Converting to Buddhism, Religiously

01Jun09

By which I don’t actually mean “converting to Buddhism” (though as I get older I seem to become “more zazen, less anything else”), but rather “dramatically overhauling my ownership of large piles of crap.” This is something I have wanted to do since I got out of undergrad, but since I’d consigned myself to three more years of living in studio apartments and building furniture out of my casebooks (not actually kidding), I never really got a chance.

Then I moved in here and had to get over the six- and nine-month “humps.” Until this February I hadn’t had the same address for more than six consecutive months since 1999. Which doesn’t sound all that long ago to me, except it was a decade. I was tempted to buy a Tumbleweed House and go park it on the beach. (I still am, only I want a slightly larger non-wheeled one – say 250 square feet).

So with the frighteningly addictive help of Zen Habits and Unclutterer, I recently started overhauling my life again. I did this in undergrad, with excellent results, but with different aspects: my diet, my exercise habits, my sleep habits, my wardrobe. (My wardrobe is an ongoing project. I am my own Barbie doll.) Those things are as good as they’re going to get. I want to overhaul my medical routine, but that is taking Time.

This time, it’s been a combination of (a) getting rid of my excess crap and (b) getting plans for using the crap I have been carrying around that is not designated “excess,” like my several hundred books. The excess crap was stuff I kept because I didn’t know where I would settle down and therefore didn’t know what I would need there. (Some of it, like my casserole dishes, was because I inherited things from family, like the original-issue Pfaltzgraff service for anywhere-from-1-to-14-depending-on-what-you’re-serving-it-on I got from my mother. My only use for a casserole dish is soaking my feet. And holding my meds.)

(By the way, if anybody would like to trade an original-issue “Village” three-quart mixing bowl or a couple of the pedestal mugs for a casserole dish or two, please let me know.)

The books were because I am a total sucker for buying books and therefore tend to buy them much faster than I can read them. Also I buy books because “I think I should have this,” not because I ever intended to read it. That’s how I got Mills’ On Liberty, for instance, which I am finally currently reading. But I digress.

At any rate, having made the first big cut in the junk and a much bigger cut in my wardrobe than I had originally realized I needed to make (and yet, I miss nothing…clearly I am over-accumulating clothes), I am now attempting to make a dent in the books. This, of course, requires me to read the many I have accumulated but not read, to determine whether I should in fact keep them. Which I don’t mind in the least (or I would not accumulate books in the first place), but which is a slow process during which I must either live with the books or burn them down.

The good news is that I thought working ten-hour days would exhaust my reading-and-writing brain, but it’s actually (along with some proper exercise and HT-5 production…o hai lumen, glad you could join us) making me sharper. I can retain and articulate much more quickly than when I’m not under the gun. Not that I’m suggesting I want MORE work, certainly, but I seem to do best when the thumbscrews are just a leeetle tight. Must remember this when work slacks off again. (Which it won’t until after Sept.)

Right now, I am trying to decide if I want to dispose of the Herman Miller table and/or one or two of the three chairs in my living room. The more I have moved crap out of my living room, the more I have realized that I have a prime setup for a small dance studio, which I have always wanted. I only use one of the chairs, and the other one came from my parents and could easily go back to its spot in the spare upstairs bedroom whence it came. The third chair is my task chair from undergrad, which could also go to the parents or to one of my various college-aged cousins, except the cat loves it. A lot. So if I get rid of either, it’ll probably be the leather one first. (Though I could try moving Her Highness’s rainbow blanket to the leather chair and moving said chair to the sunny spot and see if its appeal increases.)

The table is not mine anyway; it belongs to my landlady and can easily be taken back downstairs. It’s a handy spot to put my laptop when I’m not using it, but that is literally all that table does. That and sit around rocking its bad-ass utilitarianism.

My inclination at this moment is not to move anything until I see if I can get the bookshelves down to one unit. I have sufficient space for my purposes right now (as long as I don’t go crazy with the pirouettes or jumps), and enough books to get through that it might be nice to have armchair options (that the cat has not bogarted).

The nice part is that, so far at least, I’ve had to trash very little. Even that year-old stack of ABA Journals I kept insisting I’d read got recycled. (I kept exactly two articles, a total of about nine pages.) I made one run to Goodwill on Saturday and will make another this week, and the furniture will either go back to my parents, to a cousin, and/or get donated. And OMG is it easier to sweep up the cat hair now!

Speaking of which: I rolled up the rug for storage, but Gracie has decided that makes it her own personal tree. I don’t want a rolled-up rug in my living room indefinitely, but it completely deters her from sharpening her claws on the cork wall. Maybe I’ll squeeze it in a corner beside a bookshelf.

Speaking of Her Catliness, here’s what she thinks of all this:

Thppt!

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