I have too much stuff.
Part of this is because I moved from a 4000 sq ft house to a 1000 sq ft house. I left behind a tremendous square footage of stuff (just ask Lani and Alastair), but I still brought a lot of stuff with me. Since then (two years ago), I have given away even more square footage of stuff, and I still have too much. In not unrelated news, I have too much stuff in the stories I’m working on, but it’s hard to clear them out because I have too many stories I’m working on. At one point I thought I might be a hoarder (of stuff and stories), but Krissie pointed out that I give stuff away all the time without hesitation. Evidently hoarders don’t do that. But still, I have Stuff, and I’ve been thinking about how to deal with it all.
The first realization I came to was that the fact that I have great stuff doesn’t mean I have to keep it. I have gorgeous plates and bowls, but I have a million of them. So I put the ones I use on the shelves and the rest in a box for Krissie to take with her, probably to Goodwill (still haven’t found a Goodwill that’s close by here). I also have eight stories started (You Again, Lavender’s Blue, Haunting Alice, Stealing Nadine, Ghost of a Chance, Cold Hearts, Paradise Park, Monday Street), and a couple of others that are so old it’s like reading somebody else’s book, stories that I loved once and am now trying to find my way back to. I’m think they’re like the plates, though, and some of them need to go to the Fiction Goodwill (aka the trash). The pressure of them sitting in Dropbox is weighing me down, which makes me depressed, which leads me to buy more yarn. (Note to Self: Do not buy any more yarn. Unless it’s really, really good.)
The second break through came when I realized that a lot of my clutter problem is because I bought a house with no closets and no cabinets. The only storage this house had was a triangular shaped closet under the stairs in the guest room, two really small closets in the dining room and back bedroom that had to go in the gut job, and a flimsy china cabinet in the tiny pantry that also had to go (old and a little rotted). My kitchen problems pretty much disappeared when I built the pantry wall and the open shelving in the kitchen proper and then got rid of everything I couldn’t fit there, so I’m thinking that’s the best approach. My yarn problem (Hi, I’m Jenny and I’m a yarn addict), vastly improved when I redesigned the living room to be a studio with really nice chairs and a TV instead of a living room, and my tiny bedroom’s linen problem was solved when I built shelves along the ceiling that hold boxes for sheets and folded quilts. Once the shelves were filled, I started tossing. If I don’t have room to store it and/or I never use it, it goes.
I’m not sure how to translate that into clearing up my fiction overload. It’s easy to get rid of worn sheets or yarn that I have no use for, but stories are different, they’re full of people, and walking away means you’re killing off characters. I started a story called Charlotte (working title) about fifteen years ago and I still have the file in Dropbox. I’m afraid to open it because I’m afraid Charlotte will still be alive in there. I’m pretty sure she’s turned to dust, but I’ve thought that about other stories until I read their beginnings again and thought, “I can’t abandon this character, she needs me.” I’ve also thought about just turning them all into novellas; save the character, save my Fiction Folder. But stories tend to be what they want to be, deciding on their own length, and while you can clean them out, rewrite to get rid of the worn parts and the stuff the story really has no use for, in the end, they’re gonna be what they’re gonna be. It’s a problem.
The big takeaway from all of this, though, is to get rid of Stuff. Finish it, delete it, give it away, whatever, but get rid of everything that isn’t useful or beautiful (except Wolfie) so that I can live a cleaner, easier physical and creative life.
Stuff. I need it, but not this much of it.