Ground Rules #3: Why a “project”?

Why in the world did I do this? Why would anyone do this? Also fair questions… Featured image

#674: an old suitcase (speaking of baggage…)

It’s also worth explaining why I called the “1000 things project” a project. I knew from the start that, like any project, the 1000 things project would require a significant amount of effort and commitment, a target timeline, some planning along the way, and the willingness to change and adapt as the project went on.  Most importantly, the 1000 things project was motivated by a particular set of goals, which are worth explaining in more details. My goals for the project were these:

Make my house look and feel noticeably less cluttered. My house is not all that large (1400 sq. ft. or so), so even though I don’t have a lot of stuff compared to many people I know, I don’t have a lot of space for what I do have.  There were numerous clusters of things (which I came to call “nests”) scattered about the house. Some of these were still useful (the coat tree and the recycling area, for instance) but many of them had long ago lost their purpose or never really had one to begin with: things just gravitated to certain places and settled there without any particular purpose or value. So I wanted to change that.

Gain insights into my attachment to things, both in general and relative to specific objects.  As I started looking more closely and consciously at the things I had, naturally it wasn’t long before I started questioning why I had many of them. How did I get them in the first place? Why do I have still have them? What’s stopping me from getting rid of them?

– Change the way I think, feel, and act about bringing new physical objects into my home and my life. As I started focusing on the outflow side of things (getting rid of stuff), inevitably I started thinking about the inflow side of things. What would be the point of getting of 1000 things if I brought in 1000 or even more other things into the house at the same time? So while I did not make my 1000 things project a ‘net flow’ project (i.e., get rid of 1000 more things than I took in), you could certainly do it that way. Choosing not to keep track of things coming in is certainly easier for tracking purposes, but the more important reason for me was to keep my focus on the giving up/getting rid of part. Besides, I had already been experiencing a noticeable drop in the flow of incoming things now that my son was off to college (big difference there, as any parent will tell you). This allowed me to have much more control over the inflow of things; and since I’m not personally inclined to collect a lot of things, there was already a noticeable drop in the volume of things coming into the house, so I just didn’t see it as an issue.

Get me thinking about the way I think, feel, and act about bringing other things into my life. As the project progressed, one of the things I learned early on was that my relationship with things is really much more a mental one than a physical one (more on that in future posts). There is a physical relationship by definition, of course, but it isn’t necessarily primary or even operative — for instance, a sentimental attachment to the object that can exist whether the object is present or not. This in turn got me wondering about the other things that I bring into my life that are not physical — digital, mental, emotional.  This was too much for me to focus on at the time, but the 1000 things project did plant the seed for future wondering.

– Do the process as responsibly and consciously as possible.  It’s pretty easy to get rid of 1000 things once you put your mind to it. An afternoon or two of going through a garage or basement or attic, assembling a pile of stuff and then calling a junk hauler to remove it — that’s pretty much a no-brainer. Adding a sense of stewardship to the process is an entirely different matter. Caring where each thing ends up, placing a value on each object and then deciding what to do with that value, turns into an undertaking. It takes a fair amount of commitment to be even more mindful, let alone at all mindful, about this many things, rather than being thoughtless about them.  And that’s one of the main reasons why I called it a project. You might think that undertaking this project in this way is a bit crazy, and you would have a point. For me, it was well worth the time, as I will explain. Your experience may be different, but most likely it will be very similar if you choose to do the 1000 things project as an extended act of stewardship – some parting attention for each thing with which you part. Beyond these goals, I had one more overarching, ultimate goal: more on that in the next post…

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