Thursday, June 30, 2016


About a year ago, the bishop of our diocese came to visit our congregation. He had one more year till retirement, so his thoughts had turned to downsizing. When he said that word, downsizing, a wave of reaction rolled through the congregation. Many of us were either in the process, contemplating the process, or had—thanks be—gone through it and lived to tell the tale. Our emotional responses ranged far and wide: humor—dismay—refusal to deal with it.

The bishop’s anecdote to illustrate his problem with downsizing went like this. He had begun with a simple task—going through a drawer where all his tee-shirts were stored. These were tees from church camps, walk/run/limp events, and other commemorative times. There were so many, he had to count them. He discovered 28 of these tee-shirts. In one drawer.

He had us in the palm of his hand. Who among us has not opened a drawer/closet/box and discovered enough (whatevers) to clothe a large third world village?

My first reaction on such a discovery is along the lines of “Holy moley, where did all these (whatevers) come from?”

(Obviously, I am immediately disavowing any knowledge, let alone ownership, of the proliferation of whatevers.)

My next reaction—guess I better do something about that. (Still putting it off.)

Next—okay, how many whatevers do I keep this time around? (Yes, sad to say, I’ve been through this scenario so many times I know just what to do.)

Finally, I confront the crux of the matter—do I really really really need any whatevers at all?

(You might consider standing in front of a mirror and looking yourself in the eye.)

As the title of today’s post suggests, Sorting may not be the issue. It’s all the Etc. that goes with it.

My current need—never mind the whatevers—is cleaning carpets. Sounds simple—move furniture, rev up the old carpet cleaner, and have at it.

But in my case, 31 years of living at the same address equals a lot of accumulation. To name a few categories: clothes, of course; books; CDs and DVDs; video tapes (back in my early dinosaur days); dishes and furniture; to say nothing of fabric and yarn.

Before you start visualizing one of those houses you read about in the tabloids—you know the ones, head-high stacks of Stuff with narrow paths for navigation from room to room—before your imagination runs amok, please let it be known that I do donate clothing, books, and the good old etc. to various places in my community. We now have a used-book store (they come and go, but this one seems securely with us), whose proceeds go to the local animal shelter. Our library has a monthly book sale, so anything I donate that the selection committee doesn’t want to put in circulation goes into the sale. Our Goodwill collection center and store welcome donations of all kinds (this is a great place for the good old etc.)

To make my energy go a long way, I took some time to analyze the situation. (This is also a delaying tactic, but a worthwhile one.)

I’ve narrowed the situation down to three ways to assess it, depending on your temperament and circumstances:

I’ve already made some discoveries about my own inclinations.

First, if I view it as a Project, it’s height, depth, breadth, and overall weight makes me feel weak. I am dwarfed in its shadow. My only recourse is to run like the devil’s at my heels.

Second, if I break the project down into Tasks, I’m likely to get something done. Today’s example was finding a place for two boxes that have been living in the bedroom for weeks (or maybe months). This involved some shifting of other items in two closets, but the whole task was done in less than an hour.

Third, I am often Time-oriented. If I have a whole morning, what I do, no matter how small a task, may take the whole morning. But if I have only an hour, I can get my head around that amount of time. My downfall here is not utilizing the 10-20-30-minute segments that come my way. (Well, I do utilize them, but mostly to brew and drink a mug of coffee and read another chapter of my current book.)


If you’ve been accumulating Stuff for a number of years/decades, you may already have your coping strategies mapped out. Garage sales work for lots of folks. Church and charity rummage sales appeal. My city has a spring clean-up week--we're encouraged to put out practically anything we don't want (there are a few no-nos); much of this abundance is scavenged and never ends up in the landfill. A two-point event.

One strategy I sometimes use is hiring someone to help me move Stuff. I have to do the sorting and discarding, but I'm willing to pay for the heavy lifting. This is especially practical for working in the garage, where the dust of the ages has invaded boxes stored there. (And I suspect the boxes have multiplied on their own--not sure how that happens, but maybe it's none of my business.)

Lately I’ve  considered just moving away, leaving all those whatevers intact. This may yet be the way to go.

I’ll let you know.


  1. Lol! Good one! And let me know how it all works out.

  2. Working on buying a red pickup...will let you know my new address if I jump ship!

  3. While you were still in the dinosaur phase, shows about hoarders have made their way to the small screen. ;)