j4: (clutter)
The real answer to "how did you spend Christmas?" in the previous post's year-review meme should have been "clearing things out" -- I've spent a lot of the holidays sorting through heaps of clutter (both here and at my parents' house -- don't worry, [livejournal.com profile] camellia_uk, I didn't throw away anything of yours, but I did clear enough space in the 'playroom'[1] that you can walk all the way round the dolls' house!) and trying to reduce the sheer quantity of stuff that's hanging around, or at least sort it into different types of thing and maximise the chances of ever finding that interesting article or that useful-looking bit of plastic again.

[1] Note for people who have never been to my parents' house, i.e. most of you: the 'playroom' is a kind of dust-encrusted graveyard for toys, games, books, boxes full of newspaper articles, posters, yarn, coathangers, videos, hats, and other assorted detritus; the central mound of junk has accreted around the dolls' house (which is big enough that I could actually get in it when I was tiny) and a big white toy-chest (containing approximately 1 grillion balls of wool which my mum is slowly turning into hats for smoothies). This room was last used for 'playing' in about 1987. The most interesting thing it contains is a small "one-armed bandit" fruit-machine which takes 1d coins.

While going through the boxes of mostly-paper souvenir-type-things at our place I found some interesting bits and bobs, but all rather miscellaneous: these rather excellent Waterstones ads which I saved (I've saved a lot of interesting/clever adverts over the years but don't really have anything much to do with them except look at them occasionally and think "that's really clever"); an Interflora badge which probably belonged to my great-grandma who ran a flower shop in Macclesfield; a photograph of Peterhouse Choir (now helpfully tagged by [livejournal.com profile] emperor!); stickers, letters, postcards, menus, and heaps of tickets, programmes, etc -- I had plans once to make an enormous collage of all my gig tickets (under the glass top of the dressing-table in my teenage bedroom!) but never got round to it. [livejournal.com profile] addedentry is faithfully adding all my theatre programmes (even the one-page photocopies handed out at student amdram productions) to Theatricalia, but it's a slow process. I also found a paper copy of the Independent's "Lost in Cyberspace" supplement (sorry, [livejournal.com profile] rhodri!) and a classic issue of Matters Lofty, the IMSoc fanzine, ably edited by [livejournal.com profile] invisiblechoir and with contributions from indie luminaries such as [livejournal.com profile] barnacle. Both the Indy and the Indie have been filed in a folder marked "clever friends".

I'm mainly just posting all these things here so that they're a bit more useful to the world than if they remained buried in a box in the corner of our house. (I tweeted about the Waterstones ads a few minutes ago and am alarmed to find that I'm already on the first page of google hits for "Waterstones power of books" -- so hopefully the next person who searches for them as I did will at least find something.)

In amongst the cards I also found two Christmas cards which still contained their Christmas gift in the form of a £20 note -- no longer legal tender but fortunately still exchangeable (or pay-in-able) at a bank. Where there's clutter, there's cash!
j4: (clutter)
A couple of weeks ago [livejournal.com profile] addedentry's mum and sister visited, and kindly used their car to take a load of wood and nasty disassembled broken furniture to the tip for us. Last week we gave our spare bookcase (still flatpacked, we miscalculated) to [livejournal.com profile] i_ludicrous, and also managed to lend him a big plastic space-consuming baby-entertaining device (their baby is already out and entertainable, whereas we won't be needing bouncy-chair-things for a good while yet) which [livejournal.com profile] addedentry's sister gave us.

On Friday we got rid of a big wooden standard lamp (which came with the house), a big black fake-leather armchair (ditto), and a small formerly-white wooden chair (many years ago I'd tried to strip the paint off with some thought of getting it back to a 'natural' wood look, but got fed up halfway through, so it just looked 'distressed', & not in a trendy shabby-chic way) -- the nice chaps from Emmaus came and took them all away.

Today we earmarked another stack of books for going to the Great Library in the Sky (mostly waifs and strays from Oxfam, & many too tatty for anything except recycling), and rehomed my old iron with [livejournal.com profile] jinty, who was also going to take my old toaster to a fix-it shop she knows but -- ahem -- fortunately thought to ask us first "You've tried changing the fuse, haven't you?" No, I hadn't, because, er, a small parasite is stealing my brain? OK, maybe I am just an idiot. Anyway, one swift fuse-change later, the toaster sprung into glowing life with a reassuring smell of burning toast-crumbs; so hopefully it'll be good for another 40 years now, which means we can rehome the spare not-quite-working toaster.

