I'm de-cluttering 'Indifference'

lilydillyFebruary 25, 2009

Hi, I read something on another site that really stuck in my mind. It said something like:

Life is too short to fill our spaces with things we feel indifferent about.

Well, it got me thinking about the stuff I have in our home and while I've often asked myself "Do I love it? Do I hate it?", I've never actually applied the criterion of "Am I indifferent towards it?"

Over the past few years I've de-cluttered to the point that the only decorative items we have are the ones that I never mind dusting, because it is always a pleasure to pick them up and hold them even to dust them. it means we have just a a few only but that's a great feeling, to actually enjoy dusting.

Also, I love our sheets so much I never mind making the bed, or changing and washing the sheets because they simply feel so good.

But I've realised there are still things in our home that simply inspire "indifference"... things that are just "there", in the background, not jarring the senses, but not inspiring them either.

I've started thinking about how I can change this. My list so far includes;

Coffee mugs that don't make me want to hold them with 2 hands. There are some mugs that I always reach past to get to the ones I love the feel of. My DH always goes for certain mugs because he likes the way the handle feels. Why are we keeping the ones we avoid? The thick boring ones? Not for visitors, as I give them our nice ones too. I keep them just because they are coffee mugs and I don't hate them. They can go now because I'm "indifferent" to them.

Music: you know the cd's we hang onto because they have some great songs, even though the rest are just so-so. And others that are all great except for a couple that we detest? I've decided to download all my favourites, only the ones that bring me out in goosebumps and get rid of the rest.

Perfume and lotions etc: I have some that is ok and doesn't smell awful, but doesn't exactly make me close my eyes and take me to another place. I love the smell of coconut and citrus, and it always makes me feel good, so why do I hang onto the lavender and rose ones I was given? I don't hate them, but neither do I look forward to a bath just so I can smell them. I do with the coconut and citrus ones. So the others can all go to a friend who IS passionate about lavender and roses.

Photos. I only want to keep the ones that I look at over and over again. Out go the photos that are just photos and nothing else.

I love setting the table when I use my bright orange Mexican style cloth. My other beige one? I actually make myself use it sometimes because... well, it's a good cloth isn't it? So how come I use the orange one as often as I can?. Because the other one I feel indifferent about. It can go now, I see.

I'm hoping to apply this criterion to lots more things as I come across them and above all, when I'm shopping.

The real test will come with going through my closet. How many things do I have that are just "there" because I don't actually DISlike them, but neither do I feel really good about.

This is probably an old concept to a lot of you, but I feel like I've discovered a whole new way of looking at things. I've used the rule "if you don't love it or use it, out it goes". But I've also realised that I've usually thought in terms of ...if I hate it, out it goes. Counting "indifference" as a rule for getting rid of something is going to alter my perception a whole lot, I think.

No longer will so-so, ho-hum and o-kay be keepers.

Anyway, I'm excited about my belated new year resolution and would love to hear what others think and of what makes you feel "indifferent" and how it works for you.

Cheers from Lily

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I'm with you on that. Having to "hate it" takes too much energy--so lots of things won't pass that test.

I'm a mug-handle person. Always drink my hot tea with milk and sugar from a mug. Wrong handle--I won't use it. Problem is, my favorites have had the designs washed off by the DW. Oh well--now some of them are pure white! So now any mug that doesn't pass the handle test goes out, except (!) for one set from a special place, so they get to stay.

I'm trying to use the "indifference" to help with not buying certain clothing items. I have enough clothes that I don't need any that I'm not just crazy about or that fit an exact need. It seems harder to do than I would like, though.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2009 at 6:26PM
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Lily, I realize that I've been doing exactly that... I just didn't have a "title" for what I was doing. It is a wonderful process!

I just got my long-dreamed-about sewing room cabinets, but they certainly aren't big enough for all my crafts, so I am weeding out everything that doesn't truly inspire me. So far I have gotten rid of more than I have kept. It's terrifying and exhilarating and a ton of work, all at the same time.

Now... as for the books... oh dear! I think they're all deeply non-indifferent, all 90 million of them!

    Bookmark   February 25, 2009 at 6:29PM
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I remember once counting all the mugs I owned, I had so many given to me as gifts, others had sentimental value,like the mug I used all thru college that had one little chip on the rim,and the mug I made in ceramics class with my friend Sue, etc. There were over 30 mugs! Now Dh and I do not need 30 mugs, even if we have company, it's maybe ten people all together. So I threw out all the "extra" mugs I could and kept only tem. That was about 20 years ago. Time for Another Purge, maybe?

