in a window-mounted air conditioner in my life. It was scary. Scary but successful. Now I’m hanging out until my librarian Skype conference call — I’m on the usability committee for an open source library catalog project going on in Vermont, good works — and then I’ve got a good book for the bus back.

I’m thinking about my things. Since I happily spend maybe a fifth of my life lately away from “home” (and one third of my life asleep no matter where I am) the idea of what things I need to be functional and happy has shifted dramatically. That said, I’m sentimental and like having boxes of old letters and keepsakes around me. So, thinking about moving in to a new place, where I can arrange all the stuff and where I have to carry all my things up a long flight of stairs (or get someone to do it for me) has been a reflective time. I enjoyed this book review at Kevin Kelly’s site of the book It’s All Too Much which takes a step beyond just helping you declutter and organize and actually talks about quality of life issues and maintaining them with fewer things. Kevin quotes the intro by Merlin Mann, humorist pundit to techie people roughly my age, which has the little points that I’m taking away.

The biggest change in attitude this book made in my life was to teach me not to generate false relevance by “organizing” stuff I don’t want or will never need. Organization is what you do to stuff that you need, want, or love – it’s not what you do to get useless stuff out of sight or to manufacture makebelieve meaning. For me, this is about the opposite of organizing; it means disinterring every sarcophagus of crap in my house and, item by item, evaluating whether it’s making my family’s life better today. And if some heirloom really is precious to me, can I find a better home for it than a shelf in the back of my garage?

The guideline I always heard for whether to keep or toss old clothes was whether you loved it, wore it or it looked awesome on you. If any of those things were true, keep it. I generally don’t have a lot of trouble with “make believe meaning” wrapped up in my things but I may have a bit of a fetish problem with books and possibly t-shirts. And there’s my coin collection which I enjoy but rarely play with. It’s heavy.

I enjoyed cleaning up Kate’s crazy full-of-junk room upstairs. It was two hours of my life that saved her multiple hours of worrying/thinking/stressing about not doing it. Time well spent. If I was considering a career change I’d dredge out people’s shamehole rooms for a living. You can wear whatever you want, listen to your favorite music and people are always incredibly grateful for something that doesn’t seem at all like work to me. Coming home to a place that doesn’t itself seem like a decluttering project in process (soon, soon) is my goal for the next three-ish weeks.

What do you think?


  1. There’s a great pleasure, I think, in being able to arrange your stuff the way you want, and in a way that lets you take pleasure in the things you love and care about. It sort of alarmed me awhile back when I realized that my stuff had overtaken a two-bedroom house, so I’ve been pruning and rearranging so that I can sit in well-lit places and look at things I love.

    I still wish I could come up with something to do about t-shirts, though.

  2. As readers of my blog (and all of my fleshy pals) know, I’ve been doing battle with the basement full of accumulated crap for a long time now.

    If you’re looking for a midwest working vacation, let me know! I’ve been thinking about just throwing the piles of stuff away, site unseen, but something always tells me “Better not – there might be something REALLY valuable in there!”

    I hate that I’m enslaved by nostalgia.