Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Things That Bring Us Happiness...Not

We've probably all either played or heard of the parlor game that basically says: "You are going to be living in ______ and you can only take 1-5 things that you now own with you. What things would you take and why?" It is generally understood that these things are going to be the most important things you own.

A friend attended a workshop held by one of the big box stores that sells home organizer systems. The leader of the workshop played a different version of the above game. She asked the people present: "If you could keep all but 1-5 things, which things would you get rid of and why?" Within a very short period of time all of the participants had come up with their list of items to discard. Many had put down far more than 1-5 items.

The leader then asked this question: "If these items are of no importance to you, and you wouldn't miss them if they were gone forever, why do you still have them?" My friend reported that the group leader then went on to discuss how any closet/room system of organization is going to break down and stop being useful if items keep getting added in but no items leave.

Now granted, what was being discussed was closet organization. And closets can be black holes, swallowing everything that goes into them--anyone who has ever cleaned for Pesach can attest to the strange things that surface when you dig into the back recesses of those closets. But there is application of the idea of streamlining what we own to all areas of our lives, not just what we own but also what we do and what we believe must be done.

Sometimes we fill our closets and our homes and our heads with things that may have a one-time or temporary use to us, but we don't get rid of them when their usefulness is over, or if we don't find them useful at all. Sometimes we keep things or ideas "just in case." I have a friend with 11 children. Early on she started using paper plates instead of real dishes because otherwise she would never be anywhere else but in front of the sink washing. Even with most of the kids out of the house she still uses the paper. And yet, her cabinets are full of dishes purchased before her family grew so large. Why? Like the rest of us, she is always looking for storage space for items used all the time. When we pointed out that if she got rid of the dishes sitting unused she would have mega space for storing other things, she shook her head. "I just can't," she said. She might need them later.

Perhaps this is one of the reasons why such little change comes to the organizations of Klal. We know they aren't working the way we need them to work, there is no "space in the closet" to keep everything that is in place, but we keep on trying to rearrange things without getting rid of things, because we might need them later. Perhaps, and if we have the space for them later we can buy them/put them into place then. Then again, maybe we'll discover that we can live just fine without these things.

So, what 1-5 items would you get rid of if doing so meant that your "closets" would have all the room needed to store the things that really matter to you? What things could Klal get rid of that would give us some breathing room?


Trudy said...

You've mentioned some of the things I would get rid of for klal: school and organization dinners, having both a smorgasbord and a dinner at a simcha. I wouldn't miss these things at all.

Personally, I've got a whole wardrobe in a different size in the back of my closet taking up space. Haven't seen that size in almost 20 years but you never know--I MIGHT someday be that size again.

Ezzie said...

Fascinating post, posted on it.

alpidarkomama said...

We recently went through this whole process with everything in the ENTIRE house. It was incredible!!! I have less laundry (we each have an 8-day supply of outfits + a couple of yom tov/shabbos outfits). We have plenty of storage space. The kitchen only has those dishes and plates that I use at least every month (for special items) or every week (for every day). Other things got donated (like who needs a waffle maker when you have a big family... takes forever to get everyone their waffles!). Any toy that wasn't regularly played with went to donations. There's pretty much not a single extraneous item left in the house. Since then, we've been very careful about not adding to the stuff we have. Things get traded out instead of just adding to the stuff. Housecleaning is a LOT faster too. I wholeheartedly encourage people to be ruthless with decluttering. Everything feels like it weighs less. I found it very liberating. :)

alpidarkomama said...

Just had to add too, that in our homeschooling, I also have a decluttered approach. I work hard to maximize the effectiveness of what we are learning to get it into the most condensed, yet still effective, package possible. Sorting out what is learned in the normal course of living versus what requires formal learning is a big help. Knowing precisely how your child learns best, you can really supply just exactly what the child needs most to learn a new concept. Truly alpidarko. :)

Lion of Zion said...

oh man, i hope my wife doesn't see this post. she can fit everything she owns into a couple of shopping bags. i'll need an 18 wheeler.

"Perhaps this is one of the reasons why such little change comes to the organizations of Klal."

interesting analogy

Zeesh said...

An interesting approach here. Maybe we spend too much time in trying to decide what to keep when we should spend more time first deciding what we can get rid of. Would leave us with less to have to put in order.