Friday, March 14, 2014

PHL Work Session: The Spring Purge

It's been a long winter, and like nearly everyone else in this big city, we've been busy.  I'm pretty opinionated about over-consumption, and we don't tend to buy a lot of stuff we don't need.  But we are a bit slow with getting rid of stuff when it is worn out or no longer necessary.

When a thing is going down hill, my first approach is always to try to fix it.  I sew patches on holes in my pants, I've taken apart and tinkered with almost every electronic device I've ever owned, I've re-caned chairs, and bought or made replacement parts for many of my power tools (which are almost all hand-me-downs).  For me, making attempts to repair things is a fun (and sometimes frustrating) challenge.  It gives me a way to learn how things work, it keeps things out of landfills, and it helps me treat my possessions with respect and care.

But, I've have a hard time learning when to give up and let go.  I suspect it's that little hitch in one's mind that turns into hoarding if you let yourself get carried away.  I shan't.  The older I get, the more I realize that life is short, and you don't want to spend time bogged down with things that don't make your life better.  Letting go of my emotional attachment to things (and learning how to avoid seeing my identity as interwoven with my possessions) is something I focus on in my Buddhist practice.  Whoops!  There's the tip of a whole different iceberg: Buddhism.

Let's go back to getting rid of surplus stuff.

Once I have determined to let something go, there's the question of what's the most responsible method of disposal?  I'm a reduce, reuse, recycle girl.  Cindy will tell you that I've got her thinking about that stuff now too.  A convert!

Anyway, if a thing still has some life left in it, and we've determined we simply don't need it, the best thing to do is to pass it along to someone else.  In the past, I've sold some things on ebay.  But that's a bit of a hassle for me (making the listings, tracking bids, answering questions, taking care of shipping... none of these things make my life better).  These days, I'm thinking I shouldn't be so keen to sell stuff.  The thought of going through the ebay process is so tedious in my mind's eye, I get lazy, and the get-rid-of pile starts growing.  Besides, shouldn't we give things away when we can afford to?

So this morning, Cindy and I had a PHL work session to purge our closets.  We're also getting rid of the vast majority of our reusable bags that seem to effortlessly pile up.  Does this happen to everyone, or just us enviro-hippie people?  It seems like someone is giving me or Cindy a new reusable bag almost every month.

Here's our pile of stuff to give away from this morning.

Don't be alarmed, I'm not giving away my bike panniers.  I've decided to take as much as I can carry to Housing Works in Manhattan on my way to work each day until I'm done, so those two bags are already packed for today.  Actually, to be more specific, the clothes are going to Housing Works, and the bags are going to the theatre where I work.  Our theatre's Green Team just hung some hooks by the door so that people can snag and return bags when they go out for lunch, etc.

While I'm on the subject of work and saving the environment, here's an article I wrote on the topic for  the New York Innovative Theatre Foundation's focus on Green Resources for Theatre Artist.  It has a lot of my thoughts on where things can be recycled when they're unfit for donation.

Getting rid of unnecessary things that are cluttering up our house is liberating.  After all, there's too much stuff in the world.  Cindy and I want to spend our time cooking and eating good food, doing our projects, and horsing around together.  We don't want to spend our time managing our stuff - cleaning it, organizing it, storing it...

Speaking of storage, it's amazing to me that so many of us spend so much money to keep a bunch of stuff we don't need in self-storage facilities.  Of course, some short-term stints in storage are useful and legitimate.  But so many people just leave their stuff there and pay their storage bill for months or years because they are either emotionally attached to owning that stuff, they're too lazy/busy to deal with their stuff, or both.  My personal recommendation is we should all get rid of that excess stuff and spend our money on things that make our lives better.  Don't you agree?

Check out this excellent New York Times article for all the gory details on the self-storage industry.

And if you need any more inspiration to do your own Project Happy Life Spring Purge, have a look at this fine video called The Story of Stuff.

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