Of course, there's still a big heap of things in the "stuff to get rid of" pile, miscellaneous things that I don't want to throw away (or rather recycle) because they are still useable and potentially useful, but they're not good enough to sell (or to expect charity shops to sell) and they're too small and faffy to freecycle (and freecycle is a pain in the neck anyway if you're not at home all the time). I don't get the impression that normal people (you know, people who aren't from the internet) have "stuff to get rid of" piles around their house. Maybe they're wise enough not to acquire stuff they don't need in the first place. Or maybe when they stop wanting to keep it they just chuck it all in landfill and forget about it.

I gather I'm supposed to be 'nesting' at the moment, and to me that concept always seems to imply bringing things into the house, getting nice furniture and stuff; whereas actually I'm constantly trying to get rid of things. Of course, it's all making more space to live in, and I'll be much happier with the clutter out of the way, so it's certainly making our 'nest' nicer; but sometimes it does feel as though I'm just always whittling away and trying to reduce myself to nothing. I know I am not my possessions, but sometimes it still feels like going round turning all the lights out until I can softly and suddenly vanish away. You know?
j4: (clutter)
I have a folder on my chiark account called lj_temp. It's full of bits and pieces of things that might have been intended as LJ posts, and (because I am bad at sticking to my own filing systems) drafts of awkward emails or comments, lists of things, ideas, all kinds of mental detritus. I think of it as a drawer full of good ideas which, if only I had the time or energy, I'd sit down and work through and transmute them all into pure blogging gold. In practice, when I come to look at it, it's a directory full of text files containing half-written comments/emails. Half the time I don't even remember the context which prompted them. Take this, for example:
Sometimes the person who's experiencing the emotion doesn't know the whole picture either. People can get jealous and upset and angry with very little real cause.

I agree it's rarely practically helpful to tell them straight-out "Your emotions are irrational", but equally I don't think it's helpful to say "Yes, keep on feeling that jealousy and anger, you've got a right to your emotions". The wetness of water, the greenness of grass... I see these things as morally neutral in a way that I really don't believe adult emotions are.

Isn't there room for some kind of middle way? Admitting that you -- or someone else -- feels something but also recognising that it's irrational and unhelpful, and not nurturing the unhelpful feelings? I'm sure you accept that your garden will always have weeds in it, but you probably don't put fertiliser on the weeds & cut back the flowers to make room for them. Initial reactions to events are hard (possibly even impossible) to choose or control, but once the shoots are showing it's often possible to nudge them in a more appealing direction.
I'm sure this made sense in the context of the debate to which it was doubtless intended to contribute, but I can't remember it (I have a terrible memory for conversations these days), and I didn't make a note of it -- I've quoted the file there in its entirety (it was even written with HTML markup, so clearly intended for LJ). I'm reasonably sure I never actually posted it, though, because I generally end up chickening out of posting things like that -- because disagreeing with people on the internet nearly always descends into nastiness and ends in tears (tears for me, at least; probably a sense of self-righteous victory for the other guy -- and it is usually, but not always, a guy). But that's a blog post for another day (or rather, a blog post to chicken out of on another day). Right now I'm thinking about these fragments.

They're sitting there, using a few KB of disk space, doing nothing. Worse than doing nothing: they're a mental buffer between me and getting things written, muffling the sound of my thoughts like a thick drizzly fog. They are heavy like a dressing-gown at 3pm, a comfort blanket that's become a ball and chain. They make me feel as though I have a basketful of good ideas if only I could get round to doing anything about them when in fact I don't; they're worse than that idea for a novel that everybody carries around with them in their head, they're more like an idea of having had an idea for a novel. Like dreaming you wrote a symphony and being unable to remember it in the morning. The handful of "ideas for novels" I have in my head are all things I know I'll never write down because they'd turn out to be rubbish.

Those fragments remind me of what, for me, is at least one aspect of the "overwhelming question": what would I do right now if I'd done everything on my list? If I didn't have anything to procrastinate about? What would I write about if I didn't feel I should clear that backlog first? It's all very well saying "you don't have to clear that backlog first": I've tried that, it doesn't work. The backlog's there.

What should I do with all those fragments? Post them (and pull them apart) here? Delete them? (No, I'm not going to print them out and set fire to them or anything like that, it may be symbolic but it's also wasteful and pointless.) They're probably all worthless, but then what is 'worthwhile' to write?

[Poll #1641161]

I'm not promising to act on any of your suggestions, but I do promise to read them.
j4: (clutter)
So, somebody already wrote a big part of one of the blog posts I was going to write. But rather than abandon it, I'm going to use theirs as a starting-point. Read theirs first, and then imagine me scrawling tiny essays in the margins with my scratchy pencil, illuminated by a library's fluorescent lights.

*
the things you own end up owning you )
j4: (dirigible)
Sorry I've not said much lately. We're a week away from moving house and I'm in a state of neurotic despair about the whole thing. And I'm going to tell you about it in tedious detail whether you like it or not. )

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