Ah Bartleby! Ah humanity! (Minimalism, post 16.)

It was continued home-improvement adventuring that left Sunday’s laundry undone, but I got right into that laundry yesterday. It felt like a good way to start Monday. I didn’t want to drag last week’s laundry into the new week.

Another thing not getting dragged forward in time: three boxes of books!

This is the minimalism post I thought would never happen, guys. This is the one wherein I report that I’m getting rid of a chunk of my book collection, not just a box or two as I’d done previously. From Day 1 of my minimalism journey, I’ve both wanted this and not wanted this. Behold the plot twist chez moi:

 

destination: donation

 

Only after separating out these books did I realize that yeah, they weighed a lot, physically and metaphorically.

It was just a matter of releasing my insistence on keeping all of the books, more than the books, themselves. I had this pre-determined course of action (e.g. inaction) regarding the books, and I finally decided to ask myself why. I could find no good reason for my obstinance.

What I’ve got left are two full shelves of books from end to end in my office closet, along with these stacks of books remaining from my large, stand-alone bookcases:

 

keeping

 

The exercise grew easier as I went. An exhilaration built up in proportion to the growing pile of books to be donated. The question I asked myself with each hard decision: Do I really need this? I know about the significance of Mary Lamb’s accomplishment, so do I need this copy of Tales from Shakespeare? I have a body of this writer’s/poet’s work in a larger volume, so do I need this extant publication? Do I need these classics for any reason other than they’re classics?

Many of these books entered my life during college and grad school, including anthologies and textbooks of literature, poetic theory, and philosophy. I’ve also kept related required readings. The wonderful thing about being an English major and creative writing scholar was that our required reading was largely comprised of novels and books of poetry. I loved most of them. I learned a lot as I read and studied them. Of course I had to keep them! But all of them?

Some books, my reluctance to let go came from what they were. I had this nerdy and pompous idea that everyone should have them. I went back and forth for a day and a half over The Odyssey, The Aeneid, and The Iliad, then decided that I didn’t need to hang onto them because where the ancient Greeks are concerned, I’m more interested in thought than mythology. I’m keeping Edith Hamilton’s Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes, though, for reference. I’m keeping Aristophanes: Four Comedies for “Lysistrata.”

My decision to keep all of my collections of short stories (from classics to contemporary) sometimes came down to one work within. For instance, I’m keeping Melville’s Billy Budd and Other Stories for “Bartleby” (referenced in the title of this post).

In contemporary fiction, both literary and pop, I have a few collections: Nancy Drew (a pile that I’d purchased at a garage sale in Los Angeles in the 70’s hard-covers published in the 50’s and 60’s) and picture books from Hawaii. J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter, Lee Child’s Jack Reacher, Stephen King’s The Dark Tower. I’m keeping all of Harry Potter, as there are only seven books in that collection. I’m keeping Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series along with my favorite horror novels of his.

As for Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels? I have them all, and I wanted to keep them all… but there are 23, and while I like every one of them, I like some more than others. Actually, I discovered that I had 28 Reacher books, because I had duplicates of five of the novels. Something I wouldn’t have known! Five duplicates taking up space!

When I went to prune my Reacher collection, I ended up keeping:

  • The Affair
  • Gone Tomorrow
  • Bad Luck and Trouble
  • Worth Dying For
  • Persuader
  • Tripwire
  • Nothing to Lose
  • Without Fail
  • Make Me
  • Past Tense
  • Never Go Back
  • A Wanted Man
  • Night School

 

The Reacher that stays.

 

Plus No Middle Name, a recent collection of Jack Reacher short stories. The first three novels listed are my top three favorites, which might have something to do with the fact that they were my first Reacher novels in the order I bought them from La Fnac in Nice. I discovered Reacher in France, as I’ve mentioned before.

By the time I was finished going through the books, I felt as though I’d escaped a tyranny of sorts. This might seem a dramatic and bizarre way to regard the collection of books I’d so fiercely defended in my minimalism efforts, but I think the tyranny was that of my own stubborn self.

