Thursday, January 17, 2008


I had a friend in California who told me of a Philipino New Year's tradition: clean the house from top to bottom, getting everything organized and in its place. The idea behind it is: the condition of your home at the start of the year will determine the state of your life for the rest of the year. Start off with everything organized and tranquil, and so shall your year be. Start the year off with everything messy and chaotic and, well, you know. That is logic that I just can't argue with.

Of course, New Year's Day found me in New Jersey. Then on a train back home, then standing in a parking lot waiting for AAA to deliver a battery that had been stolen out of my Jeep in my absence. Then I was driving home from the train station at a very late hour, eternally grateful that I did not let my AAA membership lapse. I had no time for cleaning and organizing on January 1st.

I decided to get everything clean and organized this past weekend, instead. I live in a studio apartment with very little storage space. Therefore, I do not have much stuff. So how is it then, that I have accummulated so much STUFF?

I put together a bag of clothing for the goodwill, a box of books for the book exchange, a pile of papers to shred, and a bunch of boxes that I no longer needed for storage. Yet somehow, the closet, the bureau, the bookcase, the file cabinet, and the storage space under the stairs are still full. Full of STUFF!

I know I am not alone in this. J has 7 rubbermade containers of Christmas decorations. I have a friend at work who lives in a 4 bedroom house with a 2 car garage; just her and her husband. They just rented a storage space for all the stuff that won't fit in the house and garage. And don't even get me started on Mel and all her shoes.

How much time do we all spend on the care and maintenence of our STUFF? I would bet that its significantly more than the time we spend on the care and maintenence of our lives! Think about it: how much does time spent on acquiring new experiences (like planning a vacation or taking a class) stack up against time spent vacuuming and doing dishes? Probably not well.

Maybe the real logic in spending the first day of the year organizing and cleaning isn't so much in getting everything organized and clean. Maybe the whole point is to get us to look at what we are filling our houses and lives with and decide if that's how we really want them filled. And maybe the true predictor in how the rest of the year will turn out depends upon our decisions in what kinds of STUFF we fill our lives with. Is it the kind of stuff that gathers dust, or the kind of stuff that dreams are made on?

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