Friday, February 5, 2010


I ended up on a financial blog the other day. I like the idea of financial blogs a lot, or any advice blogs really. Sometimes I find that their advice is far behind what I actually do, such as one financial blog I read by a single 20 something female, who struggled with not buying a ton of clothing and shoes every month - expensive clothes, that ruined her budget. Nope, not something I've ever struggled with - my favorite clothing store in College was D.I. But I am still drawn to the idea of talking about money.

Regardless, this financial blog had some good ideas, and good points, but I did think one of his ideas was a little unwieldy in practice. He recommended making a list of everything you own. Ok, that would take forever, but probably be a good exercise, if I ever felt like undertaking it. I'm not sure I really want to go and detail out every baby girl clothes I have saved from Newborn to 3T that are currently sitting in my closet shelves nice and unobtrusively in boxes, whereas counting them would require delving into a lifetime supply of baby clothes. (Which I'd like to point out, saving all these clothes means that I'll have outfitted three girls with one set of clothing from Baby on up. So I've definitely gotten good use out of storing them).

No, the idea I thought a little unworkable in practice was to, in an effort to simplify ones' life, then sell/get rid of half of everything you own.

Now, that would certainly reduce any potential clutter in my house, as well as time/effort to upkeep my belongings. I can see if you're single, or even if you're married, but own a lot of extra stuff this would make sense. But for me, in my life, this idea is ludicrous. Now, if any of you know Avram and I in real life, you know that "sparse" and "sparing" and "banish all clutter before it comes into our house" are not words or phrases that fit into the same sentence as us. We are the type of people who have lots of bookshelves, and books to fill them with, plus two couches, for lots of seating room, and so on. I suppose we could get rid of half our books, plus the freed up bookshelves as well. One of our couches could go. But what about our kitchen chairs? We have six of them. So three would go. Except then who doesn't get to sit at the kitchen table for dinners - should Avram have to stand? Or Thora, to represent my repressed state in my phallocratic society? Maybe Lydia, to hearken back to pilgrim times when the children stood at the table to show respect to their parents. Not to mention I don't think that three grubby turquoise kitchen chairs would sell real well, that were hand-painted, but with Latex paint, which it turns out should only be used to paint light use furniture, not heavy use, and which are all now permanently ingrained with remnants of past meals.

Or bikes. Avram and I both have a bike - I guess mine goes. (Once again, I'm being repressed. I even repress myself, which shows how much I've bought into the system. [Can you tell I've been reading vaguely feminist weird fiction again?]). There are emotional items I own that serve little practical purpose, but which I love.All of these Mortar and Pestles, for example. In order from L-R: A granite one from England, A wooden one bought in front of the pyramids in Egypt, a marble one bought while in a Medieval Cooking Guild in College, an Alexandrite (I think) one bought from the Smithsonian, and made in Pakistan, an Alabaster one bought in upper Egypt, and which was instrumental in helping me realize I wanted to marry Avram, and then finally the little green marble one that was also from Cooking Guild. I don't want to get rid of any of these - they represent various times and places of the world to me.

I realize I sound so defensive. I am sure the author of this blog would think I was over reacting, and I am sure I am. This isn't a rally against his blog or getting rid of belongings so much as me realizing that I do like what I own, and also laughing a little at the plethora of well meant, free advice available on the Internet.

Sure, we all have extraneous belongings - clothes that we'll fit into someday, if we just lose that last five pounds/baby weight/our hips and adult sizes. Or the dreaded box of random crap that's hidden away under stairs or in a closet or behind the furnace, full of who-knows-what from former glory days. Anyone with kids has known the despair that toy boxes which must regenerate on their own by spontaneous budding and cloning can bring. But how could a functioning household just cut its belongings in half? I suppose looking at third world countries, and especially Haiti right now, there are many who have not even a tenth of what we do. But I am talking about continuing to function in a first world country. I'm all against clutter, and not owning useless items that we do not use, nor do we love. But I'm not going to get rid of one of my girls' toddler beds, and make them share just to prove this point.

When Avram and I moved to England, of course we only had what we could carry onto the flight - three tickets worth of checked baggage. And while living in England we often missed our belongings. I liked having pictures on the wall, and games to play in the evenings. We were often reduced to surfing the 'net together after Lydia went to sleep for our entertainment - one especially exciting night we window shopped for the type of coffins we someday want to have (Simple. Boring. Cheap. Plywood?) I realized then that I do not want to get to the end of my life and be able to fit all my belongings in a shoebox. Neither do I want to build a living mausoleum of towering belongings, reminiscent of the junk lady in Labrynth. I just want to love and use the belongings I have through life.