My bookshelves and I feel much lighter now. It’s delightful.

 

 

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Reminder to self: this is why. (Minimalism, post 15.)

My beloved bluetooth speaker landed in a Goodwill donation bin a week or so ago. This was not the plan. It was an accident, a mix-up, and when I realized it later that night, a peculiar melancholy settled into my spirit. I felt a little lost without the silly thing. I mean, it wasn’t like I’d named the speaker or anything, but I carried it around with me quite often in this big green tote bag (the one that looks like a handbag, but serves as a duffel, with my actual handbag inside).

Music means a lot to me. My music exists out there in the ether; I know that I could listen to it on the exact same speaker were I to go out and get a new one, but it was my speaker that I wanted.

The next morning, I got to the Goodwill five minutes before they opened, spoke with the manager, and walked out with my speaker, which was found after the kind people in the back searched through the bins for about 20 minutes.

This incident brought back to mind one of the motives behind my minimalism efforts: my desire to resolve my issue with attachment. It’s one thing to love a cherished item, but it’s another thing to feel forlorn if the item vanishes. The thought of my speaker all alone in a bin of discarded electronics actually had me feeling sad for it.

Emotional attachments like this are unhealthy. How can it be healthy when the loss of a material item jeopardizes your emotional well-being? Buddhism teaches against attachment for a reason.

Mind you, this speaker holds no sentimental value for me. It’s just a speaker… and now I realize that it’s kind of like a security blanket, which underscores the problem.

When it comes to minimalism, everyone has their reasons. For me, a minimalism mindset is a worthy one to cultivate because I want to stop forming attachments to material items. If this Goodwill incident was a personal minimalism test, I failed.

I’ve obviously got a way to go before reaching my goal. I’ll keep working on it!

 

 

Is Black Friday compatible with minimalism? (Minimalism, post 14.)

November was a giant black hole in another dimension, and everything fell into it. This is the last week of the month; I thought I’d be back in the gym this week, but shenanigans have ensued since my last post, so I’m still here… until Saturday. I will go back to the gym on Saturday. THIS Saturday. December 1st. My last workout at the gym was on November 3rd. I missed a whole month. See? Black Hole.

Meanwhile, I found out that when Black Friday comes along in the midst of black hole induced cabin fever, one’s minimalism efforts face a challenge. At the height of my gift-shopping adventure, my minimalism efforts for myself were challenged… but not destroyed.

Replacing things rather than piling things onto existing things works. I’m donating more than I’m buying because getting rid of one thing motivates me to give away more. It doesn’t work the other way around – buying something doesn’t motivate me to buy more things. (I look for specific items rather than browse.) Despite my online Black Friday activities, I now own less than I did before Black Friday. Black Friday can be compatible with minimalism!

I just dig a bargain. Outrageous bargains give permission for seasonal recklessness, and I love some occasional recklessness. I love The Body Shop with its amazing vegan/cruelty-free fragrant bath and skincare products. What can I say? I didn’t ask to be a Capricorn with an Aries moon and Taurus rising.

Also, it’s not my fault that The Body Shop created not one, but three limited edition holiday scents this year. I have to try them all, right? So I can know which one(s) to stockpile for the coming year?

In other minimalism updates news, I’m still seriously thinking of doing the unthinkable: getting rid of books. Maybe not all of them, but many of them. A lot of them. I’m overrun with books. A significant pruning is in order. Considering letting go of my books has me thinking about asking Santa for a Kindle, and this is also unthinkable. Who am I anymore?!

Could this be my mid-life crisis? Swapping out paper books for a sliver of aluminum that will confine every book I read? The idea of it makes my blood run cold. You know how a part of the cigarette addiction is behavioral/physical… the need to hold a cigarette between your fingers? I still remember the torture of that from when I quit smoking 25 years ago. I can feel it coming back when I think about no longer physically turning pages when reading a book. The feel of the paper. The cracking of the spine. The dog-earing. The flipping through. The tossing aside when I hate the ending. I love books. I feel an anxiety attack coming on just writing this.

