Thoughts on Doing a 3rd (& final!) 1000 things project

(Just!?!) one more time…

2070 corkscrew honeymoon
(#2070: part of a corkscrew (other part missing); recycled 10/30/15)

As noted in my previous post on this topic, the total number of items in my 2nd 1000 things project carried me well past the 2,000 mark, which has started me on another 1000 things project. To be honest, this decision falls somewhere between a plan and a rounding error. My last haul to Goodwill put me at 2,037; with such a great start, how could I not keep going and count 963 more?

If the logic of that escapes you, well, let’s just say it’s not entirely logical to me either. Clearly there’s something deeper at work here which on some level is worth my knowing. But I do have my limits, so I’m calling this 1000 things project the 3rd and final one for a few reasons:

– I’m starting to get a little tired of counting at this point. The phrase “blessings beyond counting” has been recurring in my mind lately, and I’ve been playing with its possible dual meanings: ‘blessings that result from reaching numerical targets’ and ‘the blessing of finally being free from the need (desire? compulsion?) to count.’ The longer I keep counting, the louder the voice which says “are you crazy? OCD? obsessed with counting? weird?” [etc.]  Writing about it and sharing my thoughts with others has the same effect. I find myself wondering if I’m somehow revealing some deep secretive part of myself, at once aware of this in the abstract but blind to what’s actually being revealed. At any rate, I don’t want counting to become counting for counting’s sake. I’d also like to avoid the same OCD trap that seemed to afflict several of the authors whose books I read over the summer.

– At the same time, I’m curious about just how many more things I’ll need to get rid of to reach my stated goal of living in a dwelling where everything I own has identifiable purpose or value. Will 3,000 get me there or within sight of it? Only one way to find out…

– The notion of forcing the issue seemed appealing to me lately. I’ve derived this notion from watching the experiences of several people I know who have moved or are in the process of preparing to move, whether a downsize or a move to a faraway location.  The appeal of forcing the issue is to speed up the process; it makes getting rid of things a high priority, and thus it’s easier to get rid of a lot of them relatively quickly. When my older sister recently moved, for instance, she told me that she got rid of about one-third of their things over a several-month period. Then there’s the extreme, “natural disasters” version which I encountered recently at a conference, where I heard three different stories from colleagues about losing home possessions from a fire (in which they lost almost everything), flood (of a basement, but lots and lots of things had to be thrown out), and lightning (they had to throw out about 25 bags of clothing, and all of their remaining clothing had to be dry cleaned).

Despite this appeal, having to move usually means not having the time to be maximally, or even satisfyingly, thoughtful about each thing you own. I don’t want to abandon being thoughtful about the process, so I really don’t want to force the issue — but I don’t want another project to drag on for another nine or ten months either.

As a result, for this project I intend to focus on how to accelerate the process without forcing it — get rid of stuff more systematically and quickly, yet thoughtfully.  I intend to apply what I’ve learned from my first two 1000 things projects, including my readings and learning from the stories and experiences of others (which includes many of you who’ve told me such great stories and shared such wonderful tips!), toward developing and testing out one or more specific processes for doing this. I’ve already started identifying some of the steps and testing them out, trying to learn as I go. (More on this in later posts.)

This 3rd and final 1000 things project also appears to have several other important characteristics:

Awareness of (almost) everything I own. Now and then, I still rediscover a stash of forgotten things, most recently the stack of music, song, and lesson books stashed inside the piano bench. While this briefly makes me wonder if this will ever stop happening, I really have just about run out of such places. While I can’t tell you what’s in every single box or bin yet, and there may be a few more surprises left to rediscover, there is no area of my house that remains unexamined. For me, this awareness of all my things is a major milestone towards being able to identify their purpose and value. Which brings me to the next step:

What does “identifiable purpose or value” really mean anyway? — I’ve treated this goal as if I know what it means — that I’ll recognize it when I see it, that I can define it in concrete terms, and that I’ll be able to tell you and others when I’ve reached it. But I’m starting to realize that this goal may not be quite as clear as I’ve been treating it. So there may be some interesting surprises and insights in store for me here.

Tougher decisions about getting rid of stuff. I’ve gotten rid of most of the easy stuff by now, which means that the decisions about individual items are getting tougher. The corkscrew cover (#2070) pictured above was missing the actual corkscrew, but it was a somewhat tougher decision since the Cartwright Hotel was one of the first places Martha and I stayed on our honeymoon to Northern California 26 years ago. (Still, I don’t need the actual thing now that I have the picture and the reminder now.) Even relatively easy ones like the old high school student handbook below, with its explicit instructions for disposal (read the notes in red) still required a momentary stroll down memory lane.

2051
(#2051: CVHS student handbook, 1971-72; recycled 10/27/15)

This reality directly opposes my intent to get rid of things more quickly, but it does feed into my being more systematic and still thoughtful about it. The resulting conflicts are already interesting: I’m starting to hear newer inner voices, and the familiar ones are becoming louder and more stubborn; the embedded stories are more numerous and compelling; the attachments are stronger and often more deeply buried; and I’ll need to up my game in the curation and gratitude departments.

Curiously, the one area where I feel things getting easier is with “completing the cycle”: I don’t feel any urge to fill the newly emerging spaces in my home with things; instead, I feel stronger, cleaner, and leaner every day as another small pocket or space is emptied.

Overall, though, it will be interesting to see how the conflict between tougher decisions and more effective disposal plays out as I move forward.

More blog entries and writing in (near) real time. Up to now, I’ve been playing catch up most of the time with my chronicling of the 1000 things projects. There was no chronicling for the first project since I had no intention at the time of doing so; most of my chronicling during the 2nd project was about the first project, with the exception of a new stories and the book reviews, which were only a couple of months after I read them. I still have a lot of catching up to do with the second project, but I will be making more of an effort to chronicle in (near) real time what happens in this third (& final!) project.  Starting with my next post…

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