Not cross-country, not out of the city, not even out of my building. Just to another floor. And, into a lovely, larger, lighter place. You’d figure, for a laid back, outwardly chill zen renegade dude, it’d all be okay…but no.
Being in our new place will be great, but the process of getting ready, getting moved and getting settled. Not fun. So, I’m breathing through it and, as always, trying to figure out what the experience can teach me…and you. After all, my pain should be your awakening…
1. Parkinson’s Law Applies to Stuff as Well as Time.
Parkinson’s Law says:
The work needed to complete a task will expand or contract to perfectly match whatever amount of time you’ve allotted.
So, if you give yourself a month to write your next book, that’s how long it will take. And, if you give yourself a year, 364 days later, you’ll be bitching, moaning and deep into your 8th can of Red Bull rushing to get it done on time.
Parkinson was a smart bloke, but I wonder if he ever moved?
Because, if he did, I bet he’d have extended his theory to stuff. I’ve lived in studio apartments, one bedrooms, two bedrooms, lofts, 3 bedrooms, houses and more. And, no matter where I end up or who I’m with, one constant always holds true…
You will accumulate precisely the volume of stuff your living space can hold without breaking floor joists or rupturing closet arteries.
Actually, that’s not quite right. If I’m gonna be honest here, we need to modify this rule to allow for as much stuff as can be held in your home, a modestly priced storage unit and your in-laws attic.
2. How Far You’re Moving is Irrelevant.
People are saying to us, “man, you’re lucky, you’re just moving 3 floors away in the same building.” Lucky my ass! In fact, it’s easier to move farther away. Here’s why.
When you’re moving farther away, you line up a team of people to help with everything from packing to storage and moving. But, when you’re moving within the same building, you start to have these idiotic thoughts about how much money you’ll save by not having to hire a moving company.
I mean, c’mon, how hard could it be, it’s only a few floors. And, you don’t even really have to pack, right, because nothing’s going to break on the elevator.
Sounds great…until 3 days before the move when you finally realize you’ve amassed 16.2 times more stuff than you thought you had and after 2 days of packing and no visual cues that’d suggest progress, it dawns on you what an awful idea going it alone was.
You’ve still got to pack the exact same volume of stuff that needs to be packed for a cross-country move. By then, of course, all the movers are booked, leaving you rifling through your gmail contacts to see which of your slacker (read, “blogger”) friends you can pay with pizza and beer to stop playing Rock Band on a week day long enough to lend a hand on moving day (FYI – I’ll tell you how that works out in a few days).
The only saving grace, of course, is that you don’t have to pack those boxes that remain hermetically sealed at the back of your closet from your last move 5 years ago.
3. As Your Closets Go, So Goes Your Brain.
All of which leads me to a conclusion. I’m actually unusually non-pack-ratish. If I were living alone, I’d likely have a giant open space with a bed, a dresser, a desk, my Macbook Pro, some outdoor adventure gear and a Lisa Grubb painting of a giant technicolor dog I bought on the street outside the Met in NYC a dozen years ago, before she became famous.
I don’t have a lot of my own stuff. I wear my notebook computers out every 3 years, drive a 10 year old Jeep Cherokee, own two pairs of Lucky jeans, 2 sweatshirts, 1 suit and enough t-shirts to get me through a week. When I travel, I take half my belongings with me, they all fit in a backpack.
But, I don’t live alone. I share my space with my wife and daughter and let’s just say their relative levels of anality and zest for accumulation differ quite strongly from mine. for them, more space means more room for stuff. And, more room for stuff means, well, more stuff. Which leads to a long, slow slide into the “stuffification” of whatever place we end up in.
Until, we all wake up on day and say, “holy crap, where’d all this stuff come from.?!”
Now, it’d be half funny if that was the end of it. Problem is, I’ve come to realize…
The state of your space almost always reflects the state of your mind.
If your space is bursting at the seams with stuff and you’ve long ago lost any sense of why anything goes anywhere, there’s a really good chance your brain and your bigger picture life are living and breathing that very same disheveled experience. Some people can function well in persistent squalor. I can’t. And, I’m willing to bet most people are the same, but they don’t realize how dysfunctional and less effective they are, because they’ve been operating under the burden of physical and emotional clutter for so long, there’s no “less frenzied” control mode to compare it to.
But, here’s the really cool thing. You can, to a certain extent, reverse engineer your way into a better state of mind and daily living experience by starting with your stuff. By, stripping away the excess, donating it to folks who are far more in need of stuffed animals, elephant mugs and lightly worn clothes.
In fact, I witness a similar outside-in evolution as a yoga teacher. Students most often came to the mat in search of some purely physical experience and goal. And, they found it, losing weight, getting strong, ameliorating pain. But, over time, as the outside began to morph and evolve, they’d discover a deeper evolution of mind occurring. Physical transformation led to psychological and spiritual liberation.
4. The Preemptive Strip & Give.
As we got ready to move, we went through this very process with my daughter (at least that’s the room it started in). Over the years, she’d accumulated buckets full of toys and more than 100 stuffed animals that sprawled across a high shelf and were not part of her daily experience. Over one long afternoon, we cajoled her into giving well over half of her toys, stuffed animals, belongings, clothes and even furniture to other families and kids in need.
Over the next few days, the volume of stuff in her room dropped about 70 percent. We weren’t sure how she’d handle it. Would she morn the loss of her stuff? Would she harbor resentment toward us for nudging her rather strongly to depart with it? We got our answer last night. As she lay in bed with my wife, she leaned over and said, “mommy, it’s so much more peaceful in my room now, it just feels calm.”
As much as the process of moving sucks, as we trickle that unburdening out across all of our stuff, I have to say it feels so good to be released from cacaphonic undertone of stuff that’s taunted our collective sanity from the safety of nearly every nook and cranny for years.
5. Post-Move: Recreate a Saner Place to Live & Work.
And, once we’re in our new, larger and lighter space, the challenge will be to keep to our renewed commitment to a paired down, simplified, better organized place to live and work. To keep our stuff to a minimum and create a cleaner, more livable…calmer…space.
Thankfully, just a couple of weeks ago, my friend Erin Doland, who also edits Unclutterer, came out with an equally fabulous book called Unclutter Your Life in One Week. Like the blog, it’s packed with practical tips, tools and strategies that move beyond your workspace and deal with clutter on the level of both practical actions and shifts in mindset (seriously, get it now, so you know what to do with all your new holiday stuff).
So, as we settle into our new place, I’ll be leaning heavily on Erin’s organizing genius to create a renewed living and working space that keeps the clutter out and the calm in.
As always, wondering if anyone else had shared in similar experiences?
Or, maybe dealt with totally different “stuff styles” with spouses, lovers, partners and beyond?
Share your thoughts (and advice) below…
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