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perspective

There's nothing like packing for a camping trip to make you simultaneously realize the ridiculous amount of stuff you "need" for a weekend away from civilization, and the sheer amount of stuff you have that, even if you "needed" it, you couldn't fit in the car.

I am perpetually trying to cut down on the sheer amount of stuff I have. As an artist, it's very difficult, because anything and everything can (and has!) become part of an art project. Time was I was so bad I couldn't find half the stuff I had (which of course made it worse than useless to be keeping it at all); I have made some progress from there.

Stuff. It gets in the way, it takes up valuable space, both physical and mental, it wastes time (organizing, finding, maintaining) and money (especially when I buy duplicates because I forget about or can't find the one I already have).

But at the same time when I go to get rid of things, I come up against so many barriers. The artist-pack-rat syndrome; sentimentality; and the most insidious, environmental guilt.

The artist pack-rat syndrome I've controlled somewhat by allowing myself a single box of unclassifiable "might be an art project" items. If the box gets full, I go through it and throw some of it out. (The downfall to this strategy is when I start acquiring so much of a particular variety of junk that it gets its own box and is no longer unclassifiable; but then at least it's organized.

Examples of artist-pack-rat junk I have: sticks, dried leaves and flowers; old computer chips; a box labeled "plastic and metal doodads"; the plastic cap-levers off the tops of my printer ink cartridges (I like the shape, okay?!); sand; badly-cut and munged mats; broken pieces of glass (I have too used broken glass in my artwork.... twice....). I have one of those giant fishing-tackle boxes (at least it's labeled!) filled with beads, colored toothpicks, mirrored tiles, twist ties, bottle caps, scraps of sheet metal. Oh, and a couple of boxes of bubble wrap and packing peanuts, just in case anyone starts buying my work and I have to actually ship it somewhere. And this entire list was written without once going back to my studio to check. But this is my profession. And I do use some of the stuff, and there have been many times when I was really glad I hung onto some random piece of crap that suddenly became useful.

Sentimentality: I've actually found a reliable way around this one. For items which I have no reason to keep save the nostalgic twinge they give me, I put them in a box for a year (or so); at the end of the year, it will either not give me that twinge anymore (in which case I can throw it out), or I'll get my nostalgia fix and can put it back in the box. Having all of those sorts of items together also helps put them in perspective. Random photographs from college of people I never see anymore rank considerably lower than the ring from my first marriage, for example; having them together makes it a lot easier to throw the photos away. (Okay, bad example - I don't actually have those things stored together, and I have trouble throwing away photos because they overlap into the artist-junk category as things I could use for references someday - but it illustrates the point.)

Environmental guilt. Although I don't make a soapbox of it, I do have a strong environmental streak. I hate what humanity is doing to the planet. I try to recycle and buy recycled things, eat organic (though that's for health reasons as well as environmental), stuff like that. And I *hate* just throwing stuff out that I know is just going to a landfill. I alleviate this somewhat by donating old usable stuff to charity (hooray for Out of the Closet, so I don't have the additional twinges of donating to a Christian organization!). But so much of my junk nobody else would want, even for free!

(As an aside, I've looked at Freecycle - great idea, but the LA list is disgustingly high-volume and covers an unmanageably large area, making it pretty much useless as far as I'm concerned. Not to mention if you're getting rid of large amounts of unrelated junk, any person-to-person method of disposing of it becomes too slow to be practical. Once I've decided to get rid of it, I want it GONE, not sitting on my porch for months while I track down people to pick up bits and pieces of it here and there.)

I do realize that, given the large and constant drain on my resources this junk represents, the one-time (and insignificantly small compared to the total volume they handle) hit to landfills is really a ridiculous thing to be worrying about. But it still creates an emotional barrier each and every time I try to throw out junk, one I haven't yet figured out how to break down.

That got longer than I expected. My brain seems to be working this morning, oddly enough - words are coming out easily, in a semi-coherent fashion. How odd.

But now it's nearly time to leave for a long weekend of ritual and drumming and dancing by the fire with some of my favorite people in the world! I will be offline until Sunday evening. If you need to get ahold of me - er, well - tough :)

In Nomine Babalon!

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
artfemme
Oct. 1st, 2004 12:47 am (UTC)
Ritual! Drumming!! Dancing!!! Some of the best ways to spend time. Actuaully I suck at drumming, but can do the dancing!!! Have a great, blessed, nature filled, energetic time.
~Rebecca
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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Heather Keith Freeman
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