Main Entry: 1win·now
Etymology: Middle English winewen, from Old English windwian to fan, winnow; akin to Old High German wintōn to fan, Latin vannus winnowing fan, ventus wind — more at wind
Date: before 12th century
transitive verb 1 a (1) : to remove (as chaff) by a current of air (2) : to get rid of (something undesirable or unwanted) : remove —often used with out
2 a : to treat (as grain) by exposure to a current of air so that waste matter is eliminated b : to free of unwanted or inferior elements : pare c : narrow, reduce
3 : to blow on : fan
2 : to separate desirable and undesirable elements
3: according to edgyjunecleaver: throw shit out
— win·now·er \ˈwi-nə-wər\ noun
(Merriam-Webster online dictionary
I suppose I’m a victim of 20th-21st century marketing conditioning. You know what I mean: It’s January so it’s necessary to start Anew! Afresh! Declutter! Organize! Because every print magazine, web ’zine home keeping/lifestyle blog is I lay my eyes on is urging me to do this. Because really? I have too much stuff. I think everyone except maybe homeless people have too much stuff and I bet with all this marketing to organize and purge some homeless guy is rooting through his shopping cart and trash bags muttering to himself: “y’know I’m not even sure why I keep this anymore. . .” I love to organize things. I really really love to throw things away. In fact, I love throwing things away so much I have--in the not so distant past--thrown away important things which necessitated a trip to the county courthouse (almost as much fun as the DMV) as well as the Social Security Office which is as fun as a root canal at the DMV. So I’m a little more careful now with my papers. And in this day and age of shredders, I couldn’t even pick through my trash because I had shred my social security card. Shred. It. I suppose I could have pieced it together. Good thing I was gainfully employed and had a passport.
Although I am Madison Avenue’s bitch this week I didn’t go so far as buying $2500 worth of organizing products: bins and such, just ten bucks worth for photographs which were slowly rotting and fading. The Girl is slow to get on this band wagon but we are moving through it one closet at a time. Some of us are savers and some of us are winnowers. She’s a saver. Once upon a time savers drove me crazy. OMG do you really NEED that piece of paper your first grade sweetheart touched in 1965? But as I’ve gotten a little older I’m a bit of a saver myself. I’ve developed the odd--for me--habit of saving all the cards I receive and creating yearly scrapbooks. The scrapbooks are simple, I just paste them through out my yearly planner. But what the hell am I doing with them now? Do I routinely take out the 2005 planner and fondly remember the Christmas card Trixie gave me? Nope. What’s the purpose? My biographer will be interested? What biographer? My sons? Oh yeah, cuz Mama’s Sweet Boys are all about looking at my old photos and memorabilia. So I’ll keep these little books and make a decision about them when we leave this house. I think it’s becoming harder for me to toss stuff because I tossed almost a decade’s worth of photos and now regret I don’t have them. I did it because those years were hard and once I was finished in Lubbock and fled, I tossed all things that reminded me of the place. I sold most of my furniture almost all of my clothing and burned photos. Burned them. If it didn’t fit into my 1984 Nissan Sentra it didn’t move with me. Somehow my journals from those years excaped the pyre and I found them about a year ago when I was looking for my high school yearbook. I’ve yet to read them. Had I found them a few years ago, I would have thrown them away or better yet burned them. God forbid my stupid ass meandering words and angst end up here. Can you imagine? Ack ack ack with a side of ack. Let’s hope if that ever happens I’m dead and only my loved ones will be humiliated.
Winnowing makes me feel lighter and god knows I need to feel lighter because I have fifteen stubborn pounds that won’t leave my body so I’m thinking if I symbolically lose fifteen pounds of crap-I-don’t-need-love-use then I can step out of this frumpy middle-aged lady suit and into a Hot 40-something suit.
I have a plan to go through the house systematically and get rid of things. Thus far, I’ve done the coat closet where I found a coat I bought on sale in--oh I don’t know--July which I had forgotten about and was convinced for DAYS I had stumbled onto a Birthday present until I looked at the tag and the crazy low price reminded me I purchased it off the 70% off rack on take an additional 20% with a coupon at Macy’s. This is a definite sign I have too much stuff. After the coat closet I tackled the dresser serving as buffet and figured out we never ever EVER need to buy teaspoons. Ever again. Ever. Next up, I cleaned out the cedar closet in the basement and sorted a large bin of antique linens we have both inherited from our respective families. All of them handmade, lots of old lace. If we opened a Victorian style Bed and Breakfast we would have just enough dollies for the eleventy tea tables and sideboards scattered throughout our charming but over decorated inn. This was a difficult task because I love old linens but they aren’t doing anything but rotting so I’ve started the process of careful laundering and we are going to repurpose the lace, dollies, dish towels and such over the next few months. My mine sweeping is continuing through my craft things and I’m doing small projects I’ve had the bits and pieces necessary but just haven’t done. And buttons! OMG do I have buttons and trim and ribbon and lace. Why haven’t I used them? I’m hanging onto them and I’m not sure why. It’s ridiculous. Because, again, it’s not like I take my old buttons out and look at them when I’m perusing my 2006 scrapbook! Why not make something out of them? Like jewelry, embellish frames, flower pots…the list goes on and on. So much so I probably should get more buttons. . .
I have lovely bits of vintage jewelry I’ve been amassing for years. But I don’t know how to solder nor do we have a soldering iron in the vast collection of tools. So I need a soldering iron to reuse the lovely bits of jewelry.
Isn’t that defeating my purpose of winnowing?
Yes. But I love old things.
So I make deals with myself: get rid of all those clothes that don’t fit, throw out all those old files, shred the ten year old pay stubs, salvage the old computers, radios, stereos, microwave, espresso maker, donate the pile of Useful Decorating Objects (UDOs) and then I can buy and learn to use a soldering iron.
I sometimes imagine getting rid of everything I own except what I use everyday without fail. It makes me giddy in a good way. But then I start to just mindless pitch things and I can’t seem to part with the little plastic dinosaur and the rubber gold fish that decorate my desk in the studio. Or the sweet old sewing basket that houses a few pens and some stationary, all things which could live someplace else. Those are just three of the many things I have which don’t do anything but make me grin a little when my gaze meanders to them while I write or collage.
My attempts to live more deliberately and consciously is going well but truly I think the more important exercise is shaking the cobwebs off my body is way more important than piling my worldly possessions on the curb. Clearing the cobwebs out of my head is feeling good too and I’m looking forward to this signing rather than staying at home watching House Hunters International and chatting online.
Maybe once the cobwebs are gone I will have the courage to read those journals and throw them out or just throw them out without cracking the cover.
I doubt it.
The curiosity would kill me.