Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Rules

I was looking through my list this morning (I woke up early and couldn't go back to sleep), targeting some things for elimination, cleaning up the list, and thinking that I should probably post the list so other people can see what I own and how I count. But before I do that, I should outline the rules by which I count things.

When I first counted, early summer 2007, I started counting everything. I soon realized that some things could/should be combined, somethings should not be counted, and that my perception of "things" was evolving. The first time I made the list I counted the stainless steel table mom had given me. About a week later I was revising the list and realized I had not included the table cloth that sits on the stainless steel table! It's not like it was hidden - it sits right on top, hangs down over the sides, hides the legs - HELLOOOOO!?!

My rules for counting changed throughout the process. Even now I've been forced (albeit willingly) to reexamine how I count. I have a friend named Bruce, from NYC. I met him through the photographica website. He sent me his list of things, which is significantly shorter than mine. And he counts things like: bank cards, membership cards, bank accounts, e-mail addresses, software program he regularly uses. He even counts the list as one of his things. If he counted the way I do, he'd probably have fewer than 500. If I counted the way he did, I'd feel like I was back to square one.

Here are my rules:

I do count anything that can break or wear out.

I don't count consumables/perishables.

I don't count my professional belongings.

I combine things that obviously/necessarily go together.

How do these rules apply?
If something can be used up (e.g., toothpaste, soap, milk, kleenex, medicine) it doesn't count on the list. Groceries are obviously things, but the list in constantly in flux, so it's hard to put a number on it. Recently I've had the thought that even some consumables should be counted. I might be able to include toothpaste in the list, because I will always have some. No matter how many times I use up a tube of toothpaste, I'll replace it. So maybe, since that's kind of a permanent consumable, it should count on the list. The can of soup in the cupboard may or may not be replaced, which could be said of almost all the groceries. I go through periods when I crave a certain kind of food. The fascination passes and I might not buy a can of that kind of soup for months. I'm still working out the theory of permanent consumables.

Anything I keep at my offices, doesn't count in my list. My reasoning is: if I change jobs and move, those things will go to the new office. When I retire, those things will be given to the next school counselor, who can do with them what he will. I've looked around my offices, trying to find something that I would definitely keep, but I can't find anything. In fact, I've taken more things to the office because the meaning they have is through the school. They are nearly worthless here at home. I used to keep some of my favorite children's books here at the house. I decided that was silly. Even if I don't use them very often at work, I need to have them there. The other reason that I brought them home - I didn't want kids to mess them up by bending pages, tearing paper, etc. WHAT?! They're only things and if they get used and worn, that's why I have them. I realized I was being petty and selfish.

There are some things the just go together. Take for example my golf bag. I could count it this way:
1 golf bag
14 clubs
3 head covers
2 gloves
1 towel
23 golf balls
86 tees
14 ball markers
4 ball mark repair tools
1 golf book
3 pencils

That's a lot of items on the list. But, they all go together. When I play golf, the whole bag goes with me. It would be silly to take the bag without the stuff or the stuff without the bag. I count it all as "one golf bag (with accessories)."

The same thinking applies to my racquetball bag. It holds racquets, balls, gloves, shoes, goggles, etc. But it all goes together.

I have a trunk of memories that only counts as one thing also. In it are the mementos that I'm not ready to eliminate. My grade school report cards and yearbooks, birthday cards, photos, my baby blanket (I got rid of the bears, but my "bammy" is a different story, at least for now), my favorite Hot Wheels cars. I could count them all, but I've given myself this one trunk where nothing counts. If the trunk gets full - which I don't ever see happening - and I want to add something to it, something in the trunk will have to go. It's kind of like my free space. Right now it's not very full. The things I've kept are small. Soon I'll go through the trunk and see if there are more things I can eliminate.
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