Come June 1st, we will no longer call our sunny Brooklyn brownstone home. While our next home is yet to be determined, we have started to sort through our possessions and determine what will make the cut in the next move. Today, as I was decluttering and listening to the radio, a psychiatrist on NPR mentioned that hoarding disorder is one of the latest psychiatric conditions to be added to the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). What he did not mention, but what I now know to be true, is that living and moving in NYC is the best prophylaxis for hoarding.
To start, the size of New York City apartments do not lend themselves to the accumulation of “stuff,” as normal homes do. And then when you factor in the difficulty of moving in New York City, you’re tempted to throw it all away and live like a monk.
Marie Kondo, the Japanese cleaning consultant, writes in her bestseller that you should only keep things in your house that “spark joy.” We take that philosophy one step further. Everything in our apartment must pass the “sparks-joy” test as well as the “sparks-so-much-joy-that-I’m-willing-to-lug-it-up-6-flights-of-stairs-on-a-hot-summer-day” test.
We have lived in New York City for almost six years and lived in 5 different dorms or apartments. The only way to do that is to be super cut throat when it comes to your “stuff.” The most extreme move was when we left our sixth floor Lower East Side apartment on what seemed like the hottest day of the summer. After round eight of the stairs, you start to think, “all I really need in life is a few outfits, a bowl, a spoon, and a little mat to sleep on.”
So in anticipation of June 1st, Anna and I have been giving away as much as possible. We are motivated not just by the thought of having a less painful move day, but also by the joy of giving things away in Park Slope. Our hood has a system where it’s perfectly acceptable to place your unwanted items on the sidewalk for a passerby to pick up. We first wrote about it here: (https://tripsinnyc.wordpress.com/2013/08/22/recycling-in-brooklyn/)
Giving things away has actually become my latest obsession. It is just so fun to gather up a box or basket of things and set it out front. It’s fun to see which items will get taken first and fun to imagine the excitement that your neighbors will get when they see what’s up for grabs. Some people in Park Slope will set out gross old shoes or cat shredded furniture. But we hold ourselves to a higher standard and only set out nice things: a handful of highlighters, a box fan that was only used for one summer, perfectly good mixing bowls and glasses. You’d think this was a business as I analyze which are the best times to set out items, what’s the best way to display the goods, and what types of items go quickest. I even start to fell a little defensive if something doesn’t go quickly. My interest in this little business (albeit one with no monetary profits) has gotten so intense that I was in the grocery store admiring a colorful lime squeezer and found myself thinking, “Hmm I bet that would go quick, people would love that..”
My best day of “sales” was when, on my way to the laundromat, I set out a very random basket of nail polish, lollipops (never opened!), and kitchen tools. As I was walking back from the laundromat I ran into a very happy fellow carrying the basket of goods. (The basket had only set out there for 10 minutes!) He smiled because he had an armful of free treasures and I smiled because I wouldn’t have to deal with the one more load of stuff.
(My “store front”)
In the past hour alone I’ve heard two different little girls out the front window squealing in excitement. I looked out the window to find them shuffling through the latest box of things as their mothers kept saying “No, come on! Leave it!” In the end, after an exasperated “fine,” both girls won. One danced away with a purple (“my favorite color!”) pencil case and the other with a mini sewing kit-“Because I’m going to be a sewer!”
A win for the girls, and a win for us!
(Our next door neighbor keeps this up on her gate at all times. It reads, “Dear Passerby, The item(s) in this crate are up for free adoption! We are trying to de-clutter our home; but we love all our stuff. We sure are going to miss it…Can you send us a picture of it in its new home? firstname.lastname@example.org We hope you enjoy it as much as we have.”)
P.S. Another quick story about the joys of giving things away to strangers… This past Christmas I decided we should give Anna’s bed away. At first everyone thought I was taking my decluttering a bit to far. After all Anna still does need to sleep. But eventually they agreed that it was too big (it’s a loft bed.) I posted the bed on Craig’s list for free and got 10 responses before dinner time. I picked the person who wrote the nicest e-mail saying his son has always dreamed about having a bunk bed and that he could pick it up. Most fortunately the guy turned out to be a friendly, burly guy who deconstructs music stages for a living. We helped him disassemble the bed as he told us about his son named “Cash Dylan” and his baby girl named “June” after Johnny Cash’s wife. On Christmas Eve he spent all night reconstructing the bunk bed and sent us these pictures of Cash’s Christmas morning surprise: