Friday, January 9, 2009

Clutter and why we don't have a couch yet

When you move, don't you start by carefully wrapping each glass and end with dumping junk drawers into boxes, swearing that you'll sort it all out when you unpack? I wish I could say it's any different moving overseas, but in some ways I'm afraid it's worse. We didn't know if we'd have a house or apartment, big or small, storage or none...and we really didn't have a sense of how much it would cost to replace things here. In as much as we got rid of 3/4 of our belongings, I still managed to pack a lot of kibble. A lot.

Our 37 boxes should sail from San Francisco sometime next week and arrive here sometime in February or March. I've become fixated on the fantasy that our shipment is lost at sea, our container not properly secured, it catapults overboard, sinking to unrecoverable depths. This is a happy thought, mind you. Gone forever would be our raggedy bath mats, plethora of kitchen knives (only about 3 of which do we tend to use), my collection of manufacturing process books and their many chapters on how to eliminate inefficient workplace clutter.

Today I'm going shopping for "white goods" (major appliances, like a washer/dryer and refrigerator) and I sort of wished I had one of my 10 or so tape measures to know what sizes will fit in the apartment. Tom's desk at work is the size of our new king sized bed, but has a broken lock, which could easily be removed if we had a standard screwdriver. We don't. Right now. A few weeks ago we literally owned 20 of them. And about 200 standard screwdriver drill bits. Those ended up in the ubiquitous "sort on arrival" category.

But there is hardly anything in that shipment that we truly want or need. We did ship a lot of books, which by the way, an Oprah's Book Club type novel runs about $35 here. Books are fine. It's really Tom's career and education that got us here - he needs a good library of hydrology references. I just had to sacrifice most of my accounting and finance texts though.

Don't you love staying in hotels? Especially modern hotels with big rooms and lots of unused space. There's something about having no projects in sight that is so incredibly liberating. No bills on the kitchen counter, towel bars that need rehung or plants that need watered, just loads of empty space. I really believe that the only way to have a peaceful, creative home environment is to minimize clutter, but it's like fighting gravity. There are so many reasons we hoard material goods....insecurity, vanity, laziness, and sentiment, but also out of resourcefulness perhaps, or conservation?

One method we're trying is to buy what we truly NEED (defined by wishing for it more than, say, three times). We figure out what we think is reasonable to spend on, not by total price, but cost PER DAY by assuming it has no value 5 years from now (when we may or may not move again). We thought of renting furniture. Does it seem reasonable to pay $1000 for a fairly basic couch? $2000? You sit on your couch maybe once a day, right? If there were a coin operated mechanism on the couch, how much would you be willing to put in that "once a day"? $.50? $1.00? I recently had to pay 2 Rupees ($.04 American) to use a restroom and it kind of bummed me out, so how does that rate compared to a couch?

Anyway, I'm going to try to not clutter up again.

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