    Bookmark   February 25, 2009 at 8:48PM
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Whoa. This scares me. Really!
I can't do the black-and-white "either you love something or you don't, and if you don't, get rid of it."
I think the "indifference" can only go so far, tho.
I mean, I'm looking around my combined LR/DR now. I really like the DR table and chairs I bought about 8 years ago. I really like a modern-looking console table that I just moved to the other side of the room. I really liked my sofa when I bought it, but now I really wish I chose a lighter color. I have a metal torchier lamp in the corner, which is kinda cool, but does it really thrill me each time I look at it? Not really. I loved my LR cocktail table when I bought it; today, it's just "OK." Definately not "hate." But one needs a lamp, a sofa, a cocktail table; these are the things that are not as quickly disposed of. Maybe over the years, tho.
The little things, sure, I can easily put them up on Craigslist or freecycle (and I have). And if I woke up tomorrow and realized that I needed to move to a different city for job or family reasons, I think I could muster up the strength to sell off a lot of the bulky things. But it might sure be depressing to walk around and see the must-have items that I'm just indifferent about!

    Bookmark   February 25, 2009 at 11:12PM
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I love this idea. Hopefully, this level of posessions management is where I'm headed next...

My husband was raised to never give anything away, never throw anything away, always buy more - his parents are borderline hoarders. And I spent an embarassing amount of time banging my head against walls saying "there has to be stuff you can get rid of??" while looking at heaps of miscellaneous.

For us, the change came when I started phrasing the question as: "What do you want to keep?" Same question, just asked a different way. Weird how that makes a difference!

pammyfay said And if I woke up tomorrow and realized that I needed to move to a different city for job or family reasons, I think I could muster up the strength to sell off a lot of the bulky things.

I sometimes fantasize about doing this. We've only been in our current house about five years - but we had moved annually for several years before that. I miss that motivation to pare down! Somehow pretending just doesn't have the same power...

    Bookmark   February 26, 2009 at 9:45AM
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My friend Betsy had a method for picking out household items to donate. She "pretended" she was leaving her husband. She walked thru their home and looked at everything they owned. Then she'd ask herself, which objects would I take and which would I leave behind? It helped her weed out and realize which objects she really "loved." And she did not leave her husband. I guess he was one of the "keepers".

    Bookmark   February 26, 2009 at 7:27PM
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Jannie, LOL
And I see what you mean Pammyfay... I guess I'm just thinking of this as a kind of mind tool to get me to see the stuff I don't actually need, but that I've just become used to.
And yep, I do get your point, that it could be pretty impractical and expensive to replace things like sofas and lamps just because we'd like a change. But then if I was going to really miss them not being there, then that's not indifference to me, even if they look a bit tired and worn ...while they're serving a useful and necessary purpose, they don't inspire "indifference" to me.
I don't exactly admire the shape and style of my sewing desk, but boy, I'd sure miss it if it was gone, because it is so practical and solid, and would be too expensive to replace. So I kind of care about it.
On the other hand, when we moved into our house, while we were trekking back and forth and hadn't established our lawn and yard, we put a big floor rug down to use while we were shifting in. It came from our previous house, and we only put it down temporarily, but 3 years later, it's still there. It's not ugly, it's not anything really, it's just "there" for no other reason than it got left there... it no longer serves any real purpose, and I have to vacuum it every week. I simply got used to it being there, until I realised I won't miss it one bit if I got rid of it. The room actually looks brighter and someone else can get the use of it.
I'm not passionate about the look of my second hand battered wok either, but boy, it gets me passionate about cooking, so I count that as "I love it".
I'm a bit hopeless at explaining. I guess I just want to get rid of the stuff I've stopped noticing and stopped using that is just "there".
You're right though.. the idea can only go so far unless we're extreme minimalists.. which I'm far from being. But I do love being able to go into a room and just know that there is nothing in there that I wouldn't love to use or look at or still own, if that makes sense, because it's only then that I really enjoy cleaning and keeping things in order.
Yikes. I need to de-clutter the lengths of my posts. Sorry.
Cheers from lily

    Bookmark   February 27, 2009 at 1:29AM
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Lily--I think you're doing a great job--really! Anything that helps you fine-tune your mindset to get rid of clutter is good.

I'm just scared I wouldn't know when to stop and be happy where I am at that point!

