Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Drowning in paper

It’s the paper that defeats me. The mountains of unread things. I’m not even talking books. The problem is magazines. A long time ago, I discontinued magazine subscriptions when I realized Newsweek was oppressing me by showing up weekly.

The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up deals with unread books: “Get rid of them today.” Okay, I understand that: I can always get it at the library when I’m ready to read it.

But ending my magazine subscriptions didn’t solve the magazine problem. Just like AARP found me when I turned 50, AARP The Magazine AND the AARP Bulletin found me. Suddenly magazine subscriptions started coming as extra little perks with my donations: Better Homes and Gardens from the Alaska Botanical Garden, Sierra from Sierra Club, The American Scholar from Phi Beta Kappa. PaknTreger from the Yiddish Book Center, Reform Judaism, even Via from AAA. The list goes on.

Individually, I love these magazines. I donate to the organizations because I find them worthwhile and interesting so of course the magazines cover topics I’m curious about. I never fail to find something noteworthy in each issue, something I’ll share with someone or tear out to cook, create, ask about, or follow up on.

For instance, in my latest batch, I discovered a new toothpaste (Livionex) that’s been confirmed as cleaning better than traditional toothpastes. I got instructions on how to cover an old lamp shade with fabric, which popcorn brands aren’t coated with Neonicotinoids, and whether Sophie should get the new meningitis vaccine. That doesn’t even count the book reviews I tear out (to add to my reading lists), the recipes, or the places I fantasize about for our next trips.

And that’s the problem. Magic calls these “papers to be dealt with.” “Make sure that you keep all such papers in one spot only. Never let them spread to other parts of the house.” Ha, ha, ha.

The only way that happens is when people come over. Then I pick up all the papers and magazines that have stopped at the kitchen counter and relocate them to the chest of drawers in the bedroom. Today, in the zealous spirit of Magic, I picked up the whole enormous, tipping pile and polished the furniture under it. Now I’m looking at the pile in the living room.

Mostly, Magic says if it doesn’t spark joy, I should get rid of it. But that’s mostly because she’s dealing with the storage of papers. These papers and magazines are still stuck in triage. They need to be read before I can recycle them.

So I did a little cost-benefit analysis: how many hints/interesting bits did I think I’d get out of an issue and was it worth hunting through it? Four issues bit the dust right there. I opened one to check the contents and saw an article about two friends of mine. Now what if I’d thrown that out?
There are some that will feel like work to read and some that will … spark joy. Mostly, I think the joy comes from being easy and light. The American Scholar is tough to read, but it is … illuminating. Those articles stick with me, lead to many intense conversations, impact my world view. That gives me joy, but it’s a work-hard-for-it joy, not a “spark” of joy.

One reader asked, “If you like something but don’t love it, does that count? How do you know whether you love something or whether you just like it a lot? Is loving something the same as getting joy from it?” Another said that “It’s the emotional energy it takes to make all those decisions that flummoxes me.”

We’re all suffering underneath our clutter and the decisions about our clutter! I have to hope that after a while, in our Third Thirds, we just get sick of dealing with it. We have better things to do with our time than sort, organize, peruse so we just throw stuff out. Then we look at our clean, polished dresser and we are joyful.

Y’know what? I’m getting there. It’s just that my clutter isn’t getting there as fast.

1 comment:

  1. Your de-cluttering articles have inspired me. I'm in the same boat - your blogs are resonating with many of us! I've been taking all the photos out of my photos albums (I had 50!) and sending them 1800 at a time to be scanned. It's amazing how all of that is now on 3 DVD's. Now the big question - I still have all the photos (now in neat boxes). Can I bring myself to eventually throw those away? I know my daughter didn't want the photo albums and probably won't want the photos either. She can look at them on her computer on the DVD...


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