The Cleanup

The new year is almost two weeks old, and frankly I am not doing too well with my to-do list. I have lost my ability to sleep (again) and despite my best efforts, I have been clocking about 3.5 miles a day of walking. I need to get a move on — literally and figuratively. I have been eating healthier — sticking mostly to vegetarian food and occasional fish or chicken, but again, all of that amounts to nothing, if I slip from my target of walking five miles a day.

However, there is one item on my to-do list that I am running ahead of schedule. My plan was to eliminate about a third of the things I own and this weekend I took a huge step towards striking this off my list. It isn’t quite spring — thought it feels like Spring in San Francisco — but this was spring cleaning, for sure. I spent my Saturday at the storage facility and basically emptying out the entire unit, with the exception of a box of my old classic mobile phones and important papers, which now sit in another storage in our building’s basement – next to my boxes of books.

I recently became familiar with MoveLoot, one of the newer online consignment services that helps you sell your furniture in a second hand marketplace it runs. Bill Bobbitt, who is the founder and CEO of the company, in a recent chat over coffee, explained to me how it works and I am going to try it out. Over next couple of weeks, MoveLoot is going to come and take away most of my furniture. I will keep a handful of things, but I want to make a lot of room in my apartment, which feels stuffy, well because it has so much stuff. I hope to add more lighting, a handful of pieces over next year or so — a small work/dining table for four and hopefully if I can find a good deal, an Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman. I am going to try out CustomMade to see if I can find someone to make me a nice bookshelf, mostly because I have a lot of books.

Books are probably the hardest thing for me to give away — I know I can always get them on Kindle and keep them stored on my computer. I have moved so often and every move resulted in giving away books, either to friends or to the Salvation Army and every single time I felt miserable. It was like giving away a part of myself. If I had kept all of them, I would have a few thousand books — now I have about six boxes in the basement and another 200 odd spread across my apartment, in various stages of being read, unread or forgotten.

Sometimes I read a book on Kindle, and buy a paper version, mostly because I want to read it again. Books don’t get less useful with age — though some do. Books are a reflection of you intellectual growth. There is something about the books — they become more personal and more intimate, after you read them, hopefully more than once. I know, I am being illogical, but I can’t really get rid of books, no matter how good Kindle gets. (Which reminds me — I need to charge my PaperWhite!)

Books aside, the weekend clean-up was bitter sweet. One’s storage container is a good metaphor of the collective detritus of one’s past. While sifting through things, I saw some of my old clothes that reminded me of how much weight I had lost, gained back, lost again. I have always liked clothes — and have always had my own unique way of looking at things. I had a Nat Nast/Bowling Shirt phase. I had a funky shirt phase. I had a chino phase. I had a Ted Baker moment. Paul Smith, Robert Graham, Robert Talbot — all have made an appearance in my wardrobe. There were several other brands — even Kenneth Cole and Tommy Hilfiger.

The piles of clothes were a good way to visualize the simplification of my tastes, and my increased focus on quality and uniqueness. I sometimes confused cost with quality, brand with coolness. As I piled these clothes into boxes heading to Goodwill, I thought to myself: we have it all wrong. Trying new things, learning new tricks is the essence of youthful outlook. Growing up knowing what you want, instead it is about knowing what you don’t want. And there wasn’t a single thing I wanted to keep.

PS: I found this article about how to clean-up and it is worth a read:

At the beginning of a new season, turn all the hangers so they face right. After you wear an item once, turn its hanger around to face left. Once the season’s over, keep only the clothes on the hangers pointing left.

This is one tip, I am going to try right away as it makes perfect sense. Now that I have reduced the number of clothes in my closet to 150 items, this seems like a good test for me to filter them down even further. I need to go down to 100 items, and hopefully I can reach that point sometime in 2015.

A letter from Om

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