Maybe it’s a little late in the year to be talking about New Year’s Resolutions. I know you’re supposed to be thinking about them in December so you’re all ready to go January 1. But, hey, I’m a champion procrastinator.
One of the things I’ve been working on for a while is reducing the amount of clutter in my life. I have a lot of stuff, and since I’m very strongly out-of-sight-out-of-mind, I tend to have a lot of it out. It’s like keeping a To Do list as piles of things instead of on paper. Unfortunately, sometimes that defeats the purpose. When you don’t notice the bag of library books that need to be returned by the door because it’s perfectly camouflaged by the stack of reusable shopping bags, plastic containers that need to go back to your sister, mail that’s waiting to be sorted, and part of a border punch that you need to return to your aunt, the system isn’t working anymore. After a while it all becomes kinda like visual static, drowning out whatever signal you want to be receiving.
I had a goal last year of getting rid of at least half of my stuff. I didn’t do that, though I did drop an awful lot of stuff off at Goodwill. I think that’s going to be an on-going battle, one I do hope to eventually win. However, recently I’ve been getting rid of clutter in another area: my e-mail. Somewhere early in January I read something about people who were dedicated to keeping their email inbox to 0 emails. It made me think about my own inbox, stuffed full of emails, notifications, and random stuff. Some of it was things I really wanted to read, or important information, but that tended to get buried by all the other stuff. A lot of it was emails I didn’t have to actually open to know what they were, which meant that at any one time I had thousands of unread emails sitting in my inbox. I won’t say how many thousands, but, um, yeah.
I decided to take action. I started going through my inbox and deleting things. At the same time I started unsubscribing to things. No more emails from the ballet supply store I shopped at when I took adult ballet classes six years ago, or the bird feeder company I bought something from back when I lived with Johnsy, or the health food website I accidentally subscribed to when all I wanted was that one recipe. It was both liberating watching the flood of emails slow down to a trickle, and also unexpectedly a little sad. I hadn’t realized how having emails waiting for me made me feel important. Regardless, it feels really good watching that number of unread emails go down. I’m not down to 0 yet, but I’m getting there.
It’s also been a little like taking a trip back in time. As I work further back through the depths of my Inbox, I come across bits and pieces of what I was doing at the time: facebook invites to parties that are long over, messages from friends about trips and events, receipts for purchases I had forgotten I made. There’s a notice from Netflix that a particular movie will be arriving in my mailbox (back when I still got my movies in the mail), and I remember sitting on the couch watching it with Rosie. A receipt for a yarn purchase reminds me of the shawl I knit Fleur for her First Communion. Some of it is fun, bringing up memories of good times, happy surprises, the good things. Some of it is sad, reminding me of friends I’ve lost touch with, that one event that turned into one of the hardest nights of my life, the job I didn’t get. And some of it is just embarrassing, mostly emails I should have replied to eons ago but forgot, or never realized I received, because they got buried.
I know once I get things cleared out, the next step will be to put systems in place so that I don’t build up such a backlog again. There are lots of systems and apps and websites our there to help with that. But I figure I’ll deal with that part when I get there.