Clean Swept

Despite the fact that watching the show has not had an immediate and radical affect on my life, I do actually pay attention to what they say on TLC’s Clean Sweep. One of the biggies – and you hear this every episode – are the siamese-twin arguments of “If you have this because of the memories it reminds you of, keep the memories and lose the thing” and “If this really meant that much to you, you would take care of it and display it properly”. I’ll admit it, I am a total sentimental schlub. I have every letter ever written to me, and every card ever sent to me. However, they are not nicely organized and accessible – there’s a few in this box, some under that, a few more over here. Since Dad died, I’ve been loathe to get rid of anything that he gave me, ever owned, like, etc. Again, this stuff is not necessarily taken care of but it is scattered with tje rest of my scattered stuff.

One of the very positive things about the TV show is they do a fair amount of psychotherapy to address not just the physical state of these messes, but the psychological reasons why they exist. Dad is gone, hanging on to his stuff won’t bring him back. Having 20 year old letters from people I haven’t talked to since doesn’t do anything for me. Having bunches of toys in the same boxes for the last 5 years isn’t that much fun. On their website, the Clean Sweep crew has a bunch of tips. I think they are perhaps slightly overbalanced against sentimentality and towards spartan living, but I’m paying attention to them.

One thing they don’t address is one of the valid situations to be keeping things that aren’t displayed or used, and that is when you are living in a space for a short or medium term that is smaller than where you plan on being permanently. That’s kind of where we’re at. We’ve been moving around frequently, which might have been a reason to get rid of much of my stuff. Instead, I’ve been using it as a reason to keep it because “we won’t be here that long, and later on I’ll have a place to display it.” This isn’t a great reason to keep crap, but it does temper some of this. I have grown fed up with myself in many respects, and my lack of organization and preponderance of junk is one of those.

I recounted through this weblog my struggles with culling books before the last move (and on the move before that.) Since 2000, I probably have half the books I used to own, adn there are places to cut deeper. I’ve been addressing the old concert shirts that either don’t fit or are too ratty to wear (“lose the thing, keep the memory”) and am now getting prepared to tackle the issue of the toys. I forsee a run to Goodwill in my future. The really hard things to part with are stuff of relatively low value like my run of 15 years of science fiction magazines like Asimov’s and F&SF. I practically never refer back to these things, they live in boxes that get moved from place to place and never unpacked, and if I really needed to I could get them back for $0.50 apiece because they just aren’t valuable. Still, I keep them and getting rid of them feels wrong. I need to work on this part. I’m sure the relief of being rid of them will more than make up for the pain of actually doing it, and then I wll be free of the burden of this stuff.

If we were settled in one spot and planning to be there for a long time, this wouldn’t be such an issue. However, we know that isn’t yet the case and there is at least one move in the next few years. The packrat in me says “keep it all and one day you’ll have lots of room for it”, while the tiny voice of order says “keep the few important and highly sentimental things and then you can start over if and when you ever are permanently settled.” Listening to the voice of order will be a long, uphill battle that I fight every day.

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Dave Slusher is a blogger, podcaster, computer programmer, author, science fiction fan and father.