Question: Bingeing on Purging?

Cas éloquent d'accumulation compulsive - salon

When it comes to decluttering, what do you reckon works best: doing it all in one fell swoop, or eating the elephant one bite at a time?
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Drunk on Life

I have been thinking about minimalism a great deal lately, and it seems to me that it isn’t so much a case of getting rid of things as of distilling your life to its essence. Getting rid of things is not the point, it’s the process. All that stuff which is inessential (that is, not part of the essence) is an unlamented by-product of the distillation. I mean, when did you last hear someone fretting over the missing by-products of their whisky? Exactly.

When I look at my own life, however, I am afraid that it is far from being a pure essence. Any gunpowder drenched in the liquor of my daily existence wouldn’t give so much as a fizzle, let alone a really satisfactory BANG! Never mind proof or over-proof, you couldn’t get a dormouse drunk on this.

7schlaefer de 2009-2

But there is hope for me yet. Little by little, drop by drop, I am distilling my life into something stronger. I am peeling away the layers of things I neither want nor need – garments that don’t fit, holey unmatched socks, random paper-based stuff – and finding as I do that I am feeling freer and freer from other stuff as well. Things I have kept for years, decades even, because I felt I couldn’t let them go, I now feel perfectly comfortable about releasing.

It’s actually quite addictive. The satisfaction of seeing all the dross purged from one small area of my life is such an enjoyable feeling I can’t help wanting to repeat it.

Purifying a precious metal from its overlaying dross is a good metaphor for the process, actually. So, to my surprise, is a military campaign. I always think of military campaigns as being terribly grim and disciplined – and no doubt they are. My campaign is more a guerrilla-style campaign of freedom and joy. Like a guerrilla gardener or a guerrilla knitter, except they add where I remove.

Ffm traxler statue elche mit guerilla-knitting

I find myself prowling around the house, interrogating stuff with a critical eye. I lie awake at night considering potential targets and plotting my next move. Keep the best and toss the rest. And by toss I mean gift, donate or recycle. Or compost, in the worst cases.

I dream of being free of the bulk, the sheer physical thingness of my possessions. Of having the mental, physical and emotional space to devote myself to what truly matters to me. I plan, in fact, to get tiddly on the distilled essence of my life.

What have you been dreaming about lately? How are you getting there?

Feeling the Urge to Purge

Funny people, the ancient Greeks: at least four words for love (storge, philia, eros & agapē), but they make one word serve for cleansing, purging, pruning and emotional release.

It makes sense, though, when you think about it. The word ‘love’ is made to mean far too many things for people to be really certain of what anyone means when they use it; and the various meanings of katharsis do fit together with a certain neatness.

Katharsis (or catharsis as we spell it in English, presumably a thin attempt at covering up the theft) is generally agreed to be a pleasurable feeling. This is why we enjoy reading or watching stories which involve unenjoyable elements. Our emotions are taken out for a brisk airing and returned to their proper places with the warm glow of exercise. This is, incidentally, why we cry when we’re really happy: all the emotion needs to be purged, and tears is how we do it.

But it’s the cleansing/purging aspect of katharsis which I particularly want to look at. Because cleansing and purging are themselves cathartic. This is not to say that washing dishes comes with an automatic glow of satisfaction (if only!) but there is a certain pleasure to be had in pruning the unnecessary elements from one’s life, purging the unwanted stuff, and cleansing what remains. It’s refreshing.

Le faccende di casa by Adriano Cecioni 1869

I spent a while this afternoon cleaning and cleaning out the bathroom – with particular reference to the cupboards. A variety of items left the room for good, and what was left was vigorously reorganized. And I felt good. Unfortunately this took the form of making the Caped Gooseberry come and admire the results. (Patience: a highly underrated quality in a spouse.)

A word to the wise: don’t flush random medications down the loo. Sewage is generally treated before it’s released into the wild, but as far as I know they don’t have special filters for distilling medicaments from the surging tide. Drop them off at the nearest pharmacy/chemist instead.

But don’t worry. As far as I know the mutant-druggie-sewer-alligator is just an urban myth.

Albino Alligator mississippiensis