Saturday, December 19, 2020

The Simplicity Project

It seemed like a good idea at the time.  Until...

It began as a project launched by the selection of my 2021  "Word Of The Year."  Simplicity.  I got a jump start early in December purging the kitchen of utensils, dishes, cups collected from a multitude of "swag bags" given out at conventions and fairs and advertising campaigns.  Gadgets I either haven't used in awhile, can't figure out how to use, or which appeared capable of causing great bodily harm if used.  That was pretty easy.  It gave me the confidence needed to move on to bigger game.  My clothes closet.  Which proved even easier.  I don't hold any particular sentimentality when it comes to my "wardrobe."  I can part with those things with relative ease (except, of course, for my absolute favorite  Abercrombie & Fitch jeans, size 4, that are 40 years old.  Do I even need to add that they no longer fit?  Hope does spring eternal, though.  I'm keeping them because you...just... never...know).  Buoyed by that success, I was ready to move on.

But here is where I hit a wall.  My books. 

I have no idea how many books I have.  I still have the very first book I ever owned:  The Tall Book Of Make-Believe, given to me by my Mom when I was 3 or 4.  It is by now, of course, a well-worn mess.  In other words, it's beautiful.  Believing the only way to begin is to begin, I started counting spines beginning with the shelves downstairs and expecting at least several hundred.  I stopped when I reached 700, not including cookbooks.  The thought of continuing the count upstairs was too exhausting to contemplate, so I did a "guesstimate."  I'm questioning the efficacy of my "Word Of The Year,"  But I've already entered it in my new planner.  In ink.  (Although, clever me, written on a post-it note, so its fungible). 

Should I decide to take the advice of Marie Kondo, I would pull out all the books I own (even the ones from my car, because one never knows when one might get caught in a traffic jam) and pile them onto the floor.  If I understand the method correctly, I am then to hold each book and ask myself  - or do I ask the book?  I'm fuzzy on that part of the process - whether it gives me joy.  Joy goes into one pile; No Joy goes into another.  The No Joy pile is carted away and only Joy remains.  The only problem with that theory is, it doesn't work.  If I picked up each book I own and held it (I can't even imagine how many days of my life this practice would require), the routine would end with me opening each book and paging through it.  I'd get carried away reading something, the light would start to fade in the room as the sun made it's journey West, and I would be sitting in the middle of a hard floor piled with over a thousand books...all of which now needed to be put away, and not feeling any joy whatsoever. Feeling stiff.  Feeling a difficulty getting up.  Just brushing by that picture in thought is making me feel anxious  - and pretty damn joyless.

I did try to purge books last year.  I managed to select two books to take to the Little Free Library on the back of the island.  I chose Radium Girls by Kate Moore, and The Ghost Road by Pat Barker.  I was able to part with Radium Girls for several reasons, not the least of which is I pretty much hated it.  Not so much for the writing (although I had issues with it), but because of the way I "felt" when I read it.  The subject matter is beyond gruesome, made even more painful to read because it tells a true story. Adding to the grim subject matter was my own physical discomfort when reading it.  I was on a flight in a small plane.  Although I was sitting in the first row for "added leg room," it was decidedly uncomfortable.  The cabin air was heavy and apparently had only two temperature settings:  Too Hot and Too, I faced the bathroom...which was only several feet away.  I won't elaborate; use your imagination.  The rows were so tight behind me I could not in good conscience put my seat back.  I could have used a pillow (and not for my head).  The book just added to the entire package of misery.  Thereafter, every time I got a glimpse of it on the shelf, I relived the experience.  And so, to be honest, I was happy to unload it.  I had a last minute change of heart regarding The Ghost Road, though.  It came back home with me.  ONE book.  I purged one book.  Obviously, "The Simplicity Project" has hit a bit of a blip.  But now that the kitchen has more room, I can always store some books in the pantry...or in my closet.  So it's not a total fail.