Nah. I probably won’t do it…

 

Not decorating is the new decorating. (Minimalism, post 13.)

I’ve always loved decorating my living spaces. I have a new décor aesthetic now, which I’m quite enjoying. It’s called “Not Decorating.”

There’s a wealth of beauty in “nothing.”

My office is alive with plants and not much else as you look around. Save for a few around my desk, my books are behind closet doors and stashed on shelves in other rooms.

Speaking of books, another update from the minimalism files: I did what I insisted I couldn’t do. I filled a laundry basket with books to be donated. (The laundry basket’s also going. It’s broken, but still serviceable. We finally got a new one.)

I finally had to do it, guys, and by the time I got to this point, it wasn’t that hard. The more stuff I gave away in my minimalism journey, the more the books were crowding me out. I cleared half of the shelf of books in my office closet. The other half remains full, and all of the bookcases in the house are still jam-packed. It’s a start. It’s more than I’d thought I’d do, at any rate.

Interesting how getting rid of things creates the illusion that what’s left takes up more space…

Shocker 2: I gleaned my t-shirt collection again and ended up setting aside almost 50%. This is where you wonder who I am and where is Kristi.

Our second big sweep has begun! My next minimalism update will include pics.

Happy Friday Eve, all.

 

 

Blind data. (Minimalism, post 12.)

Prompted by the recent demise (my fault) of my laptop and the subsequent acquisition of a new one, I’ve turned my minimalism efforts toward my electronic files… a necessary undertaking I’d been putting off. Can you imagine a task more tedious than going through archived files on various flash drives? I mean, there’s a tedium level of minimalism high up on the scale, and the electronic stuff is definitely on that level, as far as I’m concerned.

I’ve been combing through these four flash drives for a week now, and I’m still doing it, a little each day, looking through and comparing files and deciding what to keep and what to merge… until my eyes bleed. Not only is it bad because it’s taking up space, but also because when I want to find something on the drives, I can’t, or it’s difficult because I have to sift through piles of crap.

I don’t remember what I named something. I don’t remember when I took it or put it there. I don’t remember what folder it’s in or what drive it’s on. I have flash drives bloated with redundant files, files within folders nested in folders nested in more folders. Every time I got a new laptop, I transferred files onto different drives without thinking about it, because I was always in a hurry, and general wisdom says keep all of your files. It’s wisdom that comes from the umbrella mentality of always back up your hard drive so you don’t lose anything. We’re taught to be obsessed with backing everything up, so we end up backing up stuff we don’t need.

If there’s one area in my life in dire need of minimalization, it’s this, because electronic clutter is still clutter, and it’s the worst. It’s the most. I have more clutter on flash drives than anywhere else.

I have duplicate files. I have different versions of the same document. I have files that have overlapped from hard drive to hard drive. Since I’ve also gone back and forth between flash drives over the years, it’s not clear what files came from what laptop, though I’ve tried to keep things findable and organized.

Not only is this minimalism task tedious, but it’s maybe the most difficult in terms of letting go, emotionally. It’s one thing to make a decision whether or not to keep an article of clothing with sentimental value attached, and it’s another to look at a scanned picture of, say, a family reunion and decide whether I want to keep it: Why would I want to keep this picture? Do I need it? Does it bring me joy? Does it still matter or really matter? Am I going to want it one day and regret that I don’t have it?

Hundreds of image files piled up all over the place. What makes me crazy is the idea that having come from a pre-digital era, I know that I wouldn’t have all these pics if the digital era hadn’t been invented. When we all used manual cameras and took our pictures to be manually developed, did we take a hundred pics a days? When our primary concern was Kodak or Fuji, did we collect receptacles in which to store all of our developed pictures? Unless we were photographers, most of us did not. We did not cart around boxes bursting with 15 years’ worth of albums and loose paper pictures.