(Also, I've recently done one "house sweep," putting all the stuff I just don't need anymore--or really didn't need it at the start but thought i did--in the basement for a for-sale listing at work and a tag sale in the spring. A big stack of books just went to the library for their book sale; a stack of magazines went to the giveaway counter at the office; a stack of quilting magazines are going to a neighbor; and I think there are a few things I'm going to put on freecycle. So I understand the relief that you're experiencing.)

And your posts' length are just fine--don't worry about it!

Jannie: What a fabulous concept--if I left my SO, what would I grab? LOL!

    Bookmark   February 27, 2009 at 12:32PM
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I think this is a wonderful concept.

And I do actually think that perhaps it should apply to living room furniture, etc. Just--more slowly.

And once you stop spending money on general stuff that you are indifferent about, you might have time and energy and money to find some living room furniture, lamps, etc., that you ARE passionate about, that you do enjoy in some way.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2009 at 10:19PM
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this thread reminds me of something I heard years ago and that stayed with me:

"you are what you surround yourself with" I equate this with the motivation to purge out objects that have a negative impact on you, it could be an expensive vase given to you by someone you have fought with and is no longer part of your life, you don't want a reminder of that person, etc...

I could never accept chipped dishes, they go in the trash immediately ; this also goes for art on the walls, I don't like anything sad or dark, since I look at it everyday. I also don't like art that represents people I don't know, such as portraits, it's like living with strangers.

I guess there's a big difference with being surrounded with things that leave you indifferent and living with things that you hate or despise.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2009 at 7:44AM
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I loved this post so much I just sent it to my SIL who will likely love it as well.
As far as the furniture, sure you can't get rid of everything but you can decide what should take it's place and then look for it and when you find it and can afford to buy it, do it.
That is exactly what I've been doing, our entertainment center, coffee table, end table, etc were all lovely but i knew i needed something different, something with storage that would free up my space of clutter.
I waited until i found the exact right entertainment center for my space and then bought it ..a coffee table with 4 cabinets and 2 drawers replaced a so so non storage one, same with end table, now has a cabinet..and sofa table is now replaced with a console that has 2 cabinets a drawer and 2 shelves..
but this was a great "thinking" post. While I was reading it I realized that there are a lot of so so things that i haven't really thought about getting rid of, i have been going thru my books and any that don't inspire me i have put in a bag for charity, and did give away a LOT of clothes last year that just were not right for me..but i can see areas of my life i haven't done this in..and this exercise will be really helpful for me to try out. I wish i had made notes while i was reading that post, i'll have to go back through with paper and pen, as i now it was inspiring me to run into the other rooms and grab things to send off, but now i forget what they were..so back i go to the top with paper and pen to remember again..thanks so much Lily and please do NOT shorten your posts..!!!
OK here is the list I have to start on, mostly from the original post by Lily...decorative items, ugly sheets, needless pillows (we have way too many and some i hate) coffee mugs, cds, perfumes and lotions (seem to be given as gifts every year and i never use them) photos, tablecloths, and now i'm thinking some craft stuff..already went through a jewelry drawer..and a desk drawer this week but may have to go back through

    Bookmark   February 28, 2009 at 11:47AM
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I find this fascinating. I never had a category of "indifference". To me it's always been a 'love it or hate it' situation. I'm kind of that way with the rest of my feelings & behaviors, though.

When I moved out of an abusive marriage almost 2 years ago, I was amazed at all the stuff I tossed because of negative energy, or general "non-love" / indifference.

Post-divorce/terrible living arrangements, I made a point to surround myself with the items & decor that only means something to me. If I end up buying something for decor purposes (which is rare anymore), it's because it really strikes a chord with me or completes some other theme or vignette I've already got with stories to tell.

I guess with my personality being all or nothing, I'm going to think more about this indifference and see what comes of it. I believe if it has any effect, it will be on my clothing & jewelery.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2009 at 5:06PM
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I think there is a lot of truth to what you were saying gayle, when our house burned, and we still managed to save a lot of things from the old house, it was like they didnt' "belong" in the new house, and there was a ton of indifference to them, they were all fine, restored after the fire, but not ME anymore. We went from an old victorian age farmhouse to a doublewide which i decorated in old world..but nothing I had in the old house, well hardly nothing..fit in the new house style wise. color wise, and i enjoyed giving it all away, so far still have a few things left..and they are moving out as i'm able..

    Bookmark   February 28, 2009 at 6:11PM
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Here is something that it took me awhile to accept and understand. How could I "love" something 5 or 10 years ago and not now? Does that mean I'm fickle, or what? Does it mean I have poor taste, or don't know who I am, or what?

