Today I'm pondering the way that material things clutter up the way I live. When I started law school, I minimized the number of material things I kept in my apartment. I had more than plenty of things, but I eschewed too many books or too many papers. I was so organized,and I could see it in the way I could focus on what mattered.
I seem to have accumulated so many things now. They're not precious things, nor particularly expensive things, but instead things for hobbies and daily fun. But I have too many things, too poorly organized.
In some cases, I think I just need to change course altogether.
I have in my spare room the 45 gallon aquarium and the 30 gallon aquarium I bought for far less than their full market value some weeks ago. I had the ambition to get a huge aquarium stand for Christmas, to begin setting up the huge tanks. My wife, though, reminded me of how tank maintenance was an issue for me with a mere 10 gallon tank. My last tank, some four and a half years ago, was a huge success, when it comes to the fish thriving. I had the happiest guppies on the block. But it always a good number of green algae lines from being a picturesque affair. Who knows how much algae I could grow in 45 gallons?
I notice that I have now been journaling about how I want to set up a new tank for some two years. I've slowly acquired the makings of a new tank--for that matter, through the miracle of yard sales and Craig's List, I have now acquired the makings of several tanks for not very much money. But perhaps it's time to scale back my ambitions, and either have no tank or one very modest 10 gallon tank. My eye sees so much further than my grasp, sometimes.
In the same vein, I seem to have acquired thousands of books once again. I've largely stayed with my policy, adopted years ago, that I would buy used or remaindered books rather than new whenever possible. But now I have far more books than anyone needs. If they were all resource texts that I would consult regularly, I would not mind, because one can never have too much information about things that one likes. But in fact, most of my books are just novels read but not passed on to others to read.
Lately, I find myself wanting to live with more focus. I'm sometimes more than a bit diffuse, by pursuing so many hobby things at once, so that too few things get accomplished. I don't mind being a jack of all trades and master of none. But I want to simplify the way I live materially a bit.
For that matter, it's not so much "what gets accomplished" that matters, because I try not to define fun in terms of imaginary ribbons. It's a matter of simplifying and focusing.
In yesterday's paper, I saw a notice of a bankruptcy auction for the House of Nickels, a Plano old-fashioned video arcade which my nephew and I visited during the Summer. I had a brief mental flash of attending the auction and buying a Pac Man machine for nothing. But then I realized that the mere fact that (a) Pac Man machines are great fun; and (b) I might get one at a bankruptcy auction for nothing, would not solve the (c) issue: I don't really need a big machine cluttering up our house.
Similarly, I was in the convenience store last week, when I saw one of those used pennysaver papers, called "Boat Trader". I love fishing boats, so I reached to pick one up. I accidentally grabbed a "Motorcycle Trader", and did not notice I had the wrong thing until I was in the car. I chided myself, because I have no use for a motorcycle. Then I remembered I really had no use for a boat, either. I don't want to incur storage fees, nor go fishing every weekend. For years now, I rent a boat in which to fish perhaps once or twice a year, for less than thirty five dollars a rental. What would I need with a boat to add one more thing to worry about to my life?
I have this impulse, which I hope is not fleeting, to arrange and empty and sort and dispose. It's been with me, for some weeks, but so far little has come of it. But I can feel it starting to burn, and to grow, and in my life, that sometimes means that I'm going to transform things. A journal is helpful that way, because it makes the words real. During the life of this journal, I've written poems and gotten one published, written a novel, taken a nine-mile hike down my favorite local trail, recorded music and had it pressed onto CD, sent out mail art, done more pro bono legal work and expanded the number of people with whom I'm friends. Maybe those Puritans had something.
But I'm still at the beginning of this de-cluttering bit, when it's more a hypothetical than a reality. I made little steps, and then realize that larger steps are needed. My next step is to decide whether to eBay or freecycle or find a school to which to donate the large fish tanks. Then I'll tackle those vintage music books I got for nearly nothing, and mined for dulcimer/autoharp friendly books, and which box now sits on my floor, with a couple of dozen other books I don't need. I have the piano books in my car, ready to give to my sister when I go to Arkansas next. But I must begin dispensing with other books.
I guess it's a form of wanting to be better than I am. I hope I can succeed in actually being better than I am. It's not that I want to do nothing or have nothing. I'd still like to resume running chess tournaments on a modest scale, to resume writing poetry, to do more pro bono legal work, to take longer hikes and go fishing. I want to play more mountain dulcimer and autoharp. I want to visit more relatives, and spend more time with/make more friends. But I want to do everything in a more systematic way.
But it's a matter of more than just talking about it. Tonight I'm going to take the first concrete steps.
Now if I can just figure out what those steps are.