Over the past year or so I’ve been clearing out closets and giving as much as possible to local charities. Last Spring I had gathered enough stuff that it covered half the front lawn and steps of my apartment building and necessitated the charity truck to come pick it all up. But there was still work to do. A few weeks ago I took a donation haul to the Goodwill up the street. It was enough stuff to fill the back seat and trunk of my car. It is incredible how much stuff a little apartment can hold. More remarkable is that I lived with all that unwanted stuff for so long. That’s a story for another time.
In all that sorting and washing and donating, I found some things I’d overlooked. One example is six trash bins. Six not including the one in the kitchen! This is a one bedroom apartment. There’s no way that so many trash bins are necessary. There are two different styles. I have a vague memory of not liking the oval ones (why did I buy them to begin with if I didn’t like them? And why would I even have trash bin preferences?) and getting rectangle ones instead. Even though aesthetics is a ridiculous reason to buy something when something I already had was doing the job just fine, what possessed me to buy four of the same bin?! Three of them sat stacked and forgotten in the closet for most of the year. If we guess that each cost about $5, that’s $30 wasted on things I didn’t need that are made from unsustainable materials and designed to hold refuse destined for a landfill. Not a smart purchase but a good example of why mindful spending is necessary.
I think I’m keeping two of the rectangle ones: one for the bathroom and one for household laundry like cloth napkins and towels. The rest will be washed and donated to charity. A bit of an odd charity item, but they’ll be clean like new and perfectly usable. And with any luck, I’ll never buy another trash bin ever again.
I own seven sweaters. And eight pair of shoes. And over $500 worth of books I’ve never read. And $500 worth of postcards. And six trash bins. And fourteen bowls. And over 200 pencils. And three computers. All this among an apartment full of other rarely-used things. For my purposes, it’s too much. I’ve paid for all these things. I’ve paid for them with little regard for where they came from or just how many working hours it took to earn the money to buy each one. I bought many of these things to fulfill some need to satiate a desire for convenience or an attempt to manifest some (false) lifestyle vision whose importance withered shortly after the object was acquired.
In 2017 I’m going to do more to appreciate and use what I have, responsibly re-home what I don’t need, and practice mindful spending when I do need something new. I’ll document the changes and challenges in words and pictures with the aim of achieving a handful of goals, some money-related, others not.
My decisions and actions need to consciously match my values. I value experiences over objects, and people over profits. I value recognizing that we are dependent on the environment and need to repair the damage we’re doing to the natural world. I value supporting independent artists and businesses over multi-national soul-less corporations. The current economy is not sustainable and is the cause of suffering for so many around the world. I want to vote with my dollars and use my voice to change that.
Planning and coordinating projects is one of my favourite things. I’m experienced and will eagerly play helper monkey to friends’ creative projects. Following through on my own ideas is a little more complicated. I am my primary subject; I can only speak to my own experience. I’m often apologetic about this, and the Fraud Police frequently use it as ammunition for their insidious campaigns. My creative work is nearly always tied to a personal situation, time, or relationship. When something dramatically changes about the situation, time, or relationship I have difficulty engaging with the material post-change. Difficulty is an understatement. I abandon the work.
Artistic projects that are inspired by personal experiences and their related emotions are a double-edged sword. The emotions that inspire the creative endeavor can also bring it to a grinding halt. I’ve started many projects that I’ve never finished. I worked on a couple of books at different points over the years.The work was good, sometimes even scholarly. I spent a lot of time on it. But because the book topics were intertwined with my daily life I couldn’t look at the manuscript anymore when things unraveled. First was that it hurt. Anything that brought to mind the failure, heartbreak, or regret was best avoided. Then I convinced myself that the work wasn’t good or meaningful; it was no longer relevant to me so how could it ever be relevant to anyone else? Then I lost interest. I felt it wasn’t me anymore. Even worse, I wondered if it might’ve never been me. I’m not sure that what I wrote about my life in 2009 was true. Or that what I wrote about what I thought my purpose was in 2013 was accurate. I might’ve believed that I believed it at the time. I’m not even sure that’s true. A trip I took earlier this year is still a pilgrimage in my memory; that’s silly and can’t be right, can it?
My attitude toward writing has changed a lot in the past couple years. Where I used to try for spontaneity with no filter, these days I more often write from a place of looking back – one week, one month, 10 years, etc. In the moment I feel quite neutral about what’s happening; I don’t trust or react to my own perceived feelings. It takes a long time of reflection to determine what I felt, and even then I can see the different facets of any given situation or feeling. Writing things out helps me understand what happened. Trying to explain the feeling or situation to someone else helps clarify my understanding of the experience. I guess in sharing it I hope that someone else will better understand me or themselves or us. Because it takes me a while to sort things out well enough to write about them, it’s too easy for my mind to talk me out of writing anything at all. Who’d want to read this? Why would anything I do or think matter to anyone else? Narcissistic self-doubt is narcissistic and yields no fruit.
The pattern of project passion and abandonment has made me hesitant to share my ideas. I’m preoccupied with the flawed notion of displaying some kind of consistency that borders on branding. I’m not a brand. I want what I share to be honest and human. To do that I need to share stuff that is messy, joyous, painful, and pure folly. To share that I need more encouragement than I’d like to admit. To be encouraged I need to talk about those things that rattle in my mind; I need to write them out and share them. It’s stupidly cyclical and simple.
I have three projects brewing for 2017. Remind me to tell you about them sometime.
This afternoon I spent some time mapping out an idea for a project for next year. The project needs a name so I asked a trusted creative friend for some ideas. One of the names involves a plate.
I liked the idea. I thought about a designing little graphic to accompany posts for the project because I’m an old-school blogger that way. In seconds my mind went from shopping for clip art online, to the Goodwill up the street where I might find some interesting dishware, to shopping for local handmade ceramics downtown. It was more than mental; I searched websites and thought about logistics. I probably spent about 20 minutes on all this. Mentally I went from entertaining a twinkle of an idea to gagging for the opportunity to spend $75 (SEVENTY-FIVE! Where did I come up with that number?) for a handmade plate that I’d use as a prop. I’d take a photo of that $75 plate that I’d then turn the picture into a cute little graphic. There’s nothing wrong with a $75 handmade plate. Buying locally-made, natural, quality wares that will last is a good investment. The next time I do need a plate, I will eagerly purchase a handmade one. But right now I don’t need anything new.
Brainstorming ideas, no matter how silly or impossible, is great. But in my pondering I didn’t even consider using what I already have or what I could borrow. I didn’t even think about doing a plate drawing or collage until literally just now. I’d like spending money to be the last possible option. That’s the point of the project: Figuring out how to use what I’ve already got, how to DiY more, and how to spend more responsibly.
But more on that project later… providing a suitable logo can be fashioned.
p.s. If I’m honest my mind is still hung up on endlessly scrolling through Etsy looking at plates.