Notes from New York
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Politeness is Overrated
Back when gyms were a thing, I was in the Equinox locker room with my partner looking for a place to put my belongings. Even though they have locks built into each locker, it’s still tricky finding an empty one since people will put things into one without bothering to lock it.
I opened and closed a locker quickly saying “I’m sorry” in the same way you might if accidentally walked in on someone in the bathroom. When my partner could catch a breath after laughing so hard she asked, “Did you just APOLOGIZE to the jacket in that locker?”
Of course, I did! I’m a woman in America and I’m wired to apologize for all kinds of things that do not require an apology. Hasn’t everyone apologized for invading the privacy of an inanimate object?
Politeness to people is important. Politeness to inanimate objects is unnecessary. We know this but do we really?
I loved setting up this corner for a busy family that always has packages coming in and heading out by mail. If you’re carrying things into the house from the car or from the door, you have an entrance strategy. But do you have an exit strategy?
Why do you need an exit strategy? You don’t have that much coming into the house each week. Let’s say it’s one bag each week. In a year, if you don’t also take out one bag a week, that’s 52 new bags of things in your home. In a decade, that’s 520 bags that weren’t there before.
We owe it to ourselves and the other people we love to keep to the limits of our storage space so we have the right amount of space for living. Inanimate objects don’t have feelings. When the usefulness to us has been fulfilled, it’s better for the environment to pass items along to people who find these things useful. Having an exit strategy is both generous and pragmatic.
This was a really hard unpacking project I helped out with a few years ago. The family was living in New York City for the first time. They loved to entertain so, when packing had difficulty downsizing kitchen tools appropriately for this new chapter. It’s common for our eyes to be bigger than our stomachs but what about our eyes being bigger than our kitchens?
Over the years, they had slowly acquired and tried out different sets. They would have a favorite for each size, they didn’t match, they had the full set, breaking the set didn’t look as nice. That’s easy to work with if you have a kitchen that can accommodate everything but this wasn’t a practical approach to their New York kitchen.
They needed to pick today’s favorite — not the favorites from five years ago. It can be totally exhausting to go through an entire kitchen like this to make choices about what to keep but it doesn’t have to be. You might notice, when you upgrade or replace something in your home or simply move on to have a new favorite that this means you naturally have duplicates that aren’t doing anyone any good by taking up space just in case. It’s so much easier to make these decisions as they come up so nothing piles up to become an all-day edit event. Making small decisions about our stuff regularly is a tall ask for many people so don’t worry if this isn’t your style.
Ready for Pick Up
Getting items out of the house doesn’t need to involve leaving your house! Many large buildings in NYC have donation boxes in the basement so you don’t even need to go outside. You can post free items online (buy nothing, craigslist, facebook marketplace, nextdoor, stoopingnyc, curbalertnyc) and people will happily come to you. Of course, there are tons of wonderful non-profits who pick-up and have locations to accept donations. We keep a tote bag near the door with items ready for donation and drop them off as part of our other errands.
Objects come and objects go. You might need room for new things you just bought. You might be frustrated you can’t find your favorite something. That thing might remind you of an unfortunate ex. Whatever the reason, you don’t want to keep it around anymore. You don’t owe your inanimate objects an explanation for why they didn’t make the cut.
We’re so lucky to live in a world where things can come and go. It’s so easy to get items into the hands of someone else who will enjoy it once we’re finished with it. Having an exit strategy that doesn’t include an explanation or an apology is a perfectly acceptable way to treat objects. The primary purpose of your home is to support you and the people you share it with. When you keep this front and center it’s much easier to feel comfortable at home.
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