Since first encountering Flylady four years ago (whom I follow in de-cluttering practices, but that's about it), I have often gone through my home boxing up clothing, toys, extraneous belongings, and books that we neither use any longer, or that we have a surplus on. I keep two continuously rotating boxes marked for the Goodwill and for Half Price Books, respectively (our local used bookstore that gives small pittances of cash in exchange for books). After Christmas this year I gave three large garbage bags and one box to the Goodwill, to make room for our new Christmas gifts from exuberant gift givers, and let me tell you, we still need to find more to give away because our house is filled to the limits with belongings. I think that with the prevalence of belongings caused by Industrialization, Plastic, and cheap outsourcing we all need to find methods of preventing things from overtaking our lives.

I know the author of this blog meant well, and I suppose for him this has been great advice. He and his wife and young child are moving to Australia, and for them they are getting rid of everything they're not taking on the plane to their new home. But for us sedentary types, who live in 1,000 square foot town house apartments, I do not think this advice is as helpful. I like Flylady's approach to getting rid of belongings that we keep just for guilt, or for other reasons that do not make us happy.

What advice have you encountered on the Internet that was meant well, but rather ludicrous if thought on for a while?


  1. I actually made a list of all my belongings when I was 18 or so. I didn't list every book but wrote "253 books" or whatever, and same for clothes. Buuut...I didn't get rid of half of them.

    I love getting rid of stuff though. I am currently really happy with my closet and dresser. They fit all of my in-season clothes plus special gowns (don't want to box them up) with plenty of room to search through them. In the past, both have been overstuffed. I've decided that from now on, this is the way it will be. If they start getting overstuffed again, I have too many clothes. Which means every time I get new clothes I have to get rid of some old clothes.

    Samuel and I just made around $100 selling some books on It was awesome. I had been keeping some expensive literature anthologies but finally decided to get rid of them because I could find anything in them either online or at the library, easily. And anyway I tend to not like anthologies. They are just too big for practical use in my opinion. We also sold some other random books that we didn't want. We still have lots of books that we might never read again but yet dearly love. We won't be getting rid of them.

    Once I found a financial blog by a girl who compulsively bought jewelry. "Well I accidentally spent $10,000 at Tiffany's, so I am going to return some things and pay off some of my other credit card." O_O

  2. Most of the ludicrous advice I have encountered out there in cyberspace has to do with parenting. Advice like, if your kid won't stay in their bed, just put up a baby gate in their doorway, and they will eventually fall asleep (after bawling their eyes out for who knows how many hours) and you can move them back into their bed. Then after waking up in their bed so many times they will finally get that that's where they are supposed to sleep, and bedtime will be blissful for the rest of your life. Which may be the case for some people's children. My child, however, would start with the screaming, and there's no telling how long he could hold out. The kid could teach the military a thing or two about holding out under torture. Then when hours of screaming didn't work, he'd move on to the puking portion of the evening. And even if he did eventually fall asleep, he would wake up the very second I tried to put him in his bed, and start the whole process all over again. And that's if I got over feeling like I would be scarring him for life (which I'm sure sounds like a paranoid over protective mom, but again, Oliver is not just any child, and it very well could cause him more, and permanent damage.)

    Ok, rant over.

  3. I don't have an answer for that question, but I have fallen madly in love with your kitchen chairs and curtains from afar.

    Also, I love the flylady's policy of finding hotspots and just doing "five minutes." That five minutes does me a lot of good in feeling like I accomplish things.

  4. I don't agree that it is frugal to get rid of stuff. I think it would be better to save things to use in the future.

  5. This is Thora, posting under Avram's account, 'cause I'm too lazy to change accounts.

    I do like the five minute room rescues, and the hotspots approach as well. I'm amazed how how accurate her detailing out of hotspots are - I'm always fighting the surface our our desk in the Living Room. Usually it's winning.

    I read recently that for heavy use furniture with painting, you should use oil paint - harder to apply, but more durable. So, I do love having painted kitchen chairs, but next time I'll use oil paint instead of latex based paint. Especially because we're renters, and I can't paint any walls, it's nice to have the brightness that colored kitchen chairs brings.

    I like the financial blog that considers returning $10,000 worth of Tiffany's jewelry as good finances. (Well, it is good financially...comparatively, I guess.)

    Parenting blogs can be hard too - I think because what might works for you or your kids, even on multiple kids, won't work for someone elses.

  6. Moving is a GOOD way to get rid of things. When I moved to Utah everyone was SHOCKED at how little I had.

    When I was packing (because I was having it shipped) I considered "Is this what ever, worth paying for twice?" (because I was going to have to pay to move it)

    And pretty much, because I'm cheep, the list of "I have to have THIS THING" was VERY small.

    There hasn't been much that I missed, so I think I did a pretty good job. And I'm pretty sure I got rid of MORE than half my possessions.