We humans are really good at sorting. From an early age, kids can gather their blocks into one pile and get the little animals into another. And it can be soothing–it’s usually easy to figure out what constitutes success, and you can pick up one little thing at a time.
Still, as I contemplate all the sorting I’m in the midst of, my sorter just feels tired. I long for a machine that would do the work, with a big funnel into which we heave things. In my fantasy the contraption would magically transport the thing to the person or persons who could benefit most from it. Wouldn’t that be amazing!
In the absence of such a marvelous machine, I need to keep reminding myself that while I devoutly long for the outcome of a perfect match between stuff and stuff-needers, trying to accomplish those ends on my own, without that machine, is bound to lead to bad outcomes. I would use up all my time and energy shepherding a few things, and be left with too much remaining stuff and too little time.
The simple sort into piles labeled “I want to keep this” and “I don’t want to keep this” is, if not always easy, at least straightforward. But maybe I also should consider a different kind of sort that’s a little more complicated. It could be useful to evaluate my possessions in terms of the effect they have on me, creating a pile of things that enable me to do things I value, and another pile of things that prevent me from doing things I value.
For example, my various kitchen tools enable me to enjoy the work of food preparation, and to make interesting things to eat. As for the second category, it doesn’t seem like anyone would intentionally seek out items in the “prevent me from” category, but in fact we probably all have our favorite distractions that do a fine job of keeping us from doing things we say we value. And at some point, even a collection of things that are individually useful can become, in the aggregate, a mass of things that prevent me from being productive. This is exactly the sort of situation for which the phrase “less is more” was invented.
I can imagine an item beginning in one category and ending up in another. A few good kitchen implements will help me, but once I’ve got too many, or shift my attention to the acquiring of tools instead of the using of tools, they begin to keep me from accomplishing the thing they were designed to do. On the other hand, even a distracting item could spend occasional time in the “enables me to” category if it enables me to unwind or relax.
It pains me to admit it, but at least for now, if I stay to work more thoroughly on this philosophical point, I’ll have to find a spot in the “prevent me from” category for blog post writing, and I don’t want that to happen. My most pressing priority is the sorting and sending away of the majority of our stuff. When can you come over to see if you want any of it?
[Images: kloppcoin.com, Loquita, uniqueauctions.com, pinterest.com]