I had to realize that those were my feelings toward "things"--I haven't stopped loving my family or friends (well, there are times when you de-clutter people, but after more pondering and with important reasons). It's just another way of reminding me that things aren't that important and so your interests and attachment vary with times of life, circumstances, cultural norms or styles--yes, I believe I am influenced to a degree--or just whims! It's okay. You just learn to understand where to invest more or less $$ depending on your awareness of how you may change your "love it" reaction, and overall try to have fewer things so that it won't matter as much. Try to have more experiences and good times instead.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2009 at 6:17PM
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Frankie.... me too! I know exactly what you're saying.. yes, that is SO much me.
I actually lost all confidence in my sense of style/taste, whatever you like to call it, after a big garage sale we had before we downsized into our new home a few years ago.
When I saw the things I'd once believed to be lovely and that I'd had around our home, I just saw all this tired out of date "stuff", and wondered if I'd had poor taste. It's made me much more discerning about what draws me to something, and I can recognize now if it's the fact that it's new and different and novel, or if it's because I really do find it beautiful. And the last criterion doesn't apply very often any more, I'm glad to say. Not many things last as "classics" do they, compared to all the fads and changes of fashion and style.
Loved reading all the posts.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2009 at 6:47PM
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Frankie it is called growing and maturing..your tastes will change, you are not fickle, just more mature...also styles change..and we do get attracted to new and different things..why not..at nearly 60 i've seen it all

    Bookmark   March 1, 2009 at 8:15PM
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Whether you love them for their beauty, or feel indifferent to them, because they are humble and worn ... to me, it boils down to: "Does this object have a PURPOSE in my life? What is that purpose?"

That purpose might be to be USEFUL, no matter how beaten up or dingy it might look. I don't mind how it looks, because it FUNCTIONS so well. Some other object might just sit there, and do nothing but ADD BEAUTY to my home. I have a small number of objects that are there just to look at. But, no matter where it lies, on either scale of usefulness or beauty, I have to want to share my home with it. And if I just don't know for sure ... maybe it is time to find a new home for it with someone I meet on Freecycle.

The more and more I declutter, the more I enjoy what I have left.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2009 at 9:23AM
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When I was registering for china (back when I got married), I worried about "fickle" tastes, and whether I was going to find myself not liking something later.

That same fear made me hesitate for a long time about buying a wall unit.

I finally decided that, when I'd walked past the wall unit for three years and *still* stopped to look at it in the window, that I would be happy with it long-term. 15 years later, I still like it a lot. I sort of wish it had another section to it. but I really like it.

And I decided that since the china I chose *shouted at me across the store*, I was safe. And 18 years later, I still enjoy it.

I'm w/ MaryLiz, though, too.

I have things that look dingy that I love, bcs they are really useful. And therefore, I agree w/ LilyDilly--I am not indifferent to them. It's not about beauty, it's about whether I value them--either because they are really useful and functional, or because they have sentimental value (even if it's just that I felt so clever when I bought it), or because they aesthetically please me.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2009 at 10:16AM
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absolutely, this is a great discussion, if I like it or need it I keep it but if i'm indifferent to it pass it on so someone else that might like it better than i do can be the caretaker of it.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2009 at 4:48PM
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Some of my most loved and wonderful possessions are the dingiest most worn items of all. My office chair is an awkward cumbersome unlovely thing to look at, but I sigh when I sit in it, as it has the best lumbar support of any chair we've ever found. Sure, I wish it didn't look like it does, but it's because of it's shape that it feels so good, and so I love it.
I have a paperweight that has huge sentimental value to me, and it's totally useless as a paperweight. But it's more like an icon or totem. My kids don't want it when I'm gone, they'll probably bury me with it, LOL, but I won't part with it till then, because to me it is just beautiful.
Just now I came in from gardening with DH and with these posts in mind I asked him about some plants that are thriving but that I realised I find kind of boring. They were from cuttings from my sil, and were just there to fill in the gaps. I was thinking of not filling our spaces with indifference, and asked DH if he'd mind if I pulled them out and replaced them with cuttings of plants we love. His comment, "Why not... they've never done a thing for me."
I know we use that term a lot but I've never thought of applying it to "stuff". I'm going to add that to my indifference slogan.. "do you do anything for me?".
Love hearing everyone's thoughts on this.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2009 at 6:38PM
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PS: I wish it were so easy to de-clutter 'indifference' when it comes to people!

    Bookmark   March 3, 2009 at 7:31PM
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