Our technological advances have enabled us to hoard, and it goes unnoticed because you don’t have to a clear a path to walk through the house when what you’re hoarding is electronic files; authorities are not going to bust into your house and report you to the producers of Hoarders.

Living in the digital age doesn’t mean I have to sentence myself to a lifetime of carrying around every single image and document and version of my three resumes (one with administrative experience, one with writing and editing, and one with combined admin and writing/editing, many of which I’d organized differently for the application of different sorts of positions).

All of this to say, I’ve been sitting on a list of the minimalism tasks I want to begin in the near future, but I’m starting this one now. When I got this new laptop, I sat and looked at my flash drives and sighed. I did not wish to clog up yet another hard drive with unnecessary files, only to transfer all of them plus additional hundreds of accumulated files when I get my next laptop.

It’s been chugging along. I’ve trimmed things down considerably. I’m not done, but I will be soon. I’m not finished yet, but I’ve learned. I’m not allowing this to happen again!

UFC-inspired minimalism musings and The Body Shop lipstick review! (Minimalism, post 11.)

Minimalism paradox of materialism: when you’re so bored with everything, you want nothing. This is a new mindset for me, one that developed naturally as I began to settle into minimalism. It used to be that if I grew bored with something, I would want something else, or I would think of something else. Now, it’s just good-bye when I’m no longer enamored with that thing.

I do differentiate between replacing something because 1.) I’m bored (“I need something different”); 2). there’s something else that I want (“something has to go”); and 3). there’s necessity… something happened to my old one, or I have to get one because I need it and I don’t already have one. With minimalism, my inclination toward #1 has melted away.

Then there are special cases of I just want that thing, like last Saturday when I bought a new t-shirt and it didn’t replace a damn thing. UFC Fight Night came to Phoenix (specifically, to Glendale). We went, and we were confronted with once-in-a-lifetime merch. It was a t-shirt that had to happen. It’s one of those shirts that if I’m still alive 30 years from now, I’ll come across it and bemoan that it’s full of holes and falling apart. The shirt will go on into infinity. Good memories will wear the shirt more than I ever could.

Come to think of it, though, I do have a thing for souvenir merch. I always get a t-shirt when we go to concerts and whatnot. We don’t go to them so often that I’ve had the opportunity to consider it since moving my mindset into minimalism. I’ve had the opportunity now. I bet the UFC has no idea that it can inspire people to think about minimalism.

Speaking of Saturday’s UFC Fight Night case and purchases made to fill an empty space (this one would be the red lipstick space): I wore one of my new The Body Shop lipsticks to those UFC fights, and I wanted to report on how it held up, because that was a long night. This is my public service announcement to you lipstick-wearing individuals: The Body Shop’s Colour Crush lipsticks kick ass. I give this product five out of five stars.

I was impressed by how well the lipstick held up after eight hours of wear. The color stayed vibrant even after chewing gum, eating a protein bar, drinking water, and applying lip balm over the lipstick several times. (Granted, a protein bar is not a good indicator of how well the lipstick would wear while eating an actual meal.) I took some selfies in the car on the way home, in three different lights, as lighting fluctuates on the freeway. As usual, I didn’t filter these pics, neither did I use a lip-liner. The color-saturation shown here is authentic, and the color is visible even in the darkest light. It didn’t bleed onto my face in the absence of lip-liner, either. This is The Body Shop’s Colour Crush lipstick in 125 (“Crazy Sexy Crimson”):

 

The Body Shop Colour Crush lipstick in 125 (“Crazy Sexy Crimson”) – 8 hrs later

 

No retouches after eight hours! Callaghan’s surprise was real, too, and he expressed it even though I didn’t ask him about it. We got home and he said, “Did you put on more lipstick?” and I said, “No,” and he said, “Wow that stays on!” Yes, it does… especially surprising because the lipstick is so weightless and moisturizing. I added to the moisture with lip balm, as I’d said; you’d think that several applications of lip balm over lipstick would cause the color to fade and bleed. That did not occur.

