I woke up Tuesday morning feeling pretty foxy. You see, Monday night I counted up the items I had ditched for Minimalism May. If you remember from an earlier post, 496 items is the target number to reach on May 31. As a newbie, I stuck it out through May 17 last year and got rid of 133 pieces of clutter. This year I told everybody I knew that I would make it to the end of the month even though the evil twin living inside me kept insisting I’d never make it past Day 20. But on Monday, with the addition of a lamp I never liked to the donation pile, I added one more mark to my tally sheet and hit the magic number, a full six days ahead of schedule.
Since I’m a wee bit OCD, my score sheet is much more complicated than a simple row of kindergarten tally marks. I kept a scribbled record of each item, along with its fate (Donated, Given Away to Somebody Who Actually Wanted It, Recycled, or Trashed) and the value of any donated item for the taxman. I entered the information into an Excel spreadsheet at the end of each day–or more often if I were in a delirium of ecstatic annihilation of excess, meaning if I waited until the end of the day I couldn’t decipher my handwriting.
Monday night I printed the spreadsheet, and then as any OCDer worthy of the title would have done, I highlighted each item in one of four colors based on its fate: orange for donated, purple for given away, green for recycled, and blue (how sad) for trashed. Then I added up the number of items in each color. The only problem was that the numbers never came out the same twice. (OCD people never add anything just once.) Thinking the TV was distracting me, I decided to forget it for the night and get back to it in the morning.
So early Tuesday along with his morning coffee, I handed the Goat half of my printed-out pages and instructed him to add up the number of items in each color. I took the other half, and then we exchanged pages. (OCD people, even the mathematically-challenged ones, never believe other people add correctly.) Miracle of miracles, the numbers came out the same. Victory!
But then my vindictive evil twin spoke up from the deepest, darkest OCDest part of me: “Add up all those orange and purple and green and blue things to the grand total again. You know, so you can feel self-righteous about your 496 items one more time.”
And so I did. Several times, in fact. As they say, pride comes before a fall. No matter how I added up the numbers, the sum came to 495, one short of the magic number. Leaving my breakfast on the table, I embarked on a search and destroy mission. Just one more item. Surely I could find just one more item. Hallway closet? Nothing. Other hallway closet? Nothing. Guest room closet? Nothing. The Goat’s storeroom? Plenty of stuff but I didn’t have the strength to face it.
I raced upstairs. This was much more than a game now. It was principle. It was honor. It was desperation. Maybe, just maybe, there was one little item I’d missed in the previous twenty-five days, one teensy little item that my bleeding heart had granted clemency to but that would now meet its justly deserved doom. Would it be in our bedroom? No. Bathroom? Good grief, no. I’d spent three days culling contents there. Study? Other bedroom? Other bathroom? No, no, and no. And then in the last room in the house, I hit the treasure trove: our youngest daughter’s old bedroom. She’s been married since 2009, but we’re still “storing” four large Rubbermaid tubs of her stuff. As they also say, possession is nine-tenths of the law. It took me about thirty seconds to find an item: a cheap-junk picture frame so tiny a person would need a magnifying glass to see what it held.
Small as it was, it was Big Number 496 for me, and I breathed a sigh of relief. That’s when my vindictive, overachieving evil twin popped up again. “You know, 496 is such a weird number. All you need is four more things, and you’d have an even 500.”
I looked at the four tubs. Oh, yeah, I could do that. An old magazine, a handful of yellowing papers, a pair of rubber gloves, and a bag of party decorations. Gone, gone, gone, and gone.
And that, my friend, is how I ended up with 500 discards, five-and-a-half days and four items ahead of schedule. You may applaud.