I was looking at Middlebrow's blog yesterday (although, Middlebrow, I know you're on vacation, but when your post reads "Day 1: Driving to Blanding, Utah," you have to know your reader is going, but what about Day 2? not to mention Day 3? I'm just saying.), remarking on its sleek minimalism. For instance, he announced about the re-upping of his Flickr account, but no shiny, distracting Flickr badge. He's got his blog roll, his del.ici.o.us, a site meter, and that's about it. Middlebrow is a notorious minimalist. I think he has, like, three e-mails in his inbox at a time. He deals with things. Things have their places. He doesn't have too much stuff. I admire this quality, mainly because it is a quality that I manifestly do not have, not in the least. There is not one minimal thing in my entire life. Not my blog, not my house, not my office, not one thing.
I am thinking about this because of all the projects going on around here. The organizing of the study. The reshaping of the downstairs. The outdoor projects, front and back yards. Every room in my house has more things than it should have--remnants of all the periods and eras of my life. For instance, there are chairs outside from the historian's house, from my apartment, from thrift stores. Two lawn chairs were my grandmother's, one is from somewhere else, I'm not sure where. There's a stainless steel table of which I do not know the provenance or what it's supposed to be for. And, of course, there's the new old stuff I bought at the consignment store.
I could do the same rundown for every room in my house, but it's already freaking me out a little. What is all this stuff? What is its meaning? Sometimes I think it is a pathology, the acquisition and retaining of stuff which names me to myself and comforts me in the renaming. I'm sure there is an unattractive Freudian explanation which I shall just skip over ("denial"). Also, I kind of just like stuff. There is a certain physical pleasure I derive from just going out, looking at things, thinking of which ones I'd like to take home, put on tables or in cupboards or in closets, wear, use, handle, have around me.
I think that tomorrow, I'm going to take everything out of one half of my study and make myself be a little ruthless. Let me just say, however, that this is by no means a cure. It will, at most, deal with the symptoms. To cure maximalism, you have to believe that the stuff you have, the stuff you acquire, the stuff you keep, is only stuff, and not somehow a part of you. I don't know what it would take to believe that. I think it might be kind of like having excellent vertical leap. Some people think you can improve vertical leap, but I don't think anyone believes you can improve it much. If you have it, you have it. Of course, that's until you get older and you lose it anyway. Okay, it's not very much like vertical leap at all. Perfect pitch--it's like that. I'm pretty sure that my maximalist tendencies are related to all the good, interesting qualities about me. I just wish these excellent traits would help me to clear a path between my desk and my chair, and also reduce the stuff in my closet by a third.