The next time I purchase this lip product, it will be a minimalism-considered replacement. I would love to get another UFC souvenir t-shirt, too, but that’s much less likely to happen.

Getting rid of music? (Minimalism, post 10.)

After I last talked to you on Thursday, I went on an unexpected minimalism sweep, and I mean a major one this time… maybe the second-biggest anti-haul since my initial one. Three days of on-and-off plundering later, I took the spoils to be donated.

[Sidenote and speaking of my last post: I read it again later that day (the Geronimo post), and I found a typo (a missing ‘s’, I believe). I went in and fixed it. Please do let me know if you see typos or other errors in my writing! Don’t be shy. It’s like if I have something green stuck in my teeth, I’d rather someone point it out to me than allow me to go around talking to another hundred+ people like that. Haha.]

I didn’t plan this latest minimalism undertaking. You know… accomplishment in itself feels amazing, but unexpected accomplishment adds an extra kick of satisfaction. This time, I had no mercy. I slashed my sock drawer in half, when up until now I’d maintained that I wouldn’t go there. This progress suggests that my next major sweep might very well include – gasp – books. Could I possibly get to a point where I can decide which books to donate?

While going through the closet in the guest bedroom, I re-encountered my collection of music books, which largely define my childhood. I found Hannon and Czerny exercise books; instructional book series; rhythm and timing workbooks; collections of works by specific composers; collections of popular hit music from the 70’s and 80’s; loads of sheet music (popular, classical, and the blues); holiday music of several different cultures; and my practice notebooks going back to my very first day of piano lessons. Even my violin instructional book is in there! I took violin for six months before my school lost the program and the lessons stopped. My parents got a piano, and I picked up my music studies from there. I was a lucky kid. An excellent piano teacher came to the house once a week for the next nine years; she basically watched me grow up.

My first piano lesson was on November 14, 1978. It’s written on the first page of my first lesson notebook. Just the sight of my teacher’s handwriting brings back memories. The date of each lesson. Reminders to trim my nails (at the top of each entry, sometimes in all caps and with multiple exclamation points – my piano teacher invented screaming in all caps). The practice time charts she drew every week (for me to write in the time I’d spent practicing each day. “30 minutes minimum!!”) And her assignments for the week, numbered in order of priority.

There’s no reason to keep the music with me, but trashing it is unthinkable… at the moment, at least. There was nothing to decide on Saturday. Instead, I sat down and spent some time looking through the material. I’m not even sure that some of it still exists. For instance, are Wesley Schaum rhythm and timing workbooks still in print? Do music students learn rhythm and timing from them anymore? The Schaum workbooks I have were published in 1969 and 1970. They cost $3.00 each.

The memories of this homework, guys. Book Three, Lesson 15: Counting with Ties and Slurs. “On the staffs below, some of the measure bar lines are missing. Draw in bar lines where necessary to make the proper number of counts in each measure. Then write in the counting on the dotted lines (include the word ‘and’ where necessary).”

 

From Wesley Schaum’s Rhythm Workbook, Book Three.

 

It’s also interesting to see the evolution of my penmanship in the way I wrote my name at the top of each page. (By the way, is penmanship even a part of grade-school curriculum anymore?)

It’s possible that I’ll be back one day to report that I’ve thinned my bookshelves, but it may be longer than that before I start dismantling my music collection. Most of it would have to go into the recycling. Stuff like my completed rhythm and timing workbooks? Useless to others. I’m not sure that anyone would want my sheet music with my teacher’s comments in the margins, either, not to mention the stickers I’d chosen for each piece I’d mastered. That was an interesting evolution to observe, too, how the award stickers got less and less babyish as time went on.

I don’t know. I might do this dirty work one day, or it might be up to someone else to dump the music after I die. It’s hard to imagine minimalizing music when it’s printed on paper. Paper is not technology that becomes obsolete.